When Great Places to Work Outsource Jobs That Are... You Guessed It, Not Great...

Part of the game of building a great place to work is that you never let down your guard.

--Never admit that things are less than perfect...

--Never agree with someone that suggests things are less than perfect...

--Keep adding benefits or features of your culture that are cool but few people will actually use...

And today, I'm adding one.  Here's how it goes:

--When faced with a job that is so objectionable it will burn people out in 7 months, deem it "non-core", outsource it to another company and transfer the cultural liability. Social network

That's what Facebook has traditional done with the people they need to review flagged posts.  A job reviewing flagged posts exposes the worker responsible to all types of objectionable humanity, and let's face it, after a year in that job, you hate life and hate people.  That doesn't transfer well to the employee survey scores or other ways to measure cultural health, so high-end companies make the obvious choice to outsource it.

Problem is, the job is still ruining someone's life and you're still responsible.  More on the "reviewing flagged posts" job at Facebook:

"A former Facebook moderator said the pressure to churn through a never-ending pile of disturbing material eventually made her desensitized to child pornography and bestiality.

Sarah Katz, 27, worked as a content reviewer at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, through a third-party contractor, Vertisystem, for eight months in 2016. Her job was simple: figure out whether posts reported to Facebook violated the company's detailed community standards.

Practically, this meant eyeballing new and potentially horrific material every 10 seconds and making a snap decision about whether it needed to be ditched. Posts that needed reviewing were called "tickets," and there were about 8,000 every day.

To deal with this onslaught, Facebook had 4,500 moderators like Katz on its books last year, and in May 2017 it announced plans to hire another 3,000 to help it in the fight against the darkest corners of its user output. Facebook is also investing in artificial intelligence to help police posts that break its rules."

Any guesses whether those 3000 additional hires will be contractors or full-time employees?

They're going to be contractors.  To be fair to Facebook, you can't hire that many people in this type of role without help.  BUT - you can bet a lot of them - if not all - will stay contractors because Facebook will consider this to be a non-core part of their people business.  

The dirty side of maintaining a great place to work is how you define a Great Place to Work.  But contracting in the toughest, lowest level jobs, you're playing with definitions - to your benefit.

I'm not saying I wouldn't do the same thing.  But related to the culture you have, when you outside dirty/shitty jobs, people are getting an incomplete view of happiness and engagement at your company.

The real win for Facebook is when AI can do it all and humans don't have to touch this stuff.  That will be awesome - until the machines take over, off course.

 


Asians FTW: The 2018 Google Diversity Report...

The latest Google Diversity report is out.  The baseline is this - female, black and latino numbers still struggling, both in the overall workforce and in management ranks.

But Asians?  Doing just fine, thank you very much.

For context, I thought I'd start with how the overall numbers match up from 2014 to 2018 (email subscribers, click through to site for charts, you'll want to see these):

Here's the 2014 chart:

Google2014

Here's the 2018 chart:

2018

The downside - little progress overall in black, latino and women representation at the company.

But the upside - and if you're going to knock them for the downside you have to note this - is that Google is significantly less white than it was 4 years ago.

It just so happens that Asians took the majority of those gains.  So while work still needs to happen in the aforementioned classes, I'm always a little shocked that companies like Google don't get more props for their workforce representation of Asians.

If I react to anything in those numbers, it's this.  Daaaaaaaamn - Asians are kicking some ass.  For real.  If careers at Google are what you want for your kids, we probably need to take a look at the various nationalities that comprise the Asian category (a very broad catagory that includes Indian Continent as well as Pacific Rim) and figure out what they are doing right - even in American schools - to prep their kids for this type of work.  My kids are smart and actually decent at Math and Science, in advanced classes, but there's a couple of Asian kids that are the Michael Jordan and Larry Bird (threw in a white guy for balance - did you catch that?) of math at their school.

My kid was on the college bowl team for the stuff that didn't involve Math.  When a math question came up, all the other kids took their hand off the buzzer and just looked at the Asian kid I'll call "MJ" - as to say, "you've got this one MJ - we'll be over here reading TMZ if you need us to sharpen your pencil."

MJ's going to work at Google.  His family doesn't need Google to do anything to get him there.

I'm looking at the Google diversity numbers and resisting the urge to wag the finger.  Keep on crushing product and eroding overall privacy, G-town.  I'll give you a golf clap for the good faith efforts to build more diverse math and science pipeline, but then give a knowing nod to the people who are really crushing it in those numbers - the many nationalities that comprise the fictional, yet powerful, EEO category of "Asian".

 


If You're Pointing Me To Your Automated Calendar to Pick a Time, You've Already Lost Me...

Stop me when you've felt one of these before:

1.  You and Person B are friends and/or business associates and have a relationship that is beyond the initial stages.

2.  Person B (without the relationship listed above) has asked you for help/assistance via a meeting where they can have some your your (valuable?) time.

3.  Person B works for a company you're paying for some type of service.

So imagine one of the forms of Person B has reached out to you.  All of those forms of Person B are a bit different, but one thing is for sure - you're at least equal in the relationship, and in #2 and #3, it's fair to say that at least for now, you're the more important party in the 2-way relationship.

Which is neither good nor bad.  Until Person B does the following to set up a meeting with you after you've agreed to meet:

PERSON B SENDS YOU AN AUTOMATED LINK TO THIER CALENDAR AND ENCOURAGES YOU TO SELECT A TIME THAT THEY ARE OPEN.

PERSON B IS VERY BUSY.  THEY'VE AUTOMATED THEIR SCHEDULING.

PERSON B NEEDS YOUR TIME.  BUT RATHER THAN WORK A COUPLE OF EMAILS WITH YOU TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU, THEY'RE TELLING YOU WHAT'S GOOD FOR THEM - VIA TECHNOLOGY.

Goodbye relationship.  Hello automated future!

Here's what you signal to me when you are Person B and you send me an automated process that "invites" me to select a block on your busy calendar:

1--You're treating me like the cable company does.

2--The cable company doesn't really give two shits about making me feel like there's a relationship.

3--The last time I checked, you didn't provide HBO (game of thrones) or Showtime (Billions) as part of our relationship.

4--It's fair to say since you aren't the distributor of Game of Thrones, I'm less willing to feel like a transaction related to our relationship and your unwillingness to spend a little time to make me feel like we're connecting when asking me to spend time with you.

Hey Person B (which is all of us from time to time, right?), watch the transactional nature of the scheduling services you're using when you ask me for time.

Or as an alternative - find a service that will easily look at my calendar without setting up an account or will automate the process of you having a brief conversation with me.

Isn't that the promise of AI?  How about automating the process and making me feel like I'm having a conversation with Person B?  That would be cool and acceptable.

Or you can just treat me like the cable company does and see how that works out for you.

Related: Get off my lawn.

 

 


Amazon Flexes Muscles, Eliminates Occupational Tax in Seattle in One Month....

Here's what power looks like in an employer, my friends...

Less than a month after unanimously passing a contentious tax on big business, Seattle’s city council has voted to repeal the so-called “head tax.” Against the fervent protestations of residents and local coalitions—which were extended to a full hour of testimony—council members voted 7-2 to pulled the plug on what would have been a vital source of support for city’s growing homeless population. 

Let me break that down for you: The city council unanimously passed the tax, then one month later repealed it.  What happened?  The city's biggest employer, Amazon, said "what up", flexed it's muscles and reversed the whole thing in a month. Drevil

Before breaking down what Amazon did and being awestruck by the raw power, let's learn more about the "head tax" that was proposed from Gizmodo:

In the form it was passed last month, the “head tax” would shave off $275 per full-time employee at companies generating over $20 million in revenue, totaling an estimated $47 million per year for five years. Those funds would then be earmarked for homeless services and affordable housing. Seattle declared its homelessness a state of emergency in 2015, with soaring costs of living and congestion of public services considered the foremost catalysts for the rising homeless rate.

The repeal comes a day after the No Tax on Jobs campaign—a coalition which large businesses which would be affected by the “head tax,” like Amazon and Starbucks, pledged significant financial support to—announced it had gotten over 45,000 signatures, more than enough to generate a referendum to overturn the tax in November. Speakers on behalf of No Tax on Jobs at the City Council chambers repeatedly described the coalition as “grassroots,” however the Public Disclosure Commission of Washington reveals it gave over $246,000 to a firm called Morning in America for “signature gathering and verification” and an additional $20,000 to Cre8tive Empowerment for “campaign/volunteer/social media management.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan described the quick legislative retreat as a means to avoid “a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis.” Critics saw the repeal as a backroom deal to appease Amazon.
 
Put another way, the city council of Seattle forgot who is really in charge in Seattle.  Cliff notes - it's Amazon!

Among other things, Amazon reacted to the head tax by halting construction of office towers in downtown Seattle (click link to read more), which caused some freak outs about Amazon potentially leaving Seattle, a prospect that is surely strengthened by the fact that the giant online retailer has 20 cities on a list of finalists for a second headquarters.

"Hell, we'll just pick two places instead of one" is the clear message.

My city, the ATL, is in the running for the second HQ, and the Seattle head tax teaches us one thing pretty clearly - Be careful what you ask for when Amazon comes to town.


The New Blackberry Is Out - Here's What It Tells Us About Change...

Hey Gen Z!

You love your smart phones. Did you realize the boomers and a good part of your Gen X brethren grew up in corporate America with a device called the "Blackberry?"  It had an actual physical keyboard on it that the old people swore by, and at one time in corporate America, IT departments refused to deploy iPhones and Androids to their workforces, citing reasons like, "not designed for business" and "not secure".

Here's the market share this relic used to have:  (See graph below, click through if you don't see)

Chartoftheday_8180_blackberry_s_smartphone_market_share_n

I shit kid you not. BlackBerry got swallowed up by the iPhone and Android.  Guess when the first iPhone was announced?

2007.  Market share was in the high 40's and had already dropped to the low 20's by the time the chart above picks up the action.

I'm compelled to share this story, kids, because BlackBerry used to rule.  Ask your parents who used to ride or die in corporate America.  I'm also sharing it because Blackberry reacted to the iPhone/Android/touchscreen/smartphone threat poorly.  That's obvious, right?

But Blackberry just announced a new phone, and they're dancing with the girl (actually probably a guy) that brought them to the dance.  The double pleats crowd that appreciates a QWERTY keyboard.  More from TechRadar:

BlackBerry’s new BlackBerry Key2 is the successor to last year’s KeyOne. Yes, BlackBerry is still making phones, but these days they’re running on Android and pulling in a handful of BlackBerry’s security features.

A quick look at both phones, and it’s clear they’re BlackBerry handsets. Full QWERTY keyboards leave little room for doubt. But, as BlackBerry aims to please faithful users who want a secure smartphone with a physical keyboard, its ability to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S9 or iPhone 8 is diminished. The result: the best phone to compare the new BlackBerry Key2 to is last year’s BlackBerry KeyOne.

Here's a pic of what the new Blackberry looks like:

Bb

Other than making fun of Blackberry users, I'm writing this to talk a bit about change:

1.  At one time, iPhone and Android users couldn't make it past the IT dudes approving devices for the network.

2. Back in the day, corporations really were ringing their hands about allowing access to email through someone's personal phone.

3.  Back in 2009, IT people thought they actually had control over networks.

Today, the following is true:

1.  IT and hardware management is not longer has the power they once did.

2.  We're amazed when companies don't allow access to email everywhere.

3.  If anyone really cared, the new Blackberry would have the same problems getting approved by IT that the iPhone did back in the day.  Fortunately, RIM (makers of Blackberry) gave up on their own platform and are running on Android.

The lesson? You think the world the way it is now is destined to continue forever.  It's not.  It's going to change. Disruption is the only certainty.  

Google will end up fading.  Apple will cease to be design and market share darling they are now.

I'd bet on voice to overtake it all as the next big shift.

Laugh at the dinosaurs and their Blackberries, Gen Z.  Soon, you're going to look up and have a mortgage, two kids and be living ITP (in ATL, that means outside the perimeter).

We'll be smiling from the nursing home.

 


Leadership and The Power of Doing the Work...

From my drive time this week, I got two very different takes on a public figure in the business world - a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk.  Here's a description of Gary that I pulled from Inc.com so I didn't have to think about how to describe him:

If you’re an Inc reader, you’re probably familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the entrepreneur who grew his father’s business from a humble liquor store into a wine empire through a combination of social media and content marketing. Today he’s a media mogul, bestselling author, and aspiring New York Jets owner. Clouds and dirt

The man is a massive success, and he’s certainly no dummy.

That said, unless you’re a certain type of person in a very specific set of circumstances, following his "Jab, Jab, Crush It" model could likely sabotage your shot at success. Before you call me crazy, let me tell you why.

He relies on brute force.

Gary V. talks a lot about how hard he works. He regularly stays up until three in the morning, sending and responding to emails to cement connections. He tweets in every spare minute he has--in cabs, in-between meetings, during commercials. And when he’s not doing all that, he’s creating content and running his company.

Believe me when I say I admire the guy. But the fact remains that his approach to building a following is all about brute force. It relies on huge sacrifices of rest, free time, and deep concentration.

If you want a taste of Gary V, go here and here.

He's a polarizing figure.  One great friend of mine saw him speak recently and is all in. Another great friend of mine wouldn't slow down if Gary crossed the road in front of her SUV - she'd actually speed up.

But even if you hate Gary V, one thing you can't deny in his message is the power of doing the work.  It's something all of us forget as we move into leadership roles and start managing others.  Are you still doing the work on a daily basis?

Are you sure?  Or are you managing others doing the work?  Not the same thing.

Gary V has a new theme in his act - it's called "Clouds and Dirt".  The meaning of that theme is pretty simple -the clouds—the high-end philosophy of what you believe and also you being a dictator of strategy—and the dirt—the low-down subject matter expertise that allows you to execute against it. Gary V thinks you should forget about everything else.

He believes in Clouds and Dirt so much that he has a new Kswiss shoe - I'm not making this shit up - coming out in a few months.  That shoe is called "Clouds and Dirt."  Blue stripes for clouds, brown stripes for dirt.  Really. Kswiss shoes have 5 stripes for the uninitiated.

Behind the hype, Gary V is right about one thing:

Your strength as a leader comes from never losing your roots as a practitioner. Can you do the stuff you talk about?  The longer you and I are in leadership positions, the less we do the work.

Even if you do one thing a day that is actually "the work", do that one thing.

Be a practitioner.  Get grimy with some stuff in your shop.  It will make you a better leader and build empathy for your team and industry at the same time.

 


GUY TO GUY HUGS AT WORK: Let's Agree To Get Our #### Together...

My best friend Tim Sackett is an expert on workplace hugging. 

Tim even incorporates hugging into his speaking appearances.  When you go to watch him speak, get ready for what I like to call the “Tim Sackett package”.  He starts by announcing himself as the world’s leading authority on workplace hugging, shows a picture of him and his dog Scout (with Scout licking his face), then invites an audience member up to show what a warm workplace hug looks like with with a willing partner (which is usually a woman, because guys don't want to hug).

As an expert in workplace hugging, Tim's next chapter should be to save the world from bad guy-to-guy hugs.  If he agreed to do this, he would be the hero we need in a broken world.

When you greet a guy professionally - as a guy - you've got two choices:

--Standard handshake.  Hard to go wrong there.

--Man to Man business hug.  Hold up.  This ###* is broken in today's workplace.  How many disjointed attempts at this have you seen in the workplace?  I've seen a lot.  The worst usually involves white guys.  But regardless of the Title 7 combos you throw into a man-to-man hug, the most important thing is that both parties know how it's going to go down.

If both parties don't know the rules of a man-to-man hug, one of the those parties is going to get awkward - like they're trying to get down to the latest Migos (shoutout to the ATL) cut at CPA convention.  Which begs the question about how Migos ever ended up on a playlist involving CPAs.  But I digress.

THERE ARE RULES TO PARTICIPATING AND EXECUTING A MAN-HUG IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING. 

It's OK.  Here we go:

1--Start with a Soul Shake.

2--Move Soul Shake in and up to your front right shoulder.  (Note - your right shoulder should be across from your target's right shoulder and now almost touching your partners shoulder, but your soul shake is in the way)

3--Now that you're in side hugging position, give a light back slap with free left hand.

4--Release within 1-2 seconds.

5--Proceed with meeting on the Berkowitz Project.

It's in the manual people.  Let's get our #### together on this and stop looking uncomfortable.

UPDATE - My Twitter friend Vadim Liberman reminds me to expect different hugs from gay men.  Good point, see his advice here and here.  My experience tells me a hug between and gay and straight man goes better than most between two straight guys, if only because one party is at ease and knows how he wants to hug.


ASK THE CAPITALIST: Are "Acting" or "Interim" Titles Ever A Good Idea?

A reader asks...

Hi Kris -

Do you have an opinion on the use of “acting” in title?  A situation has come up where two ppl in an org would be made “acting”…one person – we’ll call her Abby - would be moving into here boss's role and the boss (Maggie) would be moving to a higher level position.  Maggie didn’t seek out the new role, it was offered to her when the position opened up.  It’s fair to say that Maggie has already been somewhat serving in the higher level position, but without the title or pay, which is why she is the CEO’s pick to fill the role.  As part of succession planning, Abby has been groomed for Maggie’s role for years.  The rub is that the CEO isn’t sure whether she’s the right person to take over for Maggie so he wants to make Abby “acting” and feels it would be cleaner if Maggie is “acting” too.  FWIW, the CEO asked Maggie to commit two years to the role and Maggie has agreed to one year and reevaluating at that time.  Any strong opinions on this?

--Sarah from Syracuse

----------

Hey Sarah - 

Well, you've got a lot going on, don't you?

Here’s my take on the use of acting in this situation. Lucy

1. “Acting” in any role is a crutch when you either aren't sure someone can do the job, or 100% know that it won’t work out, but you need the butt in the seat.

2.  In the scenario you’ve laid out, your CEO’s use of acting for Abby seems appropriate, but if the CEO is sure that Maggie is a fit, he should place her in the role without the interim tag.  She’s already got a commitment issue to the role you want her to move into, and the “acting” tag is going to allow her to bail mentally if times get tough.

3.  I’d put Abby into the “acting” role for a quarter and make definitive call at that time.  If you drag it out past that, odds are you’ll end up with commitment and employee relations issues from Abby as well.

4.  What happens at the end of the one year period for Maggie if she doesn't want to stay in the job? I’d avoid talking about periods of commitment for specific jobs, it just leads to the aforementioned commitment issues once that period is up.

5. Will you take care of Maggie if she’s key and it doesn’t work out?  Sure. I’m just not convinced that talking about a one or two year commitment is the right way to go.  Stalin had a 5-year plan – that didn’t work out well for him.

Bottom line – put Abby in the “acting” tag and make your call in 3 months, at the same time put Maggie in the higher role with no “acting” tag and stop acting like she has the ability to come back down the org, even if she secretly does.

It’s all Jedi-mind tricks and Doug Henning-like illusions in the show.

KD

 


When Your Last Job/Company Was So Terrible You Can't Get Hired Again...

There's a lot of opinions about the companies around you - in your city, in your industry, etc.  When recruiting, some of these companies are net positive for candidates related to their ability to be the final candidate, some are net negative and most are neutral - because you've never heard of them in your life as an HR pro or recruiter.

"Wow, she worked at Google.  That is so cool"

"Ugh.  He worked at HealthSouth - didn't the FBI raid that place for fraud?"

"What the #### is Zenecom?"

Positive/Negative/Neutral.  Those are really the 3 choices related to the impact a current or past company has related to a candidate's prospects to get hired at your company, unless you're a complete ass and are skeptical of companies you've never heard of - in which case you should unsubscribe to this blog and/or delete this page from your history. Haspel

Eventually, even a negative perception of a company fades into something neutral over time, which is good for all the decent people that get branded by working at a company that goes through a big scandal, fraud or court proceeding.  HealthSouth DID get raided by the FBI one fateful day in the early 2000's.  The company survived and now no one blinks an eye at hiring someone with HealthSouth on their resume.  Even decent folks working at the Weinstein Company (true company, 150 employees, I'm sure not everyone there is answering the door at their office or hotel in an open bathrobe) will eventually be forgiving for working at a place where bad stuff happened.

Are there any companies or positions you can't recover from?  Probably, but they have to be really bad.  I found one - how about running a black-site prison where torture was the normal?

Oh boy - here we go - more from the Daily Beast:

"Long before Donald Trump ever nominated Gina Haspel to run the CIA, a memoir from a former CIA top attorney contained a line with the power to do serious damage to her chances.

Haspel’s informal nomination ran into immediate jeopardy last month over her 2002 supervision of the agency’s first secret black-site prison, located in Thailand, where two early detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, were tortured. (She directly ran the black site, though after Zubaydah’s most intense period of torture that year.)

But in his 2014 book, John Rizzo, a longtime senior CIA lawyer, indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture not of two men, but of dozens, potentially. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly.

Haspel, if confirmed, would be the first director to rise from the CIA’s operational ranks with uninterrupted service since William Colby in 1973, which helps explain her depth of support from within the agency. But she’s also the first potential director from the CIA generation involved in post-9/11 torture, making her nomination inescapably a referendum on a dark period of history that the agency wants definitively resolved and human rights advocates say demands vastly more accountability than it’s received. 

Imagine that resume making into one of your searches.  "RAN BLACK SITE OPERATION DESIGNED TO MAXIMIZE INFO GATHERING FROM DETAINEES.  EXCEEDED ANNUAL MBO BY 39%. INCREASED EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SCORES BY 17%"

The whole Haspel for the CIA job underscores the art of hiring the candidate who's operated in tough backgrounds.  We value people who have been in tough environments who have done tough things, but at some point they get branded to the extent we might not be able to hire them.  

You've ran an outsourced call center?  Hey, you might be the gal to help us get more accountability and rigor in our "customer success" center (code for call center with no discipline).

Wait, you spent 3 years in Bangladesh developing sources of information and you can't provide the address? 

We're going to have to get back to you about this position. [Says something generic about keeping resume in system if something good comes up]