HR CAPITALIST DEFINITIONS: "Edge City" (with notes on Amazon Moving to ATL)...

With all the competition for Amazon's second headquarters (dubbed HQ2) and with Atlanta (home of Kinetix, the company I own part of) being in the mix, I thought I'd share one of my favorite books of all time and give you a Capitalist definition while we are at it.

Edge City is the term.  I picked up the book by the same name over 20 years ago at a bookstore when heading to the beach for a vacation.  The book became one of my all time ATLfavorites, and the definition changed how I viewed the business world forever.  Here's a description of the term, as well as details about the concept.  Take a look and we'll talk about Atlanta/Amazon after the jump.

"Edge city" is an American term for a concentration of business, shopping, and entertainment outside a traditional downtown (or central business district) in what had previously been a residential or rural area. The term was popularized by the 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier by Joel Garreau, who established its current meaning while working as a reporter for the Washington Post. Garreau argues that the edge city has become the standard form of urban growth worldwide, representing a 20th-century urban form unlike that of the 19th-century central downtown. Other terms for these areas include suburban activity centers, megacenters, and suburban business districts.

In 1991, Garreau established five rules for a place to be considered an edge city:

  • Has five million or more square feet (465,000 m²) of leasable office space.
  • Has 600,000 square feet (56,000 m²) or more of leasable retail space.
  • Has more jobs than bedrooms.
  • Is perceived by the population as one place.
  • Was nothing like a "city" as recently as 30 years ago. Then it was just bedrooms, if not cow pastures."

Most edge cities develop at or near existing or planned freeway intersections, and are especially likely to develop near major airports. They rarely include heavy industry. They often are not separate legal entities but are governed as part of surrounding counties (this is more often the case in the East than in the Midwest, South, or West). They are numerous—almost 200 in the United States, compared to 45 downtowns of comparable size—and are large geographically because they are built at automobile scale.

The book is organized by chapters that dig into various Edge Cities in America, including Tyson's Corner, Houston's Galleria area and more.  Because the book came out in 1991 - you can preview the whole book on Amazon (irony) without buying.

What's the big deal about Edge Cities for HR?  The biggest impact they have is what I call "recruiting center of gravity" - my term, not in the book.

Commute preferences change in metro areas as Edge Cities come online and continue to grow.  In Atlanta - home of Kinetix - Edge Cities like Buckhead, Perimeter and Galleria have pushed the employment center of gravity north, to the point where a study I did in 2009 showed that the location preferred by the greatest number of candidates across Atlanta was the Perimeter, located at 12 o'clock on I-285, the perimeter loop that surrounds downtown Atlanta.

But back to Amazon.  You might expect that given the northbound trend of Edge Cities in Atlanta, Amazon would be looking for a location in the north suburbs.  You'd be wrong, primarily because the airport is south of downtown.  As a result, the patch of land proposed for Amazon is connected to downtown near the old Georgia Dome location in an area called The Gulch.

Edge Cities apply to everyone but Amazon - because 50,000 jobs has its own gravity that transcends the Edge City formula.

Quick math - if the average office space formula calls for 170 feet of office space per employee/worker, the HQ2 project would stand at 8.5 million feet of leasable/owned real estate to support 50,000 employees.

You know - the equivalent of 14 Edge Cities described by Garreau.

As they said in Jaws - we're going to need a bigger boat.


You People Who Get Groggy In Meetings Amaze Me...

If you're like me, when you see a person in a meeting start to redline out into something resembling sleep, you're amazed.

I know, I know.  There are sleep disorders that cause people to be unable to stay awake in a meeting or any another work situation that involves someone talking for intermediate to long periods of time.

But my fascination remains.  How do people go to sleep in meetings when their boss is talking - or their boss's boss is talking?

In today's world, we point to sleeping disorders as the reason.  We used to call it natural selection, and the level to which someone was penalized for falling asleep in a work situation was directly and positively correlated with how much they contributed to the business:

Strong contributor nodding off in meeting:  We just make fun of them behind their back.

Weak contributor nodding off in meeting: "Did you see your boy Jim in the REM stage? I'm going to let you take care of that."

Translation: If Jim can't get his s**t together, I don't want to see him in meetings, which means he might not be in the company.

I've been given a natural gift.  I don't look groggy in work meetings, even when I haven't slept in 24 hours and I'm in a brain funk that rivals the deep fog of the SF bay area.  Of course, that doesn't mean I've heard a damn thing you've said in that meeting, only that I have the ability to not offend those in charge/presenting.  I also can't fall asleep on airplanes.  Another minus side related to sleep and me - I've got an internal clock that wakes me up at the time I've thought about getting up - even if I don't have to on a weekend, etc.

These thoughts about work sleep brought to you courtesy of the Twitter moment below, which wonders aloud how people in movies fall asleep automatically, which is followed by people talking about sleep patterns on nights before they have to go the airport, etc.  Funny stuff, worth 3 minutes to flip through the whole thing.

Work and sleep are a weird combination.  Email subscribers click through if you don't see the Twitter moment below.


What Part of the Normal American Workplace Will Be Most Impacted by #metoo?

There's a ton of good that's come from the daily breaking news associated with the #metoo movement.  Creeps everywhere are being held responsible for their behavior, and society in general seems to have a higher awareness for what's appropriate and what's not.  There's a lot of details in between, but the one I spend the most time thinking about is the following:

When does the #metoo movement hold common day, ordinary creeps accountable Work deep into the American workplace, where there's no media coverage of the proceedings?

I'm not sure I know the answer. For all of the good that's come out of the #metoo proceedings, it's still murky how the ordinary American workplace will be impacted.  Awareness is great, but the true creeps can keep on giving the creepers to all around them at the soft drink distributor in Peoria, IL.  There's no media to report on those stories, and without the positive impact/protection of coverage, many impacted by harassment are less likely to report.

The industry that might have the most potential for a #metoo movement aware from media coverage?  It might be your local restaurant.  Here's more from the New York Times:

"Restaurants are like pirate ships. Each has its own code, with distinct values and rules. Some crews are kind, supportive and disciplined, relatively speaking. Others are angry, surly, misogynistic and drunk. New crew members quickly fit in, or jump ship. Like pirate crews, restaurant staffs are cohesive societies, but they aren’t big on transparency, and it’s hard for outsiders to know what’s happening.

Fifty years ago, when nobody cared what went on in restaurant kitchens except health inspectors and tax collectors, acting like pirates was probably a useful skill. Today, though, it is outmoded.

Customers may enjoy the occasional sample of salty pirate speech, but they also care about the inner workings of kitchens. They know the names of the chef, the sous-chef, the pastry chef, the head bartender. They’ve watched TV documentaries about the creative process behind trout roe in little cups made of pig’s blood. They’ve heard many chefs talk on many occasions about certain kinds of ethical behavior, having mostly to do with livestock.

Something has gone grotesquely wrong when chefs brag that the chickens they buy lived happy, stress-free lives, but can’t promise us that the women they employ aren’t being assaulted in the storage room."

I'd encourage all to go read the NYT piece.  There have been celebrity chefs who have been taken down my #metoo, but the vast majority of the industry isn't driven by celebrity chefs.  

But, the familiarity of customers with the chefs and staff at private restaurants across America presents an interesting opportunity.  If you care about where the chickens come from as a patron, do you care about the treatment of the women staff at La Paz?

Not many customers are sensitive to how anyone is treated at the cable company.  They already hate the cable company, so it stands to reason that the cable company treats their people like garbage (no matter how wrong the treatment is).  No one would be surprised by that.

But your local white cloth restaurant?  What would you say if you new the owner was asking female servers to come pick up the cash bag at his place and opening the door in a robe?

Yeah, you'd probably get the creepers and not go back.

With tools like Yelp out there, were only a new feature away from the review economy telling you how female friendly that privately-owned restaurant is.

For that reason, the restaurant industry is ripe for accountability related to the #metoo movement.

Interesting times.


NBC's New Rules on Workplace Hugging Means NO HUGGING....

If you thought you were going to just keep doing what you are doing related to PDA (public displays of affection) in the #metoo era, you're not only naive, you must be saved from yourself.  All your hugging, your slight touches to the shoulder, the full mouth kissing (OK, hopefully you weren't doing that) is persona non grata, or at least it should be.  That's why NBC, after s#x machine Matt Lauer got outed, is creating specific rules about what's acceptable and what's not.

More from Page 6:

"NBC has issued strict new anti-sexual harassment rules to employees — including that staffers must snitch on any misbehaving colleagues — in the wake of the firing of disgraced “Today” show host Matt Lauer.

A source tells Page Six that NBC employees have been ordered to report any inappropriate relationships in the workplace — and if they fail to do so, they could be fired for covering up for colleagues. Side hug

Detailed rules also have been issued about conduct in the office, including how to socialize and even how to hug colleagues.

One rule relates to hugging. If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

The NBC rules on hugging show just how far we still have to go when it comes to legislating hugs in the workplace.  My friend, Tim Sackett, is the world's leading expert on workplace hugging.  Lucky for you I'm here to give you the new rules for hugging in the workplace.  Let's use the framework for what's been reported related to the hugging rules at NBC.  Here's the new NBC guidance on hugging:

"If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

Here's the new HR Capitalist Rules on Hugging:

1.  Are you a guy?  And, correct me if I'm wrong, you still want to hug someone?  You may have a high IQ, but street smarts aren't your thing.  Why are we talking about hugging?  Oh, I see, you're different, no one will get the creeps from your hugs.  Riiiiight.

2.  You still want to hug?  OK, the NBC rules don't go far enough.  If you must, go in side to side for a "side-hug", with outside of shoulders touching.  For best results, lean in for the side hug at least a foot, leaving all other parts of your body far from the subject of your hug.

3. Your hand should be top of the shoulder - nowhere else. Release in under 1 second.

4.  This just in, if you wait to think about avoiding body contact until you release the hug (like the NBC rules remind you), you've already lost in the new world.  

The final rule of hugging in today's workplace is that it's Darwinian in nature.  It's like natural selection in some ways.  Those that think hugging is still cool and they'll never be misinterpreted are missing the adaptation that others will automatically get. 

I get that most of you aren't perves.  But when NBC is issuing rules on hugging, the clear message is that you shouldn't hug.  

I know, you had so much to give to build a more compassionate workplace with your hugging.  Sucks to be you.  Maybe a hardy handshake is your best bet.

 


Publicly Shaming Good People Removes Them From the Conversation on Change...

Look - I get it - there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that's been a long time coming for society in general:

--Protests against police brutality and the impact of that on minorities - check. Duncan

--the #metoo movement and shining a light on the pig-like behavior and conduct of way too many men in our society - check.

--Equal rights for the GLBTQ community - check.

There's more, but I'll stop there.  Us talking about those things and hopefully course correcting are good things on all levels.  But what's become a by-product of that process is going after people with good intentions by a form of public shaming, and that shaming is focused on calling out people as being non-friendly to any or all of the groups in question.

Of course, social media makes the shaming easy to do.  And the shaming is subtle - it rarely calls someone a racist, a harasser or a bigot in general directly - it simply accuses you of not being as sensitive as you should, which implies that the target of the shaming is any or all of the things I just mentioned.

Here's what happens when you call out a normal, good person with good intent and try to shame them - You push them away from the conversation.  They'll leave the arena, usually never to reengage. And if it's change you seek, that's not a good thing.

Quick story - was doing a webinar a couple of weeks ago for about 400 people.  Going through some slides, and had a shamer hijack the Q&A section by suggesting that my slides didn't have enough diversity.  That's fair on the surface (my slides did include diversity, with about 25% of the slides including non-white people as one form of measuring diversity, and my case study featured a woman), but the intent was clear - the commenter felt one way and tried to hijack the show.

Meanwhile - and I can't make this stuff up - the webinar was slides plus video of the presenter and the following is true....

Behind me on my wall (I'm the presenter) was a canvas oil painting of Tim Duncan (that painting is pictured to the right of this post).  Tim Duncan happens to be black, and he was in my video frame and visible to all participants for 55 MINUTES OF THE WEBINAR.

Translation - my webinar had diversity visible for the entire show.  But the shamers came out.  Lucky for me my skin is thicker than a rhino.

But most people in our workplace don't have my skin thickness and haven't put themselves out there for criticism like I have.  Most of the good faith/good effort people we know will withdraw from any type of risk - and therefore meaningful conversation - as soon as they are shamed.

Shaming shines a light on the obvious bigots.  But when you shame normal people, I'm here to tell you that you're reducing the level of conversation - and probably guaranteeing we don't progress as quickly as we could in our society.

Change is good in the all the areas listed. Be careful you aren't eliminating great people from the conversation by attempting to publicly shame.

 


WORK TEXTING: Nothing Good Ever Happens After You See These 2 Things...

Back in the day, you sent an email and if someone didn't respond, you weren't sure it was because they thought your idea sucked or they were just behind on emails.  

Not so with text.  The immediacy of texting means we get feedback in real time.  Usually, it's quick bursts of texting to react to ideas or share information - occasionally it's to ask permission or gain approval.  It's rare that you don't hear back from someone on a text. 

However there are times when a middle ground is present. Tai

It’s called the “typing awareness indicator", the little bubbles you see after you send a text.  It means that someone is texting you back.  Which is fine, except for these two occasions at work:

1. Someone takes more than 30 seconds to respond, and you see the awareness indicator the whole time.  Nothing ever good came after 30-60 seconds of that indicator being on.  The message is usually complicated and adds drama to your life at work.

2. The typing awareness indicator is on for the pre-mentioned 30-60 seconds, then it goes off, never to return. They thought about it, then thought the better of it.  Meh.

Both mean that the quick approval or consensus you're looking for won't be happening.

I turned off my typing awareness indicator. I found myself staring at it for periods of time that were unhealthy.  

I'm more sane at work as a result.  It's the little things that matter the most.

 

 

 


How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Focus groupquestions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.


UBER: These Are My Values. There Are Many Like Them, But These Are Mine...

"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine"

--partial quote from the Rifleman's Creed (USMC), popularized in the movie Full Metal Jacket (click for video)

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It's hard to make sure cultural values stand out as a company.

Sometimes it's better that they just blend in and sound like everyone else's.  That's what's going on at Uber. Uber

It's been two months since Dara Khosrowshahi began his reign as Uber's new CEO, and like most new CEOs, he's on the listening trail, hearing the good, the bad and the ugly. and as the new CEO of Uber, that listening tour is probably more important than it is at most companies...

First on the agenda - rounding off the edges of a hard knock culture.  That's why DK's post on LinkedIn on Tuesday is so fascinating.

"It’s also clear that the culture and approach that got Uber where it is today is not what will get us to the next level. As we move from an era of growth at all costs to one of responsible growth, our culture needs to evolve," he wrote in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday.

To create new cultural values, some 1,200 employees sent in submission suggestions that were voted on more than 22,000 times, he wrote. Uber followed that up with 20 focus groups.

During the listening tour, Uber asked employees to tell company management what the new norms of corporate culture should be.   From the new CEO's LinkedIn post announcing the new cultural norms at Uber :

Uber’s Cultural Norms

We build globally, we live locally. We harness the power and scale of our global operations to deeply connect with the cities, communities, drivers and riders that we serve, every day.

We are customer obsessed. We work tirelessly to earn our customers’ trust and business by solving their problems, maximizing their earnings or lowering their costs. We surprise and delight them. We make short-term sacrifices for a lifetime of loyalty.

We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.

We do the right thing. Period.

We act like owners. We seek out problems and we solve them. We help each other and those who matter to us. We have a bias for action and accountability. We finish what we start and we build Uber to last. And when we make mistakes, we’ll own up to them.

We persevere. We believe in the power of grit. We don’t seek the easy path. We look for the toughest challenges and we push. Our collective resilience is our secret weapon.

We value ideas over hierarchy. We believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere, both inside and outside our company. Our job is to seek out those ideas, to shape and improve them through candid debate, and to take them from concept to action.

We make big bold bets. Sometimes we fail, but failure makes us smarter. We get back up, we make the next bet, and we go!

The note from Uber's new CEO also holds special contempt for something called "toe-stepping." Toe-stepping' was meant to encourage employees to share their ideas regardless of their seniority or position in the company, but too often it was used [as] an excuse for being an a--hole," Khosrowshahi wrote.

What made Uber special was a Viking/Pirate mentality to markets and business obstacles.  That Viking mentality spilled over to the workplace, which is why you see the post-scandal change to the values.

Toe-stepping is required when a city council tries to keep a revolutionary idea out of their city.  It's a problem when it spills over in the workplace via a climate where harassment is OK.

Can Uber remain special as their culture become nicer?  I think it can.  They just are 2-3 years to late with the change.  It will be interesting to watch.  

 


Can the Young Star Ever Earn Less Than the Employees They Manage?

Capitalist Note - Got an email about this from a young gunner over the weekend, and sent her this post.  Felt like I should share again.  Cliff notes - you play to win the game, not win today.

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In a word, yes.  It's rare, but it happens.

Here’s my take - most star managers on the upswing of their careers have usually faced the prospect of either managing someone who has either:

a) earned more than they have, or

b) earned close to what they have. 

It happens more often with rising stars who are relatively young in an organization, because they tend to aggregate additional responsibilities beyond their years.  You’re aggressive with the star within the definition of “aggressive” within your company, then the department of the star has to grow, you move people around internally to work for them and BAM!  You also experience the reality that in order to hire people with the skills to work for the young star in the growing department, those new hires need to come in at or around the salary you have the star at…

Is that a problem?  Many would say yes.  To anyone (this message is for you, young star) who finds themselves in that situation, I would say "have patience, young grasshopper".  If you are that star who finds themselves managing people who earn more or close to what you earn, you're right, there should be more of a divide.  However, note this - you got to where you are because you are viewed as a high, high potential asset to your company.  There's probably only one way you can mess that up if you continue to perform - by not handling the situation with class.

If you make it about the money, some people will chalk that up to maturity, and you might see theMo money upward arc of your career slow down a bit.  If you find a classy way to bring it to someone's attention without demanding any immediate action, I can guarantee you one thing: You're going to make a LOT more money than the people you're currently managing over the course of your career.
 
To the stars of the world who find themselves in this situation, I say: "Be the ball, Danny".  Don't let pride or some shortsighted advice from your Uncle Tommy drive your reaction to this situation.  You've managed to be different than everyone else to this point.  Keep being different. 

Play to win the game, not this possession.


Is Anonymous Feedback From Employees OK?

Who here is tired of seeing disgruntled employees rip your company on Glassdoor?  Wow..almost everyone.  I can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous feedback is rapidly being recognized for what it is.  The newspaper industry entered the digital industry with the Trollthought that readers commenting on articles online would unlock a form of community unlike any other.  That happened, but in a negative way, with trolls and racists and every other type of creep posting whatever they wanted under anonymous accounts with zero chance of being outed.

It's so bad that responsible publications online have gone one of two ways - they've either eliminated comments altogether or moved to Facebook comments, where commenters have their thoughts tied to a primary Facebook account.  

Let's move back to the workplace.  A deep thinker, expert on employee opinion and a friend of mine - Jason Laurtisen - did a guest post over at Fistful of Talent last year and called for an end to anonymous employee feedback.  Here's a taste:

"When it comes to feedback, anonymity is less effective, and frankly, out of style in today’s workplace. We expect our leaders to be candid and transparent, particularly about the important stuff.  We expect them to tell us the whole story and to openly share their failures and missteps.  Yet, when it comes to asking employees for feedback about something as important as their work experience, we use completely different standards. Why? We’ve convinced ourselves that employees just aren’t up to the task."

I'd encourage everyone to go read Jason's post - because most of you do employee surveys and he's an expert in that area.

Me?  I'm here to give you some comfort in employees savagely ripping you - either internally in surveys or at company rip sites like Glassdoor.  Here's the dirty little secret that will make you feel better:

Employees and Candidates viewing anonymous feedback are increasingly immune to ultra-negative reviews. They're maturing and giving much greater weight to harsh comments that are found as a part of balanced feedback - outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

I'm increasingly hearing that candidates viewing rip jobs by the disgruntled on Glassdoor don't take them seriously.  They're increasingly looking for the sane commenters on the rip sites, allowing themselves to only be influenced by the rare bird that gives insightful, balanced feedback on life at a company.

That makes sense.  When you see the rip jobs on reputation sites, take a deep breath. The more extreme, unfair and personal it is - the less likely it is to be taken seriously.

When it comes to employee surveys, here's what you can learn from this.  Instead of letting your employees rip away in the verbatim comments section - force them to be balanced and give you a good thing for every bad thing.  Then show the mixture of feedback as the entire verbatim - rather than splitting up good and bad feedback.  

While most of you don't share open ended employee feedback with the entire company, showing the totality of each employee's feedback will show your leadership team which feedback segments should be taken seriously - and which ones could possibly be ignored as a lunatic fringe.