HRExaminer v3.21 May 25, 2012
Table of Contents
by China Gorman
There are lots of data to suggest that the ticket to economic success in the United States is a college degree. If you look at a report out of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published in June, 2010, you’ll see this:
The delta between attaining a bachelor’s degree, and not, has a significant impact on lifetime earnings. No surprise there.
Similarly, current BLS data show that workers with college degrees have lower unemployment rates:
- Bachelor’s degree or higher: 4.0%
- Some college or Associate degree: 7.6%
- High school no college: 7.9%
- Less than high school: 12.5%
Based on this information, you could assume that earning a college degree would practically gurantee job security. But that wouldn’t be true.
A deeper look at the data is illuminating. This is Georgetown University’s report, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Educations Requirements Through 2018.
The categories of jobs requiring “Some college, no degree” and “Associates’ degree” combined are larger than the “Bachelor’s degree” category. And the category of jobs requiring a high school degree is also larger than the “Bachelor’s degree” category.
Obviously, not every job requires a college degree. In fact, in 2018 only 33% of the jobs in our economy will require a college degree or advanced degree. While this report estimates that there will be 3 million fewer college graduates than required, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that job growth in the sectors requiring a high school diploma, some college, or an Associate’s degree, will also face a large deficit of appropriately educated workers.
Focusing on college degree attainment is the proverbial tide that raises all boats. Organizations like CAEL (the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) are making Herculean efforts to provide research, policy, and practical tools to legislators, educators, workforce developers, and workers to try to remove systemic barriers to completing a college degree. And this work is critical.
But not everyone needs to go to college or should go to college. Ask any plumber who can’t attract apprentices. Ask any car dealership that can’t find enough service mechanics. Ask any general contractor that can’t find enough licensed electricians.
When we ushered in the Information Age we ushered out the dignity and attractiveness of infrastructure jobs. Suddenly, if your job doesn’t require a college degree it isn’t worthy of your effort. Suddenly, being a plumber, a mason, a machinist, a mechanic, a bus driver, an HVAC specialist – are all beneath us. Suddenly, working with your brains and your hands makes you “less than.” And that’s a real problem.
We are not just facing a shortage of information workers. We are also facing a real shortage of people to make things and make things work. And that’s only half the problem. The other half is making those jobs worthy in the minds of the workforce.
Organizations like JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) are making enormous strides in keeping young people in high school through graduation – as well as making sure that planning and information for all career choices are available. Not every young person needs a four-year degree. But every young person does need a high school degree, and an awareness of job opportunities and the skills required across the full spectrum of occupations. They need support to determine what is right for them based on their interests and abilities. Assuming that jobs requiring both brains and hands are not worthy is bad policy, bad education, bad career planning, and bad for our competitiveness.
Certainly, the projected gap between the numbers of jobs that will require a college degree or better is alarming. But that point will be moot if the dearth of workers able and willing to take on the essential infrastructure of our nation also continues to rise. That’s why an equal push to get our high school students to stay in school and graduate is critical. That’s why a push to create vocational/technical tracks within our secondary education system is critical. That’s why a push to get high school graduates to continue on to apprenticeships, certificate programs and junior/community college programs are critical.
It’s true. A rising tide lifts all boats. But there are many kinds of boats. Let’s pay attention to all of them.
by Jay Cross
No one has time.
Life on earth is faster, faster, faster. We are inundated with information, showered with technological innovation, and pestered by multiple media 24/7. Business is a blur. Life is uncertain. People are stressed.
Work is hell. It’s time to do something about this new way of life. A woman with a watch knows what time it is; a woman with two does not. Most of us wear watches set to agrarian age time, others to industrial age time, and yet others to Internet time. Our bodies, our work-groups, our families, our employers, and our global environment are out of sync. Our lives are incoherent because our worlds are changing faster than we are.
Nothing is more important to business success than the knowledge and know-how of workers. In the industrial era, management’s role was showing workers what to do. In the knowledge era, workers want to learn, but hate to be trained because telling them how to do something insults their intelligence. Study after study finds that workers get 80 percent of their job know-how informally. The choice is whether they do it well or to do it poorly.
Important as it is, informal learning doesn’t show up on the corporate radar because it isn’t recorded in industrial-age charts of account. No one has a budget for it, but organizations that fail to leverage informal learning leave buckets of money on the table. In a knowledge era, it is irresponsible to disregard the prime means of creating, sharing, and replenishing intellectual capital. Informal learning is effective because it is personal. The individual calls the shots. The learner is responsible. It’s real. It’s self-service. It is the only thing that will work with the digital natives who are now entering the workforce.
In the past, learning focused on what was in the in-dividual’s head. The individual took the test, got the degree, or earned the certificate. The new learning focuses on what it takes to do the job right. That includes the business environment, work flow, colleagues, partners, and customers.
Informal learning is the path to organizational agility and profits. It also respects workers and challenges them to be all they can be. Informal does not mean withoutpurpose. Generally, payback far exceeds what you get from traditional approaches. Informal learning is currently the low-hanging fruit of worker development. Knowledge workers demand respect for who they are. They thrive when given the freedom to decide how they will do what is asked of them. They rise or fall to meet expectations. We need to set those expectations and then get out of the way.
Training, development, knowledge management, performance support, informal learning, and mentor-ing are all components of performance networks. Networks expand or die. Linking nodes distribute information and power. Networks subvert hierarchy. The flatten the organization, the denser its interconnections and the faster its throughput. Humans exist in networks. We are members of social networks. Our heads contain neural networks. Learning consists of making and maintaining better connections to our networks social, operational, commercial, or entertainment. A superlative engineer can be 250 times more productive than an average performer. Making a great performer better creates more bang for the buck thanmoving an average performer up a notch.
It’s a human butterfly effect.
Learning is successful adaptation to change. Informal and formal learning are the end points of acontinuum. On one end, formal learning is like riding abus: The driver decides where the bus is going, while the passengers are along for the ride. On the opposite end, informal learning is like riding a bike: The rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or use the bathroom.
Informal learning happens outside of class. There’s no curriculum and no certificate of completion. Informal learning includes things like trying and failing, asking a neighbor, reading a book, or watching television. Informal learning is how we learn about life. It’s how we make sense of things. Formal learning—riding the bus—is great for novices. It’s useful to have help getting the lay of the land and getting to the destination. Training departments are very talented at setting up bus routes. Informal learning, what the bicyclists do, is most appropriate for people who already know the territory. They want tips on the new shortcuts and the essence of a topic. They want to plug the holes intheir knowledge, and they won’t sit still for bus rides to their destinations.
Training departments don’t devote much effort to helping cyclists. Here’s the irony: The cyclists are the high performers. Raising their performance 5 percent blows the roof off. (Whereas raising the performance of novices 5 percent doesn’t even register.) When it comes to learning, most corporations are spending the most money where it will do the least good. Some training departments justify treating everyone as a bus passenger by saying that riding the bus works for novices and the old pros. This is flat-out wrong. The bike riders will always find a reason not to take the ride. Workers with the most upside potential rarely receive any focused learning at all. Here are a few suggestions to correct the balance:
Visualization is transformative. Humans learn twice as well from images and words than from words alone. Pictures translate across cultures, education levels, and age groups. Yet the majority of the content of corporate learning is text. Schools spend years on verbal literacy but mere hours on visual literacy. It’stime for us to open our eyes to the possibilities. Visual literacy accelerates learning because the richness of the whole picture can be taken in at aglance. Visual metaphors unleash new ideas andspark innovation. Having a sharper eye increases thedepth of one’s perception and life enjoyment.
Conversation creates knowledge. Frequent and open conversation increases innovation and learning. Workers come together to share, nurture, and validate the tricks of the trade. Work is a demanding, pressure-packed, rats-in-the-maze race with the clock to get the job done. Home is a comfortable, private space for sharing time with family and individual interests. Neither work nor home, a World Café is a neutral spot where people come together to offer hospitality, enjoy comradeship, welcome diverse perspectives, and have meaningful conversations. Shared spaces encourage dialogue. Get a third of a million people involved in a single conversation, and it’s sure to give you that real-time buzz. IBM has adopted it as a management approachfor our open, flat times.
Knowledge workers waste billions of dollars of time looking for information and the rightpeople to talk with. Good architecture and space planning facilitate learning. Organization network architecture connects people virtually by spotting bottlenecks and opportunities for integration. The design of the workplace is an important component of productivity, yet architects create corpo-rate buildings with the hierarchical floor plans andgrid layouts from a previous era. Corporate efforts toreduce one-time costs and maximize usable spacebackfire because they hamper the work of the build-ing’s inhabitants for as long as it stands. Speaking metaphorically, you can’t have water-cooler conversations if you remove the water coolers. Inside every formal organization is an informal organization that runs the show through an undocumented series of personal and professional relationships. It is a living entity with a mind of its own. The informal organization is a community of people that runs on life’s rules. You can influence it but not manage it; it’s not for sale. Organizational network analysis blueprints the interactions of the informal organization. Visualizing how people interact highlights potential opportunities and likely breakdowns.
Learning is the new work. The best way to take advantage of informal learning is to get out of its way. Less is more. Informal learning has no need for the busy work, chrome, and bureaucracy that accompany typical corporate training. Today’s worker chooses the employer. Does she find the company, its vision, and its people exciting? Will she have an opportunity to make a contribution? People are emotional animals. Gut feelings are real. Stress disrupts productivity. Acting from the heart as well as the mind makes us better people and happier campers. In nature, you either escape the bear or get eaten. In the office, however, the mind conjures up bears that never let up. All-day stress overtaxes the body. Perceptions lead to stress; changing those perceptions makes the bear go away. Stressed out people don’t learn well. Free-range learners choose how and what they learn. After all, they’re the only ones who know whatthey already know. Besides, self-service is less expensive and more timely than the alternative.
Five years after I coined the term “e-learning, ”we were living in an e-world where networks facilitate virtually all learning. It has become trite to point out that the “e”doesn’t matter, and that it’s the learning that counts. I don’t think the learning counts for much either. What’s important is the “doing”that results from learning. People do not know what they like; they like what they know.
For example, many assume that face-to-face instruction is the one best way to teach and that online learning is inherently inferior. They seek ways for online initiatives to support the high-grade face-to-face experience. Capella University turns this view on its head, asking what face-to-face support is re-quired to supplement online learning. Blended is a transitory term that reminds us to look at learning challenges from many directions. Itmakes computer-only training look ridiculous. It drives us to pick the right tools to get the job done.
Business meetings used to come in one flavor: dull. New approaches create meetings that people enjoy, often organized in scant time andat minimal cost. Unconferences are characterized by:
- no keynote speaker or designated expert
- breakthrough thinking born of diversity
- having fun dealing with serious subjects
- emergent self-organization
- genuine community, intimacy, and respect.
Getting better at getting better
Getting better at getting better is an evolutionary challenge. You don’t get there by taking one step at atime. Rather, you set up millions of little experiments, let ‘em rip, and see what you end up with. Meta-learning focuses on improving the process of learning, which includes how people learn, barriers to learning, and improving the learning of both individuals and organizations. You’re going to spend your entire life learning so you might as well get good at it. Embracing mindfulness is your first step. You’ll need to be flexible, lookat things through different lenses, reflect on whatyou see, try new things, run thought experiments, and pay attention.
A mindful person often cuts off the mindless auto-pilot of aimless living to follow Nietzsche’s advice to “become who you are!” Informal learning is natural. It occurs when we treat people and organizations as organisms in nature. Thinking is a skill. You get better at it with practice. Many people confuse thinking with intelligence. That is a mistake because that thinking leads intelligent people to squander their potential by not learning to think.
by Paul Hebert
We continue to hear the C-Suite talk about employees as their most important asset. Expensive placques line mahogany walls all over corporate America engraved with the company’s commitment to its associates, employees, team members, (insert buzz word for worker here).
Everyone talks the talk when it comes to the employees being the fuel that drives the engine of profit.
We are in a new business age right? We’ve moved from the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age. We’re supposed be working in a new economic model where what’s between the ears of employees is more important than the machine in front of them. Innovation and growth come from the discretionary effort of the workers – not the investment in capital on the production floor. The company’s real value is its employees.
Except it still isn’t.
Stock prices can increase after layoffs. Investors see layoffs as the company getting more aggressive with costs – making investors happy, and in many cases, the C-Suite rich.
Would investors think it’s a good idea if Ford suddenly announced it was removing the robots that make cars? Would investors think it wise if google started shutting down its massive server farms? Probably not. Those assets drive the businesses.
Unfortunately for HR – employees are still viewed as a cost item – 0n the balance sheet, and in the minds of most managers and executives.
Costs are something you want less of – not more of.
What if you could put a value on the employees – a real value – one you could list on your balance sheet as an asset? What if you could show some sort of positive relationship between those “expenses,” called employees, and the stock value everyone on Wall Street is so interested in?
It’s possible if we treat employee value like brand value?
Brand Valuation – A Short History
Marketing departments spend a lot of money building and supporting a brand. Brands are expensive – and they are valuable. And they are intangible, just like employee value.
Valuing a Brand
According to BrandChannel.com the history of determining “brand value” sprung from a wave of acquisitions in the late 1980s. In the process of establishing a “selling price” for a company, finance folks were having a hard time valuing and accounting for the “goodwill” associated with the brands the company owned. In some cases a buyer is really more interested in the brand than the hard assets such as machinery or property. But how do you determine the price of a brand?
In the early 80s accounting practices and financial reports had no way to put a number on what a branded company was worth over and above the traditional tangible assets and earnings,
But they found a way…
Once the challenge was set, many companies stepped up. Rankings for brand financial value can now be had through Interbrand;Millward Brown BrandZ;Credit Suisse Great Brands. One can estimate brand equity with Equitrend. And for those of us on the cutting edge of social marketing – you can measure brand word-of-mouth buzz/promoting through McKinsey or the Net Promoter Score.
Whenever money – big money – is at stake, the market finds a solution. Brands are big money. Brand values can make up a sizeable portion of a company’s stock value.
Ask yourself what McDonald’s be without its brand – or Coca-Cola?
For the Real Thing – 50% less valuable. For McDonalds, about 70%.
The contribution the Coca-Cola “brand name” has to shareholder value is about 50%. As of May 18 Coca-Cola is trading at roughly $75 a share – without the “brand” it would be trading at $37 a share. The brand makes a big difference.
HR needs to find its Interbrand.
Brands – and the marketing expenses that create them have value. And the smart people in the marketing and finance world have figured out how to put a real number (or a sorta real number) on brand value – the intangible value a brand has on a company’s stock price.
Why Can’t HR?
How did marketing (and their financial friends) find a way to link their expenditures to the balance sheet and the price of the stock? They played ball with the folks that do the books and learned their language. They told them that marketing is not a cost but an investment in branding. And branding has value.
If McDonald’s came out tomorrow and said it was cutting marketing by 50% to reduce cost and be more strategic the markets would pummel the stock. Investors know that 70% of their investment is related to marketing efforts. Reducing marketing for McDonald’s would be the same as reducing manufacturing at Ford. Those things drive business value.
HR Needs To Create Their Own Equity Model
This is not a new idea. I’ve found discussions and white papers on the web discussing the how to value employees as assets on the books. But unless someone finds a way to connect the dots, promote it – and show that it works – HR will be relegated to admin tasks and making sure HRSA forms are completed.
Who should take up this challenge? Who should spend money to develop a model – or models – of Employee Equity that can finally be discussed side-by-side with brand equity?
SHRM of course.
They are uniquely positioned to provide the oversight and the money to give HR what it needs most: Value on the balance sheet.
Value Drivers Intangible Assets: Do We Need a New Approach to Financial and Management Accounting? (http://www.juergendaum.com/articles/IA_Controlling__e.pdf )
Are Employees Intangible Assets? (http://smallbusiness.chron.com/employees-intangible-assets-44349.html )
Employee Value: An Accounting Paradox (http://www.newwork.com/Pages/Opinion/Raynor/Employee%20Value.html )
Putting the People Component of the Business Entity on the Balance Sheet (http://donaldhtaylor.files.wordpress.com/2007/03/puttinghumanassetsonthebalancesheet.pdf )
Exploring the HRM/Accounting interface on human assets: The case for artefact-based asset recognition criteria ( http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1852536&show=html )
Valuing Brands and Brand Equity: Methods and Processes (http://www.huizenga.nova.edu/Jame/articles/brand-equity.cfm)
Brand Valuation: The financial value of brands. (http://www.brandchannel.com/papers_review.asp?sp_id=357 )
by Heather Bussing
I posted my 5000th tweet this week. If you had told me a couple years ago that I’d spend that much time on twitter, I would have laughed, rolled my eyes, and silently declared you a complete wingnut.
I hated twitter.
It’s too fast. The search function sucks. Older tweets are not “temporarily unavailable.” You have to use google to find them.
Conversations are disjointed and difficult to follow. Chats are visual cacophony and often idiotic.
Twitter is mostly just digital flashing: an endless stream of “Hey, look at me!”
Yet, in spite of all the noise and nonsense, the immediacy of twitter is mesmerizing.
Watching something happen on twitter is being there.
I’m not particularly sporty. But I love watching games on twitter. I see the enthusiasm, frustration, and excitement. Sometimes it’s barely coherent. But it is heartfelt, real, and now.
Twitter takes me there.
And there’s the added bonus of not actually having to watch the game itself.
I’ve also been following the googacle trial on twitter. Oracle sued google for trademark and patent infringements over google’s use of java in the android. When the jury had a verdict in the trademark phase, I switched to the profile page of the reporter covering the case on twitter.
She described what was happening. But she also wrote what it was like– how the lawyers seemed, the expression on the judge’s face, the tension in the courtroom. The butterflies flitted in my stomach. I held my breath. I was in every trial I’d ever had at the moment the jury files in with their verdict. And I was suddenly in that San Jose courtroom.
Twitter is unlike any other media.
Other types of reporting focus on the facts of what happened, not the sense of what’s happening. Even live TV is not the same. Something about the picture makes it clear that I am not there; I’m just an observer.
The only other things that come close are poetry and music.
I still think most of what happens on twitter is just self promotion at best, and stupid at worst. Still, I have developed professional relationships there with some great employment lawyers and HR professionals. I also get access to information and interesting content I wouldn’t read otherwise.
But I’m really looking to mainline the emotion and find myself in another place.