My Posts

Saba’s Emerging Vision of Talent Management in an Unsettled World

Note from Lance: I wrote over a thousand words on my thoughts on Saba Insight, Saba’s user conference, the weekend after the event. The Monday following the conference, they announced their purchase of Lumesse and I held this post back. I’ve had some time to reflect on both that acquisition and the conference itself, which is what you‘ll read here.

Regardless of what people say with all of the confidence of the world — including me — nobody knows what’s going to happen to talent management in the future. If I knew, I would be selling it to the highest bidder, not writing free shit on the internet about it.

Talent management is changing, though. The din of disruption was an unstated guest at Saba Insight this year. I say unstated instead of uninvited because if Saba has done one thing well, they’ve been transparent about how they think about the future and where the opportunities and challenges lie. That includes the very real challenge of acquiring Halogen Software approximately 18 months ago and integrating the Canadian technology company into the Saba family. Oh, and there’s something that wasn’t announced at the conference with a little company called Lumesse. More on that in a bit.

Like all user conferences, Insight was a great reality check into the nuts and bolts of how HR technology actually gets off the ground. The audience and presenters skewed pragmatic. These were organizations trying to solve real problems, whether that’s working on performance management retooling or rolling out new learning programs. Talent management was alive and well in Scottsdale.

Something I heard many attendees talk about were implementation and adoption hurdles—not necessarily related to Saba, though. How do we get people using the performance management software? How do we convince them that these learning resources will help them in their careers? How do we tie this all to engagement? What do executives care about—and what should they care about?

I was pleased to hear many organizations thinking smarter about building programs that worked from the bottom up, not the top down. There was a lot of focus on employee communications and marketing. Ultimately, the success of talent management is dependent on your people’s buy in.

Unfortunately, there’s still too much talk about issues that I believe hold talent management back from taking a real step into the future.

  1. Thinking programs instead of holistic. Performance management doesn’t work in a vacuum. Learning management doesn’t exist without context about what people need to learn. We need more stories about companies that get the connection between performance, learning, recruiting, recognition, communication, etc… How are we breaking down long-standing silos and actually taking an integrated approach to talent management? Or is the now decades-long promise of an integrated approach so impossible to reach that the focus on creating or reimaginging narrow programs is our best bet to make something work?
  2. Too much focus on executive buy in. It was a question at every session I hit, I think. Which, I get it on one level. We need to get our C-level folks on board and part of that is building relationships and knowing what they care about. On the other hand, most executives didn’t get their jobs by being idiots and ignoring obvious needs. Good solutions don’t sell themselves but it certainly doesn’t hurt. It makes me wonder if people are still pitching programs (let’s fix performance management process) rather than outcomes (let’s improve performance and retention). That might help organizations focus on looking at all potential impacts.
  3. Not enough focus on employee attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. I still don’t know why generations come up time and time again but it seems to be a poor stand in for actual psychographic data, skills, and competencies. What we lose in this conversation is that our enterprise systems—whether it’s communications, financials, or HCM—need to be more people focused for all employees. I would suggest that instead of focusing on executive buy in, work to trial software that your people actually love to use and have them work with you to get it implemented across the organization.

These challenges, and how organizations using Saba are approaching it, aren’t unique. Years and years of talking to leaders of HR in organizations makes me simultaneously hopeful that there is movement and concerned that we aren’t moving fast enough.

There are some things that are unique to Saba that I do want to highlight.

They are calling themselves a talent development company, which is an interesting move. I’m not 100 percent sure if this represents a change in strategy or approach, but based off my conversations, it seems like it is a reflection of where they’ve landed since the acquisition of Halogen—and maybe where they are going with the addition of Lumesse.

My initial impression is that I thought it pulled them back into their learning comfort zone. I still feel this way, but I think development is one of the most human things that actually happens and can be attributable to work. There’s a counter message that talent, the kind most organizations want at least, doesn’t want to be managed—at least with the suite of solutions most ascribed to this category.

Descriptions aside, in contrast to a generally pragmatic user conference agenda driven by customer stories and product managers, Saba’s vision is big.

This is not a change. The folks at Saba have always been happy to be out front. With all of the talk of AI and personalization at scale, Saba was ahead of this trend by a good three years with TIM (The Intelligent Mentor). Being able to leverage learning from TIM and iterate before competitors were even thinking about it has served Saba well. Their move to add Saba Labs formalizes a culture that already values innovating.

We also got a view into the roadmap that Saba is working on with their Cloud and TalentSpace (formerly Halogen) products. I’ll be honest, I had some concerns with actively selling and building two flagship technologies that have a ton of functional overlap. The addition of Lumesse won’t make things easier—and you can bet competitors are going to latch onto any stories coming from these camps.

I understand the reasons why Saba is staying the course on this today. Saba TalentSpace customers in particular are passionate about this platform. Saba Cloud customers are often there because Saba was the only solution that could meet their complex learning requirements. The same could be said about Lumesse in talent acquisition and learning on an international basis. TalentSpace traditionally focused on the mid-market down to the SMB. Cloud is largely an enterprise initiative, though I believe that is less true today than it was in the past.

Saba executives, on and off the record, will tell you there’s no plan to change this approach. They believe there is a growing market for both and that they have the resources to tackle that challenge—and still gain many of the efficiencies from the acquisition. In public, they were careful to show balance to both, with no favoritism to either platform. They also sold hard on the advantages of these solutions being built together.

Conventional wisdom says it’s really hard to do this. That same wisdom also says it’s something that private equity-backed firms rarely do. I’m willing to suspend disbelief because Saba is making progress and clearly has the trust of Vector Capital to swing big. They are making money and converting legacy customers into cloud customers, something other software companies who have been around as long as Saba aren’t always doing so great on.

This leads us to the epilogue of the user conference, Saba is acquiring Lumesse. I would’ve loved to gauge the reactions of attendees to that news—better luck next year.

Funny side story: At the analyst lunch, Saba President and CEO Phil Saunders was asked a direct question about whether more acquisitions were on the horizon—five days before the announcement. Let’s just say I’m not playing at his poker table next time we’re in Vegas.

Tangent aside, Lumesse has some pretty great technology that not many people in the North American market know about.

  1. Lumesse’s talent acquisition platform is very good. It gives Saba an easy in to international markets and a talent acquisition solution that is in line functionally with the rest of the platform. Talent acquisition is one of the hardest areas to internationalize (besides learning content) and Lumesse has given them a head start on this front.
  2. Lumesse’s learning experience is underrated. Aragon’s Jim Lundy covers this better than I could but in short, Saba bolsters their learning chops with this move—not to mention, again, that Lumesse is built for international markets. Learning content and technology are some of the hardest HCM solutions to get right from market to market.

Read some other great takes from Sarah Brennan, Ben Eubanks, Steve Brooks, and Michael Rochelle if you want to really take a deeper dive into this acquisition. Most of them see many of the same opportunities and challenges ahead.

Saba has had an amazing turn around in the last four years. Considering all of the disruption inside and out of Saba, that’s an accomplishment in its own right.

But history doesn’t dictate the future. Saba has to sell the market on a future vision and roadmap that goes beyond functional rollups, consolidation, customer acquisition, and increasing their international presence. Until that vision is clear, the market uses the vacuum to create its own assumptions.

On the other side of the Lumesse acquisition, we could be looking at a new talent management leader—or whatever you want to call the category. A company that can sneak into the largest enterprise talent management deals in the world—and win.

Other cloud HCM and talent management providers will have their own piece to say about that possibility. Certainly SAP SuccessFactors and Cornerstone OnDemand still lead the enterprise market in talent management, at least for the time being.

But this market isn’t set. Not by a long shot. While cloud giants battle each other and others worry about market pressure, private equity backing has one major advantage: The ability to focus.

I can’t wait to see what it eventually looks like.

My Posts

The Present of Work at #HRTechConf

Being a human resources leader can be a slog. I know this on an intimate level, but to be fair, I haven’t experienced it personally for nearly a decade. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with some of the best (and yes, worst) HR leaders in the world.

For all the scorn that HR gets from everyone, I end up speaking to a lot of leaders who give a shit about their people and their organizations. They relish their role, something I could never square up with my own ambitions. On the flip side, when you’ve seen a leader run an organization in the ground on the people front, you appreciate the good ones even more.

So, I had a little patience when a vendor confidentially told me that the people he talked to at the HR Technology Conference didn’t get what he was doing to change the future of work for good.

They Just Don’t Understand

This vendor rolled out trope I’ve heard thousands of times: That talent acquisition is too advanced for an HR conference, that even recruiting leaders outside of the most progressive have issues understanding their vision for the future, and that in a perfect world, recruiting would never have to exhibit at an HR conference ever again.

I paused. There were a few things to untangle there. And there’s a whole post on whether talent acquisition belongs in close alignment with the rest of the talent management function (they do, by the way).

Here’s was the crux of my concern about this whole line of thinking:

  1. They had to have HR on board with their solution: Even they told me this. They were imagining a future that didn’t exist, and probably won’t exist for at least a decade or more.
  2. They didn’t understand HR buyers: They assumed they were idiots, yet I knew of a number of CHRO’s that had accomplished much more complex projects in recruiting, workforce planning, alignment, and development than what they proposed. We’re talking multimillion dollar initiatives. Their teams were there in spades.
  3. If people don’t understand your solution, that’s your problem: Look, most of the people you’re talking to are college educated. They can understand words if you string them together the right way and we’re not talking about quantum string theory or the multiverse here.

But maybe the biggest aha moment I had was that he — along with many other folks I spoke to on the trade room floor—were actually too future-focused.

The Future of Work Doesn’t Address the Present

Forever — is composed of Nows —

—Emily Dickinson

While I haven’t always beaten the drum of the future of work, I’ve been as guilty as the next guy of talking it up when I have, usually for the sake of eyeballs.

And look, it’s a lot of fun to talk about the future of work — the same way it’s fun to talk about destinations that you want to visit at some point in your life. It’s a lot less fun to research plane tickets, hotels, excursions, and the like to make one of those dreams happen. Travel shows are escapism for people who long for exotic vacations the same way listening to the future of work is for talent leaders longing for an easier way to get their job done.

No matter where you are in the workplace technology ecosystem, anybody with real budget has to get shit done today. There’s a lot to get done, too. It can be compliance or productivity. It can be development or planning. It can be inclusion and culture. It can be managerial. It can be strategic. It can be tactical.

If you’ve plotted yourself too far ahead, it’s easy for organizations to say not yet. In fact, it’s probably the responsible thing to do. There are a lot of problems for organizations to fix. Where does your solution fit and why should they care? Even if your message is about the future, how do you stop the escapism and get them thinking about how this actually happens in the workplace of today.

It’s More Than Buzzword Hate

Buzzwords are so easy to diss on. But it goes beyond that. These buzzwords are often thrown out there with no context for how they work, why it’s better, and why it matters.

In some cases, it’s not simply a language problem—it’s a function problem. When you dig into some of these “all too advanced” innovations, you find something more akin to vaporware. An AI solution only takes you as far as its creator’s ambition and talent.

Most buyers have done enough to see through that charade and it becomes problematic for anyone who latches on to the hot buzzword of the year. That’s not just bad marketing but it’s damaging to your organization if you do have a solution that actually has promise to impact organizations today.

Own the Present of Work

When I see an industry zig, I want a brave soul to zag. There are a lot of companies out there chasing the dragon that is the future of work. I saw companies talking about 2025 or 2030, just like they talked about 2010 and 2000 in years past. I don’t think I saw anyone talking about 2020, which is good since that’s a little over a year away.

I’d love to see a company that’s rooted in today with solutions for today. Some of those may not be sexy, but they may actually fix issues that exist right now. Ignore all the future proofing bullshit, after all, there is still a large contingent of buyers with software hosted on-premise.

And they are happy with it.

(That’s pretty weird)

Anyway, I’d love to get some organizations up to 2018. If I’m being realistic, I’ll take even 2015. There’s a market there that would be way more appealing than being just another buzzword has-been. Fixing problems of the present? That never goes out of style.

My Posts

Four Steps for Simplifying Your Digital Life

“Reversing years of negligence will take a bit of time.”

That’s what I told myself a year ago. I was woefully unprepared for what I needed to do in order to actually clean up the mess I had made.

For the past five years, I was responsible for keeping two dozen websites up and running, including a few significantly bigger than my own. I had a blog that continued to age—poorly, I might add—with very little fresh content. Social media was a mess. I could barely keep up with the people I wanted to and knew far too much about people I didn’t even remember.

I also have a good job. One that keeps my mind engaged and my writing fingers busy. A family and a social life took up some of that time, too.

But, I still wanted to write. Shit like this post, sure. Hopefully, other things that are more entertaining and fulfilling.

At some point, I had to cut bait with some of my digital baggage.

Here’s the process I went through:

  1. Be self-aware. The first to go was maintaining websites, as it had became both my most stressful and least enjoyable task. I still have a few left to migrate but I have the biggest headaches off my hands for good. I didn’t realize how much I disliked maintaining websites until I tried it and then tried to get out of it for a year. I could’ve probably saved a year of stress just by being more self-aware of how truly loathsome the task had become.
  2. Choosing to be public or private. I made my Facebook and Instagram profiles private and deleted people I couldn’t recognize if I ran into them on the street. I became more public on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m not a privacy freak like some people but being intentional about where I put things helped forge better connections with people I wanted to keep up with.
  3. Deleting old content. I spent a few weeks going through every page on my blog and chose to delete a good 60–70 percent of the content. Some of it still lives here and I might cull more in the future. Really though, the biggest challenge for me was deleting content that I worked hard on that was no longer relevant to me (or if I’m being honest, practically anyone). That’s always been tough for me.
  4. Simplifying processes going forward. The less I have to think about how something gets done, the more I can focus on simply getting it done. Logging into my WordPress dashboard with updates needed and comments to be moderated meant there was work before the work could even start.

So as part of this, I moved my blog from a self-hosted WordPress install to Medium. You’ll find writing that revolves around work, life, and technology. All of my favorite things and the things I generally wrote about anyway. I also included a special section that I used to archive what I considered to be the best of my old HR blog, too.

For me, it was making an intentional decision about where I spend my effort and to make some content decisions that weren’t easy, but necessary, so I could keep writing.

So, if you’re looking for an old article, you might not find it. That’s okay. I hope to share new stories that you’ll enjoy more.

My Posts

O.C. Tanner and The Long Shift


O.C. Tanner, one of the oldest HR providers, invited me to their first ever analyst day and told me I would have fun and maybe learn something. They were mostly right.

First, let’s back up a bit. Imagine being Microsoft over the last five years.

Incremental revenue from new computer sales continues to drop. Your popular Office productivity suite isn’t getting bought at the rate it used to and is facing stiffer competition.

Microsoft’s cash cow was slowly going away. What they ultimately need is a recurring revenue model that expands beyond the realm of consumer and business personal computers. And for the last few years, they’ve been the subject of ridicule for not being able to figure out “what’s next.”

It’s not like they’re the only ones. IBM continues to try to figure out a way forward, while casting out tens of thousands of people. Innovating is tough, especially when you’ve made so much money, for so long, doing what you do and become so good at it.

The point here for those companies still firmly entrenched in rewards and recognition is that there is a shift happening. Based on what I saw at the analyst day at O.C. Tanner’s headquarters, there seems to be a strong recognition of this reality but some trepidation about how to move forward.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • When it comes to revenue, O.C. Tanner believes they are the top dog in the rewards and recognition space. Other companies may have more revenue — like BI Worldwide or Maritz, but they only derive a small portion of their overall revenue from employee recognition.
  • They are putting that revenue back into innovating. We saw some interesting previews, especially on the wellness side of the equation. There’s uncertainty about how much they are funding the Tanner Labs portion of their business, though.
  • They’ve clearly invested in supply chain management and lean manufacturing, though. Their operation, located just south of downtown Salt Lake City, is something that was a big surprise to me. It shouldn’t have been, given Tanner’s legacy business.
  • They talked a lot about disrupting themselves, and I have no doubt they can, but there is a level of speed and agility that needs to be achieved in order to innovate in a way that isn’t disruptive to the long-term vision of their organization. I don’t think they are there quite yet.

Other analysts seemed baffled by the revenue numbers given by the folks at O.C. Tanner — as well as where exactly they fit in the scheme of HR technology. To be fair though, most tech analysts haven’t been following this space as closely as we have. There is still growth to be had, but the nature of that growth is changing.

The focus is really on engagement and turning employee engagement into serviceable business outcomes — performance, profitability, retention, etc… While trying to hit that target, they are also trying to hit a moving target of employee preferences.

The real question that needs to be answered is this: Can the same skills that drive the obviously great attention to supply chain and manufacturing management also drive a company where that advantage could slowly erode in favor of alternative rewards and a technology-driven recognition and engagement platform? If the backbone of the industry becomes that recognition and engagement component rather than reward fulfillment — which is where a vast majority of these companies pick up their revenue — what happens to O.C. Tanner?

The advantages for Tanner are also what might hold it back: Their legacy. A parade of decade-plus employees presented to us. Their strength and desire to keep fighting and be top dog in this space is clear, but they may need an infusion of new blood as well to challenge long-held assumptions and market behaviors.

Other quick notes:

  • They are going through a gigantic refresh of their facilities.
  • Their internal creative agency does some amazing work.
  • Their supply chain management beats most retailers.
  • The lean manufacturing capabilities really can’t be overstated. It is a pretty incredible site to see it integrated in with a white collar workforce.
  • Salt Lake City was actually pretty nice, and I ended the evening with some nice bourbon.
My Posts

Embracing Incremental Progress at #HRTechConf


There’s a good chance that the next phone you’re going to buy is going to be a lot like the phone you currently have, regardless of how long you plan to keep it. The same is true for the solutions you see if you go to the conference for all things HCM and tech next month.

I’ve been to the HR Technology Conference my fair share of times over the course of the last few years. It is a top notch show. But if you’re coming to get your mind blown by something new, you should slow your roll.

I’m not getting too cynical here. At least, not yet. There is a lot of really neat, useful technology on show. Great ideas, too — about robots, AI, big data, and more. I can’t wait to see it.

We’ll hear practitioners talk about not just catching up but leaping ahead — arm in arm with the provider that ostensibly helped them get there. These are interesting stories. Sometimes.

I’ve spent the better part of the year talking to solution providers and digging into their customer base, across a spectrum of HCM solutions. You know what I learned?

HR is messy.

Just kidding, I knew that already. It was just reinforced in a big way.

There’s good news. We’re making progress in some areas. Budgets are generally either rising or staying even. There’s an appetite for change.

But there’s so much to change.

Research we did at The Starr Conspiracy in 2014 showed that most large organizations had at least three learning management systems. Talent acquisition organizations have even more solutions. One company I talked to had more than 30 across their large, global organization.

People talk about rip and replace but that simply doesn’t happen. Not if the initial system had any value.

Earlier this summer, we published our research on the employee engagement landscape. A major change is coming to HR technology, but I’m under no delusions that it’s going to be a swift change. A few organizations are taking the first steps, though.

The excitement in the major shifts in technology spreads longitudinally. Not across a few days, but across months and years. With blips of excitement — like when a conference like HR Tech comes around or a significant funding, acquisition, or customer implementation gets announced.

Embrace it. Love it. And if you’ll be there, drop me a line so we can connect.

My Posts

Breaking Tech’s Glass Ceiling with @InFullBloomUS

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 7.11.27 PM

Somebody you care about is a woman. You should care about the opportunities she has, and technology is still one of the hardest industries to break into the upper echelons. Take five minutes out of your day to watch this great interview with Naomi Bloom.

Outside of being a Fortune 500 CEO or an economic advisor to Trump, technology is one of the toughest fields to get to the top of as a woman. Follow any male-dominated field close enough and you’ll find women who have experienced all kinds of obstacles and bullshit that men take for granted.

If you care about HR technology, you should care about the people who drive decisions that affect global workforces. Unfortunately, they’ve rarely reflected the diversity of the people they serve — a missed opportunity for organizations and an injustice to those directly affected.

In this episode of Bill Kutik’s excellent Firing Line with Bill Kutik, Bloom talks about what it will take for women to break into those coveted roles at the top of tech organizations. Well worth the watch today. And Bill, since I know you read all of your own press, I have one request: Bring back the podcast!

Update 8/16/16: Check out Bloom’s full post on her site. Great additional insight for anyone interested.

My Posts

Inbox by Google Changed My Life


Update September 2018: Google announced that it will be discontinuing Inbox in March 2019. I am incredibly bummed by this. While Gmail has adopted some of the features, the apps aren’t as good. I would like an alternative but right now, I am waiting out the end of Inbox.

Inbox by Google has been one of the most important pieces of software I’ve ever used. Yes, I’m serious.

Like many of you, I had an email problem. But maybe more importantly, I had a task management issue. My email box was a wasteland of good intentions gone to die. Commitments to get back to people. Tasks that I should complete. Documents and ideas awaiting my review.

Every time I opened my email, it was there. And every time, I was great at ignoring it.

One day, I responded to an email a month old and wrote something like, “I meant to get to this earlier.” What a dick move.

Anyway, I tried many solutions. I tried task management software and email solutions like CloudMagic. I was even thinking of using some sort of light CRM system to just keep crap in order. Which, yeah, all of these would probably be okay but eventually fairly simple things like search and tagging went haywire. I went back to my old familiar ways.

Fortunately, I’ve been lucky to work for organizations that use Google Apps instead of Outlook. While Gmail is what most people use to manage email (or maybe the stock Apple apps if they have a Mac), I switched to Inbox by Google six months ago. It worked.

The chorus sang.

Here’s why it works:

  • It works the same everywhere. On the web, iPhone, iPad, Android or even a Windows phone, it’s the same. Functionality in the app versus the web is only better because rich notifications and quicker load time.
  • I focus on what I can complete now. When an email comes in, I make a decision: Can I answer it immediately or does it need to wait? If I can answer it immediately, I do and if it needs to wait, I schedule it for later (in the evening, tomorrow, next week, etc…).
  • It’s more than an inbox. This is also where Inbox excels. It keeps my to-do list handy and I only have what I’m working on that day up in my inbox. If I need to push a task, it’s as easy to schedule as an email.
  • Smart functions. When I went to Europe, it bundled all of my trip information into one thread, keeping track of what was coming up that day, including live flight information. Also, when I’m responding to emails, it has smart replies that help me answer email better. If someone emails me to schedule a call, it will give me smart replies like, “What’s your schedule like?” or “How about Thursday or Friday?”
  • No integration headaches. It’s built by Google, hosted by Google, and it’s using Gmail. Reminders show on my Google calendar. Searching is native. Tags and everything transfer over.

Now are there downsides? Sure. Power users might find the stripped down interface too limiting. Things like filters and vacation notifiers are best handled in Gmail (which you can go to from within the Inbox interface).

Let me say that after my initial setup, I’m in Gmail maybe a couple times a month tops. It’s not a huge issue.

That image on top? That’s what it shows when your Inbox has no emails. That doesn’t mean I don’t have emails to answer, though. In my work inbox, I have about 40 emails and reminders snoozed for a variety of times for when I need to follow up. I never think about it because Google will pop it up automatically whenever I told it to.

I sit at a virtual inbox zero many days.

Maybe most importantly, I’m not spending all day in my email inbox, feeling like an idiot because I can never catch up. If you’re waiting for a response from me, it’s intentional and I will get back to you.

If you want to learn about some of the cool stuff you can do with Inbox, you can check out the Google team’s blog. They seem to be releasing features on a regular basis.

My Posts

Every 2016 Prediction for HR Will Be Wrong


Every year, around this time, people look back at what happened in the past year and ahead to the next. In human resources, it’s no different. Anybody who’s written for public consumption for a couple of years has done it.

This past year, I spent a lot of time listening. Way more time listening than I did writing, for this blog or anywhere else. And as I read through listicles about what 2016 looks like for HR, you should know one thing:

Not a single one of them will come true.

HR isn’t a monolithic entity. This isn’t like picking the winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign (though, you might agree that we’ll probably all be losers, no matter the outcome). Let’s take a look at some quick numbers that support this point.

First of all, there are over 18,000 companies with 500 or more employees in the U.S. That’s at least 18,000 versions of HR, and for most organizations, there’s probably many disparities across locations and departments. Those 18k firms represent about half of the employment in the U.S.

The other half are the more than five million firms with less than 500 employees (but more than one). While 99% of companies with 500 or more employees have an HR department, many smaller firms don’t have a formal HR function. Frankly, most of them don’t need it. You can get what you need from some combination of outsourcing, technology, and decent management. The HR experience for those people are varied, from the literal worst to the literal best.

HR that is that big and that varied moves forward in the span of decades, not single years. In the largest organizations, which house the largest group of and most active HR professionals, a single change management initiative will take months at minimum and years, especially if it’s a large change. Its full impact might not be felt for five or more years.

That makes some predictions, like what HR will look like in 2020, seem nearly optimistic at this point. If you’re a large, 500+ person organization that’s behind the curve on major talent management or technology initiatives, 2020 isn’t going to happen. That’s four years away.

Even the biggest legislative change in the last decade, the Affordable Care Act, didn’t change much for the largest organizations and allowed smaller organizations years to get their ducks in a row to comply. Only now, going into 2016, will the smallest organizations come under more difficult and onerous rules for tracking and maintaining employer-provided insurance.

Outside of government induced change though, most changes in HR are slow. Even talent acquisition, which prides itself of being faster and more ahead of the curve than their HR brethren don’t change as fast as they’d like. Take a look at a decades worth of change in CareerXroads Source of Hire Report:

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.54.00 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.54.44 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.55.15 AM

Source: CareerXroads 2004 Source of Hire Report

Sure, there’s been some changes. Referrals have gone down, direct sourcing and agency usage has gone up. Newspapers have all but disappeared and some of the sites have changed. But this, the leading edge of the people management function, has been slow to change too. Again, this is a decade’s worth of movement too.

The biggest paradigm shifting change to both recruiting and HR on the technology front — the internet — took more than a decade to take hold. It still waits on the wings in some organizations that are holding on to the last throes of their non-cloud, non-SaaS based software. Mobile and social are natural extensions of this paradigm shift that will take years to take hold within HR.

In 2016, some companies will take big leaps forward but most will not. Many more companies will take baby steps forward or backward. For observers of HR as a massive, living entity, it will feel like things are standing still if you look at it through the lens of 366 days — we do get that extra day in 2016, lucky us. But exciting things are happening if you focus in on slivers of our little HR world.

When we focus on what [won’t] happen in 2016, we miss the bigger story: If you want to be part of an HR team that is doing interesting and progressive work, you can. Even if you’re not setting the world on fire or sparking a revolution that will consume HR, you can make an impact on thousands of people.

In 2016, my hope is that we’ll spend less time talking about the inevitable march to the cloud or cool tools and more about the people making the changes necessary that will show up in the bottom line three years from now. Don’t talk about technology without talking about the people who have to see it through and make it work. Those people have a vision that goes beyond 2016 — and that’s a good thing for everyone.

My Posts

My Personal Technology Stack

I’ve used a variety of personal technologies over the past few years. Everything from Apple, Windows, and Chromebooks for laptops, to Android and iOS for my phone and tablet. Usually, I’ve had multiples of all of these things at once but for the past year or so, I’ve been pretty consistent with what I’ve used to the point that I’ve sold all of my other devices.

Since I will often get questions about what I’m using, here’s what’s currently in my bag as I’m traveling to LRP’s Benefits conference:

  • 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina — A great performance machine with the right combination of power, battery life, and, to a slightly lesser extent, size. I love the 13″ size, as I’ve tried both larger and smaller models. It just feels right for every day use. I’m never too stressed about the battery life on it, as I’m able to get about 6–10 hours of usage, depending on my tasks. The keyboard is phenomenal, as is the screen. My gripe is the weight, which I wish was a little closer to the Air but I’ll take the extra pound for the performance.
  • iPad Air (9.7″ model) 16gb with cellular — I’ve gone back and forth on the mini and the full size iPad. Eventually, the full size won out as my every day tablet because typing on it is so much better and the weight difference wasn’t as big of a deal. The reason I’ve been writing more is because I’ve been able to do it on my iPad instead of my laptop. It sounds silly, but as a person who works out of his home, the separate screen makes a big difference to keep me out of work tasks. The iPad has multi day power, is what I read every book on, and is my primary movie machine if I’m not at home. I got the cellular model because I found that I used it more when I knew I could connect anytime and it also doubles as a beefy wifi hotspot for my laptop, rather than carrying around a separate device.
  • iPhone 6 Plus (5.5″ model) 64gb — Probably the only device I’d trade if I could, if the trade offs weren’t so bad. I would like a smaller device and honestly, I liked the iPhone 6 the best size wise. But the battery is so mediocre compared to the Plus that I’m willing to carry the extra bulk because I’d be carrying a battery case or charge kit all the time, like I did with my iPhone 5. I trade this off by having a card case attached to the phone, which means most days, I’m only carrying keys and a phone in my pocket. I carry most of my music library, as well as my podcasts on it, but I might opt for the 128gb model if it wasn’t an additional $100. I loved my Android for a long time, but I haven’t minded the switch that much. If Android had a flagship that was under 5 inches, it might make a difference but the Moto X is the last one I used and that thing had a terrible camera.
  • Other accessories — Two other things I carry with me, nearly always: Skullcandy headphones and a stylus. I’m not a loyalist to Skullcandy, but they make affordable, foldable headphones with inline microphones that are durable. I listen to music a lot, and I’m on FaceTime, Skype, or Hangouts constantly. I also use a stylus for writing in Penultimate. Lately, I’ve been using an active stylus that seems to capture handwriting a little better. To be honest, I prefer to type most of the time and am getting enough speed on the iPad where it’s better and more easily searchable. I’m not super interested in any of the Jot stylus models as my handwriting isn’t that great to begin with (and it’s atrocious on the iPad).

So, yes, today I’m mostly Apple. If you asked me a couple years ago, my primary road machine was a Chromebook and Android phone.

What’s in your go bag?

My Posts

Apple Watch and the Enterprise: Oh, God. This is Kinda Dumb.

I’ve been reading a lot about the new Apple Watch. As a consumer, it is an interesting device. Not one I’m going to get anytime soon but interesting, okay? I’ve done the smartwatch thing with the crowdfunded Pebble. It was cool. I liked having RunKeeper on my wrist, for instance. But the novelty of getting notifications and even responding to texts on a watch got old.

That’s also to say that I’m not really a watch person. I know some people are, though. Apple will probably sell a lot of them, but I’m not sure what the long term uptake on this new technology will be. I’m doubtful, overall.

What I’m less doubtful about is how all of these articles about how Apple Watch will change the enterprise are going to sound kind of silly a year from now.

Look, there are some interesting use cases for Apple Watch for the enterprise outside of communication and notifications that simply move from your phone to your wrist. In HR, upstart BetterWorks is releasing an app (though I’m a little more interested in their hire from Apple than their product for the wrist) and Salesforce has something going live, as well.

But wearable technology has been around for awhile and the broader market will continue to grow and define itself. I’m just not sure it will be through expansive apps on a 4 cm watch face.

The hysteria around Apple Watch in particular is more about protecting what’s left of enterprise tech press. They missed the boat on what smartphones and tablets would do in the workplace, and approached BYOD from a CIO’s perspective instead of a CEO’s perspective.

That being said, an organization’s Apple Watch strategy should probably be behind figuring out why all of your other enterprise technology is so screwed up. Once you figure that out, as well as figuring out mobile and tablet access, then you can think about watches. From my seat though, few companies have that luxury. The Apple Watch is a nice, shiny object you can foist attention onto instead of any of the real problems you should probably try to fix first. Which is to say, your employees likely want you to fix a broken learning and development system or fix employee self-service than focus on a niche product that won’t even work on a majority of smartphones out there today.