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HR by Engineers and Glamourizing the Gig Economy

A weekly post in which I share (some of) the most thought-provoking stuff I came across this week(ish), which I am too lazy to write full blog posts about.

How was your week? I had my favorite kind of week; the kind when Monday feels like it happened to someone else all together. Those are my favorite because I know that feeling means I’ve been transformed in some way by the events and encounters of the week; that in fact I’m not quite the same person who sipped coffee and made to-do lists on Monday morning, because my view of things has been altered, slightly but permanently. I find I go through cycles when my brain is so thirsty and receptive that everything shimmers with potential insights and intersections, followed by reflection periods where I need to process, ignore others’ thoughts and ideas, and sift through what I’ve absorbed to find meaning and make connections. It’s a bit like a snake digesting a large meal, and as I learned from the great Michael Bungay Stanier at his TODN workshop this week, the best learning experiences we can offer others have these absorption and reflection cycles built into their very design to support retention (more on MBS below).

So, this week I’m sharing (some of) the stuff I came across online and offline that I’m still digesting:

If HR Were Run by Engineers?

On Wednesday I attended a Next Generation Talent Acquisition event, organized by Kim Benedict and the team at TalentMinded, which featured a dynamite panel discussing HR and technology adoption. The conversation was wide-ranging and the panelists had strong opinions and very different perspectives (so, basically what every panel discussion should be, but isn’t).

Panelist Farhan Thawar, CTO and co-founder of (and former team member at an impressive list of organizations), kicked off his comments by noting that at a previous organization he’d had functional accountability for HR as an Engineer. Hmm, do go on….

“I started with HR focused on process reduction. You can’t just focus on satisfiers; you need to not piss people off with admin. Reduce friction involved with doing the easy shit we do every day. Make it as easy as possible.”

Can we get t-shirts made? That’s how much I like this. It’s very aligned with Lucy Adams’ recent book, which makes the tough but fair observation that HR processes and procedures are too often designed to meet the needs of HR, rather than employees

Did I mention Farhan’s Twitter profile includes the sentence “Everything you know is wrong.”?  I thought he made a terrific addition to this panel to present a different but informed viewpoint on HR and technology.

The Two Sides of the Gig Economy

If you keep up with my weekly meanderings musings then you know that I’ve done a fair bit of writing lately about the potential for abuse and exploitation of gig workers. Welcome to the other side, from serial entrepreneur Michael Carter at Kahuso, another great panelist at the Next Generation Talent Acquisition event. Kahuso is aimed at connecting short-term org needs for executive talent with senior professionals looking for interim roles or advisory stints.

An interesting concept, particularly given Michael’s experience in growing start-ups, where the need for senior expertise may not directly coincide with the funds or volume of work available to merit a full-time executive-level role:

“The opportunity cost of waiting to hire a senior executive because you don’t have a full role or know exactly what you need is huge.”

However, what really caught my attention was Michael’s  viewpoint on the opportunities that the rise of gig work could offer this type of experienced worker:

Screenshot 2017-03-12 14.30.28

On the other hand, there’s still plenty of exploitation of non-executive-level gig workers to go around. This Fiverr ad is just  ‘ugh’ on so, so many levels:

Screenshot 2017-03-12 14.29.47

International Women’s Day

There were so, so many great reads for IWD. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels extra important this year, because, well, you know…see above, and:

Male congressman questions why men have to pay for prenatal care. Really.

Screenshot 2017-03-12 14.35.13Screenshot 2017-03-12 14.36.30

With the constant stream of disturbing news and discourse, it’s easy to feel helpless, afraid, or angry. Which is why these practical thoughts on what we can do were great reads:

  • How to Empower Women in Meetings via Meeteor
  • Empathy via this incredible Twitter thread about an (initially inadvertent) experiment in which male and female colleagues traded e-mail accounts in a client facing role. Very enlightening and totally worth a read.

Screenshot 2017-03-12 15.32.23

You Owe it to Your Audience Not to Be Nervous

The other event I attended this week was a TODN workshop delivered by Michael Bungay Stanier from Box of Crayons. Michael is a master coach, facilitator, and author who is focused on helping teams and organizations do more great work (he’s also presenting at the Actionable Consultant Partner Summit in June, which we are really excited about).

I’ve seen Michael present before, so I knew I was in for a valuable experience. What I didn’t expect was that he would start by giving us the option as participants to “choose our own workshop” from a list of 5 he put on a flip chart.

The group voted to hear about his significant accumulated knowledge and insights on how to design the best possible workshop…while he constructed that workshop, about workshops, on the fly… So meta. It was awesome.

I’m still processing the immense amount of valuable wisdom and experience that Michael shared with us, but one major a-ha moment I had was when he spoke about the importance of self-management as a facilitator. He offered the perspective that being nervous and unsure does not serve your audience.

“The group responds to the strongest signal in the room. If you’re in service to this group you don’t have the luxury of going a bit wobbly because it’s hard.”

And all this time I’ve always thought of being nervous (and needing not to be), in terms of avoiding my own discomfort, or influencing how credible others perceive me to be. Reframing it as a significant contributor to how you can best serve your audience makes it a lot less scary, actually.

Want to know more about the events I was at this week?

  • Next Generation Talent Acquisition is a community that meets-up every couple of months to network and learn. You can learn more or join here.
  • The Toronto Organization Development Network (TODN) is the most welcoming and knowledgeable professional community I’m part of. I learn a tremendous amount from the experienced OD practitioners and consultants in this close-knit network, and their monthly-ish events are some of the most in-depth and valuable I attend. Learn more here.

Do you love process? Have strategies for empowering and amplifying women’s voices at work? Have tips for not being nervous that don’t involve beta-blockers? Argue with me the comments!

Image credit: Sebastian Spindler via Unsplash

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