Let's Look at the Numbers Behind Amazon's Program to Retrain 100,000 Employees...

Odds are you’ve heard that Amazon plans to make a huge investment in retraining its existing workforce, partly due to the displacement of employees by emerging automation and A.I., and partly due to scarcity of talent in key job families.

I want to take a look at the Amazon re-skilling investment with a critical eye, but first here’s a primer of what Amazon has planned for the uninitiated: Amazon

"Amazon (AMZN) today pledged to upskill 100,000 of its employees across the United States, dedicating over $700 million to provide people across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network with access to training programs that will help them move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.

Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 pledge invests in a range of new upskilling programs to serve employees from all backgrounds and Amazon locations. Programs include Amazon Technical Academy, which equips non-technical Amazon employees with the essential skills to transition into, and thrive in, software engineering careers; Associate2Tech, which trains fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles regardless of their previous IT experience; Machine Learning University, offering employees with technical backgrounds the opportunity to access machine learning skills via an on-site training program; Amazon Career Choice, a pre-paid tuition program designed to train fulfillment center associates in high-demand occupations of their choice; Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon; and AWS Training and Certification, which provide employees with courses to build practical AWS Cloud knowledge that is essential to operating in a technical field."

700M is a lot of money. Let’s do some simple math and then start evaluating how to the investment could intensify if it wasn’t spread evenly (which is never is):

--First the simple match.  700M across 100,000 impacted employees equals a base investment in retraining/upskilling of $7,000 per employee. Compare that to the average annual per employee investment in Learning and Development cited by Bersin ($1,200), and the investment seems solid above and beyond what Amazon already does.

--Now imagine a world where the investment isn’t spread out equally across all employees.  Since the Amazon upskilling initiative will have a voluntary vibe to it (similar to AT&T’s upskilling efforts require the employee to proactively opt in and spend their own time preparing their skills for the future), it’s not hard to imagine the opt in rate won’t approach anywhere near 100%. 

--Spread the 700M investment over 50% of the employees, and you’ve got an investment of $14,000 per employee.

--Spread the 700M investment over 30% of the targeted employees, and you’ve got an investment of over $23,000 per employee.

The devil, as it always is, is in the details.  It's a cool program. Will Amazon spend the same total amount of money if just 30% of the impacted employees opt in to the program? The presence of pre-paid tuition and certification programs suggests no.

The voluntary, opt-in nature of the Amazon Upskilling 2025 program is necessary. After all, employees impacted by A.I. and automation have to WANT to improve their long term career prospects. That's why so much of this program will have to be completed after work hours.

That's going to sound like a second job (unpaid as well) to a lot of employees. That means Amazon likely won't spend as much as projected.

If you were in Vegas, you'd take the "under" related to the bet of whether Amazon will spend more or less than 700M by the year 2025 on this program.


WORKPLACE ARTIFACTS: "Patient Zero" Drives Dress Norms at Your Company...

Ever notice that everyone in your company pretty much dresses the same?

Me too.

Note that you didn't hire with this criteria in mind. Before joining your company, your employees had a much greater degree of diversity in the way they dressed.  Then once they joined your organization, conformity and groupthink became the order of the day, and something called "regression to the mean" occurred.  Examples of groupthink dressing in the workplace include:

--Patagonia vest for hedge fund people

--Dress sneakers for tech company people

--Blue Blazers and specific pants choices for white guys over a certain age EVERYWHERE (click the links for my takedowns on these topics)

--and countless more examples.

It's sociology 101.  Norms, customs, etc.  I was reminded by the consistency of the pack by the following from Esquire:

"I work at Morgan Stanley."

Pause.

"It's a bank."

I fight the imminent eye roll with my entire being, like you'd fight an alarming wave of nausea in public:

"Oh, wow! Cool! Are you, like, a bank teller?"

Unidentified Banker No. 1 and I did not speak again after that. He wasn't a teller. (Of course.) He was an analyst. (Of course.) But not just any old analyst. He was a capital B Banker. He lived and breathed the lifestyle, the attitude. He was a douche bag. And, like any true capital B Banker douche bag, he carried the bag. The Douche Bag.

If you're unfamiliar, the Douche Bag is a small-sized duffel bag (the "good" ones are navy), with straps embroidered with the name of the bank the bag's owner works for. The owner is probably a dude. He's probably an analyst. He definitely peaked in college.

The bag itself has many names. It has been called the "corporate duffel" (by the issuing firm), the "deal bag" (by Bankers), the "banker bag" (by New Yorkers), and the "douche-tastic man purse" (by my fellow misanthrope, Renata Sellitti). And, of course, the Douche Bag. By me.

It is a known quantity: the mark of a first-year associate, and a symbol of belonging to the trade. But it is also a known problem. I am not the first person to rail against the obnoxiousness of the banker bag. I'd even call the argument tired, if it weren't for the fact that nothing thus far has stopped these guys from treating promotional canvas duffels like they're limited-edition Louis Vuitton holdalls.

What gives with the follower/norm/desperation to fit in related to workplace dress? I thought about it for awhile. What causes people to conform and who leads trends in your company when they break?  Here's my thoughts:

1--People follow trends inside companies and conform to norms because existing outside of the norm can introduce risk. If there's one thing that average performers don't want, it's more risk.  

2--The older someone is at your company, the less they want risk.  They've made it this far, have closet full of clothes of the existing uniform, and they really don't care about fashion. Translation - they're not picking up a fad or trend at your company - you guessed it - unless NOT picking up the new trend presents them with risk.

3--Changes in dress trends at your company are usually introduced one of two ways - by overall societal trends or industry specific changes.  Industry specific changes are things like the duffel bag above, the Patagonia vest in hedge fund land, etc.  A trend starts at one company in the industry, then is shared via conferences and other forms of networking and spreads like wildfire.

4--Whether changes in the dress norms at your company are due to broad fashion trends or something industry specific, there always has to be a "Patient Zero" at your firm (aka the first one at your company/location to break ranks and embrace the new fashion).

5--"Patient Zero" - the one who embraces the new trend at your company - must be considered trendy enough for people to follow, but also be viewed as a high enough performer to modify the norms at your company - aka, if he/she did it, no one is going to call BS on them because they produce results.  

When patient zero picks up a new dress trend and 3-4 people quickly follow, you've got change when it comes to dress norms at your company.

The patient zero of dress trends at your company is generally not only a high performer, but a manager of people as well.  After all, there's nothing that will make the lemmings be fast followers quicker than their upwardly mobile manager trending a certain dress direction on a casual Friday.

Look around - odds are you have a Patient Zero at your location. Don't smile the next time you walk by them.

 


Great CEO Quotes: "My Superpower is Change"

You know you love this post series here at the Capitalist - Great CEO Quotes.

Today's entry comes from WeWork CEO Adam Neumann:

"My Superpower is Change"

That's heavy, my HR friends.  When you work for a line of business boss who is on record with this quote, it's either going to be a fun ride - or you're going to hate life.

It's less about them than it is about you. They aren't going to change, so this really comes down to if you can tolerate the low rules/high change boss. Here's a couple Weworkof snippets on Neumann from Business Insider:

"Bloomberg observes that Neumann is served a bowl of super oats with what he calls "amazing qualities" midway through the interview, his cofounders go around wearing shirts with slogans like "High on We," and WeWork's walls are adorned with signs telling tenants to "Hustle Harder."

Toward the end of the piece, Neumann asks Bloomberg journalist Ellen Huet what her superpower is, he then responded with his own. "My superpower is change," he said, "and change is painful."

I'd categorize Neumann from WeWork as the visionary, low rules boss who trying to create a new category of business and generally disrupt an industry. For those that don't know a lot about WeWork, here's a quick description:

"Think of WeWork as an office leasing middle man. The company rents space and makes it pretty, you need space, so they rent that pretty space to you. On the most basic level, that’s all they do. More specifically, WeWork leases floors of buildings, entire structures, and any primo, available real estate they can get their hands on. Note that WeWork isn’t actually buying any space, just leasing it from owners and property managers."

WeWork wants to become your landlord. They initially were focused on renting space to individuals, but increasingly are signing deals with companies. They believe in the power of office space to drive culture and great work. They think they can do it better than you can do it for yourself, better than traditional commercial real estate firms, etc.  They're probably not wrong, but fulfilling a visionary, Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) like reinventing how workspace gets built and leased is hard.

Find a crazy hard BHAG like reinventing (and more importantly monetizing) office space, and you'll find a low rules, high change boss like Neumann.

His superpower is change. He said so.

Can you survive and thrive with a CEO like this? It's more about you than it is about them.

Look inward, my HR friends. That cool office space affect will only last for so long.


The Complex Relationship of A.I. and Labor's Share of GDP in the USA...

Will A.I. take jobs away? 

Of course it will. The only question is whether the jobs it eliminates are replaced by other jobs up the food chain, in different and perhaps yet unknown industries and job classes.

The world has seen various waves of automation and globalization over the last century. Name the game changing technology, and there was paranoia that jobs were being eliminated and workers would be idle, never to find work to replace what was lost.

Through it all, a little talked about stat called “US Labor Share” has tracked the worker’s share of the economic pie.  For the uninitiated, here’s the definition of US Labor Share from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

"The labor share is the percentage of economic output (GDP) that accrues to workers in the form of compensation. It is calculated by dividing the compensation earned during a certain period by the economic output produced over the same period."

For the sports fans out there, think about this as the salary cap number for the US non-farm workforce.  For the non-sports fans, think about your company’s salary budget as a percentage of revenue.

A quick historical look at the Labor Share (nonfarm business sector) chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from the 1950’s through the year 2000, Labor Share remained fairly steady at 62% to 64% of US GDP.

Then, things changed. Labor Share started dropping hard in 2008-2009 (both in and coming off the recession) dropping from 60% of GDP to a level now looking to at the 56% range. According to Fortune Magazine, that equates into about $11,000 less in annual income for the average US household when compared to an economy that provides a 65% percent share to the US workforce.

Here's a look at the chart (email subscribers, please click through if you don't see the image):

Labor share

Machines displaced a lot of farmworkers in the 19th century, but millions of new jobs in manufacturing were created.  When the manufacturing sector in the US took a hit in the 50’s, 60’s and 70s’, new jobs in services became a much larger part of the economy, and Labor Share remained steady between 62% and 64%.

And here we are – at 56% - in a peak economy. What gives?

It all comes down to job creation as the term automation gets replaced by A.I.  What’s the new sector of jobs that’s coming online as A.I. – the new, at times scarier version of automation – displaces human labor?

Factory workers became truck drivers across the Midwest when factories went away. What blue collar profession do they turn to when automation/A.I. fully delivers self-driving, autonomous vehicles to the transportation industry?

White collar workers have been impacted by automation as well, but globalization and the impact of cheap labor available overseas has had greater impact. What happens when A.I. delivers a seamless tax return or handles coding at a deeper, more self-aware level that transcends the age-old argument of chasing cheaper white collar labor in the Philippines?

Read enough, and you'll find opinions that A.I is the beginning of the end, or overhyped to a large degree.

I’m a fan of technology and progress. I’ve always believed that jobs eliminated by technology would re-emerge up the food chain.

The current Labor Share chart in the USA is making me think deeper. We’re almost a decade into the expansion, the toughest recruiting environment for employers imaginable, and workers still can’t get theirs?

Buckle up.  The next couple of decades are going to be interesting.


Are HR Leaders Ready to Hire Candidates with Criminal Histories? #SHRM19

If you’re a SHRM member or even remotely following major initiatives within the world’s largest association of HR professionals, odds are you’ve heard of “Getting Talent Back to Work”, a pledge drive to promote the hiring of candidates with criminal histories.

Which begs the question – are HR pros really open to hiring people with criminal backgrounds who are available in the talent marketplace?

I was reminded of “Getting Talent Back to Work” at the SHRM National conference, when SHRM GTBTW CEO Johnny Taylor promoted the cause during his address to the general assembly.

Taylor is easily the best presenter SHRM has had as a CEO.  More on that in a bit.  First, let’s do a level set and tell you what “Getting Talent Back to Work” is as a program/initiative/platform:

"Getting Talent Back to Work is a national pledge open to all organizations that was signed even before the formal announcement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the American Staffing Association, SHRM, Koch Industries, Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation and more.

Organizations are pledging to give opportunities to qualified people with a criminal background, deserving of a second chance, which creates successful outcomes for employers, all employees, customers and communities.
 
Ninety-five percent of people in prison will be released—that’s more than 650,000 people every year. As they re-enter society, people with criminal backgrounds are deprived of employment opportunities and organizations are deprived of qualified talent, creating harmful consequences for millions of people."

Getting Talent Back to Work was launched in January 2019, and SHRM immediately got criticized for the inclusion of Koch Industries in the list of organizations agreeing to the pledge.  Koch is run by the Koch brothers (Charles and David), who moonlight as political fundraisers/operatives on the Republican side of the aisle.

I discounted the criticism at the time due to the list of organizations beyond Koch Industries that signed the pledge. Any time you have the National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association sign off on a pledge to do something differently in the realm of employment, it’s meaningful.  But seeing Johnny Taylor - a pretty dynamic mix of presenter and disrupter as the CEO of SHRM - go after the issue hard at SHRM made me want to dig in on the issue a bit.

So, I asked 15 Director/VP of HR types at SHRM National what they thought about “Getting Talent Back to Work.”  Here’s a summary of what I heard:

1—Everyone understands the idea has merit.  As our society has become more progressive, it’s clear that most of the people I talked to supported the spirit behind the pledge. Most of us believe in second chances.

2 –The devil, as it turns out is in the details. Here’s where it gets dicey. What jobs are available to those with criminal backgrounds?  Concerns from my groups of HR Directors/VPs are raised where you would expect – in financial jobs, jobs which provide autonomy of work using expensive tools, etc.  If we restrict access to only the lowest level jobs with limited risk, is attempting to employ those with criminal histories still meaningful?

3--Most feel there will be resistance to the idea across the leadership teams they belong to back at the home office related to the concept. While the HR leaders I spoke to get the intent of the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge, most indicated there would be friction and blocking activity as they tried to execute changes to existing policy related to hiring candidates with criminal histories.

4—Hiring Managers are also thought to be a major roadblock. As expected, most of the HR leaders I spoke to thought hiring managers would be less than supportive to this type of hiring policy change. 

With all that in mind, my takeaways after these conversations were simple. HR pros are open and welcome participating in Getting Talent Back to Work, but they’re also unclear about the best way to proceed in knocking down barriers that exist in their organizations.

That means Getting Talent Back to Work as a SHRM initiative has legs, but the next step in the program for SHRM will need to focus on helping HR leaders make the business case to skeptics back at the home office.  While most of the HR pros I talked to were generally unaware of the toolkit that exists here, a review of the resources makes me recommend the toolkit will need to expand provide a base-level communications campaign that a normal HR leader could use to make presentations, send emails and general communicate the policy changes they're asking for. 

The tools that exist are strong, and the next step probably needs to be ghostwritten materials that show an HR leader step-by-step what they can do to initiate change in their organizations.

I like what SHRM is doing in this area, and the fact they stayed on message at the national conference. The next step is to push HR leaders to take action inside their companies and start the necessary dialog.

Change is likely to be slow, but it's a conversation worth having.


Women’s Soccer: A Primer on Success in Equality Legislation

Congratulations to the USA Women’s National Soccer Team winning the World Cup.

Fun to watch and amazing all at the same time.  But there’s more! WWC

Let’s look at the impact of Title IX on Women’s Soccer in the United States.  Not sure what Title IX is?  Here’s a quick primer:

Title IX is a federal civil rights law in the United States of America that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. This is Public Law No. 92‑318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972), codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688. It was co-authored and introduced by Senator Birch Bayh in the U.S. Senate, and Congresswoman Patsy Mink in the House. It was later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act following Mink's death in 2002. The following is the original text as written and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

While the reach of Title IX is broad, a visible outcome was the law’s impact on sports. In a nutshell, Title IX’s application in sports mandated that girls/women have equal opportunity to boys/men. In college athletics, that mandate was further refined as the number of overall athletic scholarships for women being equal to what was offered for men.

With football providing high scholarship numbers to college males with no female equivalent, the outcome over time was simple.  College sports kept the football scholarship numbers high, which meant new levels of funding for women’s athletics (as well as many smaller, non-revenue scholarship sports being discontinued for men – which is why you don’t see sports like wrestling at most American universities these days).

Women’s soccer is one positive example of Title IX’s impact.  Here’s your girls’ soccer participation numbers across time:

1976 – 10,000 girls participating in High School Soccer

2000 – 270,000 girls participating in High School Soccer

Women’s soccer is a great example of the positive impact of equality legislation. Title IX is a driver of the growth in high school girls’ soccer over time.

World Cup titles are nice. More girls having access to sport and the lessons that come with participation is better.

Title IX is a huge early win in equality legislation.


Google for Jobs: A Stat That Will Make Go Hmmmmm...

First, a quick definition - in 2017, Google launched Google for Jobs, a service dedicated to making Google a primary job search source for all.  It works like this - Google scrapes all the jobs from career sites across the world, and by coding your jobs/career sites in a certain way, you can do your best to ensure the jobs at your company perform well when candidates search for jobs (think, "Financial Analyst") in the geographical area they are interested in.

The big news in 2017 and beyond that Google was getting into job search/job postings.  Since so many candidates start searching for jobs with search engine query, the reality of what Google was doing - putting a big listing of jobs from G4J at the top of search results on anything resembling job search - was thought to be a threat to all who market and sell job postings.  This obviously impacts the future business results of Indeed, LinkedIn and the traditional job boards.

Early results show that the change, i.e. the potential to put other companies out of the job posting business (or hurt their financial results), has been slower than expected to materialize. 

But to really understand the potential impact, you simply need to look at other industries.  Here's a stat that should make us think it's only a matter of time before Google for Jobs is completely dominant:

On mobile devices, 62% of searches never leave Google. Google’s desktop dominance is also growing: Between 2016 and today, desktop searches that never leave Google have risen from 9% to 35%.

You may have noticed that in a lot of Google searches you do, Google provides enough information in a dialog box, and you don't have to leave Google to get to another site.  That's by design - Google’s goal is to provide info directly, without having to refer users to other websites.  The stat above tells you how good they are getting at providing enough info/value so you don't have to click and go somewhere else.

The latest news covering this trend  - song lyric site Genius.com has accused Google of scraping its site.  More from Mashable:

"Lyrics annotation service Genius.com has accused Google of scraping its site and stealing its content, the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend. However, a lyrics data provider at the center of the controversy claimed on Monday that those allegations were without merit.

The Journal reported that Genius had been complaining to Google about the alleged theft for some time, with Google consistently denying the allegations. To prove its point, Genius proceeded to alter lyrics hosted on its site with a variety of different apostrophes.

The company alternated between apostrophe styles in a frequency that allowed it to embed a secret morse code message into the text. The message in question: “Red handed.” Soon after, the modified lyrics, complete with the hidden message, showed up on Google.com, according to Genius."

Why the drama about song lyrics? Genius.com says its traffic is dropping because, for the past several years, Google has been publishing lyrics on its own platform, with some of them lifted directly from the music site.

In other words, when Google provides its own data rather than referring web searches to other sites, life gets hard.

The fact that Google does that in 35% of all web searches today - with an eye to take a lot more market share - should make everyone who relies on referral traffic really nervous.

Google for Jobs hasn't put anyone out of business in the job posting industry  - yet.  But, it feels like we're in the first quarter of this game.

Diversification of business model seems like a smart play for those in the crosshairs.

 

 


The Non-Working, Non-Credible Executive at Your Company...

Let's talk about something that impacts every organization - The perception of whether your executives do anything, and in a related topic, whether they are viewed as credible.

There's 4 buckets every executive at your company falls into: Magic

1--Works hard/does stuff and viewed as credible.

2--Doesn't work hard/do stuff but is viewed as credible.

3--Does stuff/works hard and isn't viewed as credible.

4--Doesn't work hard/do stuff and isn't viewed as credible.

The gold standard is to have execs in #1 - Does stuff/is credible.  Engagement is always easier when this is the case.  For the most cynical of executives, they'd love to be viewed as credible without really trying to dig in and work or understand what's going on 4-5 levels below them.

Entire TV series have been based on the disconnect - Undercover Boss, anyone?  The CEO puts on a stupid wig, goes to the front lines and finds that special person they want to help moving forward - everyone cries and the CEO is now aware of how hard the work is.  Check. Then it's back to the corporate jet and the Ritz.

Why am I posting about this today? I was reminded of the four buckets of Executive perception when Magic Johnson resigned as the President of the Los Angeles Lakers (pro basketball).  For the uninitiated, Magic is a top 5 player all time in pro basketball, and he's royalty when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers. So the Lakers hired him 2 years ago to return their organization to glory.

There was just one problem. Magic wanted the job, but he didn't want to have to work hard. In addition, the fact he didn't work hard in a job he didn't know how to do destroyed his credibility in his workplace, which for him was the community of other GMs doing work within the NBA.  You can get a good rundown of the Magic Johnson scenario here.

But back to your company.  Evaluating whether an executive works hard and is viewed as credible is tough for the following reasons:

a--It's not necessarily the executive's job to understand what everyone does and how the sausage gets made. They have a job that's different that the first layers of your company, and at times, just as important.

b--Employees love to hate. Just because they don't know what the executive does doesn't mean the exec in question doesn't work hard.  But it might tell you they need to connect more to be credible.

So how do you determine whether an executive works hard and is credible?  My first suggestion is to ask their executive peers who rely on them for services.  If the peers don't feel they work hard or are credible, it's likely you have a problem.  After all, peers at the executive level are aware of the demands of the job.  They're slow to say, "I don't know what he does", because they've heard that before about themselves.

Finally, look for command related to talent management 2 to 3 levels below them. Someone trying to understand the work and add value to the way your company's product or service gets delivered is likely to know who's good and who's not, and base it on tangible items clearly linked to success in the job, not politics or rumors.

There's a lot of people at your company who think your executives don't do anything.  They might be right.

You should try to understand if you're dealing with Jeff Bezos or Magic Johnson and take action accordingly.


Minimum Viable Product in the World of HR...

If there's one thing that HR could do better at, it's caring less about being perfect and shipping more HR product.

You see it all the time in the world of HR. We have big plans. Those big plans include the need for project planning, for meetings, vendor selection and deep thoughts.  After awhile, the process takes over the original intent, which was trying to serve a need and make the people processes of our company just a little bit better. MVP

We chase big, risk adverse, "get everyone on board" type of wins.  The development of those big wins can stretch into a year - no make that two years - of prep.  

What we ought to be chasing more is Minimal Viable Product, which in the software industry gets defined as this:

minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.

A minimum viable product has just enough core features to effectively deploy the product, and no more. Developers typically deploy the product to a subset of possible customers—such as early adopters thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. This strategy targets avoiding building products that customers do not want and seeks to maximize information about the customer per amount of money spent.

I'm looking at you, Workday.  You're on notice, SAP.  We love the big solution in the world of HR.  But the risk of big failure goes up astronomically when implementation plans are more than 120 days and your own HR team hates the product - after 18 months of work to "customize" "configure" it.

Of course, we'd be a lot better off if we would simply either design/buy the simplest solution to a problem we think needs fixing by HR.  To be clear, you can buy or design these minimalistic solutions.  Which way you go depends a lot on what you are trying to fix/improve.  The general rule of thumb is this related to the following types of HR "needs":

--Technology - always buy. Find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.  If you prove the use case and gain adoption, you can always seek to upgrade to something more complex, but if it fails, initially buying simple is the smart play. Recruiting, performance and system of record tech falls into the "buy" category.

--Teach - You're buying a tech solution for early forays into Learning and Development?  You're kidding me, right? You know that you may build this and no one will come, right? You also know that the type of training you're generally asked for (manager and leadership training, etc.) is an area where you're the expert, right? hmmm....

--Process - You never buy process initially - you build.  You never spend money on a consultant to help you in any area before you  - the HR leader - has your own hot take related to what you want in this area.  

Thinking in a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) way is simple.  For tech buys, If you're first generation HR (no tech has existed), you should always find the simplest solution you like, buy for the shortest term possible and roll the solution out.   Figure out what's usable and what's not.  See this article from me for Best in Breed vs Suite considerations.  Open API's mean you have limited worries about tying all the data together.  Let's face it, you've got to grow up your HR function before you were going to use that data anyway.  Buy small and learn.  Maybe your v 2.0 tech solution is an upgrade to a more advanced provider.  But you don't by the BMW when you're kid is learning to drive - you buy the used Camry.

Here's some lighting round notes on what Minimal Viable Product looks like in HR - for some specific areas/pain points:

--Manager/Leadership Training - You want to shop big and bring in an entire series from an outsourced partner.  The concept of MVP says you should listen to the needs, then bootstrap a 2-hour class together on your own.  At the very least, you order a single module of training from a provider (I like this one)and walk before you run.

--Redesigning Recruiting Process - Put the Visio chart down, Michelle.  Dig into a job that represents a big area of challenge at your company and become the recruiter for that job for a month.  Manage it like a project and be responsible personally for the outcomes.  Nobody cares about your Visio chart - yet. They would love the personal attention you give them.  Once you run a single, meaningful search in a experimental/different way, you'll have real world stories and experience to create a <shudder> Visio chart that's based on reality.

Doing Minimal Viable Product in HR means you plan less, get to doing, run the action you're taking through a cycle and evaluate.  If it works, build on the 2.0 version with a bit more complexity.  MVP in HR means you ship more product that's lighter than what's traditionally come out of your office.

Get busy shipping more HR product.  Plan less. Play the Minimal Viable Product game and if you're going to fail, fail quickly.

 


The Cold-Blooded Art of Owning/Getting In Front of Huge Career Mistakes...

Let's face it. If you're in the game and playing to win. you're going to have some failures. Sh*t that goes sideways. 

"Regrettable situations", as I like to refer to them. Keep-me-posted

I like to think Teddy Roosevelt had it right at the turn of the last century when he gave a speech widely known as "The Man In The Arena".  It goes a little something like this:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

TL;DR: People who aren't making sh*t happen shouldn't be allowed to criticize. At worst, we shouldn't listen to those who have never put themselves out there via risk-taking in their own careers.

It's easy to play it safe. But that's what gives birth to boring careers, tract housing and underfunded 401ks.  Whether you're playing to win for a greater cause or you just think careers and the rewards that go with them are the ultimate scoreboards of life, Roosevelt's "Arena" is as true today as it was in 1910.

If you're in the arena, it's going to get messy.  Failure will be in your neighborhood.

So let's talk a little bit about the spin cycle necessary when you do fail, or when your underperformance isn't widely known, but could be held against you by your enemies, or at least those who view you as standing in the way of their own career progress.

Scenario: You're working on an important project. Things aren't going well and some of your co-workers understand (correctly, I might add) that an important client contact has grown to dislike you (this could be either an external or internal client). It seems that in repping the best course of action, you try to play hardball with this individual when they were blocking your progress, and they didn't take kindly to being told what to do/leveraged/semi-threatened.  Now the words out on the street by those in the know - you're in trouble on this project, and while it likely won't destroy your career, it certainly doesn't help.

To make matters worse, you've got people in your own company/department gossiping about this personal sh*t show that you're at least partly responsible for.  As with most gossip, it starts among those who would most like to see you fail and who haven't done 1/4 of what you've done for your company (see Teddy's speech).

Still, it's a problem. You've underperformed, and people are talking.  The good news is that the people who matter most in your career (your boss, perhaps your boss's boss) aren't yet aware.

That's what this post is for. You've got a choice to make, and here are your options:

1--Do your best to muddle though the situation and hope it doesn't explode on you, taking the equivalent of your right leg from a career perspective at your company.

2--Get to the person you wronged and try to make it right.

3--Execute on a policy of no surprises to your boss (as well as proactive disarming of those who would position themselves as your enemy), hitting him/her with the reality of the situation and generally getting in front of bad things.

Most people choose option #1.  Just play the string out and hope for the best.  The weakest view option #2 as the best path, but for purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming you blew that person up for a good reason - they were being unreasonable in their blocking of what needed to happen, etc.

It's option #3 that most true Alphas use - getting in front of bad news and taking the leverage away from all who wish them harm.

I'm reminded of this art by this post from Jeff Bezos of Amazon (No Thank You, Mr. Pecker) - which details the fact that the National Enquirer was blackmailing him under the threat of releasing partially nude and totally nude photos of him that he supposedly had sent to his girlfriend/mistress - to influence him to call off his investigation of why his personal life had earlier come under much scrutiny.

I'll let you go read the Bezos post.  As it turns out, the richest man in the world is probably a bad person to blackmail.

But back to you and me, and our more pedestrian careers. When things go sideways and sharks are circling, it's probably always best to get in front of the bad news with the people who control your career - for the following reasons:

A--The cover up always feels worse than the actual situation.

B--When you tell those that matter, you can control the narrative.

C--Important people with power (those that control your career) hate surprises and being embarrassed.

Do you really want those that want to stick it to you to control that initial narrative?  Of course you don't.

You got sideways on a piece of work. Nobody died. Be a player and march into the office of power, let them know about it and tell them what you're thinking about doing to fix it.

Then ask for their advice. People who believe in you love to be asked for advice when you're having trouble.

Game. Set. Match.  Haters who watch others (you) play in the arena - be gone.