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    Entries in workplace (75)


    In my tribe

    I am in process of working on an epic 'Ranked' post, (1980s Albums, Ranked), that is taking ages to compile. In the extensive research (two or three Google searches), for that post I was reminded of one album that is certain to make the final rankings, In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs. 

    The album was 10,000 Maniacs most popular album, and for many music aficionados it was the defining work for the band. I had the album back in the day, and I recall seeing a fantastic 10,000 Maniacs concert once as well. 

    But what made me think about this album more directly today, was an extremely interesting comment someone made about me yesterday. This person thanked me for (I am paraphrasing a little), for being 'An advocate and supporter of our tribe'.

    It was an interesting comment to me because I suppose I have not ever explicitly thought about being a supporter of a 'tribe'. But I suppose over the last few years especially, I have looked to work with and collaborate with people that I have known for a while, and who's talents and abilities I respect, (and often envy). And that is just a normal, natural thing I think. We want to work with the people we enjoy working with and who can imagine, create, and deliver amazingly cool things. And sometimes, maybe most of the time, these are people that we like, we maybe know socially, and perhaps we even consider them friends outside of 'work.' So I suppose given that context we (perhaps while not even thinking about it in those terms), we create, nurture, and support our own versions of a 'tribe'.

    I don't really have a point to this, I am fortunate that the editor of this blog (who is me), has extremely low standards for quality, clarity and relevance.

    But I suppose I should make some kind of point, (especially for the kind, kind people who are still reading).

    So the point is this: We should support, champion, care for, nurture, and protect our 'tribe', even if we don't actually know who they are, how they precisely 'fit' in the tribe, and even when we may not be realizing that we are actually doing these things, even while we are doing them.

    I am thankful to have the opportunity to know the incredible people that I get to work with, and who have supported me so much. I hope you know who you are and how grateful I am.

    Thanks for reading. I will try and do better tomorrow.


    You probably can only do one important thing each week

    I caught this piece the other day on Business Insider - When to Schedule Your Job Interview, that quotes some research from Glassdoor from a few years back which indicates that all things being equal, the optimal time for a candidate to schedule a job interview is 10:30AM on Tuesday.

    Even without data to back up that claim, it at least makes intuitive sense to me. Mondays are terrible for everything. Many folks mentally check out by Fridays. That leaves Tuesday - Thursday as options for any kind of important meeting, like a job interview. Let's automatically remove anything after lunch, as you never know how a heavy meal, quick workout, or a couple of shots and a Schlitz are going to have on the interviewer.

    So that leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Let's rule out Thursday since it is close enough to Friday to catch a little of the 'Is it the weekend yet?' shrapnel. Now we are in a tossup between Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. And since even by only Wednesday, lots of folks might already be thinking 'How can it only be Wednesday, this week is taking forever?', Tuesday seems like a safer choice. As for a time - use the Goldilocks approach - not too early, not too late (and too close to lunch), which lands you at 10:30AM

    As I said, it makes perfect sense, but it also sounded terribly familiar when I read the advice.

    I feel like i had heard some variations of the 'Tuesday at 10:30AM' advice before. 

    As it turns out, it is pretty common scheduling advice for other kinds of work/business events as well. This piece recommends scheduling important presentations for Tuesdays.  And this article also strongly suggests a combination of 'Tuesday' and 'late morning', (also known as 'Tuesday at 10:30AM), is an optimal time to conduct any type of negotiations.

    If I had more time, and I wasn't staring down the weekend myself, I would do some more searching and I am pretty sure I'd find a bunch more examples of how Tuesday mornings are the best time to do anything important at work. So Tuesdays at 10:30AM it is.

    Which is good to know and sort of sad at the same time. We work ALL OF THE TIME. We are chained to our email 24/7 with our 'smart' phones. We are (mostly), evaluated and assessed by our success in the workplace.

    And yet there is only one 'good' time each week to do anything important. 

    Tuesday at 10:30AM.

    It's only Friday right now, so you have a couple of days to plan your attack for next week's sliver of time where you can actually do something important. 

    Don't blow it. It won't come around again for an entire week if you do.

    Have a great weekend!


    Young single people, guys in their 50s, and not much in between

    Back 159 years ago when I worked on my first major IT project team doing an an old-school ERP implementation one thing about the composition of the 25 or so person project team was pretty striking.  The team itself was sourced from a few places - regular full-time staff of the client that was funding the project, several implementation experts from the software solution provider, a few technical consultants from one of the Big 4 (I think it was still Big 6 back then) consultancies, and finally three or four independent contractors taking full advantage of the 'gig economy' before that was a thing. So about 25 or so folks, it was a pretty large project with a mix of subject matter experts, software developers, QA and testing people, and project manager types.

    But what was interesting, (and what would turn out to be not at all uncommon I would learn), was that there were almost no members of the team between the ages of say 30 and about 50, otherwise known as 'prime' working years for most folks.

    That diverse, (we had folks from at least 10 countries on the project), and large project team was almost completely devoid of people in what would be the classic working and parenting years, say about 30 to about 50. There were definitely no women in that age range on the project, and there may have been one or two men (at most), that were parents of kids they still had some level of responsibility to care for.

    One of the 'veteran' guys from the Big 6 firm that was more or less running the project summed it up for me about midway through the project.  He said something to the effect that (at least at that time), IT consulting and big enterprise technology project work was either a game for young people who have not settled down and have no spouses/kids to worry about, or older guys, (and it was almost always guys), whose kids were grown up and either moved out or at least were old enough that their Dad could get away with being on the road 200 nights a year.

    Apart from the technical skills needed to succeed on a project like that, there were also the personal stresses and demands that having the kind of job was likely to put on you and any family/friends/pets that you may have had. You were more or less on the road, traveling to the project site Monday - Friday, week after week, month after month until the project was over. At which point you'd maybe get a little bit of downtime and then start the cycle and lifestyle again with a new client/project. I did this kind of work for a long time, what made me discontinue this and move to something more stable, (and with far less travel), was becoming a parent some 15 years or so ago.

    What's the point of this trip down memory lane?

    I caught this piece, a profile of Facebook's Maxine Williams, the relatively new person in charge of diversity initiatives at the company, where the interviewer was pressing her and Facebook to try and explain their efforts in promoting a more diverse workforce, and their relative successes and failures in this regard. it is a pretty interesting piece, and I recommend giving it a read.

    But after reading it, and thinking about these issues a bit, I was reminded of that 20 year-old project team, and how the nature of the work, and the nature of how (at least back then), most people tried to live their lives, that would have made 'generational' diversity, (is that even a thing?), extremely difficult, if not impossible to achieve. It would have been really tough to find very many mid-career parents willing to sign up for the demands of those jobs, so what we ended up with was a group of folks that had little to no problems with being away from home all the time. That is just how it worked out and what made sense for the workers, the client, and the project itself.

    The closing point of all this? Tip O'Neill said that 'All politics is local.' John Sumser has said that all recruiting is local. I kind of think that sometimes we need to think about that when also thinking about diversity and workforce composition in that manner as well. Not every type of job or project is going to easily lend itself to a natural, blended, and widely diverse collection of people willing , able, and capable of performing said jobs.

    If one of the goals of a consulting company that did projects like the one I described above had it as a goal to become more diverse and balanced across generations, it would have taken some pretty significant shifts in how work was organized, how client demands and expectations were managed, and how individual consultants were evaluated and rewarded. And that would have been a much a bigger set of issues than just trying to recruit or retain a few more people that were in their early 40s.  

    Maybe diversity, however you define it, is only partially, and maybe even a small part overall, of a recruiting problem, and is more influenced by how, where, and when the work gets done than by where you run your job ads or the campuses where you recruit.


    Best of 2015: The worst people in the workplace, ranked

    NOTE: As 2015 winds down, so will 'regular' posts on the blog. For the next two weeks, I will be posting what I thought were the most interesting pieces I published in 2015. These were not necessarily the most popular or most shared, just the ones I think were most representative of the year in HR, HR Tech, workplaces, and basketball. Hope you enjoy looking back on the year and as always, thanks for reading in 2015.

    Next up a piece from July, possibly my favorite of the ongoing 'Ranked' series on the blog, The Worst People in the Workplace, Ranked. Try and see where you might fall on this list.

    The Worst People in the Workplace, Ranked

    You probably work. You probably work with other people. Many of those other people are terrible. Here is your incomplete, yet definitive guide to the worst of these other people.

    10. The five people in your conference room who are still meeting at 11:05 when they only booked the room until 11 - Your meeting is probably a waste of time and money. The seven of you standing around in the hallway waiting to get inside the conference room is certainly a waste of time and money.

    9. The host who is late to the Conference Call - The virtual equivalent of standing around in the hall at 11:05 because the idiots who reserved the conference room from 10 - 11 can't stop yapping. But only this time you have terrible 'hold' music to listent to.

    8. The 'I never got the email' guy - You got the email, you liar. You forgot/ignored/deleted the email. But you got the email.

    7. The 'Half day?' guy - This is the jerk who feels obligated to track the comings and goings of everyone else in the office. Anyone who drops the 'Half Day?' line at you at 5:02PM is a terrible, sad, humorless dullard.

    6. The 'Marked as urgent' emailer - If it were urgent, you would just call. It is an email, therefore it can't be urgent. Look up the word urgent sometime you jerk.

    5. The Sunday night emailer - Hey guess what? Sunday is (still) technically part of the weekend. You may feel the need to work on Sundays, but that doesn't mean the rest of us want/need/care to. Work on your own stuff on Sundays if you must, but keep the rest of us out of it until Monday morning. 

    4. The 'wears headphones all day' guy - You are at work. You are not on a LAX - JFK flight in an economy class middle seat. You want us to think that actually trying to talk to you is such a burden and will somehow ruin your 'flow'. Give it a break, it won't kill you to take off the headphones once in a while and act like a human being.

    3. The 'community candy' lady - This story is 100% true, (small details changed to protect everyone, especially me).  Think massive, Fortune 100 type tech company housed in a giant high-rise. On each floor there is a central reception desk manned by one or two people throughout the day. On said desk on Floor 29, there lied a large candy bowl with the expected assortment of treats, chocolates, twizzlers, whatever. Everyone coming and going from that floor would take a treat or two from the bowl as they walked by. No one really 'asked' if they could have a piece, it was just understood that the candy was for everybody. Then one day one of the company employees, who was wearing a visible company badge, actually asked the lady at reception if it was ok if he could take a piece of candy. And the reception lady said 'No'. for whatever reason, she refused to allow this particular employee to take a piece of the community candy. The rejected employee proceeded, (irrationally for sure), to freak out, accuse the receptionist of racism, shout a few choice and unprintable words in her direction, and knock the candy bowl and its contents to the floor. This exchange led to a series of urgent emails, executive meetings, HR interventions, written warnings and literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of managerial time to sort out. The bottom line: Community candy is terrible.

    2. War story guy - This is the guy who shows up to work every Monday in a splint, with a soft cast, with some kind of bandage over the eye, or a noticeable limp. He then has to regale you, (because you feel like you have to ask), with some crappy story about how he totally rocked it on the side of some cliff or shooting the rapids or playing on the 40+ rugby team. Hey doofus - once you hit say 35 or so, it is time to grow the hell up and quit turning up for work like it is the first day of 5th grade. And no, we don't want to see your killer Go Pro footage of that radical tumble you took on the Black Diamond slope.

    1. Nothing is good enough for my high standards guy - The standard issue office chair? Not going to work. The whiteboard that fits on the wall of each office leaving room for the door to open? Not big enough. The pens and pencils that are stocked in the office supplies drawer that are used by everyone else? Not going to cut it. Basically nothing in the way the office works is good enough for this guy who needs a special version of EVERYTHING. I am not talking about any real accommodation issues here, no, this guy just has to be different. This is often accompanied by bringing personal supplies like staplers and binders, and frequent references to former employers, something along the lines of 'When I was at ACME Company, we had the nice pens.' You know what? Go the heck back to ACME company, and take your stupid stapler with you.

    Ok, that is it...

    Who did I forget? Let me know in the comments.


    ANNOUNCEMENT: The Citi Smarter Worklife Challenge

    I had a call last week with some really cool folks from Citigroup, often shortened to just Citi, one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations. Even for such a large, well-known global brand, the challenges facing Citi are not that different from the ones facing just about every size or type of organization - the need to innovate, to become more agile in a fast-moving and competitive marketplace, and perhaps most importantly, to find, engage with, develop, inspire, and achieve great business performance through people.

    Citi describes this last element of improving outcomes with and through people in the context of the 'Employee Journey' - the full life cycle of actions and interactions that people have with the organization, with their colleagues, and crucially, with the many technologies that help shape these experiences along the journey.

    And one of the ways Citi has identified that will be of primary importance in improving their employee's journeys is through innovative HR and workplace technologies, which after learning more about what they are working on in that area I was interested and glad to help Citi get the word out about their new initiative called the Citi Smarter Worklife Challenge.

    The Citi Global Digital Acceleration team has created the Smarter Worklife Challenge, an open contest to help find and identify innovative human resources technologies designed to improve this Employee Journey. Citi is inviting both startup and established technology solution providers to submit their ideas and concepts, (submissions must be at least advanced, working prototypes), in the areas of recruiting, onboarding, career development, social/collaboration, analytics, executive management, and more, to compete for a prize of $50,000 in cash, and the opportunity to enter into commercial terms with Citi and be incubated and/or accelerated.

    For HR technology solution providers interested in applying for consideration for the Smarter Worklife Challenge, a few important dates you need to know: The deadline for submissions is December 4th, and finalists will be announced December 18th, and challenge finalists will be invited to demonstrate their solutions to Citi senior leadership in February 2016.

    Full details about the challenge, including submission timelines and contest rules can be found on the Smarter Worklife Challenge site. Also, a PDF version of the challenge process, timelines, and guidelines can be downloaded here

    I think this is a really neat and interesting challenge and thanks to the folks at Citi for bringing it to my attention and for supporting innovation in the HR tech marketplace. Please do share the information about the Smarter Worklife Challenge to any HR technology innovators that you think might be interested in participating.


    Disclaimer: I am sharing information about the Smarter Worklife Challenge because I like the idea, I am not being compensated in any way by Citi, and this challenge is not affiliated with the HR Technology Conference.