HR Examiner v4.05 February 1, 2013
Table of Contents
In The Mood: Measuring the Organizational Climate with Emooter
Like it or not, real-time measurement of the mood in your organization is headed your way. Significant early inroads are already part of the conversation GlassDoor has opened between outsiders and insiders. You can get a reasonably good snapshot of the organizational dynamic with their reviews and a little searching around.
But, as we know, an organization’s culture is an evolving swirl. It has deeper densities in some places and totally foreign experiences in others. The engineering department and customer service (who may not even like each other) are inevitably different cultures with different values.
(My little two seater, made by a great automotive company, has the coffee holder placed directly over the electronic gearshift. That way, when you have a cold drink in the holder, it drips onto the electronics and occasionally shorts the gearbox. Customer service says, “We’ll fix it once to fix it but the engineers think it’s your fault for having a cold drink while you’re driving.” The car’s amazing and we live with the disconnect between the two internal cultures. Meanwhile, the company usually makes one of the various best places to work lists most years.)
At any rate, the upshot of the whole big data thing is that static measures will be replaced with ongoing constant streams of data. Everywhere you see something that takes a periodic measurement, expect it to be replaced with something that measures continuously. AND, expect to see everything you see measured in the same way. We are entering the era of comprehensive measurement.
Last week, we had a long conversation with the Finnish founder of Emooter, a one step happiness meter for employees. Take a look. The idea is to get the simplest measurement possible; a short, repeatable, easy look at how you’re feeling. The web app allows you to accumulate your history. If enough members of your team sign up, you can get a flow of data about the overall organization’s current temperament.
It’s neither a new nor original idea. But, that’s rarely what matters in the evolution of technology. The game always goes to the team that gets people to use the idea. There’s something about Emooter’s simple authenticity that makes the Finnish team a dark horse contender.
Always. William Tincup, agent provocateur and user adoption guru, notes that “in a Saas world, your revenue is as secure as the love your users feel for your product.” Emooter’s aggressive simplicity makes it an interesting contender in an increasingly crowded field. Simple measures of a new product’s acceptance (or a new software tool’s integration) are sure to be a part of the next wave of adoption measurement.
Constant measurement requires simple indicators. Mood measurement is a proxy for the complicated and vague thing that people are calling engagement. Constant measurement of mood as a way to gauge customer satisfaction has been a part of the five star restaurant toolkit for years.
Take a good look at this article about mood measurement from the Quantified Self movement. The combination of ongoing personal measurement trends and the investor / job hunter desires to have a real time look, employee mood measurement and assessment is clearly on the horizon. You can easily imagine happiness indicators being tied to measurements of success on projects and integrated with performance assessments.
Emooter’s current world domination strategy is the Trojan Horse approach we’ve pooh-poohed elsewhere. Simply, the idea is to give the basic functionality away for free to employees. When a significant mass of employees sign up, then you tell the company what it costs to get the data you’ve collected on it. It’s probably not the best way to begin a relationship.
We’re living in an era that prizes good ideas with business models that pivot as a result of learning. That’s certainly what Emooter will do.
Meanwhile, we’re left to ponder the future of feedback between employees and their employers. This line of communications is traditionally pretty one way. Projects like Emooter point to a future where the conversation is more reciprocal.
Five Links: Smorgasbord
This week: things online, competing for immigrants, change yourself first, the impact of driverless cars, writing your bio and seeing your facebook network.
- Broadening the Value of the Industrial Internet
This article describes the way that privacy will be purchased in the workplace. The apps that succeed will provide more value to the thing or people being monitored than to the people doing the monitoring. It will get tested and verified in the industrial Internet then taken into the office.
“But that data isn’t just useful to those doing the monitoring — it’s turned around to generate value for the households that have advanced meters. Utility customers can see detailed graphs of their electricity and water usage, and integrated software from Aclara uses a statistical model to break out electricity usage into categories like heating, cooling and lighting. It then makes customized recommendations for energy savings by referring to county building records to find the age of a building and its construction type. The utility will even send a staff member to big commercial clients to consult on energy savings.”
- Canada announces new startup visa program to attract entrepreneurs starting on April 1
Attracting immigrants is a competitive sport. The long game goes to the countries that win this competition.
- Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
Do you ever get tired of hearing that the program didn’t work because of people’s resistance to change? It would be great if the people who offer the excuse were great examples of change being easy (or at least possible). But, generally they’re not. Today’s sweeping recommendation is that you limit the leadership of change initiatives to people who have overcome actual obstacles. They’ll understand the reluctance to change and what to do about it. If you want to become one of those people, this article is a great place to start.
- Fasten Your Seatbelts: Google’s Driverless Car Is Worth Trillions
This is a breath taking view of the meaning of Google’s driverless cars. Be sure to read the entire piece including Part 2. It’s easy to forget how much of our economy is tied to the car and our current picture of it. As mind-blowing as the article is, it doesn’t actually scratch the surface. The economic implications of driverless transportation include revamping distribution systems and eliminating all professional driving jobs. This counterpoint is also worth your attention.
- How to Write a Good Bio
Unlike a resume, a bio is best when shortest.
- Wolfram Alpha Facebook Utility
This tool will give you a clear look at the size and scope of your Facebook network. The level of detail and characterizations of your friends and their characteristics is enlightening. (Hat Tip – Steve Boese)
Events and Resources
- HRExaminer Radio: Industry News and Commentary. Fridays @ 11AMPST (2PMEST)
- Open Course: Learning Analytics and Knowledge (online, free, Starts Feb 11, 2013) Good place to experience large scale online learning on an interesting Talent Management issue
- HRTech Europe: Spring Warm up (London, March 19-20, 2013) Sumser on Where Ideas Come From and a half day of Cutting Edge HR
- NeuroGaming 2012 Conference: (San Francisco, May 1-2, 2013) The place to learn about human-sensor integration
Dear XXX, If They Won’t Hire You, We Will
The big print in the full page New York Times ad begins, “Are you the author of this cover letter? Well, whoever you are, we like the cut of your jib. Clearly you are a straight shooter with a refined taste in steakhouses….”
Striking just the right balance of irreverence, the piece goes on to say, “Sure, Goldman can teach you how to properly evaluate a company but can they teach you how to properly age a sirloin? Lazard might know a thing or two about capital markets but when it comes to creamed spinach, they may as well be Lehman Brothers. Do we even have to ask what Morgan Stanley’s compliance division woul do when faced with quartering a freshJersey steer carcass?”
The piece centers on a highly redacted cover letter that appears at the top of the page. Every inch of the ad is designed to get you read the cover letter and then, if you qualify, to spend time as an intern at Smith & Wollensky (one of New York’s great steakhouses).
It’s an amazing piece of job specific employment branding. Knowing that they must compete with the big financial houdses for talent, Smith & Wollensky took the bull by the horns, so to speak. The piece is simple proof that winning the battle depends on smart tactics, not size or market dominance. Smith & Wollensky won’t have trouble filling their intern slots this summer.
Great employment branding is job and market specific: acknowldedges the company’s realities (in size and reputation); understands the supply and demand variables and maximizes share of voice.
Here’s the presentation we’ve been giving on the mechanics of data driven employment branding. This Smith and Wollensky ad is a textbook example.
Performance reviews — who needs ‘em?
This is hardly a perspective that rocks the boat within HR. In the world of HR technology, the backlash was so extreme that guys like Mike Carden and his crew at Sonar6 were able to build an entire brand around “building performance reviews that don’t suck.”
But, to paraphrase Bart Simpson, getting HR people to hate performance reviews is like making teenagers depressed — it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. That goes for just about everyone in your organization over age 35. But can you believe that the youngest segment of your workforce might actually look forward to performance reviews. They love getting feedback in a formalized, complete-a-self-assessment, talk-to-the-boss kind of way.
Yeah, it just about made my head explode, too. You see, I’m a performance review hater of the old-school variety. I’ve done hundreds of performance reviews over the years. I remember the dark ages of paper processes. I remember the contentious conversations when someone got a 2 percent raise instead of 4 percent. I remember the behind-the-scenes politics. The performance review wasn’t a development exercise. It was an ass-kicking for everyone. And so I said good riddance.
Then I spent many years not doing performance reviews. I believe that performance management is really just management. Talk to your employees on a regular basis, offer direct guidance as appropriate, and schedule specific meetings to talk about them and their professional growth. This approach worked pretty well — at least with people who are 35 or older. The people who shared the same memories of performance reviews — mainly the Xers and the Boomers — were fine chucking all of it out the window. But the young folks — the dewy-eyed, eager, ambitious Gen Yers — they couldn’t wait for their performance reviews.
At first, I was confused. I even told them, “You’re supposed to hate these things.” Then, I’d have a performance and development conversation with them. I’d say everything that I would have said in a formal review. The difference is that without some tangible record, they seemed to believe that nothing official happened. I’ve got lots of theories about why this is, but I’ll save everyone’s time and just go ahead and blame Facebook.
And that’s one of the reasons I found my way back to formal performance reviews as a business owner. There are other “inside-baseball” reasons — goal alignment, competencies and a bunch of other HR-gobbledygook that actually seems to work. But I’ve also begun to think that it’s possible for the kiddos to teach us oldsters a new way to look at the whole thing. I really believe that the performance review generation gap can close if three things happen:
- 1. The focus is not force ranking, but career development. Performance review haters use force ranking as a proxy for every ass-kicking part of the process. While I think that force ranking actually gets a bad rap, let’s all agree that reviews work better if they are more about how an employee can improve than how an employee does (or doesn’t) measure up.
- Have an employee who consistently misses deadlines? Build an action plan and set regular check-ins.
- Have an employee who is trying to work up into a management role? Maybe a little management training is in order.
- Have a superstar who wants to move up or is getting bored in their current role? Maybe setting up a stretch assignment will get them ready.
- 2. Younger workers can show us how it should be done. It’s not leading by example; it’s really setting an example by following. Younger workers must see that there’s something in it for them and buy in to investing their sweat equity. If they show everyone else that they’re giving it a sincere effort and getting something out of the process, they might change the way their dubious older peers look at reviews.
- 3. The benefits must be clear to everyone. There has to be a benefit to everyone. Organizations must see improved innovation, retention, productivity, growth, revenue and profits. Employees must see career and skills growth. If these benefits don’t occur, the whole thing falls apart. But if no one benefits, the whole thing should fall apart.
High-performing organizations are the result of intentional efforts, not luck. Performance management shouldn’t be a necessary evil. It’s just necessary. Let’s take the evil out of it. Can younger workers show us a better way? I think they can exceed expectations. And when they do, you can bet it’s going on their review.
Jay Shepherd is one of the smartest people I know.
If you want proof of Jay’s sheer brilliance, he quit practicing law. Now he writes and helps companies find better ways to work. His first book, Firing At Will: A Manager’s Guide, is “an unlawerly handbook” for “the riskiest thing you can do at work with your clothes on.” Here’s my review.
Jay is also one of the clearest thinkers on how to simplify business problems. The key is figuring out where people get caught in fear, or processes, or just stuff that doesn’t matter. After litigating employment and business disputes for many years, and spending lots of time researching how and where things went sideways, Jay came up with the Result Triangle.
The Result Triangle is 3 interrelated pieces that matter when we try to figure out a question or problem. When you address all 3 pieces, you have a simple and effective way to make a decision.
The 3 pieces are:
- clarify the goal;
- show you care;
- and address the fear.
He has a great Ignite talk on how to use the Results Triangle here, along with examples of the how to use the Result Triangle involving airplanes, coats, and brussels sprouts. There’s even a handy dandy worksheet you can download here.
Most people and companies are good at figuring out their goals. And many are pretty good at showing they care . . . well, at least about themselves. But knowing what you want and caring about it is exactly the right place to start.
The tricky piece is addressing the fear. We have a “never let them see you sweat” culture where we’re not supposed to be afraid. If we are scared, we don’t talk about it.
Fear is exactly what gets us stuck. Fear of being taken advantage of and fear of litigation is what’s behind most bad policies at work. A great example is social-media policies which are really about fear of looking bad. Fear of not being good enough keeps people stuck in bad jobs. Fear of failure keeps companies from taking chances on new ideas.
Until people and companies get clear on what they are afraid of, it’s impossible to make a really good decision. The Result Triangle is a great tool to change that.
Events, Happenings and New Resources
- HRExaminer Radio:Industry News and Commentary. Fridays @ 11AMPST (2PMEST)
- Open Course: Learning Analytics and Knowledge (online, free, Starts Feb 11, 2013) Good place to experience large scale online learningon an interesting Talent MAnagement issue
- 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 a half day of Cutting Edge HR
- NeuroGaming 2012 Conference: (San Francisco, May 1-2, 2013) The place to learn about human-sensor integration