Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Six Reason You May Want to Consider “Coworking”

“Working Alone Sucks.”  (Sign outside NextSpace office in San Jose, California.)

In a recent Fast Company article entitled, Working Beyond the Cube they talk about a growing trend for companies to locate their employees in “coworking” environments. Essentially this means you have employees from several different companies all working together in the same place. Traditionally these were havens for freelancers and the unemployed. But the model has matured and is now actively considered as part of the office space strategy for more and more companies.

Apparently there are around 90,000 people who work in coworking spaces today.

So why might you or your company consider coworking in the future? Here are six reasons to consider:
  1. Collaboration: studies find (and coworker experience supports) that people who work together from varying different companies, backgrounds and cultures can be more productive and more innovative.
  2. Remote Worker Accommodation: do you struggle with remote workers being disengaged, out of the loop, feeling less motivated? Stick them in a coworking facility.
  3. Space Flexibility: Need to staff up for a project, have to grow fast (or shrink fast)? Coworking is the answer. Use these facilities as “flex space.”
  4. Renew and re-energize: People who are exposed to new people, new ideas, new surroundings are often re-energized. Coworking facilities mix and mingle all sorts of people.
  5. Project Orientation: when you have new projects you can move people in and out of these coworking facilities.
  6. Cost: And of course, lastly, there is the question of cost. Compared to building and maintaining your own space, these facilities can be much less expensive.

One telling quote from the Fast Company article says that “Chris Mach, a global workplace strategist from AT&T …is placing dozens of researchers, product developers, and technologists in coworking hubs across the country and has invited startups and partners to work alongside them. The goal: spot talent, inspire creativity, and get products to market faster.”

In my own home town, Fort Collins, Colorado, we have a local business incubator called the Rocky Mountain Innosphere. They built a building with this very concept in mind. Create a space were multiple innovative companies can be collocated to foster the innovation dialog. It’s working.

I am thinking I might be in need of setting myself up in a coworking location because; while I am getting a lot of value working at home with my dog, I think we've played out the advantages I can get from chasing a stuffed squirrel around the house. (Although she always thinks all my ideas are brilliant!) 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

State of the Union, Twitter and Social Workplace Innovation

“…what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one” was one of the most Tweeted about statements in the recent Presidential State of the Union Address. That probably does not surprise you. But how did viewers respond to the rest of the message? Climate control got a lot of tweets, so did helping to fight poverty, but surprisingly, the very emotional appeal around gun control did not get much twitter reaction.

This information comes from The Social Reaction Group which monitored the volume of twitter traffic for every line the President spoke and created an Infographic to display the results. If people tweeted about something just a little bit, the words were small in print, if they tweeted a lot about it the words were much bigger. If the tweets were by a man they were in blue, if they were by a woman they were in pink. (cute). Check out the link – the data is fascinating and the graphics are fun: Social Reaction State Of The Union.

Tracking ideas, trends, concepts, proposals, new products, you name it, is something that is getting more and more sophisticated. This is big data in action. It is not really very useful to know what one person might say about a topic, but it is extremely valuable when you can track how millions of people respond to an idea. That is what Social Reaction Group and InferLink are all about.

The founder of InferLink and a member of the Social Reaction Group is Dr Steven Minton. He’s also my partner. Dr Minton and I are exploring the use of advanced AI (artificial intelligence) search techniques to find data relevant to HR professionals. We believe this kind of data can help with recruiting, employment screening, on-boarding, employee development and even more.

People put a lot of effort into their social and professional networks and helping them harvest that effort to improve their work-life is what we believe in.

We haven’t had time to name our company yet, but stay tuned; there will be interesting new products to come.

In the meantime – keep tweeting away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Stock Market of Labor Resources

The way labor moves about from one job to the next and the way companies find, recruit and hire labor is the technological equivalent of buying pork bellies in the slaughter yards 100 years ago.

Wingham Rowan, the founder of a British company called Slivers-of-Time recently spoke of A New Kind of Job Market at TED in London. In this talk he asked what would happen if stocks and bonds were traded by a person who got up each morning, outlined the key requirements she needed, posted it on several websites, then waited patiently for someone to respond (with over half the responses not even fitting the basic requirements).

In Mr Rowan’s line of thinking: Labor Markets could be as efficient as Stock Markets and the only thing holding us back is the lack of a national (and international) infrastructure to support the environment. He goes on to use the example of how quickly in both the US and Great Britain, national Lotteries were built in less than a year. This was done because people were motivated by the economic advantage. He suggests governments create a privately funded initiative that would grant exclusive rights to the builders but would be required to grant open access to everyone who wants to use it. (sounds a bit like the phone company of old). 

He thinks that would be incentive enough for big players like IBM, Google, Microsoft and others to want to create and host these labor exchange markets.

Interesting idea.

Just think about it, you could speculate on Java Developer Futures (sounds so much nicer than pork bellies). 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lines Between Work and Social (Media) Are Blurred

There are several dimensions to the question of privacy and how it plays into trends in human resources, but the one I want to talk about here is what I call the “always there” trend. The trend itself is not all that new. Since the invention of email and laptops employees and managers have felt an increasing obligation to always be available for work: Nothing new there. The new part comes when you start to look at the opposite side of the equation:

How much does our “social life” blur with our work life?

The huge rise in social media has lead to the situation where an increasing number of us are “always there” for our friends and family who want to Tweet Us, Friend Us, Tube Us, Plus Us or whatever else may be the latest social media trend. We are connected to social media the entire waking day (and some don’t seem to sleep much either). . While a lot has been written about how the lines have blurred between work and home, very little has been said about the fact that the reverse is now truer than ever: The lines between home (our social media connections) and work have blurred. Keeping track of the kids, catching up with old school mates, seeing what past colleagues are doing – it’s all in a day’s work.

With this blurring of lines – where lies the distinction between what employers should know about your “social media life” and what belongs only to you? Do companies have a right to assess some aspects of an employee’s social network “footprint” when they are conducting a pre employment screening for instance? Can employees make the case that they should be allowed to have access to Facebook, Linked In, YouTube etc. but companies don’t have the right to know what they are doing on these sites?

Let me be clear. I am a strong believer that companies don’t need to meddle in the personal life of their employees. They should focus on things like performance, productivity, and effectiveness, and leave the personal stuff alone.  But I also believe that what we do in this new world enabled by social media has a great deal of relevance to who we are as employees.

The digital “footprint” we leave says a lot about who we are.

If you believe a person’s previous employment, hobbies, outside activities, volunteerism are all areas that impact how well a person will fit into your organization, then why not also assess what they do on social media? I, for one, hope companies do look at my social media profile. I think it only helps define who I am.

I am no longer defined by my job – I am defined by my Linked In profile – so get on board and tweet me!