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January 2014

The Value of Intellectual Property Alongside Products and People In Today's World...

A few weeks back, I talked a bit about a trend called the acquihire, where you acquire a company more for the talent in the company than the products they have or the revenue they'll bring to the table.

That underscores the fact that in a digital economy, there are sometimes items more valuable that current revenue or product line.

Today, I'm going to give you another type of acquisition, without a catchy name.  It's the acquisition that's completed solely for Intellectual Property, which can be then used in R&D or in today's increasing legal Google_motorolaworld, to protect a company against patent lawsuits.

Example - Google's acquisition of Motorola in 2012, and it's subsequent announced sale of Motorola to Lenovo this week.  Back in 2012, Google was facing a patent lawsuit hell at the hands of companies like Apple.  GigOM explains:

"Recall that one month before the acquisition, Google’s rivals — including Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry — had snapped up a coveted patent portfolio at auction, giving them a new stick to pummel Google in a global and ever-sprawling legal battle over smartphones.

The deal, then, gave Google a chance to counter-attack or at least hold its ground thanks to Motorola’s intellectual property, which reportedly amounted to 17,000 issued patents and 7,500 applications. Google has never been a big booster of a patent system that awards patents for inventions like a “method of swinging on a swing” but, given the context, this was a case of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Or, as programmer Robert Eric Raymond put it at the time: This is Google telling Apple and Microsoft and Oracle “You want to play silly-buggers with junk patents? Bring it on; we’ll countersue you into oblivion.”

So Google paid 12.5B for Motorola, and the announced sale to Lenovo was for 2.9B.  Someone should be losing their job, right?  Not so fast.  The acquisition was completed in 2012 more for patents than people or products, and a closer look at the math indicates they didn't lose as much as you think.  More from Techcrunch:

Motorola Mobility is being sold to Lenovo, in a deal worth $2.91B. Google is divesting itself of the handset division it purchased for $12.5B in 2011, but it will keep some of the assets — including patents.

“Google will maintain ownership of the vast majority of the Motorola Mobility patent portfolio, including current patent applications and invention disclosures,” says Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside. “As part of its ongoing relationship with Google, Lenovo will receive a license to this rich portfolio of patents and other intellectual property. Additionally Lenovo will receive over 2,000 patent assets, as well as the Motorola Mobility brand and trademark portfolio.”

The article goes on to break down just how much Google is losing in the sale to Lenovo:

"Google sold off several aspects of its initial Motorola purchase including its cable box business. And it managed to leverage the patents — which Google valued at $5.5B — to at least some positive outcome. So, while the monetary ‘wins’ or ‘losses’ here are one for the bean counters to figure out, the strategic victories for Google may actually be fairly strong. According to some maths from analyst Benedict Evans, Google’s total outlay may have been closer to $7.15B than $12B — the divestitures, retention of patents and the sale price would cut the plain monetary loss down further to under $2B."

An acquisition of 2B to protect the android business and 80%+ market share in the smartphone industry?  Welcome to the acquisition solely executed for Intellectual Property.

What's a possible equivalent in your industry?


Is Your Kid On Track To Be a 40-Year Old Barista? Probably.

It's all glory over here at the Capitaist today, kids.  I made it out of the ATL on the way to Birmingham on Tuesday just in time - we still have employees at Kinetix who are stuck in traffic almost 24 hours later.

Me?  I gave up on the ice covered roads about 4pm, so I'm "remote" today from Exit #11 on Georgia I-20.  Stayed last night and I'm staying again tonight, because when you don't have slowplows or salt/sand trucks, 2 inches of black ice tends to mess with the program.

Oh, and here's a headline you don't want to see as a leader:

Atlanta mayor: 'A lot of people' still stuck on highways

"A lot" means you don't really know and there's not really a plan.  A cynic could say it's Katrina with SUVs. Ugh.

What I'm telling you is that I'm dealing with a lot of ____ today.

So today I'm pushing you over to a post I did at Fistful of Talent yesterday entitled, "5 Reasons Your Kid Will End Up Being a 40-Year Old Barista".  It's a good one.

Go check it out and comment.  It's all there: Avoiding Math and Science, giving them everything, private school tuition that makes no sense, helicoptering parents.  Boom.  Click here to get the post.

I'll be at Exit 11.  They left the light on for me.

Snow Days: It's a Problem of Motivation, Bob...

Capitalist Note - We actually have named a snow front in the south "Leon".  So I'm pulling this inclement weather policy out of the archives for all my people in the Southeastern United States.

Snow and your employees.  You either have the answer, or you don't.  If you don't have the answer, I'm here to give it to you.  Quick, fast and in a hurry...

You know the issue I'm talking about.  When there's a little snow (or if you live in the South, a hint of snow), employees start freaking out by asking the following questions:Snow_day

-are the offices going to be open tomorrow?
-are the offices going to be open tomorrow?
-are the offices going to be open tomorrow?
-are the offices going to be open tomorrow?

Damn, that's one question, isn't it?  It's just asked a thousand times during the same day.  If you didn't know better, you might think employees were looking for a freebie.  With that in mind, watch the following video (email subscribers click through for the video), then I'll be back to give you the inclement weather policy you need to box the equation in:

So here's the deal skippy.  Employees want you to make the call to close the office.  "I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob"...

If you're out there and you feel hostage to the whole "what are we going to tell employees about the snow" thing, try this policy on for size:

"<Insert your company name> has offices that are located in various geographic regions across the United States.  As a result, inclement weather may, on rare occasion, cause an office to be closed for a period of time to ensure the safety of our employees while traveling to and from work.

When inclement weather is such that the management staff, with the approval of the Executive Management Team, decides to close the office, the following compensation will be provided to you:

• If the office is closed for the entire day, hourly employees will receive their regular hourly wage for the hours the employee was scheduled to work that day.  Salaried employees receive their regular compensation.

• If the office is closed early or operates on a reduced schedule, hourly employees will receive their regular hourly wage for the hours the employee was scheduled to work on that day.  Thus, if an hourly employee is scheduled to work eight hours that day but is only able to work four hours due to the office closing early or opening late, the employee would still receive eight hours of regular pay for that day.  Salaried employees receive their regular compensation.

• Even if the office is closed to the general public for the entire day or operates on a reduced schedule, there may still be an operational need for some employees to report to work.  Hourly employees who are requested to work will be paid time and a half for the hours worked when the office was closed due to inclement weather, in addition to their hourly wage.  Any hours worked while the office was open will be paid at the regular hourly wage.  This only applies when the management staff, with the approval of the Executive Management Team, makes a decision to close the office to the general public or operate on a reduced schedule due to inclement weather. This is a rare occasion.

If the office is NOT closed but some employees are unable to report to work due to inclement weather, those employees may have the option of taking any accrued paid time available to them.  If no accrued time is available, the employee may take the day (or hours) as unpaid.

I took the liberty of highlighting the golden statement that takes the burden off of you.  It's not that you're mean, it's that the office is open.  If you don't feel safe traveling to the office, you don't have to - you can just burn some accrued time to cover the day off.

If you've struggled with how to address the whole bad weather thing, try this policy on for size.  Just use road closings as your guide for when to close the office, and it's done. No more hand-wringing...

It'll clear up a lot of things for you...and them. 

If Richard Sherman Took a Pre-Employment Assessment, Here's What it Would Show...

By now you've heard or read about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.  As the football Seahawks move to the Super Bowl this week in NYC, he's the talk of the town.  Brash. Confident.  High-Performing. See the clip below for post-game interview that started the media sensation (email subscribers, click through if you can't see the video):

Plenty has been written about Sherman, so I'm going to zig while others zag.  I'm not doing an analysis on the definition of thug, or talking about the contrast between being raised in Compton by a 2-parent family, then graduating from Stanford.  Instead, let's dig into Sherman's probable behavioral assessment if you gave him one as part of your interview process.

Here's what I think that would show - as told through the lens of Talent DNA, the assessment we use at Kinetix:

-High Cognitive - Sherman can take a lot of data in and make quick accurate decisions, as evidenced by his performance on the field, and his performance in the cited interview, which was conducted literally two minutes after he made a play that saved the game for the Seahawks.  Quick study, that Richard Sherman.

-High Assertive - Not much else needs to be said here.  Don't you ever talk about him.  He's going to shut your mouth for you.

-Low Rules - Sherman likes to create his own solutions, as evidenced by his ability to adjust on the field and have little tolerance for being told what he should do.  The Seahawks can't control RS, they're just along for the ride.  If they don't like it, they'll have to trade him, because low rules people don't change.

-High People - He's obvious not introverted.

-Low Team - It's about him, not about the team.  He measures himself against others and if you want to motivate him, you talk about him vs. others, not team results.  PS - he needs that but may appear angry if... you talk about him.

-Faking Good - Doesn't appear to be hiding much, does he?

Superbowl prediction - Broncos 24, Seahawks 20.  Peyton Manning throws 60 straight 4 yard routes away from Sherman, and on the 40th and 53 of those passes, Sherman is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Becuase, you know, he figured out he was being ignored.   


Probability HR Jobs Will be Lost to Robots in the Next 20 Years?

There's a great article over at The Economist related to robots/technology taking over more and more jobs we associate with people.  Business Insider broke down the probability that different jobs would be taken over by robots in the following graph:


So telemarketers are screwed - you probably knew that.  What has to be more suprising to you is that next on the list is a pretty white-collar profession - accounting and auditors.  The smarter technology gets, the more it can adapt on the fly and make good decisions based on scenarios involving natural language interaction, etc.

What about HR?  Will the robots be replacing HR pros left and right?

I've got good news and bad news.  If you dig into the article from The Economist, you'll find that the simplier the scenario and the more solutions are provided according to rules, the more a job can be automated.  I think that means that transactions in HR will be increasingly taken over by tech and ultimately by a smart robot that you love to hate.  Of course, you expect that, right?

What you didn't probably expect is that the next level of HR specialist - think comp and benefits - is probably going to be high on the probability chart you see above.  After all, if the work of accountants and auditors can be taken over by tech/a robot, why would comp and benefits be any different?

Safer in my eyes would be the role of the HR generalist - there's so much gray area in the work of a good HR generalist at any level that I would compare that favorably to a clergy member.  

It's that type of job.  Rejoice HR generalists!  

The 3rd Annual Tim Sackett Day Honors Kelly Dingee - One of My Favorite Talent Pros...

First up, you're wondering what Tim Sackett day is.  OK, I'll tell you.

Tim Sackett day happened for the first time two years ago. My shout out to Tim can be found here.  The whole damn thing was tongue in cheek because Tim was a quality HR pro with a decent blog who was Recruitdc_1constantly getting stiffed by those who create "Best Of" lists, awards in HR and all that stuff.  And he didn't like it.  So gave him max PR.

But then, a funny thing happened.  The HR community decided to honor an under-appreciated Talent pro last year on the 2nd annual Tim Sackett day - without a tongue in cheek.  Paul Hebert, one of the greats, was honored.

This year marks the 3rd annual Tim Sackett day and we're honoring someone who is truly great, but never asks for attention.  Master sourcer and FOT writer Kelly Dingee.

Congrats to Kelly, the honoree of the 3rd Annual Tim Sackett Day.

Here's 5 things I love about Kelly Dingee:

1. She's Deep.  No one knows more about sourcing candidates in America.  She's the best.

2. She's Kind. Talking to her is easy like Sunday morning.  (#lionelrichie) She has a unique way about making you feel good about the world.

3. She's a giver.  Almost ever post she does on FOT is full of gifts to those that want to get better at sourcing.

4. She doesn't go looking for fame. She''ll be embarrassed that Tim Sackett day is honoring her.

5. She's loyal. She works for a great company.  I've often thought about trying to steal her, but she's just too damn good, honest and all "do the right thing"-ish.  

Happy Tim Sackett day Kelly Dingee.  You're one of the best and you don't get your due.  Like biggie once said, if you don't know, now you know... HR

(Check out all the gifts Kelly has given the world at FOT by clicking here for her FOT library.)

RANT: Don't Believe The Hype When It Comes to NLRB Claims...

In cased you missed it, Amazon workers voted in a union election last week, ultimately saying no to union representation by a vote of 21-6.  Obviously a small unit for a vote, which is the topic for a whole other post.  

Also - lots of bluster about unfair labor practices by Wal-Mart as they seek to remain union free.  See more on that here, as people are actually saying that these leaked slides detailing a pretty basic strategy to remain union free represent something illegal or immoral by Wal-Mart.

Look at the slides. Illegal?  Immoral?  To quote John McEnroe, "you have got to be kidding me".

Neutrality when it comes to union organizing is on the wish list of any and all unions.  Here's your defintion of what neutrality means and the one of the most important facets of neutrality, known as the gag rule:

A 'neutrality agreement" is a contract between a union and an employer under which the employer agrees to support a union's attempt to organize its workforce. Although these agreements come in several different forms, common provisions include the gag rule.  While most neutrality agreements purport to merely require an employer to remain 'neutral," in reality they impose a gag order on speech not favorable to the union. A company, including its managers and supervisors, are prohibited from saying anything negative about the union or unionization during an organizing drive. Employees are only permitted to hear one side of the story: the version the union officials want employees to hear.

Some companies with a mixture of represented and non-represented employees actually give in and provide a neturality agreement with the gag rule as part of a labor agreement in a represented area of their business.  That means in exchange for a favorable contract on the represented side, they agree to not defend themselves against organizing on the non-represented or union-free side.

But let's be clear.  The law allows employers to engage employees and share their views of the downsides of unions and representation.  In general, companies and managers representing those companies can share Facts, Opions and their own Experiences with unions.  They can't threaten ramifications or promise anything for support against a union, but facts, opinions or experiences?  All fair game.  Look at the slides linked to in the second paragraph.  Simple, legal stuff.

Don't believe the hype when it comes to news reports and allegations that companies like Wal-Mart act unfairly when responding to union threats.  They've got the ability to tell their side of the story and to tell it aggressively.  

How Fantasy Island and Getting Voted a Great Place to Work May Be Linked...

Did you see? The 2014 Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list is out. Without question, there are a lot of great companies on that list. Fantasy

So why do so many of us feel like a cynic when we read it? Jealousy? A longing to work at one of the great places? As talent pros, are we bracing for our boss to bring us the list and ask why our company wasn’t included?

Lucky for you, I've got my annual Cynic's Guide to Creating a Great Place to Work up at Workforce.com.  Five easy (or hard, depending on your point of view and budget) steps to becoming a GPTW.  Here's #5:

5.Do the Fantasy Island imitation when it comes to the Great Place to Work employee survey. You can’t become a great place to work until your employees are surveyed and confirm that your company is in fact freaking awesome. That means you have to prep your employees to expect the survey and find the right sweet spot between tampering/pressuring them and politely pointing out what a great survey response could mean. It’s like the Fantasy Island intro where Ricardo Montalbán tells the staff, “Smiles, everyone, smiles!” before the guests arrive. (FYI to millennials: click the link for video and use this for background).

Go get the rest of the five steps over at Workforce.com

How HR Leaders Can Become CEOs...

By now, most of you are aware that a former human resources leader has transcended the HR space to become CEO of a Fortune 100 company. And for the uninitiated (click here for a complete article on the move), Mary Barra, the former vice president of HR at General Motors Co. will become the automaker’s new CEO. 

Hope.  This gives hope that HR leaders can do anything they want, including being CEO someday, right? Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.33.33 AM

Actually, it doesn't.  A deeper dive in the career path of Barra and some knowledge of succession planning at the major company level tells us that for all the good vibes PR this gives the HR function, HR leaders need to leave HR as soon as possible in order to aspire to the CEO seat.

I'm up over at Workforce.com with 5 things that the Mary Barra promotion to CEO tells any HR leader that aspires to be a CEO.  Here's the first two things from my list at Workforce.com, click on the link to get the rest:

1. Get the hell out of HR soon. Let’s be clear: One look at the Barra profile tells you her HR experience was part of a power rotation to learn the business, not a defining tag on her résumé. That should tell you what has always been the reality: You need to rotate elsewhere to be enough of a player to become the CEO of a company of any size and scale.

2. Deep subject matter expertise in an area core to the business is desired. Barra is an engineer at heart, an area that’s obviously core to GM’s business. Your company also has a similar heartbeat. If you have an undergrad that matches that heartbeat, you could do HR, take a rotation elsewhere and become a player in the race to become the boss. If your educational background doesn’t fit, you have no chance. But you could find a company that provides a better match and values your non-HR undergrad.

If you want to be a CEO, good for you.  Just understand you can't do from where you sit now as an HR leader.  You have to be brave enough to leave if you want to have your hat in the ring for the big job.

Hit Workforce.com for the full article!  Bonus reference to the movie "The Social Network" and Mark Zuckerberg's business cards at a young age.

Does Hotness Sell? On Booth Babes and Cost Per Lead....

Hotness. Everybody is attracted to it like a moth to the zapper thing you see outside a shady bar.  Hiring managers disregard all notion of hiring the most qualified person to simply hire beauty.  The truth sucks. Film at 11.

Summary: Attractiveness wins.  We're also conditioned to think the functional area of sales and Booth girls marketing is the domain where attractiveness is most important.  After all, who gets access to the buyer?  A sales rep who is a "9" or a one who is a "5"?

As it turns out, it might be a little more complicated than that.  A guy named Spencer Chen has a great post up evaluating the effectiveness of using "booth babes" at trade shows to draw buyers and prospects into software company exhibits.  For the uneducated, let's define the practice of "booth babes" as the hiring of young, college-aged females to dress as provocatively as possible to help promote your booth/product at a trade show. (picture credit - Cult of Mac)

It's a practice that probably dates back to the first caveman trying to peddle a square wheel to the masses.  More on what Chen found when he did split testing (he had one booth with booth babes and one without at multiple conferences) from TechCrunch:

"The booth that was staffed with the booth babes generated a third of the foot traffic (as measured by conversations or demos with our reps) and less than half the leads (as measured by a badge swipe or a completed contact form) while the other team had a consistently packed booth that ultimately generated over 550 leads, over triple from the previous year.

Everyone on the team was genuinely surprised by the results but duly convinced. It was like showing some hardened sales reps a new golf swing. I was able to replicate this a few more times throughout the year with even better results since we had a chance to further optimize our new “staffing plan.”

It's a killer post, so go ready the whole thing now - find the full post here.  Some reasons Chen gives for booth babes actually decreasing lead generation at these booths:

1.  Booth babes are intimidating.

2.  Booth babes are lazy.

3.  Real buyers don't talk to booth babes.

Related: The salespeople want booth babes (regardless of effectiveness) because they spend 10 hours a day in the booth.  Boom.

There's also some great metrics in this article related to cost per lead and cost per revenue generating opportunity in the software biz.

Go read this article and share with your marketing team/trade show people.  It''ll make you look smart.  Because that's what you are - even if you're hot.