Archive for June, 2013

Just came in off the road from several conferences. My brother noted that the customer service motto for most modern airlines appears to be “…We’re not happy ’till your’re not happy.”


A comment on modern air travel

Over here! Help! Heloooo! Over here!


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It sure seems that data is a big topic – in Washington DC and in our lives in HR.

One of the better sessions I attended at SHRM13 was on data analytics.  Those that know me would find it normal that I would be geeked up on data and how to analyze.  Also, with the “perfect storm” of the ACA and new data technologies, this is one of the few areas of hope for guiding wellness programs and bending the cost curve.

On a secondary based level, the advent of reference based benefits will require a ton of data.  It’s on the horizon, and headed our way.

So, what did I learn?  I was amazed at how many of my fellow attendees had no idea the level and sophistication of data analytics that are out there for use.  Most of them have a broker relationship, but from the volume of “I had NO idea” responses, many of those brokers are either not sharing the data, or do not have a basic level of sophistication on data analytics.

The leader of the session, Cecile Alper-Leroux of Ultimate Software, said that one of the best examples to use of data analytics is the recent movie Moneyball.  She said it is a great example of how data can be used as a game-changer (literally) and provide a competitive advantage.  In the movie, by analyzing non-traditional statistics, the Athletics assembled a competitive team for one-fourth the cost of a normal team.

Key point: “With data analytics, you can understand people and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and end up some great results like lowering labor costs or raising productivity.”

The interesting part of the presentation was not the basic examination of data analytics on past info and plotting trends, but rather taking the data and looking at the future.  This is a significant mindset shift from reacting to changes to “what can I do to change these predictions?”

An example was shared from retail, where a data model was built that attempted to predict which employees were likely to leave the company.  The actual resignations were tracked, and the model appeared to be 90% accurate.  This enabled the organization to target the high performers that were predicted to leave early in the process, and the organization was able to retain a high percentage of them.

An example I will be working on are implementing benefit costs transparency tools, and the issue of reference-based benefits.  Data analytics are a key part of making it work, and I will be spending a lot more time on the subject.  Let me  know if you want more information on transparency tools, and I will share what I have learned.

Now, off to hustle to another session…almost done!

Wear comfortable shoes and plan for traffic jams near the escalators.

Wear comfortable shoes and plan for traffic jams near the escalators.



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Now that I’ve been immersed for a few days, here are some notes:

1. The talent shortage is real. Nearly every presentation has either a statement referencing the fact that finding good people is tough, or a rhetorical question in the first 5 minutes along the same lines.

It almost feels like we are in a giant 12 step group. “Hi, i’m Karl. I can’t find good talent in my new hires.” “Welcome, Karl.”

2. I hit a nerve with my Monday presentation on using the ACA as a catalyst for organizational change. Have had several people stop me in the halls and share happy thoughts about what they were now going to do when they got home. Nice.

3. Any conference with 7am sessions should have free coffee in the halls. And it should be GOOD coffee. With large cups.


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Today we had a moment of learning, followed by several moments of real panic.

Daniel Pink was on the big stage, and I was scribbling notes in the dark.  The problem?  I was on right after him (much smaller room) and whole chunks of his fresh research was perfectly contradictory of whole sections of my presentation.  I had data that was so 6 months ago, and it was going to be a problem.

He was reviewing his new book To Sell is Human – and it was fun.  His presentation was like his writing style –  engaging and highly accessible. At times, he offers simple metaphors and incorporates a perfect amount of humor.

His basic premise is simple: he argues that humans spend considerable energy each day trying to get others to do
what we request: purchase, buy in, comply, agree to and even obey. One professional he interviewed stated it succinctly: “Almost everything I do involves persuasion.” Whether you directly sell products, participate in teamwork efforts, attempt to direct the behavior of others or run your own business, you are, in effect, selling or more specifically, moving others to do

Pink details the dislike most of us experience with the typical professional sales approach (think used car salesman) and labels it “the white-collar equivalent of cleaning toilets – necessary perhaps but unpleasant and even a bit unclean.” He reviews the historical protocol for selling and determines that it is officially dead.

The immediate access to information via the Internet has completely altered the balance of power in direct sales exchanges. Consumers know far more and will, in the middle of your sales presentation, look up what you just said on their smart phones.

I felt the old adage of “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” summed up the notion: if people like you, don’t feel threatened, believe that you are listening (rather than waiting to speak) and respond by acknowledging needs and desires…well, it all seems obvious, doesn’t it? But that is what Dan Pink does best: redirects our attention to what seems obvious but not necessarily occuring, supports it with research-based evidence and then completes his pitch with storytelling, offering human examples to seal the deal.

He then then put up the ABCs of the new world:

A: Attunement – seeing the world from the viewpoint of the other person

B: Buoyancy – keeping your energy and message “up”

C: Clarity – delivering concise, powerful summaries

He then took 5 examples to flesh out the core story line, adding layers to the cake.  All of these were both wonderful in that they added real depth – and scary in that they contradicted points I had imbedded in my presentation that was due to be delivered next.

For example, I had included the research that introverts outsold extroverts, due to listening skills.  Dan’s data said no, the sales volume of those two groups was identical.  The real winner was a third set of thinking types, the Ambivert.  The one in the middle with both attributes.  Makes sense.  I like it.  Had to add it.  There were about 5 of those data points, all welcome but all causing me to type quickly.

I’ll be buying the book.  And, I’m sure glad I went to the program prior to mine.


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Yes, this is a big conference.  I’m sitting here in a football field sized group of our HR tribe, and I can’t see the edge of the room.

A bigger message – there don’t appear to be a huge bunch of Hoosiers up here.  Not that I have a great way to sample the number, just not seeing a lot of familiar faces;  Will keep looking.

You would think with the proximity it would be easy to get here, but I think there is a deeper reason.  It’s our State Conference. Simply put, the Indiana State Conference is almost as good, but mostly closer to home (unless you live in the region) and a heck of a lot cheaper.  I have asked several attendees how much their total bill is for coming, and the answers have all been over $2000.

The Indiana conference is less than $400, and many of us can get a hotel room in Indy for the cost of valet parking and a hot dog in Chicago. The quality of the speakers?  About the same.

I’m sitting here to listen to Daniel Pink (can’t wait!).  I’m excited because I got to meet him last year, in a wonderful executive event with a few hundred thought leaders.  Where?  The Indiana State Conference. I love the Annual Meeting, but we’re very lucky to have the success of the Indiana State Conference.  Find it a www.indianashrm.org.

The crowds have been huge...

The crowds have been huge…

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Many of the conference participants went to fine restaurants last night.  Some went to vendor receptions with high end food and drink.  Mark Records and I hit the high life.  We bypassed all of that, hailed a cab and headed to North Clark St., home of the Weiner’s Circle for a grilled Chicago treat.

Mark went for the Polish with mustard and bright green relish, I had the usual – a Chicago dog.  Fabulous.

The grill crew is happy to provide commentary and verbal abuse along with your order.

The grill crew is happy to provide commentary and verbal abuse along with your order.



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I attended the opening session, keynoted by Hillary Rodham Clinton. I didn’t write it up immediately, as i wanted a little time to reflect, and also to report on the “buzz” that would emerge.

I expected a loud, positive “buzz”. Mot so. The buzz, while positive, was not loud. I guess it boiled down to a perception that it was a good, well researched presentation. Expectations were high, and Hillary did fine. Just not an earth-shattering keynote.

What did i scribble while she talked?

Compliments. “HR knows what it takes to provide workers with the flexibility to care for children and aging parents. You also know what must be done to provide affordable health care to everyone.”

Big applause on health care.

No remarks on run for prez – she sure looks presidential in sincere blue suit.

Pointed out big importance of womens issues in the workplace, globally.

The best part of the presentation was 10 minutes of Q&A with SHRM CEO Henry Jackson.

Key points:

1. We’ve got to fix immigration. We educate students and then don’t let them stay. It’s a key economic issue.

2. Leadership is a team sport.

3 You can’t win if you don’t show up.

4. A whisper can be louder than a shout

5 Follow the trend lines, not the headlines

In closing, CEO Hank pressured her to return to our conference next year. She sidestepped that one nicely.


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Lots of interest in getting my slides from today – i just had them uploaded here for your downloading pleasure:


Enter your email and help yourself. Call if you have any.questions…317-250-9081


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So the description of my presentation said “…strategic, not a discussion of the details of the PPACA.  Do not come if you want details.

My opening remarks were “Welcome.  This is not a tactical session that will include any details on the ACA, such as how to calculate the 30 hour rule.  If you want that, you are free to move about the cabin.”

10 minutes in I restated it in similar form.

Nobody left.  The session appeared to go well.

On the evaluation forms, there were several people who marked me down for not covering the PPACA in more detail.

Arg,  Clearly, we have an issue with listening skills in HR…

I'm not sarcastic, just trying to be honest...

I’m not sarcastic, just trying to be honest…

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On in 5 minutes

…and the room is filling. Cool!


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