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Robot-Proofing the Jobs of the Future

A couple of articles in The Economist and The Atlantic this week have me thinking about peak jobs again. Especially since The Economist article pulls in the thoughts of anthropologist David Graeber, as my last blog post on the topic did. As a reminder, the concept of peak jobs refers to a point at which technology’s destruction of jobs (through automation or innovation) meets or exceeds its capacity to create jobs (through demand for technological goods and services).  As I’ve written about previously, anxiety related to peak jobs has amplified in recent years as the type of jobs being automated has shifted from the most menial roles to jobs that we previously viewed as safe. This, combined with a broad hollowing out of middle management jobs in many sectors (jobs we still tend to agree are safe from automation), has left a larger group of us watching our backs for the encroaching robot workforce. Read more

HRPA Conference 2014 – Blogger Team Edition

I just finished a great week, spent mostly at the HRPA Annual Conference here in Toronto. This year HRPA, with the support of Achievers, welcomed a blogger team to capture and share the insights, ideas and highlights of this three day event. I was fortunate to be part of that team, and have just posted my fourth post in as many days over at LiveHR.ca about my experience at the conference. Feel free to click through and read what the blogger team took away from this terrific event. So far, I’ve written about HR Conference BINGO (did someone say Zappos?), why Geoff Colvin thinks talent is made not born, why YOU should become an HR Blogger (and how), and shared 2014 Conference high points, as well as ideas for 2015.

Check it out – it’s almost like being there (without the swag and nice snacks- sorry).

Leadership Lessons from Crack Mayor Rob Ford

As the late, great Whitney Houston said: “Crack is whack”.  Truthfully, it’s pretty hard to expand or improve upon Ms. Houston’s assessment of this particular issue, which is why it’s taken me a while to extract the deeper lessons that I knew lurked under the sordid surface of the Rob Ford fiasco.

Rob Ford is my mayor. That is, he was inflicted on me by a significant proportion of my fellow Torontonians in our most recent mayoral election.  But I don’t hold it against them; truly we lacked compelling alternatives, and they were all probably in a drunken stupor anyway, so how can I hold them responsible? The point is, while the world held witness to the most surreal, ‘Daily Show’ worthy portion of Mr. Ford’s downward spiral, the good people of Toronto have had to endure actually having him as the mayor of the fourth largest city in North America.  This reality holds some genuinely important lessons about leaders and the organizations that create and empower them, buried as they might be under a fine, white powder.

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A Belated Happy New Year!

A belated happy New Year to you. You may have noticed that I took a little bit of a blog-cation over the last month or two. I’m still here, but had a few things to take care of as 2013 drew to a close. Despite that, 2013 ended on a high note, with the outstanding Michael Carty of Xpert HR selecting my post ‘Manatees, Tube Tops and Policies for the Clueless Few’ as a top HR blog pick for the year! Who knew that those peaceful water elephants of the mangrove swamps would prove to be such good luck? If you missed that post, and enjoy a good rant about rules made for the willfully ignorant among us, please check it out here.

In other news, I’m really excited to report that I’ll be blogging from the 2014 HRPA conference this week; you can catch me (and a distinguished panel of my fellow HR Bloggers) at LiveHR. The annual HRPA conference is the premier HR event in Ontario, always bringing together the best and brightest in Human Resources, and I look forward to sharing this year’s high points and musings with you. Thanks to HRPA and Achievers for their support of the HR blogging community!  Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Hipsters, Tomatoes, and Employee Engagement

In recent years, retro approaches to food have come back into fashion in a big way. I’ve seen several food shops in my city offering canning and preserving classes, and keep coming across articles telling me that Aunt Mabel was totally on to something with her pickled onions. At TEDxToronto this year, I will admit that I was mystified when the audience’s biggest wave of anticipatory applause rose as Joel MacCharles of Well Preserved took the stage to talk fervently about his love of preserving and canning.

I blame hipsters. Their earnest nostalgia and revivalist zeal seems to have infected a broad swath of young urbanites with the desire to can food. Luckily the ‘lumberjack beard’ strain does not seem to be airborne…yet. But at TEDxToronto, as I sat in Koerner Hall, surrounded by many young urbanites dreamily imagining themselves tying on an apron and getting down to some good old fashioned pickling, all I could think was “Oh really?”.

I keep a long list of things that sound great, but in practice require a surprising amount of hard, messy work. Two things that I place on that list are canning food, and employee engagement. Read more

Organizational Plumbers

I am utterly delighted to have contributed this very blog post to a just-released eBook called Humane Resources. This project is an anthology of HR blogs from more than 50 authors, compiled and produced by David D’Souza  out of the U.K. who blogs at 101 Half Connected Things. The eBook is currently available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle store for $2.99 – every cent of which will go to charity (including OCD Action and Cancer Research UK), AND will be available free next week. It is a wide-ranging, entertaining, intelligent, and contradictory mash-up that represents the breadth, diversity and paradox that characterize Human Resources today. I love it, and I hope that you’ll check it out, tell us what you think, or even write a review on Amazon. I’m so proud and grateful to be part of this international collaboration – many thanks to David and my fellow contributors!

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Message in a Bottle

Last week I returned from 8 days in Las Vegas. I was there to attend HRevolution, and a friend’s wedding. If some know-it-all ever tells you that 8 days is a long time to spend in Vegas…well, they’re a wise and knowledgeable individual, so ask them for investment advice.

Although it was long, my trip was a tremendous time during which I met brilliant and funny HR folks from all over the world, consumed (too much) excellent food and drink, and celebrated with dear friends. It was great, and I learned a lot, much of which is applicable to HR. Read more

The Robot Economy’s Less Obvious Dangers

We live in an age of job insecurity. If it wasn’t enough to be worried about being ‘restructured’ or outsourced, the recent surge in press about the robot workforce of the future gives us another reason to toss and turn at night.

“You’d better be nice to the robots”

The chatter about how many of us will be replaced by robots in the coming years has reached fever pitch of late. Some of it is rehashed fear-mongering (“Just look at what happened to the travel agents!”), but others raise provocative points about what the future of work will look like. Recent studies and analyses indicate that automation has the potential to make 45% – 70% of today’s jobs obsolete in the coming decades, and that a key competency for the employee of the future may be the ability to work alongside collaborative robots. Read more

What Marissa Mayer Wears in Vogue Doesn’t Matter

Oh, I hate to be so predictable as to write anything about Marissa Mayer, but I simply can’t stop myself this time.

So, Mayer was featured in Vogue, and a particular photo of her laid out on a chaise lounge in a form-fitting dress and stilettos has provoked the angry people that care about such things. Apparently none more so than some guy named Steve Cody who writes for Inc.

Cody’s Inc article starts by comparing Mayer to Martha Stewart (convicted criminal) and Paula Deen (now largely assumed to be a racist) and just goes downhill from there. In rapid succession he mocks her choice to wear expensive clothes, her ‘faux geekiness’ (but also her valley girl speak), calls her a micromanager, and overall is so unconsciously chauvinistic that I want to start a fund to send him to therapy to address whatever underlying issues he’s clearly suffering from. Read more

How We Fool Ourselves Into Bad Hiring

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Hiring the right person is not easy. No matter how much we’d like to think otherwise, good hiring is more art than science; and like many art forms, creative approaches abound.

A few weeks ago I happened to come across a Glassdoor tweet, linking to an article about the ‘hardest’ interview questions out there. Curious, I clicked through, and was involuntarily overcome with an acute episode of eye-rolling, due to the fact that by ‘hardest’, the writer actually meant ‘senseless’. I was further irritated to note that a former employer of mine was represented on this list, dutifully reported by the poor, unfortunate souls who had been subjected to this nonsense and lived to tell the tale. Read more

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