Must Listen Interview: Robert Hohman of Glassdoor...

You hate Glassdoor. Check.

You can't get your good employees to rate you on Glassdoor. Understood.

Are you done? Can I move on?  Ok, finish your tweet - I'll wait.

Look, I know Glassdoor is a sticky issue. But it's a reality in our world.  You might as well seek to understand it.

That's why this interview with Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor, is a great listen.  Hohman appeared on Recode/Decode, a podcast hosted by Kara Swisher, one of the strongest female figures in Silicon Valley and the business world.

One to the things you'll learn in the podcast is that Hohman was part of the early team at Expedia, and the goal of that team was to bring more transparency to the travel industry.  After the team gradually left that company after being purchased by Hotwire, Hohman and people on that team looked for other industries that needed more transparency. 

Guess what came up on that list? Careers and a look inside companies - and Glassdoor was born.

Other team members found similar opportunities elsewhere - a Expedia teammate of Hohman's disrupted real estate and founded Zillow.

Regardless of how you feel about Glassdoor, throw this podcast on on the drive home. Hohman is engaging, educational about the thought process behind Glassdoor and insightful about the research the company has on our workplaces.  (email subscribers click through if you don't see the player below)


Mindfulness and Meditation Might Be Bad For Your Company...

There's a great scene in the movie The Matrix i'll use as the intro to talking about mindfulness.  It goes something like this - one of the machines (Agent Smith) has captured the leader of the human resistance, and he can't help but taunt his prisoner (Morpheus) about how stupid the human race is.  The quote is as follows:

"Did you know that the first Matrix (editors note - this is the software program the human minds are plugged into as prisoners) was designed to be a perfect human world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program, entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world, but I believe that as a species that human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. So the perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say "your civilization" because as soon as we started thinking for you, it really became our civilization which is, of course what this is all about."

Translation - there can be a lot of unintended consequences to what seems like the right thing to do. Smith

So let's talk about mindfulness and meditation. I haven't been bitten by the bug, but I've actually been at conferences where someone asked the question if they could force people to use the meditation rooms at her company.

I'm not joking. 

Mindfulness and meditation are hot topics/trends in the cutting edge of corporate America.  There are a lot of people experimenting with this.  We accept through research that this is good for our employees (I'm assuming, I don't have research to quote), but we've never really asked if it's good for the company or even the employee's career.  Hmm.

A new study digs into that question. More from the BBC:

"Meditation has long shed its Buddhist roots to become a secular answer to all of our ills in the West, with numerous studies finding benefits like reduced stress and better concentration.

Some of the world’s biggest firms, including Google and Nike, have embraced the practice, using meditation programmes as a way of tackling stress, staff turnover and absenteeism.

Meditation is also used as a tool to motivate workers, partly thanks to research on the relationship between wellbeing and productivity. But a new study suggests that mindfulness meditation, a popular type of meditation that practises being aware in the present, may not be the best way to increase your motivation at work."

That's the level set for the research.  Here's what the study found about mindfulness meditation, which is a flavor you''ll encounter on your journey if you explore the sector of meditation:

“Meditation is about accepting the present, which is the opposite to being motivated to do something, where the present moment isn’t acceptable, so meditation is inconsistent with being motivated to achieving a goal,” argues Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.  

Vohs enlisted hundreds of participants to test her theory across five studies. In the first, 109 participants were given audio instructions in common mindfulness meditation techniques by a meditation coach. A comparison group were asked to simply let their minds wander.

After one 15-minute session, all participants were asked to tackle some simple tasks including doing an anagram puzzle and editing a cover letter. They were then asked how motivated they felt to carry on with the task.

Vohs, and her co-author Andrew Hafenbrack from the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics in Portugal, found that the self-reported motivation levels of those who had meditated were lower than the control group, though their performance of the task wasn’t affected. The meditators also had fewer thoughts about the future, which the researchers said could interrupt the behavioural processes that contribute to achieving goals.

“The Western world, Americans in particular, love a panacea,” she says. “If mindfulness meditation came in a pill form, we’d all be on top of it. It’s calorie-free, portable, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s capitalised onto you sitting down and doing nothing. To think the antidote to what ails you is to ‘just be’ is probably a welcome message, but it’s pure speculation.”

Meditation is a fast-growing industry – in 2018 meditation services are expected to generate $1.15bn for the US economy, according to IBISWorld’s Alternative Healthcare Providers in the US industry report – and Vohs’ message is an unusual one amid a generally positive tide.

Another study from Germany and the Netherlands that looked at mindfulness in the workplace, meanwhile, found participants reported improved wellbeing and lower stress levels, but didn’t look at motivation. 

So, the picture is mixed and, according to Desbordes, compounded by confusion over what mindfulness actually is. Some mindfulness teachers, she says, teach the importance of putting your daily suffering aside to achieve a new level of consciousness, whereas others advocate gaining insight into these challenges and how to improve them; two very conflicting approaches."

Look, I'm just a kid from the Midwest who lived in a blue collar household growing up.  

Am I skeptical of meditation and mindfulness?  Yes.  Am I open to learning more? Yes - and I have an app on my phone as proof I know I should be exploring this more.

But the article referenced above is a cautionary tale to me.  Agent Smith had to make the Matrix less than perfect to get the results the machines wanted.  Mindfulness Meditation might put your employees so much as ease that they're more mellow than you'd like them to be about goals.

The truth and the right solution is out there somewhere - but you're going to have to invest a lot of time to find it - and to ensure you don't get unintended consequences from your meditation program.

(h/t to Jenny Briggs for the article referenced, she's one of the best Human Capital pros I know!!)

 


Lessons for HR: A PhD on Netflix Revenue and Spending...

 "The goal, is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us."

-Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

--------------------------------

Simple task from the HRC today.  Watch this six minute video below and get a PhD on the Netflix spending spree on original shows and how it justifies burning money as they grow the subscriber base.

Netflix is pretty good at the pivot.  Lots to learn here... (email subscribers click through if you don't see the video below)

 More on the economics of Netflix in this Wired article from 2017 as well...


Are HR Pros A Good Fit to Start an Amazon Partner Delivery Business?

If there's one thing HR Pros know plenty about, it's recruiting, retention and everything it takes to keep a business afloat on the people side of the business.   That mean in some aspects of life, HR pros are the perfect people to start a business.  But there's one big thing missing for a lot of HR pros are thinking about starting a business.

Sales.

Yep, a lot of HR pros would be great at the staffing and employee relations side of the business, but they have nothing in their DNA to do the sales required to provide the lifeblood of revenue needed to put those people skills to use as an entrepreneur.  Too bad, right?

Wait - there's a perfect opportunity for HR pros to start a business and not have to sell.  Ready?

Amazon. Amazon shipping

That's right, Amazon.  The online force that's eating everything launched a new program last week that helps people in the United States start their own businesses delivering Amazon packages.

Hmm.  More on the Program from USA Today:

Amazon wants you to deliver its packages for them.

The online retailer launched a new program this week that helps people in the United States start their own businesses delivering Amazon packages. The move gives Amazon another way to ship its packages to shoppers besides relying on UPS, FedEx and other package delivery services.

Amazon.com Inc. says startup costs begin at $10,000, and the businesses created under the program would operate 20 to 40 vans and employ between 40 and 100 people.

Here's what else to know:

WHO IT'S FOR: Amazon says those with little or no logistics experience can apply. And existing package delivery businesses can sign up, too. If they are approved to join the program, Amazon says those businesses can continue to deliver packages for other companies.

HOW DOES IT WORK: Those interested first need to apply at its website,logistics.amazon.com. The company will vet applicants and figure out if they're the right fit. There's also three weeks of training, including a trip to Amazon headquarters in Seattle, which you'll pay for as part of the startup costs. At the training, Amazon says you'll learn about its shipping operations and spend time in the field with an existing delivery provider.

WHAT AMAZON PROVIDES: Amazon says it will offer support to the businesses, including discounts on insurance, technology and other services. Amazon-branded vans will be available to lease and Amazon-branded uniforms can be bought for drivers. But keep in mind that those vans can only be used to deliver Amazon packages.

WHAT TO KNOW: The new business would be responsible for hiring staff, and Amazon would be the customer, paying for the deliveries.

WHERE DO I HAVE TO BE LOCATED?: Amazon says opportunities are available near its 75 delivery stations across the country. A map is available at logistics.amazon.com./marketing/getting-started.

What I love about this for the right type of HR pro is what I have already described.  Many of you are great at the hustle it takes to get a business staffed up, dealing with employee relations issues of all types and generally grinding out the workday through the at times dirty business of people. 

What I hate about this opportunity for HR pros is that as good as you would be at this, the Achilles heel for most of you/us - sales - would ultimately come back to haunt you. 

Amazon is setting people who can't sell up for failure.

Amazon has the demand.  They need you to start this business.

They need you to contribute to the gig economy.  Not by being a gig employee, but by being an employer of gig employees.

No co-employment issues on their part.  You take those!  

Pricing power belongs to... not you - Amazon.  You get selected for the program, start your business and then the inevitable happens.  Amazon has a variety of partners, and you'll be asked to take a reduced price for delivery at some point.  Your margins and profitability will fall until - you guessed it - it no longer makes sense for you to run your (Amazon) Delivery Business.

Because you aren't a salesperson, you don't have a lot of revenue options and as it turns out - you're contributed to the further destabilization of the American workforce by creating a company that has jobs - but they're on-demand, gig economy jobs.

Meh.  Maybe you should just stay in HR.

To date, Amazon has largely steered clear of the criticism heaped upon WalMart related to destroying the traditional economy.  

That feels like it's about to change.  Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys resistant/stupid when it comes to macroeconomic change.


The Self Driving Car Industry Illustrates The Reality of Today's Non-Compete Agreement...

A lot of people will tell you that non-competes aren't enforceable.  My experience with them says that the company with the most leverage/biggest checkbook can inflict a lot of financial pain on a smaller competitor that poaches talent (when there's a signed non-compete in play_.

The rules as I see them:

1.  Bigger companies can afford to write checks to enforce a non-compete when a much smaller competitor steals talent from them.

2.  Smaller companies can't do much to big companies who steal talent (where the past employee of smaller company had a signed non-compete).  They're basically starting a battle they can't afford.

3. Big company vs big company is more complex. Both have resources, so the considerations are more strategic - things like influencing others to not challenge non-competes comes into play, IP considerations, etc.

My experience is the biggest checkbook wins.  That means that while the non-complete may not be enforceable, there's still a leveraged play to be made to inflict pain or play strategic games.

But if you're interested in the actual legal merits of non-completes, movement in the self-driving car industry tells you they are DOA.  More from Tech Times:

"Apple is beginning to acquire high-profile employees to help develop its self-driving software project, which reports say is already behind schedule at this point.

The Information reports that Apple has hired Jaime Waydo, who previously worked as a senior engineer at Waymo and was involved in the development of one of NASA's Mars rovers. An Apple spokesperson has since confirmed the hiring but didn't reveal what she would be working on inside the company.

Waydo, who served as head of systems engineering at Waymo, is described by her colleagues as "instrumental," according to the report. She led safety verification for the company's prototypes and delivered input on when it was safe to launch on-the-road tests in Phoenix back in 2016. It's safe to assume she'll do similar work in Apple's turf." No driver

Think about that for a second.  An industry with max innovation going on allows creators to move between companies.  If that doesn't tell you that non-competes are dead (see my rules, you can still inflict pain, but we're talking here about the legal merits), nothing will.

Part of that is likely due to the fact that in the PRoC (People's Republic of California), non-competes face such a hostile legal environment that companies don't even try.

Which brings us to the the 4th rule of non-competes to add to my 3 rules at the top of this post:

4. The new way to enforce TAFNAANC (the agreement formerly known as a non-complete) is to make employees sign hardcore Intellectual Property (IP) agreements, with strong provisions not to transfer IP or infringe on IP created at your company.

How do you do that?  I don't know, but look no further than the alleged theft of trade secrets by a former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski—and the alleged use of those secrets by Uber—which was at the center of Waymo’s lawsuit last year vs Uber.  

It wasn't a non-complete that crushed Uber, it was the allegation that Levandowski used trade secrets at Uber developed at Google/Waymo.

For a lot of you reading this, you're thinking this is all a little bit deep when it comes to how you should consider non-competes - and you're right.  Continue to have narrowly drawn non-competes signed by sales pros and others that make sense if legal in your state.  They are a barrier people have to think about.

But if your product is IP heavy, consider re-looking at your IP agreements people sign when they come info the company.

Oh yeah - then put some golden handcuffs on people in the form of LTIPs so they have to think twice about leaving money on the table before leaving.  LOL.

Good luck!

  


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".

 


Music To Work To: The Score of the Movie "Social Network"...

Who out there likes to work to music?

When you're working on your laptop, music can either help or hurt your attention.  For me, it's always felt better to have the TV in the background as music has generally interrupted my flow.

I've found an exception to that rule - The soundtrack from the movie "The Social Network", created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  You remember the movie from 2010 chronicling the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.  Here's a snippet about this soundtrack, which I'm recommending you to attempt to work to in the background:

"The Social Network is a dark ambient soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for David Fincher's film of the same name. It was released on September 28, 2010. On September 17, a five-track sampler was also made available for free. The film's score bears a similar sound to the previous Reznor/Ross 2008 collaboration, Ghosts I-IV, and even features two slightly reworked tracks from Ghosts : the track "Magnetic" (reworked from "14 Ghosts II") and "A Familiar Taste" (a remixed version of "35 Ghosts IV").

Critical reception of the soundtrack has been generally favorable, with high praise and widespread acclaim across the film industry being bestowed upon it. The score won nine major awards, including the 2010 Golden Globe award for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, and the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards."

The word "ambient" fits this soundtrack - here's the definition of ambient music:

"a style of gentle, largely electronic instrumental music with no persistent beat, used to create or enhance a mood or atmosphere."

A lot of you know Trent Reznor from a little band called Nine Inch Nails.  Creative genius.  As it turns out, there are thousands of people using this soundtrack to study to, code to and work to.  See just a few of the comments below related to how this soundtrack aids attention - one commenter says "this is what adderall sounds like" - and then see the youtube upload of the soundtrack underneath some of those comments. (email subscribers click through if you don't see the comments or the YouTube embed below)

Give it a shot next time you want to groove when knocking stuff out or writing on your laptop.

Social network soundtrack
 


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.


People Who Create Find New Ways To Thrive. People Who Manage Process Top Out. That's Life.

To say that I was a little late watching "The Wolf of Wall Street" is an understatement.  Released in 2013, I didn't see it until last week and then suffered through a 4-hour FX version that had 5 minute commercial breaks.  Thankfully, it was DVR time.

I was underwhelmed by the movie.  I get it- Jordan Belfort is a pathological criminal who we're supposed to go back and forth between hating and admiring - "Look! Jordan's great at pumping the troops up!! I just wish he didn't need a half pound of blow to do it, don't you????"

So the movie was a wash for me - right up until the end.  That's when two scenes that underscore a couple of big lessons on talent play out that saved it in my eyes.

To understand and put the final scenes in context, you have to remember that there's a boat scene a little past halfway in the movie when Belfort invites a FBI agent on the boat to try and bribe him.  The FBI agent is played by Kyle Chandler (the coach from Friday Night Lights).  In the scene, Belfort lets the FBI agent know that he has information on the agent's background - that he started out as a stockbroker, but got out early.  He then asks the FBI agent if he ever looks around the subway car when he's on his way home and wonders what might have been - a straight up call to the agent's relative poverty.  The scene ends with Belfort unsuccessful in his bribery attempt.

Flash forward to the end of the movie.  Belfort goes to trial and is convicted and taken into custody.  Two scenes happen after that that underscore the following reality:

People Who Create Find New Ways To Thrive. People Who Manage Process Top Out. That's Life.

Here are your scenes:

-The FBI Agent (Chandler) is riding home on the subway - either that night or the next day - and reads the paper with the headline about Belfort's conviction and sentence.  With Mrs. Robinson from Simon and Garfunkel playing in the background, he looks up from the paper, looks around the car at all the people grinding it out and obviously remembers Belfort's question to him about "what might have been."

-The end of the movie features Belmont's supposed career reinvention after he's released from prison - guess what?  He's now embarked on a speaking career as a sales trainer for people willing to pay 1K to hear him speak - so he can help them unlock the sales tiger within.  Classic.

My take is pretty simple.  It goes to show how unfair the world can be when a criminal can reinvent themselves and have a successful career taking money from people AFTER he's released from prison for the same thing.

But life's not fair. In the talent game, those who have the ability to create within their field will always find new ways to perform and earn.  Those who can't?  Well, they run the risk of topping out in what they do.  

As I get older, I'm no longer willing to applaud the Belforts of the world.  But it underscores a pretty important point to what the market values most - creation of value, OR the perception of creation of value.  I'm not celebrating it, but in the end of this movie, that's your payoff for suffering through a bunch of drug usage and the celebration of ripping people off.

The end of the movie appears below (email subscribers click through for video).  Push the dial ahead to :31 if you're in a hurry, 3 to 4 minutes of video for the perspective - worth your time.