Category Archives: talent management

Are Drones Targeting Your Job?

This morning, I came across an interesting piece on the ABC News website titled “How Drones Will Replace Humans in the Workplace.”

462430535True, this probably isn’t the most burning issue facing HR leaders today, but the commercial use of drones is certainly a topic we’re starting to see a lot more of in the news lately. If there’s been a tipping point here, it probably was Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo’s revelation on 60 Minutes last December that the world’s largest online retailer was exploring the use of drones to deliver packages to its customers.

Since then, drones have left the war zone and have started to appear in our backyards. As a story appearing in The Des Moines Register pointed out last month, real-estate is a natural, with agents “increasingly taking their work to the skies, using remote-controlled aircraft to film bird’s-eye-view video tours of homes, land and commercial properties.”

Asking what jobs might be at risk if and when drones are given clearance by the Federal Aviation Administration to take off commercially, the author of the ABC News piece quotes Mary Cummings, a drone expert who teaches at MIT and Duke University. Cummings suggests delivery jobs, such as UPS and FedEx, are likely candidates, along with police jobs. “Crop dusters might also find their risky work outsourced,” she adds.

(As you might expect, there was no mention of HR jobs. No speculation that, one day, drones might be delivering pink slips to remote workers included in a reduction-in-force.)

A number of obstacles, of course, lie in the way of this becoming a reality, including the need for the FAA to ease up on regulations. But experts expect it’s just a matter of time for that to happen.

In the ABC News piece, Cummings also suggests workers, in general, don’t really need to sweat the commercial use of drones catching on.

‘Ultimately,’ she says, ‘drones will create more jobs than they replace, they will save lives and they will give us capabilities we only dream about—like everyone owning our own flying cars.’ ”

 

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Survey: Weak Leadership Pipelines a Big Concern

leaky pipesWho will be the business leaders of tomorrow? This is clearly on the minds of HR leaders around the world, judging from a new survey from Right Management titled Talent Management: Accelerating Business Performance. The survey of approximately 2,200 HR execs from 13 countries finds that 46 percent identified leadership development as the top priority for this year and that only 13 percent have confidence in the strength of their leadership pipelines to fill critical openings.

This lack of confidence stems from the de-prioritization of talent development in the wake of cost cuts, according to Ruediger Schaefer, Right Management’s global talent management chief:

Today’s optimism for growth is limited by a lack of organizational agility, and employers are seeing the impact of the financial cuts and cost reductions that placed talent development on the back burner. As a result, too man companies are facing talent shortages, skills mismatches and weak leadership pipelines that threaten business growth. Future success is dependent on a sustained strategic commitment to assessing, developing and activating talent.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • The top three global talent management challenges are lack of skilled talent for key positions, shortage of talent at all levels and less-than-optimal employee engagement.
  • Forty-eight percent of global employers plan to broaden their employee engagement programs to keep top talent on staff.
  • Management succession planning ranks as a higher priority in the Americas (36 percent) than in Europe (17 percent) and Asia Pacific (31 percent).

 

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Now Serving: Free College Degrees

150px-Starbucks_Corporation_Logo_2011_svgIf you happen to notice your local Starbucks barista acting even more upbeat and happy than normal, it may not caffeine-related.

Starbucks employees nationwide will be eligible for a free college education through Arizona State University’s online program beginning this fall, according to AZCentral.com:

The new initiative, touted as the first of its kind, will allow many of Starbucks’ 135,000 workers to graduate debt free from ASU with no requirement to repay or stay on with the company. The funding will come from a partnership between ASU and Starbucks.

ASU President Michael Crow is scheduled to appear in New York on Monday with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to launch the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, as it is called.

“Starbucks decided human capital is one of the most important things they can invest in,” Crow said. “Everybody is concerned about what are the ways to get through college.”

In a news release, Schultz talked about “the fracturing of the American Dream.” He said: “There’s no doubt, the inequality within the country has created a situation where many Americans are being left behind. The question for all of us is, should we accept that, or should we try and do something about it.”

Kudos to Starbucks for this initiative, and here’s hoping many other organizations follow suit in an effort to increase the country’s knowledge base.

h/t to USA Today

 

 

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Moving the Diversity Needle at Google

Certainly, on one level, the news coming out of Google on Wednesday that the Mountain View, Calif., company still has a long way to go as far as diversity and inclusion are concerned was hardly surprising. Like a lot of Silicon Valley companies, because of the nature of its business, 478279605you’d expect Google might struggle on this front.

But it’s at least refreshing to see Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock go public with the company’s diversity data, something I’m told is somewhat rare in the ever-secretive Valley.

In case you missed it, here’s what Bock posted on his blog

We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly … .”

Globally, Bock reports, Google’s workforce consists of 70 percent men and 30 percent women; while in the United States, only 2 percent of its workforce are black and 3 percent are Hispanic. (It should be noted, though, that 30 percent are Asian while 61 percent are white.)

In terms of leadership, the ethnicity numbers were even less diverse, with 72 percent of the executives being white, 23 percent Asian, 2 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic.

In his blog post, Bock continues …

There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities. For example, women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer-science degrees in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and collect fewer than 5 percent of degrees in CS majors, respectively. So we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in education. Among other things, since 2010, we’ve given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer-science education to women and girls. And we’ve been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science. For example, this year, Google engineer Charles Pratt was in-residence at Howard University, where he revamped the school’s Intro to CS curriculum. But we’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be … .”

I asked Daniel S. Guillory, CEO of Innovations International, a consultancy based in San Francisco with expertise in the areas of diversity and inclusion, if the Google figures were in line with what’s happening at other tech companies in the Valley.

“I’d say they’re pretty close,” Guillory said. “Perhaps you’ll find more diversity at companies that have been at it longer [such as Intel and HP] and have a culture established for a longer period of time, but as far as newer companies are concerned, I would think these figures are somewhat similar.”

Guillory’s advice to companies in the Valley struggling with this issue …

First, he said, look at where you recruit. “A lot of times, organizations will recruit from certain schools, so the first thing I would say is to broaden where you do your recruiting,”  he says. “Taking the top 10 percent of students from Stanford is one approach, but recruiting someone who’s in the 1 percent from a university somewhere else, one that might not be considered a top-tier school, gives you the opportunity to find [top talent as well].”

The other thing, Guillory continues, is to create an inclusive culture. It’s one thing to recruit talent, he says, but it’s equally important to create a culture that truly values and integrates the contributions of people who are different.

Of course, whether Google can make greater strides in improving the diversity of its workforce in the coming years remains to be seen. But it’s nonetheless good to see Bock and Google take a meaningful step in that direction by being candid about where things stand today.

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Zappos Finds a New Way to Recruit

ZapposJob postings? They’re so old-school! Las Vegas-based Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has decided to do away with posting jobs on career sites such as Monster and LinkedIn in favor of a new social network designed specifically to help the company create a new “talent community” that it hopes will serve as a constant supply of top talent.

The talent community, called Zappos Insiders, will replace a hiring process that was losing its effectiveness, Michael Bailen, who oversees talent acquisition for the company, told the Wall Street Journal. “We spam them, they spam us back” was how he described for the WSJ the normal hiring process, in which companies post job descriptions, candidates flood the companies with resumes and recruiters spend only a few seconds reading each one before moving on to the next. Last year, the company was inundated with 31,000 applicants and ended up hiring about 1.5 percent of them, according to the WSJ.

With Zappos Insiders, people interested in the company can sign up and network with Zappos employees, participate in contests and chat with recruiters, who will have more time to suss out whether potential candidates are a good fit with the company, Bailen said. The recruiters will use software to help them sort Insiders members based on skill sets or personal interests into pipelines for areas such as merchandising or engineering, according to the Journal.

Bailen said he’s surprised that Zappos appears to be the first company to do this. “We’re hoping a lot of other companies jump on board,” he told the Journal.

 

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Leadership-Development Spend Up Again

Figure I might finish off the week with some positive news received a couple of days ago from Bersin by Deloitte.

New research from the Oakland-based consulting organization shows that U.S. organizations boosted leadership spending 14 percent on average for the second consecutive year. That translates to an estimated $15.5 billion in 2013. (Smaller organizations enjoyed the largest increase.)

466169293As I write this, we’re putting the finishing touches on our annual “What’s Keeping HR Up at Night” survey that we’ll be sending out soon. And if the findings of 2014 survey are similar to last year’s or the year before that, leadership development will end up somewhere near the top of our list of issues HR leaders are most worried about (in 2013, it was the second-most-cited issue).

Well, if the Bersin study (Leadership Development Factbook 2014: Benchmarks and Trends in U.S. Leadership Development) is any indication, HR leaders are busy translating some of that worry into actual initiatives.

In addition to a 14 percent rise in spend, the research found employers are beefing up their staffs in the area of leadership development, with a 12 percent overall increase at U.S. organizations. It also found emerging leaders are getting a healthy dose of the funding, with 17 percent of leadership-development budgets going to high-potential professionals who have not yet reached an official managerial role.

On a more sober note, the study also revealed first-level managers were receiving the lowest per-person funding in leadership development. For example, within large organizations, these leaders each receive, on average, $2,600, or 34 percent less than emerging leaders and half the amount of mid-level leaders.

Considering the impact this level can have on engagement and performance, it would be nice to see this group get a bigger piece of the T&D pie.

Companies also continue to fall short when it comes to “priming the pump” as far as their leadership pipelines are concerned.

The research indicates that successors have been identified for just 10 percent of their first-level leaders and 19 percent of their mid-level leaders. The pipeline at higher levels also looks weak within these organizations, with successors identified for just 24 percent of senior-level positions and 36 percent of executive positions.

Further proof that companies still have a lot more work to do on this front.

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Giving Workers a Reason to Quit at Amazon

Years ago, we reported on Zappos’ decision to offer employees a $1,500 bonus to quit during its intensive, four-week training period. The thinking being, if they’re not happy in their jobs 480491805at that point, why prolong the inevitable and suffer the consequences in the process.

Well, in case  you haven’t already heard, earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reported in his letter to shareholders that the online retailing behemoth has established a program called “Pay to Quit” that pays warehouse employees up to $5,000 to leave.

Bezos spells out “Pay to Quit” this way in his letter to shareholders

It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer.’  We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

In a story in The Tennessean, an Amazon spokeswoman says only workers in the fulfillment centers, where customer orders are packed and shipped, are eligible for the program and that only a small percentage of employees take the company up on the offer. (Back in 2008, when we first wrote about the Zappos program, we were told only 2 percent of the trainees took the online shoe-and-clothing retailer up on its offer.)

Hearing about Amazon’s decision to follow in Zappos’ footsteps (excuse the pun), I tried to find other attempts at this, at decent-size organizations anyway, but came up empty handed. (If you’re aware of any, let us know.)

But with Amazon’s program getting the press attention it has, could that change?

I asked that question this afternoon to Joel Garfinkle, founder of Garfinkle Executive Coaching in Oakland, Calif., and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.

That’s certainly possible, Garfinkle told me. “ We live in a copycat world” and “a lot of people look to Jeff [Bezos] as the new Steve Jobs — someone who leads from the front and is willing to take risks,” he said.

Garfinkle believes the approach might have some merit. “If you’re neutral or positive about your job, you’re not going to take [the offer to leave],” he says. “But if you’re really on the fence or negative, it might be enough that you just might take it.”

Much still needs to be measured, he adds, but at the end of the day it could very well lead to higher overall productivity.

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Giving HR the Boot

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, titled “Is It a Dream or a Drag? Companies Without HR,” focuses on several mid-sized companies that have decided to get rid of their HR departments or never even had one in the first place.

These companies include LRN, a training and consulting firm (which has also served as a source for several stories we’ve written here at the magazine). David Greenberg, LRN’s executive vice president, told the Journal that the 250-employee company did away with its HR department several years ago because “we wanted to force people issues into the middle of the business.”

The story notes that companies are jettisoning their HR function because they’re concerned it bogs down innovation and nimbleness with too many rules and too much bureaucracy — and that software can handle most of the transactional stuff. I should add that the story doesn’t cite much in the way of statistics or research to support its thesis — in fact, the only figures it cites are from a SHRM study showing that U.S. employers had a median of 1.54 HR professionals for every 100 employees in 2012, which is actually up from a low of 1.24 in 2009. Nevertheless, the anecdotes within the story are interesting and offer some food for thought.

Steve Miranda, managing director of Cornell’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, notes the benefits of having HR staffers available to protect companies from running afoul of federal laws such as the FMLA. And the story cites restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse, which created its HR department in the wake of a $19 million settlement with the EEOC over a sex discrimination lawsuit.

Yet companies such as Klick Health (which has also served as a source for at least one HRE story) have forgone creating an HR department because they believe training managers and employees to handle conflicts on their own is a better approach, according to the story. CEO Leerom Segal said that instead of an HR function, Klick Health has two employees with customer-service backgrounds serve as “concierges” — it’s their jobs to ensure a “frictionless work experience” for employees.  The concierges serve as part of what the company calls its five-person “mojo team.” However, a former employee told the story’s authors that he often worried about liability when he had to discipline or terminate a direct report during his time at Klick Health.

As regular readers of HRE well know, HR — at its best — does a whole lot more than just protect its company from liability. Smart HR pros help their companies attract, retain and develop their talent — no small thing in an era where innovation matters more than ever and employee tenure is shorter than ever. This is not something a piece of software can do, no matter how beautifully designed; it’s certainly not something a lawyer can do, nor can an outside expert substitute for an insider who truly knows the organization and its people. If you’re looking for greater proof of the value HR can add, just review some recent HR Execs of the Year or our HR’s Rising Stars feature.

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A Message Worth Repeating?

In case you missed it (apparently I did), Jack and Suzy Welch crafted a LinkedIn post last week that again spoke to the importance of HR.

188065235“HR should be every company’s ‘killer app,’ ” they wrote in the piece, titled So Many Leaders Get This Wrong.

“What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted or moved out the door? Business is a game, and as with all games, the team that puts the best people on the field and gets them playing together wins. It’s that simple.”

Considering this, the two noted, it’s too bad “HR rarely functions as it should” and is often relegated to the background. “If you owned the Boston Red Sox, for instance, would you hang around with the team accountant or the director of player personnel?” they ask.

They continue …

Sure, the accountant can tell you the financials. But the director of player personnel knows what it takes to win: how good each player is and where to find strong recruits to fill talent gaps. Several years ago we spoke to 5,000 HR professionals in Mexico City. At one point we asked the audience: ‘How many of you work at companies where the leader gives HR a seat at the table equal to that of the CFO?’ After an awkward silence, fewer than 50 people raised their hands. Awful!”

They then go on to propose how to fix this mess …

It all starts with the people they appoint to run HR — not kingmakers or cops but big leaguers, men and women with real stature and credibility. In fact, managers need to fill HR with a special kind of hybrid: people who are part pastor (hearing all sins and complaints without recrimination) and part parent (loving and nurturing, but giving it to you straight when you’re off track).”

Of course, these comments are right in line with others offered up by Jack and Suzy Welch in the past. In a 2004 story we ran, Jack Welch shared an anecdote similar to the one in Mexico City, pointing out that having a scorekeeper in baseball who’s more important than the director of player personnel on a team is crazy.

Also, this isn’t the first time Jack and Suzy Welch referred to HR as a “killer app.” (One reference I found dates back to 2006.)

I’m sure some of you may be scratching your heads, wondering why the two are revisiting this subject once again. But considering how many organizations have yet to adjust their thinking, I think a case could easily be made that it’s a message worth repeating. (In case you were wondering, last count, the LinkedIn piece received 163,376 eyeballs, 2,679 likes and 565 comments.)

Adding one more point of view to this discussion, Bloomberg TV interviewed former GE executive and former Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli yesterday, asking him to share his thoughts on the couple’s piece. Nardelli, who is now founder and CEO of the investment banking firm XLR-8,  said he was in complete agreement. (No surprise there, considering he describes Jack Welch as a mentor.) Companies, he said, “will spend an inordinate amount of analysis on your physical capital, and yet it’s your human capital that brings that to life.”

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An Eye to the Future

As I’m sure many of you are aware, HRE has published a fair share of stories on the need for HR leaders to pay closer attention to their own talent pipeline.

159252853In light of this, I’d like to once again call your attention to an initiative introduced by the National Academy of Human Resources a number of years ago aimed at raising future leaders in the profession: The NAHR Ram Charan HR Essay competition, which is now open to undergraduate and graduate students majoring in HR, industrial/labor relations or related fields.  In addition to the priceless prestige that goes with being selected a winner, award recipients also receive handsome cash prizes of $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1.

This year’s topic ….

Performance Management – A Very Real Issue for Employers and Employees.  Students are asked to identify a new way to measure and improve employee performance that is efficient, effective, and will be embraced by employees because they view it as a fair system that is helpful to them in their career.  The new process must be measurable for effectiveness, contributions to the success of the organization, and reassure management that the right people are being rewarded.”

If you know of anyone who might be interested in participating in this competition, please pass on the above link.

And if you’d like to get a sense of some of the original research and thinking that resulted from last year’s competition, check out the first, second and third place winning entries, submitted by Tiffany Scheff and Josie Trine of Cornell University’s ILR School; Joseph Redlitz of Rutgers University, and Indranil Dey of the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines, respectively. Their topic: “How are electronic technology and social media affecting the employment relationship between employers and employees; and the roles, responsibilities and contributions of HR organizations?”

I suspect those of you who do will walk away feeling a bit better about the profession’s future.

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