Steve's Blog - Week of August 8, 2011


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Posts from Steve Boese's HR Technology blog, week of August 8, 2011.

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Steve's Blog - Week of August 8, 2011

  1. 1. 14 August 2011Today’s TabbloidPERSONAL NEWS FOR steveboese@gmail.comSTEVE BOESE’S HR TECHNOLOGY supply chain and vendor management for a few dozen, (or even a few hundred), key partners is in the long run a more manageable andMetric of the Day - $10M in profitable task than trying to directly recruit, employ, compensate, manage, develop, and do all the other ‘people management’ tasksRevenue per Employee that are often so hard to pull off well.AUG 12, 2011 09:17A.M. Sure someone else, in this case the partner and supplier organizationsTen million in revenue per employee? How can you possibly get there? still have to do all those pesky ‘people’ chores, but for a company set upYou’re thinking revenue per employee comes in at around $150,000 like Vizio, it has to be seen as an entire set of challenges and problemsmaybe $200,000 in a good year. that are not worth undertaking. They can maintain a really small but focused core team, can concentrate on the design and support processes they see as fundamental to their success, and can likely move and respond more rapidly to changing market conditions over time. And they probably have a lot less drama than naturally occurs when trying to get 50,000 people to all row in the same direction, play nice in the cube farms, and not leave a big mess in the break room microwave. What do you think? Are these kinds of ‘networked’ organizations the way of the future? Would it work in your business? Have a great weekend! STEVE BOESE’S HR TECHNOLOGY We’re all in this together.One of the ways you approach $10M in revenue per employee is byoutsourcing relentlessly everything that you consider non-essential to Unless your Business Unityour business, thus significantly reducing the number of people youdirectly employ, and allowing you to focus more fully on those critical stinks...differentiators for your business. AUG 11, 2011 09:19A.M.The details behind this story are taken from a piece on Bloomberg I’m sure you have heard something in the news about the current strikeBusiness Week about privately-held electronics manufacturer Vizio and at Verizon Communications, notable for not only the sheer numbers oftheir purposeful strategy of outsourcing most every function that they workers involved (about 45,000), the seemingly irrational timing ofperceive to be not core to the design of their high tech products and to calling a stike in this economic climate, but also for the nature andthe customer experience they are trying to deliver. Vizio controls product nuances behind the and customer support in-house, and just about every otherfunction in the manufacturing and distribution process is contracted outto a large network of partners and suppliers across the globe.By shifting the employment relationship from in-house to contractedout, Vizio has managed to rack up close to $3B in annual sales whiledirectly employing only about 300 people. Sure, there are tens ofthousands of workers scattered across the partner ecosystem, and Viziohas to skillfully manage and coordinate this partner network to ensureproduction standards and shipping obligations are met. But I wonder if 1
  2. 2. Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 August 2011 So while compensation might be tied to business unit success, things like benefit plans, retirement programs, PTO policies and the like are almost never variable inside and across competing business units within a larger organization. Whether or not you are a high-flying sales rep in a growing product line, or a administrative support person in a declining business, most companies treat you the same way with respect to benefits. After all we’re all in this together, right? The Verizon situation is certainly complicated by the fact that the declining landline business is unionized, and the growing and more exciting wireless business is not, but the larger issue that seems to position one side of the business against another is certainly fascinating. I am sure we have all had different times in our careers when we looked at a business line in our organizations and thought - ‘Man those guys are killing us‘. But I doubt we ever as HR or Talent pros advocated forThe striking Verizon workers represent and support Verizon’s landline whacking their benefits or PTO because of it. Seems kind of a toughbusiness, a business that according to the company is in decline. position to defend.Whether it is due to more consumers choosing to simply forego a fixedhome landline in this age of mobile telephony, or the simplicity and low What’s your take - should non-compensation related itemscost of services like Skype, the facts seem to be clear that the landline vary inside organizations according to contribution tobusiness is not where growth and increased profitability for the company success?will lie.Most of us these days when we think of Verizon, see it only as a STEVE BOESE’S HR TECHNOLOGYwireless/mobile company, with a national presence, constant broadcastadvertising, (Can you hear me now?), and retail locations popping up all Relax, your 401(k) bouncedover the nation. In fact my local Krispy Kreme establishment was closedrecently and now has re-opened as a Verizon Wireless store. Sadly, the back - time to make plans forconveyor belt that used to carry the tasty donuts for their sugary glazecoating is gone as well. Las Vegas in October AUG 10, 2011 07:00A.M.But the 45,000 striking workers from the landline side of the businesspoint to the overall growth and success of Verizon Communications (theconsolidated landline and wireless sides), to argue against management’sinsistence on concessions and increased contributions to health care andretirement plans. Why should we, they argue, have to ‘give back’ whenthe organization overall is performing so well?I don’t really know enough about the details of the contracts and theproposals to come down on the side of either the striking workers orVerizon management as to the specifics of the dispute, but to me theinteresting angle is the internal division at play here. While most of us This post was more or less completed over this past weekend, and I fullyhave not been caught up in a strike like this one, I bet we have all been intended it to run yesterday. But after the bloodbath across global equitypart of organizations with variations in performance (and contribution to markets on Monday, it seemed a bit ridiculous to run a piece on Tuesdayprofits and growth), across lines of business, regions, product lines - morning with a pitch to attend not one, but two events in Las Vegas thiswhatever. October. Sure, they are both fantastic, can’t miss type events, and yes, I can offer you a really attractive discount to attend one or both of theseOnce the enterprise achieves a bit of scale there are bound to be some events, but let’s be honest - was anyone on Tuesday going to thinkparts of the organization that simply perform better than others. And seriously about approaching the boss for some travel budget, or considerwhile sometimes individual contribution to the success of these better a little additional personal investment in their professional developmentperforming business units is recognized (unit specific bonuses or on such a disastrous financial day?awards), often it really isn’t singled out, particularly when for manyorganizations it can be difficult to fairly and accurately allocate shared But then, perhaps shockingly, the markets rebounded yesterday, andcorporate overhead costs to product lines or business units. 2
  3. 3. Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 August 2011while certainly the uncertainty surrounding US and global economic Here’s how:conditions are likely to persist for the time being, the sting of Monday’ssell off has been assuaged at least somewhat, and I figured I’d better The 4th HRevolution conference for Human Resources and talentmake my case quickly this morning, since who knows what might professionals will be held on October 2, 2011, one day before the HRhappen when the bell rings a couple of hours from now. Technology Conference kicks off. HRevolution has partnered with the HR Technology Conference to present the latest in what has become wellSo here are the facts, and once I lay them out it will be clear known in the HR community as a challenging, engaging, informal, andwhat the only logical conclusion will be for you, the Human boundary stretching program of facilitated conversations that is sure toResources or HR Technology professional at which to arrive: enhance and support your HR Technology experience. With sessions from leaders from Zappos and Glassdoor, as well as some of the leading1. The 14th Annual HR Technology Conference is set for October 3-5, voices in HR and social media today, the HRevolution - Las Vegas is the2011 and will be held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort. This perfect way to get your HR Technology Conference experience started.event continues to be the pre-eminent event in the world of HR And thanks to the partnership with HR Tech, all attendees ofTechnology, and in fact, rivals (and likely surpasses), any mainstream HRevolution will receive a special, top-secret discount code (even betterHuman Resources conference for its sheer number and depth of than STEVE11), that will give you the best value for HR Technology thatexceedingly outstanding sessions, the scope and breadth of the solution you can find.providers that exhibit in the Expo hall, and the opportunity to rubelbows, break bread, and engage with the sharpest and savviest thinkers So here is what I really think you ought to do:in the world of Human Capital Management. 1. Register for the HRevolution event on October 2nd. You can get your2. If you skip this event, you will lament your decision for the remainder tickets here.of 2011, and will almost certainly begin scheming planning to attend in2012. Why put yourself through a year of regret? 2. Then take your HRevolution discount code and register for the HR Technology Conference here.3. At no other event can you attend presentations from executives fromthe most important, innnovative, and exciting technology providers in 3. Book your room at Mandalay Bay or at any one of the dozen nearbythe space, see case studies from innovative organizations like Facebook Vegas hotels offering rooms at half the price.and Groupon, and even get the opportunity to hear from me, yourdedicated servant not once, but twice during the course of the event, as I 4. Get ready for the best learning and networking experience you willhave the privilege to co-present a session with the HR Ringleader, Trish ever have.McFarlane, as well as participate on a HR and Social Media panelmoderated by the HR Capitalist, Kris Dunn. Take my word for it, or better yet, ask anyone that has attended HR Technology or HRevolution, you won’t regret it!4. If you move fast, (or really before September 19th), you can use thediscount code STEVE11, (all caps), to receive a $500 discount off thepublished registration price. Again, the conference information and STEVE BOESE’S HR TECHNOLOGYregistration details can be found here. And you should really takeadvantage of this opportunity. Truly. Don’t try to be original... AUG 09, 2011 08:51A.M.But wait! There’s more! Browsing through the Google Reader early this morning and came acrossIf you act now you can double your learning experience in Las this piece on the CoDesign blog highlighting a sweet infographic onVegas this October! typography. Sure I know that infographics are really close to Jumping the Shark right now, but at least this one is actually focused on graphics and typefaces, and not just an elaborate and link-baiting way to show some simple statistics or bar charts that I thought it was worth featuring. For many, the selection of fonts or typefaces is kind of a random act - we know we shouldn’t choose Comic Sans under any circumstances (you do know that right?), but after that if we occasionally wander from the default Times New Roman font it is usually a crapshoot what choice we land on. Arial? Verdana? Something something serif? Who knows? And does it matter, really? 3
  4. 4. Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 August 2011Well typefaces can influence your message - and these handy Sort of a different way of saying, don’t overthink your choices in designinfographics might help you to better understand what effect your and typography, and it suggests there could be some danger in trying toochoices about type could have upon your content, (these images were hard to create something so new and never before seen that a designer orpretty big, click the thumbnails below to view the full-size versions). communicator could ultimately detract from the message. I think it is good advice for more than just font choices - it can be really easy to obsess on ‘original’ or ‘ground breaking’ at the expense of ‘good’. I know I have fallen into that trap sometimes when designing presentations, getting caught up for hours on the images and the text alignment and fonts. Ultimately if what you have to say or communicate is good, really good, the design stuff probably matters less. If the message and writing connect with your audience in a meaningful way, then it probably doesn’t matter too much if the font is geometric or serif or extra chunky. Just as long as you don’t choose Comic Sans - no way you are overcoming that. STEVE BOESE’S HR TECHNOLOGY Can Innovation be Departmentalized? AUG 08, 2011 08:46A.M. It has been an exceedingly dreary few days (weeks, months, years?), here in the USA, with the seeming inability of our government leaders to find solutions for significant issues like the national debt crisis, the ensuing downgrade of US Treasury debt, and the most recent and horrible loss of soldiers in Afghanistan.What I like about the charts is how the designer managed to simplyconnect a style of type, say ‘Modern Serif‘, with a feeling or expressionof the connotation that style suggests, in this case ‘Glamour‘. Unemployment remains unacceptably high, many large organizationsIn addition to these relational connotations between typefaces and while reporting strong profits, are choosing to sit on cash stockpiles,content, the charts also offer some simple suggestions on the design and rather than increase or expand their labor forces. It is a very uncertainlayout of documents and displays of text and graphical information. climate, and in this uncertainty it seems like for many companies, caution and restraint make a more prudent choice than more aggressiveBut besides all that, and the real reason I decided to post about these expansion. Sure, there are still (and always will be) exceptions to thischarts here, was the closing statement that wraps up the second rule, and we have seen several successful tech companies like Apple,infographic. I’ll repeat it here in case the infographics don’t render fully Google, and Zynga (and more), continue to increase revenue, create newfor email and RSS subscribers. products, and expand hiring. But for all the high-flying tech successes, there are perhaps more news reports of organizational contraction and‘DON’T TRY TO BE ORIGINAL, JUST TRY TO BE GOOD.’ 4
  5. 5. Today’s Tabbloid PERSONAL NEWS FOR 14 August 2011mass layoffs, (RIM, Cisco, HSBC, to choose just a few). Image - For real success today, I wonder if every department in the needs to be the ‘Department of Innovation.’What marks the key difference that allows some companies to succeedand thrive in these tough economic times compared to ones that struggleto survive, or that hope to endure through this sustained period ofeconomic malaise with exercises in cost-cutting, hiring freezes, and evenworkforce contraction?Might one of your answers be ‘The ability to innovate?’It makes sense right? Apple wins because they created new and betterways to buy and enjoy music with the iPad, transformed the mobilephone experience with the iPhone, and re-invented and continue todominate the tablet computing space with the iPad. They have simplyout-innovated (and executed, and marketed, and managed), their way tosuccess and dominance. Heck, they might still have more cash on handthan the US government.So the question is then, if ‘innovation’ is the prime cause or factor forsustained growth and success, can organizations and nations simplydeclare ‘We are going to become more innovative‘, and set up adepartment, task force, blue-ribbon panel - whatever; and sit down andcommence innovating?I thought about this while reading some articles on a new blog on site called ‘Department of Innovation’, a resource thatdescribes itself as follows:“ the spirit of banging the drum for new ideas and freshthinking, this blog will track all things innovative, not just inscience and technology, but also in how we live, how welearn, how we entertain ourselves.”And while that sounds like a worthy and perhaps even productiveundertaking, (there are already a few cool articles on the site), I can’thelp but think by (at least by name), compartmentalizing innovation intoits own ‘Department’, might not be the right way to frame the discussion,and certainly not the right way to try to advance innovation insideorganizations.My sense (and this is completely unresearched, so if I am off base, pleasefeel free to bash me in the comments), is that the most truly innovativeorganizations don’t try to box up or to departmentalize innovation. Theyrealize that innovative concepts or even creative ideas can come fromanywhere and at anytime in the organization.It seems to me that the pre-requisite for improving the chances forinnovative ideas to spring up and take root in any kind of an organizationis to create an environment where people feel free and safe to shareideas, explore new concepts, and have a real chance to see their work andeffort impact the organization, their colleagues, their customers, andtheir communities. The first step to becoming more innovative mightjust be granting permission. 5