“Big Talk” gets results in “Modern Love” – why not use it for HR Technology initiatives?

Your friendly HR technologist (me) needs to get a life – I decided. Everything I read recently generates some kind of connection to my life in HR Tech. Even the regular Sunday NY Times – Style Section column – “modern love”. Yes, I read it. Why not? So, recently the column was written by a middle age man (Tim Boomer) – could be a fake name? – newly re-entering the dating scene and lamenting about the difficulty he has with “small talk”. “After my trip, I was eating steak at a Boston bar, still mourning that the woman I thought I would marry, Alejandra, had broken up with me. I’d met her five years earlier, and she was, in every way imaginable, an inspiration to me. She was the woman who taught me about love. Next to me at the bar was a couple on their first date. I could tell because their conversation reminded me of those awkward exchanges you have with co-workers’ spouses at Christmas parties. They opened with a discussion about their commutes to the bar. They both lived within a 10-minute bus ride, and they managed to stretch out this topic for 30 minutes. Next up, the weather: In Boston it rains sometimes, and they had both noticed this. An hour in, they turned to the really deep stuff. One was a teacher, and the other knew a teacher. How could they be destined for anything other than true love? O.K., so I may have been directing some of my brokenhearted anger at them, but all I could think was that I wanted no part of this game. If being single meant having to partake in this kind of conversation, I’d rather pass. How could I go from the deep connection I had with Alejandra to discussing bus schedules and weather patterns?” He continues: “With this in mind, I decided to approach my re-entry to dating with a no-small-talk policy. Not that I would insist we talk only about heartfelt subjects; ideally, there would also be plenty of flirtatious joking and witty banter. I simply wanted to eliminate the dull droning on about facts and figures — whether it’s snowing or raining, how cold it is, what we do for work, how long it takes to get to work, where we went to school — all those things that we think we have to talk about with someone new but that tell us little about who the person really is. Why can’t we replace small talk with big talk and ask each other profound questions right from the start? Replace mindless chatter about commuting times with a conversation about our weightiest beliefs and most potent fears? Questions that reveal who we are and where we want to go?” Admittedly, it seems to me that this approach is not always mutually desired by the interacting parties. A common complaint according to the author: “You can’t ask “Big Questions until you know the answers to the small ones, you need to know the facts to know where to dig deeper.” All this angst, got me thinking. Let me try to translate this concept into my sphere of influence: that of the need for HR technology support to make HR a strategic, value-added business partner in an organization and the efforts of HRMS software providers to help a company do so. (And to make a sale). I think in our industry there are typically four groups of people that require a mindfulness of THE BIG TALK. And, at the same time, they must also conduct the appropriate level of “small talk” for building a business partner relationship. In my analogy, “small talk” is defined as lots of chatter, less meaningful findings, conversations of little consequence – except for establishing an early common ground. Small talk therefore, in of itself, will most likely miss any underlying issues and will certainly not uncover any important decision drivers that might be in play that are the driving force behind a company’s stated initiatives. The four – what I call – “Big Talk Seekers” and their objectives are the following: 1 – The CEO, CFO, and CIO 2 – the Senior Leadership of HR – the CHRO or the SVP and whoever is the Executive Sponsor of a project effort to improve a company’s use of HR technology in any shape, manner or form. 3 – The HR Technology Evaluation Team 4 – The HR software provider – the vendor of a potential new HRMS. Here then are the “BIG TALK” subjects that must be openly stated, documented, communicated and understood by all appropriate stakeholders for each...

“LIGHT BEAM RIDERS” ALL – EINSTEIN’S GEDANKENEXPERIMENTE” AND ITS IMPACT ON THE ARTISTRY OF HR AND HR TECHNOLOGY. A YEAREND ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND SHOUT OUT….

The 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was celebrated in print this past October. Many articles described its impact on our Universe in general and in the world of physics in particular. One such article by Walter Isaacson in the NYT (October 30, 2015) caught my eye. I had already known that Mr. Isaacson authored a very well received biography of Einstein, in fact a NYTimes Best Seller. So his comments were worthy of a read. As so many things make me somehow make the leap from a news item or opinion piece on some general topic to my world of HR and HRT, Isaacson’s comments were thought provoking, especially as it gives me a chance for some yearend shout outs. In his opinion piece titled “The Light Beam Rider” Isaacson mentions the visualized “thought experiments that were the navigation lights guiding Einstein to his brilliant creation”. It seems that young Albert ran away from his school in Germany, which he hated because it emphasized rote learning rather than visual imagination, and enrolled in a Swiss village school based on the educational philosophy that encouraged students to visualize concepts. While there, Einstein tried to picture what it would be like to travel so fast that you caught up with a light beam. If he rode alongside, he later wrote, “I should observe such a beam of light as an electromagnetic field at rest”. In other words the wave would seem stationary. But this was not possible according to the science of those times. It eventually led to Einstein’s “psychic tension” – which was eventually resolve by… his, well, “daydreaming”. Isaacson goes on to say that Einstein “relished what he called “GEDANKENEXPERIMENTE” ideas that twirled around in his head rather than in a laboratory. What teachers called “daydreaming” if you’re Einstein, you get to call them “Gedankenexperimente”. The overreaching thought in Isaacson’s opinion piece is that creativity is based on imagination. In my opinion Imagination arises from an inquisitive mind, a thirst for knowledge, a decision to push boundaries and a propensity to think “out of the box”, yes “perchance to dream”. (Shakespeare – Hamlet). Where the daydreaming leads to a sudden inspiration – a sudden burst of light – a sudden “getting it”. As 2015 ends, I wanted to write and recognize some people who, in my humble opinion, have made or contributed to making a difference in my world of HR in general and HR Technology more specifically. Thus for the sake of a yearend list – here then are my list of 10 “Dreamers” or “Critical Thinkers” who have pushed the boundaries of HR and HRT, and who have themselves surely daydreamed of solutions, practices and visions to assist all of us in our HR/HRT space. All furthering the importance of the role of HR and it use of technology in many forms, globally. As colleagues, some of these people you will recognize, others maybe not. But by reading a bit about them, you can clearly see their deservedness in being called “daydreamers” and how their actions have led to some very impressive – even imposing results and deliverables. I have known all of them, some personally, some by reputation, some for many, many years, others for just a few months. In 2015 I have had reason to consider them in some way. I think that in the year ahead it will be interesting to see where their dreams might take all of us. Alphabetically, Josh Bersin I met Josh Bersin many years ago when we both did some work with HR.com – (see – Debbie McGrath later in this piece). Josh is now the Principle/Founder of Bersin by Deloitte. He is a well known and effective thought leader /speaker in his expertise as the leading provider of research based information, benchmarking and advisory consulting services focusing on Talent Management, Leadership and Strategic HR. In 2015, I had the opportunity to listen to Josh at Ceridian’s Dayforce HCM Insights Annual Conference. His keynote presentation about his research findings led him to highlight his “BOLD” vision for HR leadership. Bersin has a strong belief that today’s times require a “bold HR”. He explained: “BOLD” means : “B”= Build an irresistible organization; “O” = Own the leadership agenda; “L” Leverage your employees; and “D” = Demand data. Clearly Josh Bersin is acting on his desire to educate all of us about what his research is unveiling. In 2015 I had not heard a clearer presentation of such a strong call to action. Dave Duffield Certainly the most well known on my list and a brand himself, I have known Dave from...