Continuing my attempts to bring Shakespeare into as many posts as I can….

Let specialties be therefore drawn between us,
That covenants may be kept on either hand.

(Taming of the Shrew  II. i. 127-8)

A couple of weeks ago, I presented at the HR Technology Conference in Chicago, the topic being SaaS Contracts:  how not to get ripped off.  I made an animation to start the presentation, as talking about contracts can be a bit dry.

 

If the embedded version doesn’t behave,  watch it here.    My goal was to show the naivete of the typical buyer when dealing with a smooth salesperson. In the space of about 2 minutes, the buyer makes at least 9 major blunders. See if you can spot them. It is supposed to be funny, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

A week or so after the event I did a podcast  on the Bill Kutik Radio Show, where I go into a bit more detail.  Have a listen here.  I’m not a lawyer, so this doesn’t constitute legal advice, but I’m saddened by the ignorance on the side of the buyer, and the willingness of the seller to exploit that. That is business, I guess.

Or as Camillo said in   The Winter’s tale:

You pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely.

Also we have a lot of research on how to buy cloud/SaaS solutions.  Gartner clients should definitely check out Alexa Bona’s  research. Whether buying or selling, getting a fair contract is best in the long run.

(I’m very impressed with the Xtranormal tool for animation. I checked with their legal folks on usage, what a pleasure to deal with them).

cross posted on my work blog)

Readers of this blog will know that I am an avid but plodding cyclist.  It gets me away from the desk, and means I can bore for Germany on components, frames, cadence, altitude and the like.

I sometimes run, and recently an old school friend bet me that I couldn’t run 10K under 50 minutes by the end of September. Not being one to ignore a challenge, I took him on.  

Running used to be a simple affair.  But in order to go for a run, I “need”

a) my minimalist five fingers running shoes.

b) a  fully charged iphone

c) headphones that don’t fall out my ears

d) heart rate strap

e) strava run application.

f) the right spotify play list.

Measurement has changed running. I know exactly what heart rate to run at and at what pace per minute.  It takes me at least 10 minutes to get out the door.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is one of the most abused scientific principles, but it applies here.  My efforts to measure running has changed my running.

What has this got to do with HR systems?

I have noticed a  trend from vendors to include a field called Flight Risk into their talent management systems.  I reckon this isn’t a good idea.

1. 99% of HR systems don’t have accurate enough data to remove false positives

2. The data to really predict flight risk isn’t in the HR system.

3. Telling someone who isn’t a a flight risk that the system thinks they are one will make them into one.

4. Managers will react differently to the same data.

5. It will taint other, more accurate results.

 

To assume you can build an algorithm to predict whether a person is likely to leave their job or not based on the shoddy data in a talent management application is arrogant and irresponsible.  Vendors’ crude attempts to measure human intentions will create unintended consequences, most of them bad.

 

In case you are wondering, I won the bet…

 

 

 

(cross posted from my Gartner blog)
Andrew McAfee recently posted on the dire state of graduate employment in the US. His work on the impact of technology on employment is well worth a read, I reviewed his book here.

Here in little old Germany, the graduate job market is rather different.

Unemployment among graduates in Germany one year after leaving their institution is at 4% and below, compared with a seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate of 5.9%, according to a survey by HIS-HF, a higher education statistics agency.

So what is Germany doing right? Despite Euro doom and gloom talk, the German economic fundamentals are in relatively good shape. Exports are up again, and domestic spending is less anemic than before. But the answer isn’t just in the short term economy.

There is a broader HR and societal issue at play too. As a foreigner living in Germany, I have been stuck by the strength of the apprentence culture here, and not just in the traditional trades. It seems to me that the universities and industry work more closely together than in many other countries to produce the sort of graduates that the labour market requires, while still giving space for studying those things that make you a better human being. It is as if there is some sort of social contract between corporations, academia and society. Most organizations have strong graduate recruitment and development programmes. Interns are paid a reasonable cost of living sum, and intern work is aligned with university study. When I worked for that large German software company I co-supervised a masters student, who worked part-time in my department. We then hired her, and she is now a very successful consultant. This model is common throughout German industry, with an especially strong tradition in manufacturing. Have a look at Porsche, for instance.

Building a sustainable workforce requires corporations to focus on the long term development of the workforce, and not merely short termist hiring. German companies often have someone with the job title HR Marketing, and their role is to build a long term employment brand to attract candidates early. Check out the work of Armin Trost for more about this.

It also requires universities to develop programmes that align with the longer term needs of business and society. While US universities dominate the rankings, I’m not sure that they have everything right, if the recent reports from Florida are anything to go by.

LinkedIn has over 100 million users, and a market cap today of over 7 Billion USD. If the market is prepared to give LinkedIn that sort of valuation for what is essentially data that should be in your HRMS, then it tells me that your people data is a lot more valuable than you probably imagine it is. Time to think about employee master data quality….

My regular reader(s) will probably know that I’m a fan of the Guardian newspaper and its on-line efforts.  It does a fine job with data, both in terms of sourcing it and visualizing it. Have a look at the website and data blog here.   I’ve also ranted about the need for more numeracy in HR on a number of occasions. This post will be more of the same.

Leading newspapers are making  effective use of visualization today. As an  example,  the US treasury bond ownership graphic is far more impactful than a simple listing.

It goes deeper than just a nice graph though, at a recent lecture at Leeds Trinity College,  Guardian Data Blog editor Simon Rogers presented with Tim Berners-Lee about data journalism.

Data journalism involves visualising or scrutinising often complex amounts of statistical information.

TBL had this to say.

"Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

"But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country."

It seems to me that most professions could do with a solid dose of data visualization and the accompanying scrutiny. I’m not talking here about expensive tools, but about the love of data, and the joy of finding stuff out, getting stuck into the numbers.

I’ve given a couple of lectures on HR topics, and I’ve been hammering home on the analytics topic, but I think next time, I’ll bring some more data visualization to the party. I strongly believe that we need to see more focus on data visualization across all areas of business, but the HR department needs serious help.

I was pleased to read that Google came up with its 8 rules of management.  At first sight they  seem a typical list that one would find in any airport management book, but they are rooted in an empirical study.  Google has built its business on analysing data, so it is  not surprising that they decided to root around in their own HR data.   I do wish more HR departments would fall in love with data.

I think it is possible to be “people-centric” and “data driven” at the same time. Using numbers  to inform decisions and drive buy in isn’t treasonable.

(Cross posted on my Gartner blog).

Atlassian is an Australian software vendor, active in the social software and developer tools space. I’ll leave the product evaluations to folks like Nikos Drakos, Tom Austin and Jeff Mann but I would like to call them out for something else.

I have been watching the company from afar for a number of years. I’ve been consistently impressed with how they manage recruitment, and I think a lot of IT departments and larger software companies could learn from what they do.

1. consistent use of twitter, youtube, flickr and blogs to position Atlassian as a cool employer.

2. Posts and video from current employees about working there. No complicated HR speak.

3. Engaging and dynamic careers page. with a strong graduate offering, including international placement, coding festivals etc.

4. Vigorous referral program

6. Executive focus on recruitment as being vital to company strategy

7. Excellent alignment of marketing and employer brand.

8. Effective use of their own software to help manage the process.

I’ve done a bit of research over the last couple of years on employer branding, and I plan to step it up in 2011.  I’ll be on the look out for more examples like this.

Dan Pink picked up on Atlassian’s “Fed-ex” days in a recent TED talk. You should watch the whole talk. It raises some important challenges for HR and HR technology. What are you doing to attract and motivate your employees?

I’m very pleased to see that Les Hayman has a blog, and that he is rattling off posts with vim, vigour and consistency. If you are interested in HR, career and life advice from someone who has been there, done that, then Les is a must read.  Les was on the the extended board at SAP,  he ran sales in Asia and Europe and then he ran HR.

A number of people have asked me to write of my experiences running a company internal HR department after 40 years in business roles. When I was first asked whether I would do this, rather than retiring, I felt that it was a bit like asking Attila the Hun to look after the Vestal Virgins. I have to admit that it was probably the hardest job that I ever had, the two years being both challenging and frustrating, and it changed and molded many of the views that I have about people and about management

On the state of management

One of the disappointments in my move to Europe in 2001 was that I have seen little evidence that European companies have created a culture of management as a profession. Management skill appears to be more of an add-on to vocational brilliance, rather than being viewed as an art, a science and an asset in its own right. The idea is that management skill is a “nice to have” rather than a mandatory part of an executive’s role.

On business card titles, CEO tenure, and my favourite, the Pesto Effect and buzzwords.

Ten years ago no-one had heard of pesto, and then suddenly it was everywhere. You could go to any restaurant anywhere in the world and the odds were that pesto would be somewhere on the menu.
I even saw a hot dog seller in New York who had a sign saying “Mustard, Ketchup, Pesto”.

Oh, and he lots to say about living in France.

cross posted on my Gartner blog.

I read many HR blogs, and one of my favourites is the Evil HR lady. She blogs a much of her HR stuff on the BNET site.

I have been speaking to a lot of HR audiences lately, and sometimes they get a little uncomfortable when I bring up the analytics topic. Most HR departments don’t do a good job at analytics, and then they wonder why they don’t get the budgets to make an impact on the business.

One of my suggestions to HR is to hire a good numbers person, someone with strong undergraduate or preferably graduate statistics.

Looks like this is exactly how the Evil HR lady got her start.

I had a master’s degree in political science, with a strong emphasis in statistics.  Since you never see a “Help wanted:  Political Scientist” sign in the window, I knew I needed to look outside my field of study.  What I really wanted to be was a trainer.  I knew that trainers often work in Human Resources departments, but how in in the heck was I going to get a job in HR?

Well, first, I went to a temp agency and asked to work in an HR department.  “I’ll do anything!” I said, and I meant it.  If the temp agency had sent me to wash windows in an HR department, I would have done it.  Instead, they placed me as an admin (I can type!), and for 6 months in a couple of different assignments I worked as an HR admin.  Then, I saw a job posting.  Job title?  HR Metrics Specialist.

What on earth does an HR Metrics Specialist do?  Well, I didn’t know, but one of the qualifications was the ability to do statistics.  That, I had.  So, I applied, interviewed and was hired.  My boss told me flat out that the only reason they had hired me is that I appeared to be the only person in the universe with a modicum of HR experience and the ability to do statistics.

I’ve been ranting on about this topic for ages, here are a few.

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/09/07/scrabble-and-hr/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/06/08/via-a-comment-via-a-link-the-three-sexy-skills-of-data-geeks/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/02/23/accountings-big-problem-according-to-archibald/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/02/19/banging-on-about-hr-analytics/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2008/12/06/measuring-twice-cutting-once/

so it is nice to see some validation…

Mathematics is a beautiful thing. Spend 20 minutes in the company of Benoit Mandelbrot. (click here if you can’t see the video)

 

If Hans Rosling can do this with demographics on a global scale, why can’t HR do it with their data? (click here if you can’t see the video)

 

By the way: Jim Holincheck and I recently published quite a bit of research on workforce analytics, and there is buckets of cool stuff on pattern based strategy on Gartner.com

image

image via OzinOH, thanks!

I’m looking forward to this event. Most of the events I go to are single vendor events, but this one is different. It is the event that brings most of the HR technology community together. Bill runs an excellent show.  I’ll get to see Jason, Steve , Phil and Naomi, and I’ll be on a panel discussion about global HR trends with Karen.  I also hope to meet many of the clients and vendors that I talk to on the phone.

There are a couple of things I’m keen to really dig into.

1. use cases of social software and HCM technology working together.

2. HCM analytics that are actually used by leaders beyond HR to make business decisions.

3. Mobile scenarios that create new ways of working rather than simply rendering existing transactions in a different form factor.

4. Integration, HR MDM and the cloud.

5. Do you really need a traditional HR system of record?

If you want to chat when I’m there, drop me a tweet or an email. I plan to blog a bit when I’m there, and I’ll be tweeting a storm too.

Thinking of strikes, it is easy to imagine coal miners, railway workers and automobile assemblers with shop stewards quoting Trotsky, Gramsci and Marcuse, and brandishing a well worn copy of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. This is a naive and foolish stereotype. As this example from Yahoo! shows,  industrial action is alive and well in the high tech industry. Valleywag reported on a strike at Yahoo in France.

[YOUTUBE=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kulOZowv0Qc]

(watch the video here if you dont see the embedded player)

Carol Bartz‘s lacerating eccentricity may captivate Silicon Valley, where she’s cutting costs left and right. Not so in Europe: When Yahoo tried to shut down operations in France, workers made this surreal, defiant video. And went on strike, naturally.Their point: Yahoo made about 1 million euros per worker from Yahoo France alone last year, and used to hype how “it’s important to have [locally] concentrated engineering activities… to innovate” in France, where it would base “one of [its] most important centers in Europe.” Yahoo France’s engineers will now stop working until Yahoo agrees that they shouldn’t have to stop working. At least they’re fact checking the internet company’s hype along the way.

(thanks Valleywag).

There is a  lesson for all “global” high tech companies. HR practices that work in the US don’t necessarily travel well. I have quite a bit of research in the pipeline on a related topic. I have seen global HR projects derailed because of worker and union opposition, forcing system redesigns and huge delays.

I’ll predict that the software industry will face increasing collective and industrial action. Social software makes it easier to organize and motivate around an issue, and create a strong collective even without the presence of a union. It makes it easy to reach the broader public too.  We have seen the power of the disgruntled customer using social media to mobilise support and opinion. Employees have access to the same tools and media. Executives of global software companies will need to get a lot more savvy about global HR issues. Gosh, that degree I did in Industrial Relations might actually be useful one day.

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