Where in the world is S.E.T.H? Logging in from…

Today S.E.T.H. is going to focus on one of my favorite topics:  technology.  Trends that you can’t ignore…

Ubiquity – the horse is out of the proverbial barn – technology is everywhere and the semantic web is what the thought leaders have labelled the future of technology.  The semantic web is suggesting our stuff will be connected to the internet. 

Our fridges, clothes, etc. will do the work for us.  What does this have to do with work?  Maybe customer service jobs no longer have to wait for the customer to notice they need service, their product will do it for them, contacting your organization’s CRM, searching for information and setting up an appointment automatically.  This article explains how the infrastructure is working towards this and 50 billion devices will be connected to the web by 2020.

Back to today’s technology – every company has the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate for a very low cost, even using consumer tools if they choose.  Telecommuting is not solely for the knowledge workers.  Your organization could likely identify many tasks that could be done remotely if it chose.  We see hints of this already in the HEROES – Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives- concept (basically these service reps monitor social networks for comments about their products and intercede at the point of need, not based on their set shift).  We’ve all participated on some kind of online collaboration: Google Docs, Skype, Twitter, etc.  HR needs to stop trying to ban the use of these tools and figure out how to harness the power of them.  Realize your workplace may transcend borders and time zones, even if you are not an international organization.

Mobile – the devices available now enable people to connect from their phone.  The laptop is now a desktop and the tower computer is a dinosaur.  Mobile phones are more powerful than early desktop computers.  You can video call, record, learn, publish, share all with a smartphone. We may not all get a company-owned smartphone but I know of many people who carry their own.  Sometimes in addition to their company owned phone.  Do you?

Expertise location – this applies both within an organization and beyond.  The ability to locate experts in a particular thing is very valuable.  Technology can help this both internally(like Sharepoint 2010 or Cisco Pulse) and externally (like LinkedIn).  Enabling employees to access the web of expertise within your organization, field or industry is the foundation of collaboration.

Crowdsourcing – with services like InnoCentive (problems are publicly posted with payouts for solvers) – the potential for any organization to go global is huge.  There are hundreds of free collaborative tools out there – it really doesn’t matter which one you use.  It does matter that you consider them as you design work. 

People can work from anywhere/anytime and many organizations are still stuck in the face-time mode, where your worth to the organization is measured by how much you show up.  HR is put in the position where we have to create telecommuting policies and play attendance police.  I don’t know about you, but for me, this just doesn’t value my contribution to an organization.  I think it’s fair to say that technology is pushing us to options that might be outside of our comfort zones, but whether you like tech or not, it is going to change the way we design work.


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

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S.E.T.H. says “show me the money” (or does he?)

Marshall's flax-mill, Holbeck, Leeds, interior...

Image via Wikipedia

In this series of posts (SETH), I’m outlining the forces that we need to consider in the future of work.  This post is about the economic forces, but not from an economist, just so we’re clear!  The fact that I’m writing about economics in a public forum is making me nervous.  If any economists read this, I’d really love some input…. So far, we’ve looked at the social component of the future of work.

Some of the economic trends or indicators that I think will shape the future of work are:

Globalization/Localization – some feel the globalization of work will continue and others see a counter-trend to localization.   It’s possible that both will happen and have different effects.

BRIC economy (or the global nature of our economy at the least) – this is a force when it comes to automation and redistribution of work – Dan Pink talked about this in A Whole New Mind.  Accountants and lawyers, architects and other professionals, look out, your job is moving to India/Malaysia/China – where it’ll be done cheaper and faster.  Remember economics 100, supply + demand.  This is it. 

Many of us saw Jeff Rubin at the last BC HRMA conference talk about peak-oil and the subsequent ripples – less shipping of goods, onshoring, localized manufacturing, etc.  This might mean the manufacturing jobs that Canada lost may come back, but we’ve lost the “white collar” work to technological automation.  But, will they be the same manufacturing jobs or not? 

Economic cycles – Recessions and depressions happen every 10 years or so.  Don’t pretend that this one was so different.  More protracted than expected, but it shouldn’t shock us.  The subsequent labour cycles of hiring and layoffs are also predictable.  We’ve seen many people in the contingent workforce, self-employment and micro-work increasing, although seems to be more reported in the US.  Canada has been less impacted but when it comes to the future of work, a more flexible workforce could sustain economic shrinkage.

It is also important to consider specific industries.  Some will face stiff competition, others will experience slow and steady growth.  However, the future of work might also see organizations following talent; perhaps this will mean a different type of offshoring.

The point is, HR folks need to be considering the economic climate as it relates to work.   It’s not just about knowing the unemployment rate for your area but considering the global shifts and trends that may or may not impact your industry/organization.  Outlook 2020 produced some very interesting perspectives, including this economic synthesis

Any economists out there willing to add their voices here?  Am I barking up the wrong tree or simply barking mad?  HR folks – how have you used economic trends?


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

Introducing S.E.T.H., the future of work

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Image by Shatterbug11 via Flickr

My Seth isn’t Mr. Godin (although he’s A Seth) or that other cool guy from TEDTalks.  This is a made-up SETH.  I was looking for a mnemonic device to help you remember some of the big things that might influence how you approach work.  Especially if you are in HR or have some job design responsibilities.  SETH stands for: Social, Economic, Technological, Human/Demographic (SETD wasn’t as catchy).  

Let’s start with social.  

My goal is that these blog posts will make you think or examine your current practices.  Maybe, you’ll find that they don’t impact you, but before you just post a job, consider these trends… 

  • Work-life balance – who hasn’t heard this term?  What does it really mean?  I have no idea, but the reality is that we can’t ignore it, individually or organizationally.  Many “jobs” are cobbled together tasks and most of us have experienced the ever-increasing number of tasks.  Expectations of hours worked or face time is a key component of how work is defined, and unspoken cultural norm.  These are the sacred cows of job design.  Remember Ricardo Semler – he espoused a revolution in management, where self-managed teams did just that.  And more recently the best-selling work of Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek touched a raw nerve, encouraging people to stop treating work like a non-stop escalator of serial monogamy of work relationships, but rather your life as a series of sabbaticals funded through short bursts of work.  Where ever you happen to stand, the reality is that it is a mainstream trend. 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility – people are looking for something to belong to – in his recent work (Drive), Dan Pink tells us that people are motivated by 3 things: autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose.  But, we’ve also seen this in surveys, keynotes/interviews, articles (and articles) as well.  Perhaps offering some paid sabbatical time to some workers to contribute to a social cause opens an opportunity for an intern or work experience program.  Some organizations do this already.  What if an entire intact team did it?  What if your organization sent a contingent of workers overseas which opened up many temporary jobs for others?
  • The role of education/skills and the impact it has on jobs.  What skills does your organization need?  How do employees acquire them?  How is the funding of public education and the quality/quantity of university grads mean to your organization?  Do you still say your jobs need “degree in X”?  Do you know what the forecast for degree holders in that program are?  Do you work with colleges/universities or other education groups to address skill gaps?  Do you offer your workers to these programs as experts in their field?
  • Housing costs/property taxes/urbanization are social issues.  Do people always go to where the work is or do they go where they want to/can afford to live first?  What impact does this have on where you locate your operations or individual jobs, if at all?   
  • Health care – here in Canada, many people seek out full-time jobs because of the desire to gain access to extended health care plans.  What if there were alternatives – increased commoditization of extended group health care plans?   What does the ageing population’s demand for health care mean to your organization? 
  • Climate change – greening of the economy and subsequent localism.  What does this mean to how you design work? 

Big, heavy issues are at play here, and those of us who have the ability to make a change should think about it.  You aren’t just maximizing the dollars spent by your organization on people, you are participating in the future of society.  You may not agree with all the things I’ve listed or some might just not apply to you, but you owe it to yourself and others to think about it anyway. 


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

What’s the Future of Work? It’s all about S.E.T.H.

Human Resources

Image by zachstern via Flickr

 

Recently I wrote about Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and how it presented one option of job design (or non-design).  There seems to be buzz about ROWE: Netflix kinda does it, BestBuy does it, even the Girl Scouts do it.   And Dan Pink promotes it.  I like Pink.  

I would really love to expand the simplistic equation {work = job} to {work = a variety of options to fit a variety of needs}, or something a little catchier (suggestions welcome!).  But don’t want to just blindly support ROWE.  I know that those in my “social media circle” have talked about the networked economy/enterprise 2.0 and the impact on work: herehere, here, here and here.  

I think there are 4 major drivers for this work overhaul and will take a series of posts to describe them in a little more detail. 

  • There are forces that are happening on a societal level.
  • There are the obvious economic drivers to consider.
  • Like it or not, technology will not disappear in the future, so we need to track those trends.
  • And last, but not least are the demographic or human resources aspects.

Hence the name “SETH”. 

I hope that you’ll weigh in and tell me where I’m wrong or misguided.  Futurecasting (forecasting + imagination) is not an exact science as well all know, and I hope these posts are useful or at least thought-provoking. 


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

Employment is a master-servant relationship

I am self-employed.  My boss is really easy to work with and yet I have no work-life balance.  It’s all in the same bucket.  But, I like it that way.  No messy vacation requests.  No performance reviews.  No income security.  No banked overtime or nine day fortnight applications.  Not everyone would love it.  But, what if you worked in an environment where things were really flexible?

ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) is becoming a new buzzword in the world of work.  At the heart of it is a focus on performance rather than presence.  A cynic would say to allow the employer to take advantage of the employee and work them like dogs.  Hmm, seems to me when I talk to my “indentured” friends, this may already be happening (emails at all hours, vacations which are interrupted, etc).  A glass half-full type of person would say that it is because the employer trusts the employee to get their job done and treats them like a grown-up.

I think that we need to consider how to move the employment relationship from the master-servant realm to one that is more suited to the 21st century.  Heck, I’d even be ok with shifting to the 20th century!  Trends tell us, we’ll have fewer bodies to fill roles, continued demand for work-life balance (whatever that is), shifting economy (commoditized jobs moving to India/China), etc., etc.  But, we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.

HR has their head in the sand.  We let the lawyers dictate what we should and shouldn’t do.  The risk is managing us, not the other way around.  If we are going to help our organizations compete, we need to remove our heads from the sand and come up with some new alternatives.  Otherwise, we’ll all be fighting for the same shrinking talent pool and losing talented employees to the highest bidder, and continuing to pay escalating costs to manage the employment relationship.  Maybe ROWE isn’t it, but not everyone wants to work full-time.  Or be a servant.


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

Branding Through Recruitment

In my last post “Are you committed to your brand?” I talked about employer branding and how it relates to your current employees.  You can learn a lot from the people in your company, but what about the people you are trying to attract to work for you, or the people who no longer work for you?

How can the recruitment process help you with internal branding?  Think about it, would you rather work for a company that is ranked highly in Canada’s Top 100 Employers and has a great reputation for treating its employees well, or a little known company that doesn’t have any employer brand recognition?  Most people would take the safe bet and go with a company they know about.

When looking at your employer brand and how recruitment can help in this process, take a look at the following:

  • What does your recruitment process say about your company as a place to work?
  • How do you use your brand in your recruitment efforts?
  • Walk through the recruitment process. What does it say about your company as a place to work?  How long is the interview process?  Does the recruitment process adapt for the different generations you are trying to attract and retain?
  • Research how people feel about the recruitment process as a whole with your company.
  • Evaluate the orientation program. Does this process make people proud in their decision to work for your company?  Design training materials that will engage your new hires and align them with your corporate brand values.

What about the people who no longer work for you?  Do you conduct exit interviews?  How do you manage the exit process?

When committing to employer branding, it is important to carefully plan how to manage those employees exiting your company – yhey are still ambassadors of your brand even though they no longer work for you.  You want them to remember their experience with your company as positive and to spread the word that your company lives up to its employer brand promise and is a great place to work.

If an employee has a great experience in your company they will tell 10 people.  If they have a terrible experience, that same employee will tell 100 people how horrible your company is.  How do you want your brand positioned?


Dana Sebal has over 10 years Marketing and Human Resources experience.  Outside of her professional career, Dana’s passions include her family, rowing, running, tennis, skiing, yoga, and Beagles.

The “C” Word

I’ll just bet you’re wondering what “c” word I might be talking about…

  • Consultant
  • Compensation
  • Competencies
  • Capacity
  • Communication
  • Change
  • Community-building

Nope.  And not that other one, either.  This is a professional blog, keep it clean.

CULTURE. 

Who among us has not gotten a little squeamish when someone in HR or OD uses the word? 

Don’t get me wrong, I think culture is hugely important, but when I hear of HR colleagues working on “culture initiatives” or “changing our culture”, I worry that we are heading down Alice’s rabbit hole into Wonderland, especially if it is on the HR strategy or we are talking directly to executives about funding for an initiative.  This is potentially a credibility-killer for us in HR type roles.  Does your executive or board really care about culture, or do they care about the impacts of culture?  I think for the majority of organizations it is the latter.  In some organizations, it’s neither and my advice is: “suck it up, buttercup” and recognize that you are not going to change it my putting in a “culture initiative” or strategy.  You are going to have to be more creative.  A better “c” word if you ask me.


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.