PEOPLE STAT OF THE DAY: Jobs in The Steel Industry & Automation...

I'll just leave this here...

14 people make 500,000 tons of steel annually at a location in Austria.

Not a typo.

From BusinessWeek on automation in the steel industry:

The Austrian village of Donawitz has been an iron-smelting center since the 1400s, when ore was dug from mines carved out of the snow-capped peaks nearby. Over the centuries, Donawitz developed into the Hapsburg Empire’s steel-production hub, and by the early 1900s it was home to Europe’s largest mill. With the opening of Voestalpine AG’s new rolling mill this year, the industry appears secure. What’s less certain are the jobs.

The plant, a two-hour drive southwest of Vienna, will need just 14 employees to make 500,000 tons of robust steel wire a year—vs. as many as 1,000 in a mill with similar capacity built in the 1960s. Inside the facility, red-hot metal snakes its way along a 700-meter (2,297-foot) production line. Yet the floors are spotless, the only noise is a gentle hum that wouldn’t overwhelm a quiet conversation, and most of the time the place is deserted except for three technicians who sit high above the line, monitoring output on a bank of flatscreens. “We have to forget steel as a core employer,” says Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chief executive officer for the past 13 years. “In the long run we will lose most of the classic blue-collar workers, people doing the hot and dirty jobs in coking plants or around the blast furnaces. This will all be automated.”

From 1,000 jobs in the 1960s, to 14 FTEs today. Sounds like a post for Labor Day weekend rather than the 4th of July.  Too good to wait until 2 months for, however.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys labor that can be automated...

 


The Boomerang Effect of Firing All The UBER Leaders...

By this time, you're all caught up on all the events happening at Uber.  Uber-Harassment (couldn't resist), aggressive behavior, a big employee relations-style investigation by outside counsel and a bumbled all-hands meeting that included an HR leader calling for everyone to hug it out and a board member saying that women talked to much and then resigning.

Whew. That's a lot.  

You don't need more Uber status updates, so in the aftermath of Uber taking out most of it's leadership team including it's founder/CEO, I'm here to offer one observation.

Uber is ripe for a cultural crisis - but not the one you expect.

The biggest risk for Uber is that as they try to improve their culture, they loose the edge that made them special.  That edge was being the hardest charging, most aggressive company in the face of the planet.

Uber's doing the right thing reacting to recent events and attempting to ensure the culture for employees improves. But a likely side effect to that necessity is that the company is going to provide built in excuses for a lack of execution.

Uber never would have grown into who it is today if the leaders weren't absolute a##holes when it came to confronting challenges - the local governments, the needed ability to scale, dealing with global leaders and governments.

In all of these areas, Uber was about action first and permission later.

You know, exactly the behavior that caused the car wreck when it came to harassment and a hundred other negative behaviors.

Action first, boldness and permission later.  Unacceptable when it comes to dealing with employees - much more care is needed. But action first/boldness/permission later is a big part of what allowed Uber to dominate the market and grow at the pace it did.

Expect to see a downturn in execution at Uber in the years to come.  The DNA that made them cringeworthy with employees is directly related to what made them special in the marketplace/business world.

UPDATE - note from a reader - "Hi Kris.  Interesting post.  I struggle with your conclusions (a little).  Maybe because I continually fight the “this is retail” mentality when it comes to how people are treated.   Are hard charging and respectful mutually exclusive concepts?   Can you have an edge, and not do incredibly stupid stuff?   Can you be decisive and not be a dick?   I think so."

I agree with the reader. The biggest point I was trying to make is that when you've operating this way for so long, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle from a hard-charging results perspective.  I think UBER is going to have to tolerate lower execution because how they've treated certain classification of employees is how they've treated the market to a large degree.


A Comprehensive List of Work Roles White People Should Never Be Selected For...

Of course, I'm kidding with that title.  I'm not the authority on the PC-ness of white people in roles that are typically exclusively held by non-whites.  

But I gotta tell you, I have some opinions.  First, I think there's a lot of roles that white people don't belong in.  Here's a taste of Closedduetocolonialsimsome of those roles:

--Any leadership position at a HBCU...

--Leadership positions with Diversity titles in Corporate America...

--Matt Damon playing the lead in a movie set in Song dynasty China (I get it - he's a mercenary from Europe, but still.. Can we find a Chinese star for a movie about the Song years?) 

White people in certain roles is a non-starter. Many of you would/will argue the other way.  But common sense tells me there's more than enough talent in the world without a member of honkytown landing in these roles, even if you're arguing the tried and true "the best person should be selected" mantra.  

Turns out you might have bigger fish to fry related to what roles IT IS APPROPRIATE for white people to be in. 

From the school of "you can't make this up", the Washington Post reports there's a movement afoot in Portland, Oregon to stop white people from stealing culinary ideas from other cultures, which is called appropriation by those seeking to stop white folks from starting any type of restaurant that's not a Irish potato bar. Here you go:

Portland, Ore., has become the epicenter in a growing movement to call out white people who profit off the culinary ideas and dishes swiped from other cultures.

In the days since two white women were shamed into shutting down their pop-up burrito cart after telling a reporter that they had “picked the brains of every tortilla lady” in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico, Portland has become all but fed up with cultural appropriation within its city limits. One writer has stated, flat out, that “Portland has an appropriation problem,” going on to explain (the boldface emphasis is the writer’s):

Because of Portland’s underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.

Someone in the City of Roses has even created a Google doc, listing the white-owned restaurants that have appropriated cuisines outside their own culture. For each entry, the document suggests alternative restaurants owned by people of color. One “Appropriative Business” is Voodoo Doughnut, the small doughnut chain accused of profiting off a religion thought to combine African, Catholic and Native American traditions.

That's a lot, right?  As noted in the lead, I'm a believer in the fact that white people shouldn't be in certain types of diversity roles - there's enough talent in the world where the aforementioned roles shouldn't be filled by someone named Ricky Bobby.  But in the slippery slope of workplaces and what's appropriate, I'm drawing the line and saying that if a white person wants to risk some capital and sell mediocre fajitas and Corona Lights, they shouldn't draw the ire of the PC police.

HR Director of a HBCU?  No.  Owner of LaCocina?  Sure.

If someone wants to risk their capital, so be it.  The dirty little secret is that the owners of these businesses, white or otherwise, will likely employ an employer base that's majority non-white. 

Of course, the great thing about this argument is that the market will decide how far the appropriation movement can go, and if you click through to the WaPo article, you'll see that people are overwhelming bashing the appropriation crowd in the comments, even going so far as promising to patronize the white-owned establishments listed in the Google doc link above to show their support and ensure the owners aren't bullied.

Fire away in the comments.  Where can whites play in a non-white world from an employment perspective?


FAKE IT: Acting Interested in Corporate America Is a Succession Factor

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self-esteem along the way
Yeah

--"Fake it" by Seether

One of the biggest things that separates contenders from pretenders in Corporate America - across all functional areas - is the ability to fake interest and attention.

You're in a 7-hour training class.  Next week you're in a 3 hour ops review.  Boredom happens.

 If Darwin were a noted OD thought leader in business, he would write that an adaptation that allows some to survive and thrive is the ability to fake interest and attention with body language, eye contact and just enough participation to make it seem like they're engaged.

Does it matter?  Competition is fierce. Only if you want to get further than you are now.  The real players in corporate America look engaged - at all times - even when they aren't.  

Look around at your next meeting.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people have this type of opposable thumb, some don't.

Of course, faking it leads to learning because you're dialed in juuuuuust enough not to miss important shit. 

Seether video below, people.  Worth your time but a little NSFW. Happy Friday... (email subscribers click through for video)


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"

"Focus"

"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.


Join Me at Recruiter Nation Live (June 5-7) and We'll Dig Into Hiring Manager Batting Average!

If you're like me, you'd love to have more control over your relationships with hiring managers.  That's why I spoke last week at SHRM Talent on 7 Ways Recruiters Can Win With Difficult Hiring Managers

One of those ways to win was to get data driven - but not through time to fill, cost per hire or turnover. 

Turnover positions you (HR or TA) as the owner of turnover, which you and I know is false.

The next time you report turnover, create a supplemental slide that shows what I call Hiring Manager Batting Average (HMBA).  HMBA simply shows the percentage of people hired by a manager who are still around after one year.  You can roll this up to the departmental level to make it less personal, but its impact is simple - some departments are better at hiring than others.  The ones who are bad have the biggest negative impact to your turnover issues.  Find out more about this by viewing these slides.

I love this metric so much I'm creating a new presentation around it for Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Live (click this link for details and an early bird special).  If you're in the Bay area or looking for a reason to get there in in next 6 weeks, register and join me.  

Additionally, here's an interview I did with the folks at SHRM on Hiring Manager Batting Average to wet your appetite (email subscribers click through for the video):

Hope to see you at Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Live June 5-7 in San Francisco!


Some Thoughts on Recognition for Blue-Collar Workers...

Recognition. We've been trained to believe that everyone needs it.

Do they?

I think so, but something that's lost in the recognition/engagement market is that for many blue collar workers, getting recognition in front of their peers actually makes them feel Blue collarlike a dork/brown-noser.

Some notes from my life follow...  My dad, Kent Dunn (RIP CKD), was a lifetime telephone/telecom lineman. One of the greatest things he gave me was a work ethic.  The memory of hearing his boots hit the floor and go out the door while I was still in bed before school are riveted in my mind.  He had a bunch of positive qualities you'd want in anyone you hired from a pride of work prospective.

But one thing he never would have been comfortable with is public recognition.  Here's some things that are widely talked about today related to recognition he wouldn't have been comfortable with, with his likely reaction in parenthesis to whoever was trying to reward him with any form of praise:

  1. Recognition in front of his peers in a team setting (Don't ever do that again)...
  2. Recognition 1/1 from his boss (So what? That's my job. That wasn't special)...
  3. Recognition in a company communication (Nobody reads that stuff)...

Kent Dunn would have been uncomfortable with many of the recognition strategies we take for granted in white-collar America.  I think many blue-collar workers we have today in America are a lot like Kent.  When I think about alternative/best ways to do recognition to those folks (mostly older males in blue-collar jobs focused on making a living, not changing the world), I came up with the following two strategies:

  1.  Rather than recognize in front of the group, tell some of Kent's friends the feedback you got on his work when he's not around. Hearing that the boss was talking about your great work in a casual way among your co-workers is a passive, low impact way for the Kent Dunn's of the world to feel good.  It saves them the public humiliation (in their eyes) of praise, but the message is still delivered.
  2. To make sure the Kent Dunn's of the world hear the praise, share what the customer told you directly with him.  The strategy here is this - you praise Kent in the normal way and it feels like you are expecting to hug him, which repels Kent.  You tell Kent that 81-year old Mrs. Adams praised Kent, he knows you don't expect to hug it out and you talk about how Mrs. Adams is a hoarder and has 30 cats, but she's a nice lady.  Trust me, he heard the work context of the praise. 

In both scenarios, the recognition is still there.  The macho blue-collar worker still hears it, but based on how it's provided he doesn't feel like you expect him to come in contact with his feelings.

Feelings are scary for blue-collar employees, especially those of the male variety.

RIP Kent Dunn.  I still hear your boots.


Use This Quote When Convincing Someone to Decline An Offer From a Big Company...

"It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy."

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was brutal in many ways, but with his brutality came moments of pure clarity.  This quote is one of those moments. Johnny-depp

The stale way to make the same point is obvious - "Why do you want to go work for that big company?  They're going to bury your talent. You know all those ideas you have?  You won't get to chase any of them at IBM.  They'll just pod you up in the matrix and suck your energy over the next decade, leaving you a husked-out former version of yourself."

Wait - that's actual pretty good.  A more standard version is "You're going to there and be bored immediately."

Still, I like the clarity of the Jobs quote.  If you're working for a smaller firm, you need every competitive advantage you can get as you fight for the hires you need.  This quote, while not perfect, is a good tool to have.

It just so happens that the only people that it works on are the people who are actually inclined to believe that they're more than cogs in the corporate wheel.  Use this quote on a person who's happy being a cog, and they might dance with you a bit - but ultimately they're going to grab for the security that only thousands (often tens of thousands) of employees can provide.  Doesn't make them bad people or not talented - it's a preference for security and risk management.

But they're looking to enlist with a big entity like the Navy - not roam the seven seas on that cool, but rickety boat you call a company and wonder if you'll be around in a year.

If you're at a smaller firm, the best hires you will make are the people that don't look like pirates - but have it buried in their DNA.  If you think you have one of those people, I'd talk in broad terms about the pirate-like things you're going to do at your company.

Pirates like Johnny Depp, BTW - not Somali pirates.

Go buy some eye patches for your next round of interviews. Dare a candidate to ask you why you're wearing one.