HR Examiner v3.50 December 21, 2012
Table of Contents
Why Aren’t We Asking These Questions (1 of 2)
While the world is busy working on their year end reviews and future forecasts, it seems like a good time to take stock in a larger way.
The workplace is changing rapidly, right in front of us. Driven by Moore’s Law, the relationship between our people and their technology is reshaping the way that work gets done, the way we interact with the HR Tech System, how we communicate with each other and the rate at which our companies adapt or die.
Hyper-adaptivity, which is the driving force behind the rapid spread of agile technology, is the way things work. The continual speeding up of technical change constantly undercuts the firm ground on which companies walk. More than a mandate, change is an issue of survival.
But, you don’t hear a peep about this in the various forecasts of the future or reviews of the year gone by.
Here are some of the questions we think every HR Department should be asking.
- What is HR’s role in a world where employees increasing wear technology or have it embedded. How do you tell where human performance ends and machine performance begins?
Most employees have a phone in their pocket and easy access to a headset. These communication devices increasingly track, monitor, coordinate and direct their owners. The memory they hold describes company secrets, chronicles love affairs, documents location, records helth care data and holds key contact lists. Tools that add personal biometrics (like the Fitbit, Up or Nike Fuel) deliver moment to moment performance feedback. And, the functionality is exploding.
So, the question is whether we’re hiring people or the combination of a person and their tech suite. If it’s the latter (and it surely is), why isn’t HR rapidly becoming the arbiter of the people-technology intersection? As humans and technology become less distinct, will we continue to draw the same lines about credentials and experience?
- Should the company own the technology that employees use/wear so it owns the data?Does HR test and recommend the tech?
The data generated and collected by employees as they move through the workday is becoming an important asset of the company. (One can imagine a day in the near future when an all employees are profitable from day one because of the value of their data). Currently, because employees mostly purchase their own devices, the data about work and life in the organization is lost to the people who need it most. Since much of the data describes individual and collective performance, isn’t this exactly HR’s charter?
- Technology is rapidly outpacing the law. How does HR navigate a world in which the law is 10 years behind working reality?
By the time a law can be enacted and enforced, technology has moved on. Increasingly, regulation is an after the fact intrusion on established work practices. From now on, HR will be partnered with the legal department to figure out the smart thing to do while the government gets its stuff together. Both HR and Legal have made their money by being the providers of conservative advice in these areas. It’s a dysfunctional approach when technology is setting the pace. The role will continue to need to focus on risk mitigation but the playing field will have several other factors.
- What is the impact of external factors on the performance, mood and agility of the workforce?
This is where big data from the oputside starts to hit the organization. From the availability of parking spaces in the company lot to the impact of stock market performance on productivity, our understanding of the enterprise will include gobs of real-time data from external sources.
- What is the gross carbon footprint of the workforce and how do you reduce it?
If you haven’t seen Openpaths, take a look. This New York Times app gives employees a market for (and the opportunity to see in real time) the location data tracked by their phones. The data is incredibly valuable to market researchers (and to the company). The overall enterprise carbon footprint is driven largely by employee commutes and travel. The data in the phones of the workforce is a simple way to capture, quantify and think about reducing the organization’s eco impact. The keys to many secrets lie in the data that employees generate and consume.
- What is HR’s role after all of the administrative stuff is automated?
We are at the end of the first era of software. After a generation of automating administrative processes, there is almost nothing left to turn into software. Thank goodness. The idea that good management involves filling out forms and following rigid work-flows is extremely 19th Century. Meanwhile, new technologies that are more likely to resemble the actual flow of the work that people do are rapidly emerging. It looks like the first generation of software will obsolete itself at about the time it’s finally finished.
- How does HR manage and monitor HR in the Supply Chain?
Apple’s Labor and Human Rights page documents the details of working conditions and environmental impact for nearly 1 Million employees in the supply chain around the world. It’s a model of the evolving role of HR. The management of the enterprise as an ecosystem (pioneered by Cisco) is a component of the contemporary HR Operation. Little conversation on this topic is available in the blogosphere or from the usual professional associations. There are huge opportunities for the management of talent and the development of competencies that drive productivity. Apple’s process begins with audits. In the long haul, innovation will flow up and down the supply chain.
Yesterday, we started to look at the questions HR Departments ought to be thinking about and planning for. Here’s the final handful.
While the fancy analysts declare that there are not enough quant heads in HR, it looks more like a shortage of imagination and the ability to visualize stories. Each of the fifteen items in the overall list involve understanding and digesting the impact of data flows on the way we think about our people.Surprisingly, this list barely scratches the surface of what’s already possible. What’s coming in the next couple of years is mid blowing.
- How will HR help executives visualize the organization?
Take a look at this dynamic org chart from Autodesk research (here’s the internal research project). Human capital moves in, around, through, over and under the company. Until now, there were few tools that made the facts of the labor market clear. Visualization of labor supplies and sources are virtually at our fingertips. Anticipate organizational visualizations that show resource utilization, revenue generation, process flow, and physical workflow as animations. What we will discover when we really get the data into the open will be mind blowing. LinkedIn already owns much of this information. Soon, companies are going to ask their employees to limit the data they disclose in their online profiles because it reveals so much to the competition.
- What is HR’s role in work life balance questions for remote workers? Working all the time creates wage hour issues and increases stress related stuff?
Most savvy managers encourage work from home because employees are so productive there. It’s harder to develop a sense of work – not work when both things occupy the same physical space. As a result, workers clock more hours when they work from home. The problem is multi-faceted. Wage-hour laws still apply wherever an employee works (so you can expect a raft of work from home wage-hour claims). People who work all the time tend to be less productive that people with saner boundaries. Expect to see HR step in to certify people before they’re allowed to work remotely. In this case, work-life balance has legal implications.
- How does decentralized work impact organizational politics and culture?
Organizational politics is nothing more than the way that the resource allocation process plays out. In the absence of the water cooler, politics goes underground. When everyone works in the same place, it’s easy to see who is getting what. Remote work reduces some of the physical transparency that is the life blood of company culture HR’s role as the monitor and facilitator of corporate values and behavior takes on new meaning when it’s happening remotely and online.
- Is there a natural stopping place for automation? (When is enough enough, when does a workflow become a jail cell)
Process and workflow automation (the essence of first generation enterprise software) is starting to wade into niches where individual judgment made a competitive difference. At some point, automation ceases to be a productivity enhancer and starts to become an innovation inhibitor. Are we there already?
- Who owns all of the data that employees generate (not from doing the work but from being at work)? HR is the logical home for the data.
From the travel plans of our stuff to the productivity implications of workspace temperature variations, the data generated as a waste product of work has increasing value to the organization. As tracking devices miniaturize to the size of grains of sand, they will be embedded in everything. For the most part, any changes will be caused by the integration of people and the thing being monitored. The internet of stuff (things) is widely followed in the EU. It’s all about customizing the universe to our individual needs. Our devices will be talking to each other and us online. Spreading the learning throughout the organization is whose job?
- What are the limits of an employee file? What should they be? What do you learn when you aggregate all of your employees social graph?
If you are not already aggregating the social graph for your employee base, it’s time to start. Your recruiting department is doing some form of social media profiling of candidates already.
In the near future, there will be an incident of workplace violence that could have been forecast by reviewing social media. At that point, the lawyers will reverse their current primitive views and demand comprehensive files.
- Workforce optimization (knowing who is doing what and where the workflow overlaps are) seems like a logical piece of the HR portfolio. Why don’t we apply these supply chain management principles to all aspects of the company?
Companies like TOA Technologies ought to pulled into the HRTech umbrella. The difference between physical logistics and human performance optimization is a question of whether you care about the box or the box carrier. We’ve optimized the box side of the equation and need to move on to the human side. This would amount to teaching the OD people to be deeply involved in the actual work before shaping an operation.
- Employee development happens more effectively when interest groups are formed. Should the cultivation of professional societies and internal Birds of a Feather groups be part of HR’s work?
Building professional communities under the roof of the organization poses some interesting questions. Should they be open to people who aren’t a part of the organization? (probably). Who’s responsible for their ongoing success? (probably HR) Internal professional networks provide more interesting career paths and shift the locus of influence to the actual work. This obvious offshoot of collaborative tools can’t afford to left to organic growth. In house communities of interest will become the training backbone of the enterprise.
So, there you have it. If someone asks you what in the world you can do with big data, point them here. What is becoming possible is so far beyond conventional definitions of analytics that you’ll miss the bus of that’s how you approach the problem.
Five Links: New Management
The way we work and the way we manage are both changing in front of our eyes. The only way to avoid seeing it is to squint. Here are some snapshots from the front lines.
- The Entrepreneurial Economy: App Developers
This nugget includes the sort of labor market survey that ought to be a part of all workforce planning functions. Take a look.
- The Job At Hand: Creating Real Value
From the amazing Drucker Institute: “What distinguished this company was its emphasis on return on capital (measured correctly), value contribution by business unit, capital productivity growth and changes to its fundamental business model to reflect economic and market realities. This approach transformed capital investment strategies, product development programs, supply chain structures and line operating decisions to focus on long-term value growth while others focused on quarterly earnings per share. In the end, revenue grew, the company’s value soared, and it was able to generate good and lasting jobs. Other corporations in other industries have achieved similar gains.”
- Physician, Heal Thyself
Great story about a cultural transformation at a hospital.“Working here is their choice,” Curry says. “But how they work here is our choice.” Bindra, who joined Citrus Valley last year, has likewise been an agitator for change—and he, too has had to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure. Some recalcitrant physicians have dubbed Bindra “Dr. Cookbook” for pushing them to adhere to industry best practices, whether it’s running down a strict checklist before conducting surgery or following the latest in evidence-based medicine. Besides courage, the second key to Citrus Valley’s revival has been the other C. “Constant, clear, consistent communication has to occur to change a culture,” Curry explains.”
- What Exactly is Agile? Is Kanban Agile?
This is part four of a five part series that is the best single overview of Agile you can find anywhere. If you haven’t been paying attention, Agile Methods got their start as a new way of managing software projects. They are spreading to all areas of the organization. The most advanced and effective versions are hard to manage using traditional management methods. You need to be current on this. (also see the free book “An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide“)
- Dances with Robots
“We worry too much about a world where robots replace us. It seems like the bigger opportunity and solution to that problem is to use robots to make each and every one of us better at the work that we do.”
Events, Interesting Happenings and New Resources
- Skills Gaps: Understanding Talent Shortages and What They Mean
This webinar (recording) covers the underpinnings of the Skills Gap. It’s part 1 of a series. Parts 2 and 3 available in 2013.
- Social Recruiting Strategies Conference
(San Francisco, Jan 30-31, 2013) John Sumser keynote on the history and future of social recruiting
- HRTech Europe: Spring Warmup
(London, March 19-20, 2013) Sumser on Where Ideas Come From and the Big Data Showcase
- Learning Analytics Summer Institute
(Stanford, Palo Alto July 1-5, 2013) This looks like the right place to be if you’re interested in Big Data for Learning.
Skills Gap 5 – The Future is Here
In the late 1980s, circuit card design shifted from a paper based process to an automated one. One day, Electronic Engineers once worked with a draftsman to do board layouts on blueprint paper. The next, design was calculated by a machine.
Senior engineers and first line supervisors found themselves without a map of the new territory. All of the vectors that defined work one day were invalid the next. A trench level employee who looked like he (there weren’t very many shes) was slacking off might actually be waiting for the machine to finish processing. Hard work involved sitting still when it once involved extensive use of a slide rule.
In the early days, work problems were blamed on the trench level employees. Sh#t flows downhill. Ultimately, it turned out that the older more experience folks had no way to make sense of the new world. Replacements happened quickly. The old guard was kept around for their wisdom just long enough for the youngsters to get tired of the war stories.
A significant part of what is called a skills shortage has a similar dynamic.
As agile technology filters through the various departments of the company, old hierarchical management types are becoming redundant. The new approach, which is anti-legacy, anti-hierarchy and anti-assumption doesn’t produce familiar assurances of certainty. Right now, part of the apparent skills gap is old school managers looking for the smarty-pants who will tell them that 2 + 2 = 5.
There is also a real shortage of confidence.
All work is becoming at least partly technical. No job, with the exception of the very most menial, gets through the workday without some level of computer engagement. As the price of smartphone plummets, everyone will have better tools than the company.
Some of the solution is a new kind of trust. Anyone who can navigate the transition from DVD to BluRay to Streaming is more than capable of mastering technology that looks like it takes formal training. We’re going to start to expect that.
In the late 1970s, the countryside was dotted with Technical Schools that taught computer programming and other technical skills. Many of those graduates found their way onto key technical slots. The STEM shortage of the time was often solved with field promotions and the use of people who had enough skills to start the training.
The pace of technology is rapidly accelerating. This problem, not having people readily available to use current technology, will grow and grow over the coming decade. While the answers aren’t clear, you can be sure that new training and learning forms will evolve to solve it.
This is where the real skills shortage lives.
Read the series
- Skills Gap 1: The Hiring Paradox
- Skills Gap 2: Outsourcing
- Skills Gap 3: The Pace of Change
- Skills Gap 4: Undercapitalization
- Skills Gap 5: The Future is Here
If your company is involved in social media, or if your employees blog or tweet as part of their work, they need to remember the FTC’s transparency requirements.
The Federal Trade Commission is the consumer agency that brought you “truth in advertising.” Okay. They’re still working on it.
As part of their efforts, the FTC wants bloggers (and everyone else) to disclose their relationships with vendors, employers, and anyone who pays or gives them things. It’s not required all the time, just when the writer is endorsing a vendor, company, book, product or person, and they have received something from them.
It can be any connection or exchange that could affect your opinion. Basically, if you have received anything of value from that person or company and then you talk about them in a post, you should disclose that they gave it to you.
What’s Included in Anything?
It does include things that have value, even if they were free to you. For example, Meet-Meme often gives bloggers free personalized cards to use at conferences. They gave me some for the SHRM National conference in Atlanta. I love them. I’m trying to convince my kids they really need Heather Bussing trading cards instead of baseball or Pokemon cards. If I was reviewing Meet-Meme, which I kind of just did, I should probably disclose that they gave me free cards, which I also just did.
The idea is that readers should be able fairly evaluate your credibility when you are talking about a company or product, especially if you are endorsing it. So if you are paid or given free stuff to talk about it, then you need to say that.
What Do You Say?
If a blogger does have a relationship with an advertiser that needs to be mentioned, it’s pretty simple. You can just say, “ABC Company gave me this product to try,” or, “XYZ Company sent me to their theme park to try it out for a day.” It’s not too complicated, and it should just be straight forward and upfront.
So if your employees are blogging or tweeting about your company on their personal accounts, they should say they work there.
If your marketing department is putting out funny videos, they should disclose the connection to the company, if it’s not already apparent.
What happens if you don’t? I expect the FTC has better things to do than to chase down bloggers who occasionally write about a product or service after getting it as a Klout perk. However, employees of large companies who endorse the company products without disclosing their relationship would be a more significant risk. The penalties for failure to disclose range from written warnings to significant fines (up to $11,000 per occurrence).
So if your employees are using social media to promote your company, they should make sure to disclose that they are being paid to do it. And then please don’t make them put “My tweets are my own” on their accounts, because that is deceptive.