Freak Out!

I realized something this weekend.

I’m becoming a freak. I’m not totally there yet, but with some concerted effort, full-blown freakdom is just around the corner.

And it’s awesome.

Any of you familiar with the Freakonomics series by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner will appreciate the reference (if not embrace it.) The latest installment, Think Like a Freak is another powerful reminder of some very simple concepts:

  1. I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer
  2. Powerful questions are critical to providing solutions
  3. Incentives may cause undesirable results
  4. Thinking like a child can actually be a benefit
  5. Think “Small”

Allow me to toot my own horn on a few of these, as I’m rarely accused of thinking too much like an adult and I can whip out “I don’t know” quicker than a hiccup, but….It was this last lesson that struck me as particularly helpful, if not convicting.

When I’m not careful, I’ll find myself thinking of solutions/changes that are immense in scope. The proverbial “big picture” thinker, I don’t necessarily want to be bothered with the minutiae ~ sounds impressive, looks good on a LinkedIn profile, but in practice? Well, in practice it can cause problems.

How many of you can relate? You can “see” the solution and predict the end state, but oftentimes skip right past the smaller (and more obvious) issues that prevent our vision from becoming a reality. As the authors correctly note, “thinking small” has its distinct advantages, among them being the simple truth that small changes are much more likely to be quickly and effectively implemented.

In other words, while it’s all well & good to be a visionary, someone needs to actually do something.

Freaky, isn’t it?


HR, Who’s Your Data?

Hide the women and children, “Big Data” is coming.

Big Freaking Data; a lot of it, from a lot of places, all coming at a rapid pace. Internal and external information sharing the same spreadsheet, looking backwards is now looking forwards, up is down, human sacrifice, dogs & cats living together….mass hysteria. If only there were a webinar to help us understand.

SHRM is calling the movement towards utilizing big data as “HR’s Golden Opportunity.” And, based on the buzz in HR discussion groups, periodicals, blogs, and white papers, a lot of people agree. Not only is it buzzing, it’s profitable – Gartner Inc. predicts the big-data “industry” to grow into the $200Billion range within 5 years.

So, now what?

Now we need to figure out what to do with it. How to gather it…curate it…analyze it…interpret it.

This won’t happen overnight. You can expect a transition period as Human Resources is asked to use data as a predictor of future trends rather than a description of past occurrences. It’s not enough to have the information, we need to learn how to use it effectively and separate meaningful information from the “noise” created by information overload. And, as with any significant change, you can prepare yourself for a few bumps in the road:

  • Some will be reluctant to jump on board: Could be you, could be your team, but there will be resistance. Whether it’s a lack of understanding or a feeling of helplessness, this movement will not be universally embraced. If big data is here to stay, continued resistance will be a career-killer.
  • We can expect it to get worse before it gets better: If analytics aren’t part of your current SOP’s, expect the adjustment to cause a dip in productivity before turning the corner. There will be a learning curve – as an HR leader, you need to be prepared to shepherd your people along and tolerate mistakes.
  • Your bench may blow up: Especially in large HR organizations, this shift in the paradigm will offer opportunity for talent to shine at multiple levels. For the 50% who slowly adjust, expect 10-20% to absolutely “get it” from the word “GO.” That may be a nice problem to have, but you have to consider the disruption that comes along with a change in thought leadership.
  • You, personally, will need to take accountability for upping your game, HR Person. Don’t expect IT to run this show – this is OUR turn to shine. Yet we still need internal partners to make it a successful opportunity; how do we “own” this without taking the lead?

So, consider this your opportunity for an on-line Cliff’s Notes version on how to prepare, adjust, and excel in a new analytical world.  Join us June 26 at 2pm EST for HR Moneyball: The FOT Bootstrapper Guide To Getting Started With Big Data and learn the best ways to effectively deploy BFD (Big Freaking Data) from the HR suite.

Kris Dunn and Steve Boese, both of whom we all knows (see what I did there with the rhyming) will keep you on your toes as they describe how this all goes.

Wow, that was freaking brilliant. See you there ~

Register Here for “HR Moneyball”


Value of Transparency?

My friends over at Software Advice recently conducted a survey on the importance/impact of Glassdoor as a job-seeking resource. I must admit, I was somewhat surprised to see the participation numbers. Based purely on an occasional glimpse (i.e., pure bias) I’ve always considered Glassdoor to be either a venting outlet for the disgruntled or a cheerleading pitch from internal recruiting departments.

Still don’t know that I’m wrong, but….

When surveying 4,633 random respondents, Software Advice (via Erin Osterhaus) found 48% of those surveyed utilized Glassdoor at some point in their job search, and of those, almost 50% checked it out before seeking a position with the company. That would seem to indicate a savvy job seeking public.

At first blush, that seems really encouraging – if Glassdoor is, as it desires to be, a transparent view into a company’s soul, the 48% would indicate that the “soul” is important when seeking employment, right?


Glassdoor reviewers are asked to rate a company in five areas; Culture & Values, Work/Life Balance, Senior Management, Comp & Benefits, and Career Opportunities. What’s top rated by job-seekers? That would be Compensation & Benefits, of course. So job-seekers like the idea a company with a compatible culture and visionary leadership, but when push comes to shove – show me the shekles. Senior Leadership actually finished last in these ratings – does that surprise you even a little?

Re-emphasizing the importance of the dollar, my fellow capitalists also rated Comp & Benefits as the most critical aspect of choosing not to apply to a company. Rated least important was “Career Opportunities.” What?

One other finding that may help explain this – surprisingly, the age group most active on Glassdoor (over HALF) are those over the age of 45.

So without the restraints of editorial review, allow me to make a few assumptions based solely on these two ratings.

  • There comes a time in one’s life (let’s say, for example, 45?) when you worry less about the culture of the company, and more about their IRA and 401K.
  • If the money is right, the career ladder really isn’t that critical anymore.
  • If you are targeting employees that fall in this demographic, you want to feature compensation & benefits as a key differentiator. Branding is still an important piece of attraction, but make sure you include a dollar sign.
  • Our view of Senior leadership is jaded. Rated last in importance (another question confirmed that even negative reviews of the CEO had a minimal, if any, impact on job-seekers decision to apply,) job seekers are more accustomed to the top dogs being less than ideal. Are we saying we don’t care? Are we jaded about our expectations for Sr. Leaders? Are we willing to make the trade, poor leadership < good pay?

So as a 45-ish aged person let me share some more personal interpretations of this data. We (Gen-X’ers) had it pretty sweet for a while ~ budgets were open-ended, checks were fat, benefits were plentiful, and beer flowed like wine. Then, around 2001, it all changed…

In the time since, we’ve learned to be more suspicious of the powers-that-be. We learned that loyalty is something that goes unreciprocated by our employer. We came to realize that “job-hopping” was no longer frowned-up; instead, it became a necessary skill for professional survival. Now, in the stretch run of our professional lives, we want financial security – there are no guarantees in consistent leadership or long-term employment, so many job-seekers are betting on the short-term gain.

Is that a stretch?

The Devil We Know

I’m not a social scientist, but I play one on TV. Especially interesting to me are experiments that highlight the human decision-making process. For instance….

“The Ellsberg Paradox” (Daniel Ellsberg) is a little glimpse into the human decision-making process, and our proclivity for choosing the “known” option regardless of whether that happens to be the “best” decision.

Here’s the skinny; You have an urn with 90 balls inside:

  • 30 of the balls are Red
  • The other 60 balls are either Black or Purple*.
  • The balls are well distributed, so there’s a fair chance to draw any color
*"Purple" was utilized instead of Yellow for the purposes of pretty colors on my font. Yellow just doesn't work.

You get the chance to make 2 separate bets on the outcome of drawing a ball from the urn:

  • $100 on the first bet – you either choose A. “Red” or B. “Black
  • $100 on the second bet – you either choose C. “Red or Purple” or D. “Black or Purple
  • Both bets occur with the same urn, same distribution of balls.
  • The same people (i.e., YOU) are making both bets.

Go ahead, place your bets…..

do you have any 8's?
do you have any 8’s?

In the experiment, there was a predominant pattern to the bets. Option A and Option D  were the clear choice for those surveyed.

In scientific terms, that’s messed up, Yo. Why?

In the first bet, the people choosing Option A are making a bet knowing they have no better than a 1 in 3 chance of winning. There may be several reasons, but the 2 most telling are this:

  1. We’d rather take bad odds than take unknown odds.
  2. We naturally assume the unknown (in this case, the number of Black balls) is designed to deceive us. In other words, if you are asking me to bet “Black”, I’m guessing it’s a trick.

Here’s where it gets good….

In the second bet, Option D was the clear preference, but that doesn’t jibe with the first bet – can you see why?

In the first scenario, we’re taking the “sure” bet of 1 in 3. We’re also stating our belief that there are less Black balls than Purple balls. Remember, you’re trying to trick us.

That would mean Option C, which pays us for either Red or Purple, is the logical bet, but to hell with logic, right? What, exactly, is going on here?

  1. We’d rather take the “known” quantity (in this case, 60 of the balls are either Black or Purple) rather than the unknown.
  2. Remember, this is a bet based on the same urn of balls – right after betting in a way that assumes there are more Purple balls than Black, which means Option C would be the logical bet. Humans are fun.

I don’t need to tell you the many applications this little experiment could have in the business setting, but to me there’s one very strong message as it pertains to the human condition ~ we hate ambiguity.

Remember that during times of change – what your employees don’t know, they assume is meant to deceive them.