The Internet of Things and the Jobs Dilemma

Apr 18, 2014 Posted by

Take a deep breath. Just because a computer can win Jeopardy! or drive a car, doesn’t mean the rise of the robots is around the corner and everyone will be out of a job in 10 years.

Historically, this has happened before. Take a look at the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the steam engine basically flipped manufacturing on its head, and, while it may have removed certain jobs, the invention paved way for many new ones and introduced a factory culture to our society. Albeit a difficult time for some, the Industrial Revolution marked the first time in history where both population and per capita income increased simultaneously.

Because so many things will be connected in the not-so-distant future (by 2020, Cisco predicts 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet) these machines and sensors will need a human touch to help them work. From data scientists to new smart-home professionals (think a tech-savvy version of your neighborhood plumber, for example), the Internet of Things stands to employ an entirely new set of workers, while helping current employees across all sectors develop new skills that can be applied to a their jobs today.

“This is not a race against the machines,” author Kevin Kelly writes. “If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines.”

If the Industrial Revolution introduced the factory worker to the workforce, what kind of jobs are in store for the Internet of Things? Here are some existing jobs that are sure to see a hybrid twist as the Internet of Things becomes less of a buss phrase and more of a reality:

Hybrid Doctor

Wearables are here to stay. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t yet invested in one of those health-monitoring bracelets in the last year. And the trend is only growing. Juniper Research projects that the number of wearables shipped by 2018 will reach 130 million (the number was 13 million in 2013). Most of these devices, it’s fair to assume, will be health related.

The connected device of the future will alert primary care physicians of a patient’s high blood pressure and schedule an appointment on the go, for example. Doctors will need to work with these devices and patients to provide the most efficient healthcare possible. Troubleshooting will be something these doctors will come across, so harnessing how connected things will interact with the human body should be part of Medical School 101 in the coming years.

Hybrid City Planner

The public sector has taken an early and important interest in the way our devices connect to one another by utilizing new technologies such as smart metering, smart buildings, and smart transportation services in cities around the world. The UK has included “Smart Cities” as part of its Information Economy Strategy, for example.

“Smart cities will be a live application of the Internet of Things, where transport, energy, environmental and health care systems are much more interconnected – reducing costs, providing new services, and driving efficiencies, all for the benefit of the citizen,” says the strategy report.

City planners will be imperative to creating the cost-effective and energy efficient city of the future. Soon, smart streets will communicate with lights to save energy and potentially thwart crime. There are many benefits of a smart city from safety to efficiency and there must be a manager at the helm of its creation.

Hybrid Customer Service Professional

As we begin to rely more on connected devices, we’ll inevitably need people who can talk to us about them. When these technologies work, they’re great — mind-blowing, really — but what happens when the nodes stop connecting or a smart meter doesn’t report the proper numbers to the right place? The machine may be able to tell us something, but not enough to fix it.

“Machines do things well repeatedly, but they aren’t very good at problem solving,” says technology consultant Rob Reilly. “Artificial Intelligence and Network Intelligence are being developed around this, but they have a ways to go. Human interaction is key to customer happiness.”

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Why Companies Should Hire Slow and Fire Fast

Apr 17, 2014 Posted by

In most cases, we actually hire fast and fire slow — the opposite of what we should do.

Let me share a real example: a client’s business was expanding and they needed to fill a critical operations role. In their minds, they needed the role filled yesterday. Because they had built accurate performance qualification summaries (they had taken the time to define the behaviors, skills and experience needed to be successful in the role), they were able to place a job posting right away. This was well done.

In their “urgency” to fill the role, however, they ignored performance requirements and hired the third person they spoke with on the spot (they went on gut feel). They did not check references. They backed away from two critical behaviors they had required in their well-crafted performance qualification summary, and even reduced the required workplace experience.

In the first two weeks they became very aware that this employee was not a good fit for the job. The attributes they defined as required (and ignored to bring a candidate in quickly) were indeed required and not present in this employee. They cut the employee slack, reduced the expectations, and forgave him for critical things left undone. When the employee nearly caused a worker mutiny, almost stopping operations, they finally fired him — 6 weeks after they knew they had a problem. They hired fast. They fired slow.

Consider this approach instead.

Hire Slow

Take the time to develop a performance qualification profile. To do this, summarize the activities or tasks the job is required to perform. Review and define the behaviors (abilities), skills and experience that someone will need to successfully and consistently perform these activities and tasks. Add to it a description of the culture and any other component needed to create an accurate performance qualification profile for the role (do this for each role in the organization). Hire from this — don’t move from it. This is what you say you need in order for the role to be done well. This approach gives you the information you need to search more uniquely, build a clearer and more accurate performance posting and define the critical attributes to be assessed in the interview process.

This is how to hire slow: be methodical, logical and non-emotional. Know what you need, then ensure your hiring process assesses and evaluates whether what you need is present. Build and train an interviewing team — people who know how to ask powerful behavioral-based questions, and how to listen for and discern meaningful responses. Check references, past work histories and any other information on the candidates. Define, source, review, interview and hire what you need. You are investing in human capital. Do it well. Hire slow.

Fire Fast

When employees are well hired, the need to fire is already reduced. However, there are times when employees just don’t work out, achieve what is expected, or clash with values, culture or management. We know that the more disengaged an employee feels, the more his work, attitude and performance suffers. At the first sign of a negative change in performance, go right into performance coaching. Review required performance expectations and assess the reasons for performance misses. Assist in the creation of a performance improvement plan. Document all communication, plans, reviews and warnings in the employee’s personnel file. Hold the employee accountable for the performance improvements discussed and committed to. Give the employee a certain number of opportunities to perform — if the effort, interest or attitude about performance does not improve to the expected or defined level, cut the employee lose. The longer they stay around, the more damage they do to the business, customers, morale and performance. Fire fast.

By holding ourselves to a logical, clearly defined and well thought out hiring process, we don’t violate our own rules and risk bringing in candidates who don’t, can’t or won’t do what is required. This requires time, organization and patience. Hiring is an investment – and good investments take the right approach and time at acquisition. And when we see that someone is not working out, after proper coaching and support, we must move quickly to protect our teams, customers and organization.


How Being Busy Inhibits New Ideas

Apr 16, 2014 Posted by

Being busy is a good thing, much better than having nothing to do — but it turns out that being too busy can be bad for your brain. Resting isn’t part of most Americans’ vocabulary even though it’s one of the best things to do to allow us to perform better.

And it’s not just mom and dad, your spouse or your friends telling you to rest more and stop having the always-on, always-going mentality.

A recent Scientific American article backs up what your loved ones are saying: “Many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simple form stable memories in everyday life.”

In a quest to make every moment as productive and efficient as possible, Americans even see sleep as a productivity booster, according to a recent New York Times Magazine article.

The Untapped Ideas of Your Brain in Autopilot

As Jessica Stillman argues in a recent Inc. article, people continue to fight against busyness. Stillman is speaking to a point that Andrew Smart, author of Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, explores as he attempts to convince people to, in the words of the Eagles, “take it easy, don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.”

When your brain is in a state of conscious control, you can’t access wisdom that you inherently have. It’s only when you’re resting and aren’t trying that you can be in autopilot and relinquish new insights, argues Smart. “Just as pilots become dangerously fatigued while flying airplanes manually, all of us need to take a break and let our autopilots fly our planes more of the time,” he adds.

Letting yourself venture into autopilot is daunting for many because truth and honesty come out, which isn’t pleasant all of the time. Yet, these thoughts need to be brought to the forefront to face what you’re truly thinking, writes Smart.

So next time you find yourself not having anything planned for a meeting or weekend afternoon, embrace the lack of busyness and let your brain go into autopilot.

h/t: Inc

Image via Can Stock Photo

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The Key to Success: Emotional Intelligence

Apr 14, 2014 Posted by

Identifying job candidates and employees with the traits for success is invaluable for HR folks. To find such nuggets of intel, many look to personality tests, IQs and past experience — but the real gold lies in emotional intelligence, writes Charles Coy on Cornerstone OnDemand. “An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or […]

The Real Cost of Pulling the Plug on HR

Apr 11, 2014 Posted by

It’s a good thing HR folks have thick skin, because the stream of news articles about how to do away with us is pretty constant. A recent Wall Street Journal article is the latest example, describing three organizations that have deliberately foregone an HR department, and one organization that brought HR back. According to the […]