Should We Really Trust IBM as an Expert in the World of HR?

It's a fair question. Does IBM deserve to be an expert in the world of HR?

When you think of IBM today, you probably think of Watson, the supercomputer that resides at the intersection of processing power and artificial intelligence.

One of the latest science/research pushes IBM is promoting is that they're the experts in predicting turnoverWatson

IBM HR has a patent for its “predictive attrition program” which was developed with Watson to predict employee flight risk and prescribe actions for managers to engage employees. IBM's CEO Ginni Rometty has been on the PR push for this program this month and stopped short of explaining “the secret sauce” that allowed the AI to work so effectively in identifying workers about to jump (officially, IBM said the predictions are now in the 95 percent accuracy “range”). Rometty would only say that its success comes through analyzing many data points. Rometty claims the AI has so far saved IBM nearly $300 million in retention costs.

The AI retention tool is part of a suite of IBM products that are designed to upend the traditional approach to human resources management. 

I think AI should always be considered as a way to make our profession better.  I'm just not sure that IBM deserves to be the expert in HR.  

You know the first reason I'm skeptical.  Most of my readers could predict turnover with 100% accuracy if they have access to the right information. The right information in turnover prediction is full of privacy issues - involving deep email, social, web and phone indexing and analysis.  Simply put, if you had access to the right information, you could make a pretty good call on who's at risk.  That's nothing new and the fact IBM doesn't disclose what information is needed to get to 95% accuracy is 100% problematic.  

So you're great at turnover prediction, but you fail to say you need to big brother information access to fine tune the model.  Most of us would say no to the cultural ramifications of getting all the data necessary.

But my biggest issue with IBM coming in hard to HR for business development is much simpler.  They've been awful to their own workforce.

Big companies are going to have some people issues, I get it.  But do a couple of web searches and you'll see how IBM has treated it's workforce, discarding strong, older professionals for cheaper labor.  It's a systematic play they've been a part of, and it includes normal playbook items like layoffs and more creative items like requiring long-term IBM team members to report to a centralized office location or lose their job.  

Translation: We've got a lot of high earners and it's killing us. Time to retrench and get a cheaper cost basis on labor.  Let's say no to remote work!

Watson is cool, and IBM is OK. But I'm not sure they deserve to be labeled as an expert in the world of HR.

IBM is a data company.  You're the HR expert.  

Watson told me so.


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.

 


CHRO Briefing: WalMart/CVS Battle Shows Why Amazon is coming to Rx Business...

Here's your latest CHRO briefing that matters:

CVS and WalMart have agreed to laid down their weapons, reaching agreement and ending a dispute would have prevented some CVS Caremark customers from picking up their prescriptions at Walmart pharmacies.

Walmart and CVS didn't reveal the terms of their new agreement in a joint statement. CVS had said that Walmart, the biggest retailer in the world, wanted to raise the cost of Amazon rxfilling prescriptions by too much.

The dispute could have affected about $4 billion worth of prescriptions, according to an estimate from Eric Coldwell, an analyst at Baird. It also would have prevented CVS customers from picking up scripts from 4,700 WalMart locations.

Of course, the real briefing is this --If you don't think that's Amazon's coming to severely hamper CVS and similar Rx companies by getting into the Rx game themselves, you're not paying attention.

In case you missed it, leading online retailer Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) acquired PillPack in June 2018, an online pharmacy service that allows customers to purchase medications in pre-made doses.  Walmart was also a contender to buy PillPack but lost out to Amazon's better offer. Closely following the PillPack purchase, Amazon announced a program that will include prescription deliveries through its Prime membership program. 

You know there's always a new play annually when it comes to help you get cost out of your benefits program.  You've seen that with the trends you now know well - managed acute care, tele-doc, mail order Rx, etc.

Someday soon, Amazon's going to have a path to offer you a 20% reduction in your company's Rx spend.  It's only being slowed by realities like Aetna being owned by CVS, which muddies the competitive landscape for Amazon to navigate to make becoming your Rx provider of choice a reality.

But Amazon's coming. They might have to buy an retail Rx firm to get it done, but with the aging of the USA that seems like a prudent investment.


Helping Unemployed/Underemployed People Is Part of Your Job...

If you're like me in the world of HR and recruiting, you get asked for career help as a normal rite of passage. For me, it's tough because there's only so much you can do to help people find opportunities outside of the company you work for.

That process can make you jaded in the world of HR. People think you're more connected than you are, and as a result, you're going to get more of these inquiries than the average person.

But you matter more than you realize, even when you can't help as much as you'd like.  I recently caught up with another HR leader I ran into by chance in our community.  A few years back, she was down but I had references that said she was talented. I introduced her to 5 people I thought might be able to help her in her career.  None of those contacts generated the lead she needed, but she eventually landed on her feet.  Flash forward to our chance meeting a month or two ago - we caught up, and she was borderline emotional about how I helped her, even if it didn't result in the lead that got her the current role.

It's the long tail of career assistance for you and me as HR and recruiting pros. Treat all with respect, do what you can, and underpromise and overdeliver. The results don't matter as much as your empathy and intent.

I've been fortunate to have had a role in helping to start/build some great careers across the direct reports I've had over the years.

Then I get this note yesterday. Take a look and see you below:

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From: Kevin
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 6:02 PM
To: Kris Dunn 
Subject: Hey old friend

KD!

Hope all is well in your world.  I was at lunch with some customers today and we all told our stories of how we wound up in the wireless industry.  

SO... I got to tell them the story one more time about you "lighting me up" in that pickup basketball game in early 1995. Who would ever think a chance thrashing on the basketball court would lead to a new friend and a great career? 

Thanks for all you did to help me get started. I learned so much from you and have tried to replicate as much as possible by helping as many people as possible network and find jobs, especially when they find themselves without one.

I hope things are going good for you and yours! God Bless!

Kevin

---------

I was just starting my career when I met Kevin.  Like you, I have a great bullshit filter, and he was a real person with humility and ambition. So I referred him into the company I worked for and we became co-workers.

The rest is history.  Kevin's built a career in that industry long after I left.  And I get this random email on a Thursday evening, 23 years later.

You have a lot more impact than you know. The next time someone reaches out to you for career help, be patient.  They need you and their expectations are managed.  

Be empathetic and do what you can.  There but for the grace of god, go I.

They need you.  Remember the long tail that exists with this part of your job and identity. Every time you push away the voice in your head that says you don't have time or can't help and provide an ear, everyone wins.

Including you.

 


HR HATER WEEK: Why Passive HR People Fail to Deal With The Problem...

Capitalist Note: This week is HR Haters week at the Capitalist. Let's ID the personas out there who don't respect HR and figure out how to deal with them.  See the first two posts in this series here and here.

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THE PASSIVE BEHAVIOR YOU’LL SEE ON YOUR TEAM RELATED TO DEALING WITH HR HATERS

If you’re reading this series, you’re either an alpha or would like to become an alpha. The same is not true for your team. One of the reasons I wanted to do this series on HR Haters is that is our profession is full of behavioral profiles that drive the way we respond to clients. Haters

Tell me if you see yourself or your team in any of the following passive paths taken with people who question (aka, HR Haters the validity of HR:

1--HR is service oriented, therefore we tell ourselves the customer is always right. It’s pure rationalization, of course. The customer of HR is not always right, we’ve just got a cross section of people who would rather not think about the alternatives.

2--HR fails to confront people doing bad things and begging forgiveness. The alternative to the customer always being right, of course, if to first confront the general sense of lawlessness. It doesn’t matter what could come next, if you’re unwilling to confront, the next step never comes. And the craziness continues.

3--HR fails to negotiate a middle ground with HR Haters. HR is great at a lot of things. Negotiation is not one of those things. The solution is often as simple as confronting, then negotiating. More on this fun fact later.

4--HR fails to understand all the tools at their disposal to play offense with those who dare to question the function’s credibility. Some HR leaders are political masters, Machiavellian in their daily craft. But others are unwilling to do what it takes to wrestle control of the organization.

Dealing with HR Haters is - at times - about that political wrestling match. Recognize any of these behaviors on your team? You’ve got great people on your team, but many of them are uncomfortable with activity that at times feels like confrontation.

As luck would have it, willingness to confront is the only consistent factor that converts a HR Hater to a friend/colleague of you/the profession – at least someone who respects the function.

Be careful out there.  But not too careful.


HR HATER WEEK: How the People Who Hate HR Will Stick It You...

Capitalist Note: This week is HR Haters week at the Capitalist. Let's ID the personas out there who don't respect HR and figure out how to deal with them.

HOW THE PEOPLE WHO HATE HR WILL STICK IT TO YOU

The first thing you must realize about the people who hate HR is that it’s never personal. If someone hates HR, those feelings were solidified long before you came on the scene. There’s a chance you’re awesome.

The downside of being awesome in HR is that you’re expecting business leaders/managers of people around you to see your talent. Most of them won’t. That’s why you need to be able to spot how HR haters are running around you to do their bidding, run fast and at times, perform at a lower level than they would have if they would have included you.

Here’s the behaviors to be on the lookout for as the people who hate HR attempt to avoid you and your team.

--Make employment decisions without consulting you. They just do it. Begging forgiveness and thinking you’re so weak you can’t check them. They’re daring you to do something about it.

--Give counsel to their direct reports about people issues without having them check in with you. They’re the expert, not you. You’ll slow them down. They move fast. Rationalization: They run the business, you don’t.

--Use outside resources without giving you the chance to provide service. Whether it’s training, recruiting or another service, when they have a need for service they don’t even think about you – they call an outside expert.

--Talk s**t about you and your team to others not yet in the hating camp. Business conversations happen everywhere in your company. The HR haters are always quick to scoff at your team’s ability to handle things beyond payroll, which impacts your reputation in organization.

--Run their own HR related sessions (think succession planning) without your help. A favorite of the “Reader of Best-Selling Business Books” profile, HR haters with maximum confidence love to run their own HR processes within their departments and functions. They must be stopped.

--Attack HR’s credibility when confronted. After dealing with assorted bullsh**t from these haters, the strongest among you will be compelled to confront them. Don’t expect them to be contrite, the first thing they’ll do is go on the attack.

Life isn't about the haters of HR, but in order to maximize yourself from a career perspective, you have to identify and understand the haters to be able to deal with them. That would be easy if it were just you. But most of you have an HR team, which increases the complexity of the situation to the level of Space X landing a reusable rocket segment on a landing pad in an ocean.

Good luck!


HR HATER WEEK: Identifying People Who Hate HR...

Capitalist Note: This week is HR Haters week at the Capitalist. Let's ID the personas out there who don't respect HR and figure out how to deal with them.

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I’ve been in HR for over 20 years. I’m somewhat of an expert on people who hate HR. Haters

For the youngsters reading this post, I’m sorry. You’re full of hope and energy and you’re going to do great things. But I’m here to tell you there are people who will try to kick you in the groin/slap you in the face simply because you’re an HR pro. Those people suck.

This post and series is about figuring out who they are and how to deal with them.

IDENTIFYING PEOPLE WHO HATE HR

Whether you’re a HR leader of a Fortune 500 HR team or a solo practitioner in a company with 100 employees, you’ve got people in your company who hate HR. Hate might be a strong word. They hold your profession in contempt. They view you as a secretary with a policy manual.

No, on second thought, they hate you. They hate you because they view you as one of several things based on their viewpoint:

--A no talent hack

--A blocker impeding them from doing whatever they want to do

--Someone who doesn’t know as much about people-related issues as they do

--The source of more work for them and 6 new passwords they must remember based on your commitment to “best in breed” HR technology solutions.

Maybe you can solve that last one by running a workshop to show people how Chrome can automatically save passwords for future automated use, right? Wrong. They won’t attend your workshop because they loathe you. Let’s cover the type of people who hate HR via the following list:

1-- The Control Freak – Sally’s a control freak. She’s a really smart person, has 10-20 years of experience in her non-HR functional areas as has a hard time giving up control, which is code for the fact she can’t collaborate beyond allowing her assistant to order lunch from Chipotle. She’ll be damned if she’s going to let you horn in on her hiring process for her next departmental hire.

2-- The Power Broker – The close cousin of the control freak, Rick’s a power broker which means he’s learned multiple times in his career that getting HR involved in his business just slows him down. There’s rules, policies and various other distractions, and Rick just needs to execute. As a result of his experiences, Rick has learned that it’s far better to beg for forgiveness than to ask you for permission. He has a smirk on the rare occasion he thinks of calling you, right before he tells his minions there’s no need to reach out to HR.

3-- The Victim of Bad HR – Jean’s an executive in your company. She grew up in a very conservative organization with a basic HR team that did payroll, fired people and did recruiting via the post and pray model. Every two years, the HR function at her old company attempted to move upstream and it always failed, causing Jean to trust HR as much as her ex-husband who ran around on her.

4-- The Reader of Best Selling Business Books – Bobby is a young Director-level talent in your company. During his rise from the associate level, Bobby experienced two things – he didn’t consider the HR team to be helpful or his peers, and he started reading best-selling business books like The Five Dysfunctions of the Team. He’s all in on the management trends he’s reading about and has asked some members of your team if they’ve read the books. When they say they haven’t, it just solidifies Bobby’s belief that he’s got a better view on how to manage talent than your HR team.

Are the thoughts of any of these people true related to HR? That’s complicated. If you’re reading this post and looking inward at the HR function, it’s likely that you’re part of the solution, not part of the problem. Unfortunately, most of you read the profiles and thought something along the lines of, “yeah, that person has totally worked with Margie.”

Margie is someone you work(ed) with in HR. She’s the person all of the HR haters love to point to.

Dammit, Margie – get your s**t together.


FALLING INTO HR WEEK: Hollywood Examples of People Waking Up in HR...

Note from KD - It's “Falling Into HR” series this week at The HR Capitalist.  Go check out my post on Fistful of Talent from Monday as part of this series.  This is the third post in that series.

LOOK CLOSELY AND HOLLYWOOD SHOWS US HOW PEOPLE FALL INTO HR

There aren’t a lot of great HR characters coming out of Hollywood. But all you have to do is look closely and you can tell how they fell into the world of HR. Here’s five that come to mind and their match related to how they fell into our world of people, process and corporate politics:

1-- Toby Flenderson from The Office – Poor Toby. We smile and cry as HR pros as we watch him fumble through his day. Quick to rely on policy/process and slow to confront anyone directly and aggressively, Toby without question fell into HR by taking a transactional role and finding a place where he could survive. You and I get to the deal with the stereotype. Lucky us.

2-- Mary Winetoss, the rules-obsessed head of human resources hell bent on curtailing the hijinks of office workers planning to throw a wild holiday bash in the 2016 R-rated film "Office Christmas Party." A less known Hollywood HR character, you might be tricked based on her early reliance on policy that she’s like Toby. That’s an incorrect take, as her connection and problem solving with the leaders of her company clearly tells us she fell into the role based on being a “people person”.

3-- Dirty Harry in “The Enforcer” (1976) – The iconic scene in this movie depicts Harry’s boss announcing he’s been demoted to “personnel”, which clearly matches our earlier “don’t fire them, move them to HR” path. Harry doesn’t take the demotion well, pondering the move for two seconds before saying, “Personnel? That’s for assholes!” Thanks, Dirty Harry.

4-- Pam Poovey from Archer (FX) – Many of you don’t know Archer, but your kids probably do. Archer is an adult animated sitcom created by Adam Reed for the basic cable network FX. It follows the exploits of a dysfunctional group of secret agents, with Poovey being the group’s Director of HR. Ridiculed by her client group, but secretly capable of spy work with no training, Poovey clearly fell into HR by being dropped into our function at some point on an interim basis and finding a comfortable home.

5-- Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air (2009) – Partial credit here since Bingham (played by George Clooney) is a specialist who lays people off for a living. Still, as you listen to Bingham wax poetic about travel program points and benefits and remain distant from the people he’s firing, it’s hard to imagine he’s not a HIPO who parachuted into the world of HR, got comfortable with the perks and never left.

My point to all this? Most of us fell into HR. Some of the stories are funny, some are cautionary tales and some reinforce stereotypes. How you got here doesn’t matter. To survive in a world of change, you’re going to have to connect to the world around you and have more self-awareness of how you’re perceived. 

I'm glad I fell into the world of HR, even if I'm not as good looking as Clooney or as cool as Dirty Harry.


FALLING INTO HR WEEK: One Kid's Path Into the Rock and Roll Lifestyle of HR...

Note from KD - It's “Falling Into HR” series this week at The HR Capitalist.  Go check out my post on Fistful of Talent from Monday as part of this series.  This is the second post in that series.

THERE ARE 8 MILLION STORIES IN THE NAKED CITY

Some of you knew you wanted to be in HR in middle school.  It’s rarely that clean for the rest of us.

Consider the story of how I (Kris Dunn, aka “KD”) fell into HR. It’s a doozy:

1--I graduated from Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State) and automatically started a career as a young Division 1 college basketball coach at UAB (University of Alabama-Birmingham), because that’s how great HR is born, right? LOL. 

2--As a coaching staff member at a Division 1 program, I probably witnessed 9,000 conflicts with widely accepted people practices in corporate America, even though I wasn’t familiar with the terms “people practices” or KD head shot“corporate America,”or “HR”.

3-- After 3 years in coaching, I decided I was likely to be poor for a long time and exited the coaching game to go back to get my MBA, then took a job working overnight in a wireless call center to pay the bills.

4-- While working overnight in the call center, a soon to be mentor named Marilyn Brooks (Director of HR) figured out I had some potential in random post-shift interactions in the hallways and parking lot. She decided to seek me out for a project evaluating staffing vendors as part of a RFP process they were going through. I worked on the project overnight and delivered a lot more than was required. Mrs. Brooks was pleased.

5-- After getting my MBA, my wife and I relocated back home to Missouri (St. Louis area) where she became a staff prosecutor and I went to work doing market research for IBM Global.

6-- We went through one winter from hell, looked at each other and said, “what the hell are we doing?” Even though we were from the Midwest, 5 years in the new South had thinned our blood, and we wanted to get back to the Southeast.

7-- With LinkedIn not even a glimmer in venture capitalist’s eye at the time, I started calling people I knew, Marilyn Brooks among them, seeking career opportunities that would get me back to warm winters.

8-- Marilyn’s words: “I don’t have anything in what you’re doing now, but I do have a HR Manager spot. Would you be interested in that? You used to be a coach and there’s a lot of coaching in this role.”

9-- I interviewed and got the job. I was on my way in the world of HR.

Many of you are reading this and shaking your head. Some of you hate me for falling into this opportunity without paying my dues. Bottom line is this – I had a mentor of sorts, did good work to reinforce the mentor’s belief in me, and the mentor ended up plugging in a non-traditional protégé into an opening on her HR team.

Shit like this happens all the time in HR. Film at 11.

THERE ARE 8 MILLION STORIES IN THE NAKED CITY - what's yours?


It's "Falling Into HR" Week at the HR Capitalist...

I've decided that it's "Falling Into HR" Week here at the HR Capitalist.

I'm up over at Fistful of Talent today with a post called, "ABSOLUTELY NO ####### ONE GROWS UP DREAMING OF A CAREER IN HR." to start the series.

I think for the most part, it's true that most people fall into our profession. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be in HR though.  A taste of that post appears below, head over to Fistful of Talent to see the entire missive.

And come back this week, of course, for more insights on falling into HR.

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FALLING INTO HR IS THE NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of other things people fall into:

–Love

–Heroin addiction

–A bad relationship

–Lucky circumstances in life

–Debt

–Scientology

–A habit of eating a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream at 9 pm nightly.

That list tells you falling into things can be a blessing and a curse – it’s all relative to the outcome. From my experience talking to the talented high performers who make up the world of HR, here are some common ways people “fall” into HR without a real plan to enter the function that’s loved and hated by so many:

1–I started from the bottom now I’m here. You are a bootstrapper! Right out of college, these people took entry-level roles in our function, usually doing transactions as an HR Coordinator, Payroll Specialist or similar role. They enjoyed the function and in many cases, rose to run the whole damn thing. HR pros who find themselves entering the function in this manner have the greatest opportunity for career path growth in HR with small and medium-sized businesses.

Head over to Fistful of Talent to get the rest of the ways people "fall" into HR.  I bet you'll find yourself in one those profiles.