Judging You (on your own recognizance)

As an HR professional, my legal bona fides derive from attendance at numerous employment law seminars coupled with dedicated (some may some obsessive) viewing of Law & Order over the years. And when I say Law & Order I mean the big three of the franchise: the original (Jack McCoy baby!), SVU, and Criminal Intent. I never had much use for “Trial by Jury,” “LA,” or “True Crime.”  (you had to go look those up didn’t you?) 

I can argue with you all day on the merits of the various and assorted ADAs who have strolled down the hallways of the courthouse. I can also dazzle you with my prowess at using legal and legally adjacent terminology like “trial judge,” “motion to suppress,” and “the Tombs.”  Naturally, when referencing “the Tombs,” I do so with a troubled countenance.

One of my favorite (often nail-biting) moments during the “order” part of any L & O episode is when this exchange goes down in the courtroom:

Defense Attorney “We request R.O.R. your honor.”

ADA: “Objection you honor. The defendant brutally committed heinous crime X. They have no ties to the community, possess a personal fortune of a bajillion dollars and will flee the country with nary a look back at the ghastly aftermath of their crimes!” 

Defense Attorney: “The defendant is committed to clearing their name of these false and utterly baseless allegations and is also the primary caregiver for 3 cats and an elderly aunt.”

The Judge: “The defendant is ordered to surrender their passport. Next.”

*****

R.O.R., as you may know, means “released on one’s own recognizance” and recognizance is defined as “an obligation to do something.”  In the courtroom this generally means the defendant signs a written promise to show up at scheduled court appearances, is able to receive bail without paying a bond, and may have to refrain from certain activities or meet with a probation officer while awaiting trial. 

The judge has complete discretion in this matter and their determination is based on factors such as prior criminal history, the severity of the charges, record of good behavior in the community and ties to the area such as a job or family. Interestingly enough the use of bail algorithms (a statistical tool called “risk assessments”) are increasingly being used across the country to aid judges in their decision-making. This is not without controversy however there is a fairly common concern that racial biases are embedded in the calculation (in turn feeding the machine learning going on behind the scenes) and merely serve to exacerbate existing racial disparities within the criminal justice system. Advocates for the use of these risk assessment tools believe that these tools eliminate human bias; Chris Griffin, visiting professor and research scholar at University of Arizona’s law school, has said “Instead of relying on an “amorphous” impression of a defendant, a judge can look at a defendant’s “demonstrated, empirical, objective risk.”

There are, of course, numerous jokes to be made about how one’s job can be like a prison sentence. (In prison you spend the majority of your time in an 8×10 cell; at work you spend the majority of your time in a 6×8 cubicle). 

Yet I also see similarities to the courtroom wherein we (HR professionals and organizational leaders) are in the role of the judge as we:

  • Hire on recognizance (HOR)
  • Recognize and reward on recognizance (RROR)
  • Investigate and impose discipline on recognizance (IIDOR)
  • Promote on recognizance (POR)
  • Terminate on recognizance (when one fails at their ‘obligation to do something’) (TOR)

And, thanks to all the fancy HR tech out there, we’re using algorithms to make our decisions and removing, bit by bit, the human discretion and decision making on which we used to rely. 

What would Jack McCoy do? 

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A Changing Workplace: Exploring the Intersection of AI and HR

(this post originally ran at the Oracle HCM blog)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a workplace mainstay. A growing number of organizations are embracing these new technologies and it is predicted that one in five workers will have AI as an integrated assistant at work by 2022. One aspect of this is the implementation of AI-based tools to reshape the way companies worldwide manage the hiring process and monitor employee well-being.

This shift presents new opportunities, along with new challenges, for HR professionals looking to orchestrate an optimal balance between technology and the workforce. To make the most of this intersection, it’s essential to carefully consider the impact AI can have on HR processes. Allaying concerns that frequently accompany the introduction of advanced technology and understanding how AI actually helps humanize the employee experience will make it more manageable to map out smart strategies for the evolving workplace.

The Potential to Increase Efficiency  

Numerous HR functions can be improved with technology, especially tasks related to recruitment and talent acquisition. For example, organizations might opt to use AI for top-of-funnel vetting processes, such as screening candidates. A digital assistant can gather information and ask potential employees a series of questions related to the job requirements. If the candidate’s responses fit the position, a digital assistant can extend an invitation to apply for the job. This screening process frees up time for HR professionals by automatically handling information and volume in a safe and secure environment.

If the company wants to pursue a candidate, using technology to schedule interviews is not only more efficient, but also provides a simple and satisfying experience for the candidate—much easier and more streamlined than sending 15 emails back and forth with a recruiter.

New hires can also benefit from AI tools that provide information about the company’s history, operations, and culture. Technology can also help new-hires socialize by lining up a lunch meeting or coffee chat with coworkers.

The Need for Ongoing Vigilance   

Over time, HR systems collect a large quantity of personal information about employees, creating risks and concerns around the disclosure and/or improper use of private information.

Several types of tech-related tools may cause particular concern among the workforce:

  • Tracking devices that are worn and constantly monitor an employee’s movement
  • Technology that gathers and analyzes data to identify employees who may be considering leaving the organization
  • Machine-learning technology with biases that build over time, such as a selection tool that aims to replicate successful hires by using data points but may eventually constrict the selecting criteria to a specific, narrow demographic

When implementing new technology, HR professionals can address potential fears by being upfront and attentive. A strategy that includes vigilance, protective measures, algorithms designed to be unbiased, secure cloud-based solutions, and ongoing evaluation may help alleviate concerns and ensure safety at all levels. 

A Chance to Make Work Human

More than one-third of consumers who use social media to voice an opinion about a brand expect a response in fewer than 30 minutes. Employees today tend to seek a similar consumer-driven atmosphere within the workplace. Making use of the available technology for HR functions can enhance and personalize their experience.

For instance, a digital assistant with natural language processing (NLP) could be used to answer common employee questions. Workers could turn to it to answer questions around holiday time-off or to discover specific benefits.  

By automating processes, AI can free HR professionals to focus on higher-level activities. With more accurate data and information available, it may become easier to spot opportunities for improvement, growth, and employee well-being. By applying capabilities, such as looking at how employees spend time on a company website, insights could be gathered related to how workers want to be treated or potential issues that can be addressed early on.

AI has the potential to bring more individuals into the workplace: It’s estimated that machines will create 58 million net new jobs by 2022. While this may ease fears of staff reduction, it may also create a shift in the working environment, with some workers needing to be reskilled or repositioned in a company.

HR professionals that embrace technology and acknowledge the benefits it brings can more fully become, as Kurt Vonnegut stated, “a human being, not a human doing.” 

…… click HERE to read more at the Oracle HCM blog……

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Dispatches from Oz – #HRTechFest

Today (I think….I’ve totally lost track of the days and time zones), I’m heading back to the states after 5 stupendous days in Sydney, Australia. I made the trip (my first time down under) in order to attend the HR Innovation and Tech Fest where I spoke at two sessions (including one with my friend Amy Cropper from Amazon), did a podcast with the folks from Future Knowledge, provided a bit of assistance to the event organizers as a Chairperson, and just generally got to talk about HR and HR Tech for 2 1/2 days. I also got to spend some quality time with my friends at HROnboard; I serve on their Advisory Board and it was great to hang out in person.

Although I didn’t take the time to write any blog posts as the conference was occurring, I did jot down some random thoughts on my iPhone as events unfolded:

  • The weather is glorious; I think around 80 degrees Farenheit but I’m not quite sure because everything is quoted in Celsius and, of course, we never learned that system in school
  • Australia has really cool currency/bills. With women on the bills too; and not just the Queen which, of course, they sort of have too.  There’s a lesson or something in here for the US….#HarrietTubman
  • These Aussies love their coffee. This java is so damn good I haven’t even missed Community Coffee (with chicory) like I usually do when I take a trip away from home
  • In Australia and New Zealand, HR professionals have responsibility for payroll. They call it “Remuneration” which makes it sound simultaneously a hell of a lot sexier and much less painful
  • The liberal use of curse words and profanity by speakers seems to not only be OK but somewhat expected. (HR folks in the US would be clutching their pearls and writing scathing comments on the session review feedback sheets…)
  • Numerous partner/vendor booths Expo Hall served coffee with a private barista on hand to whip up one’s favorite. My request for a plain black coffee (“Americano”) was met with much skepticism
  • Each concurrent session rooms not only has water (with proper glasses) but also giant bowls with gummi candies/lollies
  • Had a conversation on Day 1 with a young HR professional who recently started with his organization. His office mates are middle-aged complacent HR ladies who (a) tell him he’s working too hard (b) dissuade him from proposing new ideas because “that just won’t work.”  He loves human resources but is, already, feeling beaten down by the naysayers….in his own office/profession! (Hmmmmm…I had this precise conversation with a young HR pro in New Orleans not that long ago too….)
  • Taxi Cabs in Sydney have a sign prominently displayed that states “You WILL be photographed; conversations may be recorded.”
  • This is a very sensibly run conference; Day 2 sessions start at the civilized hour of 8:45 AM (with ‘Arrival Tea and Coffee’ at 8 AM); none of this 7 AM ‘sunrise session’ crap like so many HR events in the US
  • Had a conversation on Day 2 with an HR leader about their continuing evolution of user adoption; they implemented a new HCM solution a few years ago and are still struggling with (1) ensuring employees access self-service (instead of walking into HR and expecting to drop off paper forms or asking to get a print out of their pay stub (sounds familiar; am I right?!?), and (2) finding ways to keep their managers involved and completing workflow tasks.  We had a good chat about finding ways to promote what I like to call “forced adoption.”
  • Break time refreshments mean tea, coffee (yes!!) and bite-sized yummy things; today we had custard tarts with currants (heavenly). Conference break-time refreshments in the US, on the other hand, means Cokes, giant chocolate chip cookies, and ginormous pretzels with mustard and cheez sauce
  • Interesting to see familiar vendors with different signage and options; I also love seeing vendors with offerings totally unique to this market
  • Mid-way through day two and I finally figured out how to make my own flat white at one of the espresso/coffee machine stations in the Expo Hall!! Excited!
  • The delegates at this conference are incredibly focused, eager to learn, and incredibly ready to move HR forward. Such incredible passion for moving past the status quo and embracing the ‘way we work’ today.
  • Yes; I did dance in the Expo Hall while some guy who was on “The Voice” played a Rolling Stones tune. I just hope there was no camera footage

Fin.

********

Well…not really The End.  More like The Beginning.

There was talk about innovation in practices; finding new ways to work and optimizing our work. And yes, while there was lots of chatter about AI and robots (and a few jokes about HR + blockchain), for the most part the focus rested upon the use of automation to increase efficiency and ….. here’s the key part ….. keeping humanity in HR.

I find it interesting, over these last 12-18 months, how many more conversations we’re having about re-engineering (reverse engineering?) our processes, workflows and interactions with candidates, applicants and employees to bring back the human touch. This conference? We talked about it a lot. 

And a few final thoughts:

  • There is a lack of A/C in Sydney. Oh sure, the ocean breeze feels wonderful and everything but some of these shops could use a bit of cooling air
  • Food, in general, is less sweetened than the garbage we eat in the US. I especially noticed this in breakfast jam, sour cream, muffins and bread
  • I tried vegemite for breakfast one day and it was loathsome
  • Brothels are legal in NSW. I discovered this when I was perusing a newspaper and read the job adverts
  • I had to search quite a bit to find a carbonated beverage a.k.a. Diet Coke
  • My day trip to Manly Beach with my pals Amy Cropper and David D’Souza was amazing! We took the ferry, ate prawns for lunch, climbed up a cliff to look out over the ocean, and got up close and personal with water dragons and an Echidna
  • I managed, quite successfully, to sample as many wines from Australia and New Zealand as I could manage. There are many more to go however … so I guess I’ll have to come back to wrap things up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 1987 Personnel Technology Conference #HRTechConf

Imagine, if you will, that the HR Tech Conference had not held its inaugural event 20 years ago but had, instead, started up thirty years ago in 1987. 

I don’t know about y’all but I was working in an office in 1987; a recruitment agency to be exact. Our fanciest “technology” consisted of the ability to transfer our phones from our suburban branch office to the downtown Milwaukee HQ office when we were going to have a meeting or whatever. This was, to our minds, the most magical thing ever!  And, somehow, we always needed to transfer the phones every Friday about 3pm. Coincidental that this was also when we locked the doors and mixed cocktails like the gang at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce? Maybe. 

Oh we had some other technology at our disposal; a green screen DOS database that served as our system of record for client information; candidate information was saved via paper resumes and note cards with cryptic codes and abbreviations. We had a very expensive and newfangled fax machine that churned out an endless cascade of shiny paper and necessitated a scissors be nearby to cut the pages apart.  Job orders were handwritten (triplicate; carbon paper) and stored in a filing cabinet once a candidate was placed. Invoicing after that placement was done via mail…US mail. With stamps and everything.  

So what would the Personnel Technology Conference have been like in 1987? What would the vendors have been selling? Floppy disks? Bigger and better fax machines? Mechanical pencils? 

Some of the slogans and marketing messages we hear today could just have easily been uttered to an HR Gal/Guy in 1987:

  • “this will solve all your problems”
  • “we’re changing the way you work”
  • “transformation”

Oh…and by the way? It may be incredibly unhip and tragically uncool to admit it but MY Human Resources team still sends and receives faxes every day; doctor’s offices, benefits providers, government agencies and financial institutions and lenders.  Every day.  #Flashback 1987 

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Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf #nextchat

Today is the start of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas; it’s the 20th annual event and we’re kicking off with the 2nd Annual Women in HR Tech pre-conference event today. Sessions include:

and many more.

The blended topics at the intersection of gender, technology and workplace inclusion make regular headlines and they’re important conversations. Yet, for many HR practitioners who either don’t work in tech or live here with me in “flyover country” the discussions are seen as much ado about nothing. Admittedly, I’m not basing that opinion on anything other than my own anecdotal experiences. To wit: within the last few months I spoke to two separate HR audiences, a thousand miles apart, and when I asked these several hundred HR practitioners/leaders who had heard of James Damore’s “google manifesto” the vast majority were unfamiliar. Which made me sad. This is important for human resources leaders to discuss and it’s not just about “women in tech;” there are bigger issues surrounding gender inclusion and ongoing stereotypes in any workplace/industry.

So yeah…I’m quite thrilled that for the second year the team the #HRTechConf is providing an opportunity for us to have these conversations.

In addition, SHRM will be running this week’s #nextchat live from the conference; join Conference presenter Cecile Alper-Leroux @cecilehcm; and members of the HR Tech Insiders Blogger Team: Dawn Burke @DawnHBurke, Heather Bussing @HeatherBussing, Heather Kinzie @HeatherKinzie, Jennifer Payne @JennyJensHR, (and me!) as we discuss “Women in HR Tech” live on the twitterz at 3 PM/ET on Wednesday (tomorrow).

p.s. check out this great post “Women and Tech – The Pace of Change” from Heather Bussing.

******

image: Wikipedia: About 8,000 women worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Women constituted roughly 75% of the workforce there

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