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May 2020

Working From Home: Can You Give Me Some More Energy Please?

We know that post-COVID, more work from home is reality. We'll still have offices, but it's going to be hard to get all the way back, right?

How do we know that Jenny and Mike aren't feeling great and maybe aren't giving it everything they need to on a random Monday?  

Simple! Emotional Recognition Software! One provider in this field has the following stats since call center reps went to mostly virtual work during COVID-19:

--Average Customer Experience Scores have fallen by 4% Hugs

--Prompts to call center reps from Emotional Recognition providers to show "more energy" have increased by more than 30% during COVID-19.

Think about that last note for a second. You're doing your thing at work, and a virtual agent pops up and asks you/reminds you to show "more energy."

You probably have two thoughts to that on a random Monday during the COVID lockdown:

1--"###k off, Siri"

2--"Hmm. I wonder what my composite approachability score is compared to the rest of the team?" (becomes a happier person on the next call intro).

Emotional recognition was making great strides prior to 2020, but in an environment with more remote work, rises in importance to business outcomes. More from Bloomberg:

Cogito’s software monitors every call agents make, analyzing metrics like tones of voice to see how the conversation is going. It’s found that since the start of the pandemic, average customer experience scores have fallen by 4%. It can respond by giving agents prompts to, say, be more empathetic to a raging caller. As virtually all call center agents shifted to work from home, Cogito’s prompts for them to show more energy at a work increased by more than 30%. 

This kind of technology, which Cogito calls “emotion recognition,” is controversial. The AI Now Institute, a research center at New York University focused on ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, questions its validity as science, and has urged governments to make sure the tech won't "play a role in important decisions about human lives.” 

Joshua Feast, Cogito’s president and chief executive officer, says he understands the trepidation, but frames the tool as a way to give employers insight into how to improve people’s jobs. “How are my people doing? I want to know. But I don’t want to surveil them,” he told me in an interview last week. When I responded that it seemed hard to argue that Cogito wasn't a surveillance tool, Feast offered a more nuanced take. “There’s a difference between surveilling the work and surveilling the human,” he says. “It’s fine to monitor the call—that’s what we do. That’s the work.” 

Few of Cogito’s clients allowed people to work from home before the pandemic, but Feast thinks that’ll change. This is a big opening for a tool like Cogito, which can be a stand-in of sorts for human management. As workers' stress levels increased, says Feast, Cogito changed the mix of automated feedback it provided to include more positive reinforcement. It also designed new alerts for managers, directing them to give workers attaboys when the tech determines they’ve done a good job on a call. 

Make no mistake - emotional recognition software exists to drive business outcomes. But, if used correctly, it can also drive the need to recognition and other positive interactions - more carrot, less stick.

But there's no hiding when Siri (or whatever they call the agent that pops up) tells you that you need to be more positive. #bigbrother

Another positive application of this type of technology is underscoring the need for broad deployments of mental health initiatives inside companies - note I said "broad initiatives" because eventually emotional recognition will be able to monitor remote comms of all types and tell you who is primed or a breakdown or has bipolar tendencies.

Welcome to the new world. Good luck, HR friends.


Chesky at Airbnb and the Process for Mapping and Communicating a Layoff...

My friend and colleague Patrick Lynch at CMP did a post over the weekend on the recent layoffs at Airbnb, covering a letter that founder and CEO Brian Chesky sent out to employees covering the move to layoff 25% of the workforce at the hospitality sector giant.

Patrick was spot on in his analysis, as the letter from Chesky is a deep dive in how to approach crisis Chesky communications with a spirit of transparency and treating people as well as you can afford to.

Of special note to me in Chesky's letter was Airbnb's process for working through the what, when, how and who of the layoff process. Here's a clip from his letter to all employees:

How we approached reductions:

It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce. These were our guiding principles:

    • Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need.
    • Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. 
    • Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. 
    • Optimize for 1:1 communication for those impacted. 
    • Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. 

There's a lot of good here, even if it's delivering news on the worst topic possible. While I've written before that we shouldn't be caught as leaders communicating intensely personal news in group settings, there's other factors beyond "optimizing for 1:1 communication" that serve as best practices in Chesky's letter. My thoughts about the other bullets listed below:

--Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need. "Before you ask, yes, we had a plan. We're stripping this thing back to the base with these layoffs. Continue to buckle up."

--Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. "While we always would like to do more, we stretched as much as we could and went beyond what others are doing during this crazy time. Hope you see that, we're confident enough in what we're doing here to proactively say it."

--Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. "Yep, we looked at diversity from every angle and the cuts are not only representative of our current workforce, but we made changes to what was submitted to ensure we're as strong as possible moving forward. Yes, we did an adverse impact analysis, but more to the point, we went beyond that. We're so confident in what we did in this area we're talking openly about it."

--Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. "You wanted details earlier of what we were thinking. We didn't give those to you early - not because we weren't working on it, but because not having the full plan is a bad way to communicate. You now have all the details"

All of these comments represent best practices in communication of this type of event.

Not every company has the resources that Airbnb has - if fact, most don't. But whether you're giving a minimum of 12 weeks and covering medical for the rest of the year...or providing next to nothing due the economics of your company's situation, you can follow this roadmap regardless of your situation.

Good luck and stay strong.


You're Employed and Confident, Awesome - But Stay Lean, My Friends...

If you watched the NFL Draft because you were starved for sports, you saw an unusual event. Due to COVID, the entire draft was held virtually, which means we got to peek in the homes of drafted players, coaches and executives.

And yes, that means you got to peak in the home of Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Yes, he spells his name that way. Yes, his home is fabulous. Yes, those are designer shoes with no socks while other coaches shown had dip cups and sneakers.

Take a look at this photo of a live look-in from the Draft (email subs click through if you don't see the photo), then let's discuss.

Cliff

What a spread, eh? FANTASTIC.

I show this as we enter into a recession. It's a well known fact that 30M+ people have filed for unemployment in a span of 6 weeks.

Then there's everyone else. I hope you're feeling good about your situation, but here I am - Uncle KD - encouraging you to stay lean for what's to come. 

The connection to the picture of Kliff?  I'm a fan of the Ryen Russillo Podcast, and on a recent episode in the last month, he recounted a story that Kingsbury told when he had him on as a guest late in his first season with the Cardinals (2019). Kingsbury had righted the ship after a tough start, and Russillo playfully asked him what he was thinking in a game earlier in the season when he was down 20+ points.

Kliff Kingsbury's Response?

"I wished I wouldn't have bought that f**king mansion."

LESSON: There's no better leverage for any situation you face professional than staying lean and not running up a lot of debt.

Stay thirsty and lean for the rest of 2020, my friends.


THE HR FAMOUS PODCAST: E13 - Fat Fingered Americans + Airbnb Pays New Grads Not to Show Up Until 2021...

In episode 13 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Jessica Lee, Tim Sackett, and Kris Dunn try to defeat boredom and come together to talk about quarantine listening habits, Airbnb’s hiring practices, unpaid internships, and Netflix doc American Factory. The team discusses their feelings and thoughts on Airbnb’s postponed hiring, unpaid internships and other working experiences, and the documentary American Factory.

Listen below and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (iTunes) and follow (Spotify)!

Show Highlights:

2:30 - The team starts out sharing with us their favorite quarantine comfort music playlists full of music. Turns out the group has some different tastes: Tim likes basic Spotify playlists, Jlee likes Nick Jonas, and KD likes grunge. This also features a brief discussion of Post Malone’s tattoos. 

8:00 - Onto the rundown for the episode. Airbnb has postponed post-grad hires to 2021 and the crew talks about investment they have made for their own PR. Tim weighs in on the workforce needs for Airbnb and other tech companies and how they will continue going forward. 

11:45 - KD sees through Airbnb’s “publicity stunt” and calls them out for being unfair for postponing post-grad hires until August 2021. Tim discusses some potential writing on the wall that may have led to this decision. Maybe they’re being forward thinking? KD seems skeptical. 

15:00 - Bro trip! KD talks about the last Airbnb he stayed in with Tim in Orlando. The pictures sure weren’t telling the whole truth….

16:20 - Marriott plug from Jlee! #notsponsored

17:00 - Topic change: internships! Lots of internships have been cancelled for summer 2020 leaving soon to be grads and recent grads in a bind. Also, Hipster Sackett is the best Tim Sackett

20:30 - Tim discusses the evolution of unpaid internships. He believes young adults need to use unpaid internships to build relationships, have experiences, and find mentors to advocate for them. Do you believe in unpaid internships? Should all interns be paid?

23:15 - Who can afford unpaid internships (especially in this economy)? Jlee discusses the need to look at capabilities and skills rather than experiences for new grads in order to level the playing field. 

25:30 - KD discusses the addiction to doing internships with huge brands. He advocates for looking locally to gain experiences instead of going for the big guys. 

26:45 - “Interns have zero value” - Tim Sackett. What is the real point of internships? Recruiting. (Just saying an intern is writing this right now so no value???)

28:00 - Should companies be allowed to advertise unpaid internships? KD says no but thinks that unpaid experiences should be allowed in order to benefit the person looking for a resume booster. 

29:45 - Jlee predicts Tim’s Glassdoor ratings will be plummeting. 

30:30 - American Factory time! KD challenged Jlee and Tim to watch the 2020 Academy Award winning documentary about a Chinese company who took over a GM plant in Toledo, Ohio. The team discusses their likes and dislikes. 

35:05 - Jlee weighs in on the depiction of Chinese culture in the documentary. Although she came in skeptical, she was pleasantly surprised by the reception of the workers in the movie. 

36:10 - Motor City native Tim discusses fat-fingered Americans and the camaraderie and commitment of the Chinese company. 

40:00 - The crew ends on their favorite scene. Tim likes the chairman’s frankness about unions and Jlee agrees. She especially likes the interpretation from Chinese to English. KD likes the cut between the Chinese company energy to the Toledo break room. 

43:30 - Watch American Factory!


3 Hard A** Photos About Change During the COVID Lockdown...

You see it every day - change is a given during the COVID Lockdown. 

With that in mind, I present 3 photos (with links as appropriate) from the last week that made me go hmmmm - and make me wonder where we are headed when we get to the new normal.

(email subscribers click through if you don't see the images below)

PHOTO ONE - The Vampires have come for the restaurant industry, and was unrelated to COVID, happening before the pandemic. But the lockdown period gave the Vampires the equivalent of performance enhancing drugs. This photo is a summary of the net proceeds a restaurant received from 40+ orders:

Grubhub

Yeah, that's right. This pizza place in Chicago netted 37% of the order when using Grubhub. While the economics of delivery services were difficult for eateries before COVID, if the pandemic accelerated the delivery trend, it's going to be hard to be the next Bobby Flay. Turns out you are only helping you neighborhood Italian place survive if you go pick it up and just wipe down, which let's face it, isn't that big of deal unless you live in one of the 4 hotspots.

PHOTO TWO - If Wall Street Doesn't need to go in, who in white collar America does?  This photo and accompanying article on Wall Street brokers doing just fine working from home feels a bit like a canary in the coal mine.  As Lenin once said, there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen - feels like a bad time to be in the commercial real estate business.

Wallstreet

PHOTO THREE - A Toyota Engine factory in Hurstville is getting back to work, and this break room photo tells you everything you need to know. 4 person tables are now two, there's a big plexiglass divider to ensure you don't spittle on someone as you talk, and in case you missed it, the big red things on the floor instruct you not to sit "there".  We all knew this was coming, but this was the first one I saw. Awesome for the introverts.

Toyota

Stay healthy, my friends!!


HR Trails Almost Everyone Other Career Related to Freelancing - Let's Discuss...

Welcome to the recession, team! It's just like any other recession, except that it was caused by a Global Pandemic, which seems a bit - extreme.

But I digress. If we're no longer in the peak economic cycle and over 30 million Americans Sidehustlehave hit unemployment since mid-March (WTF, and the number is likely much bigger if you count all the underutilized employees that companies are holding onto via cash reserves and stimulus programs like the Payroll Protection Act), it seems like a good time to talk about freelancing, because all of us might need an alternative source of income at some point in the near future.

You know, a side hustle.

Who's good at having a side hustle? According to research conducted by The Hustle, a nifty little business newsletter you can get delivered to you daily, it's who you would expect. Professions most likely to have a side hustle are first and foremost creative pursuits, the kind where companies often have difficulty justifying a full time position. Graphic design, online media and photography all lead the charge in freelancing and putting together portfolio careers rather than relying on (or being able to rely on) a single source of income (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the charts below).

Hustle 1

What's that? How's HR doing related to having a side hustle?

Shitty.

I regret to inform you we are neither good at it or comfortable with it. See the chart below from the same research, which shows HR as the third least likely profession to have a side hustle, behind the sexy, risk-taking tribes that are lawyers and engineers (woof).

Hustle HR

For god's sake, bankers experiment more with a side hustle than we do. #sad

If you're reading this post as an HR or talent pro, I've got good news for you - you're already hungry for knowledge and experimentation with the status quo, or you wouldn't be here. 

Why do HR people rarely experiment with the side hustle?  Some thoughts:

--We write the policies on the people side and it feels a little hypocritical to do our own thing after we wrote the blurb on moonlighting.

--Our profession is made of up of rules people, and having more than one job doesn't feel like it's in compliance.

--Our skill set doesn't lend itself to side hustle as the work product isn't as transferrable as the graphic designer. 

--We simply aren't a profession full of entrepreneurs. #truth 

Let's examine some of those reasons. We ARE full of rules people and if we wrote the policy manual, we're compelled to follow it. But that sounds like it might be time to reexamine the policy in a gig economy. 

As far as whether our skill set lends itself to the side hustle or not, well, all you really need to do is look at the tens of thousands of HR Consultants who have hung their own shingle to help small business in American and it's clear - the transferrable skill set argument doesn't hold water.

The real reason for such a low side hustle score is we are full of rules people, and HR for the most part doesn't have an entrepreneurial spirit.

And that's 100% ok.  But in a recession that looks like it may be deep and long, it's probably time to figure out what you could sell if you had to.

There's never a better time to look for a side hustle writing an employee handbook for a small company than... wait for it... when you still have a job.

Recession = get ready to bootstrap.