Cuba and Maslow

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Last week I wrote about some of my experiences on a recent HR study delegation to Cuba. My comments were pretty tough. With another week of reflection behind me, I want to write about the people of Havana, not the systems and political infrastructure of Cuba.

As we look forward to greater cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba in the future, we should be prepared to invest more than money in business opportunities. We should be prepared to invest time, training and social support to a struggling nation of people who want, as I said last week, “to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool.”

It seems to me that the Cuban population falls into two categories: those who are “believers” and those who are “non-believers.” Believers still feel the revolutionary zeal of Fidel, Che and Raul and they are mostly at the top of the food chain. They are the “They” to whom average Cubanos refer when talking about the 630 +/- government decisions makers – whether we talked to university professors, high ranking Ministry officials, grassroots CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) members, high ranking union leaders, grassroots community organizers, workers in state-owned restaurants or owners of paladares (privately owned/run restaurants) – each talked about “Them” as far removed and somewhat unknowable. Not so different from average citizens in our or any other country: disenfranchised, at the mercy of forces they don’t really understand (despite ongoing, artful propaganda), and yearning for a good life, for economic and social stability for themselves and their families and the ability to find meaning in their work and lives.

Think Maslow’s hierarchy:

Maslow 2

Cubanos hover between physiological and safety needs – the State tries to provide for social and esteem needs but that’s hard to accomplish when it is a nation whose people live with ration cards for the most basic food supplies, whose people live in homes that are barely standing – many with no windows or real protection from the elements, but whose leaders proclaim a 100% literacy rate, education and healthcare systems the envy of other third world nations, and an employment system where people aren’t fired, they just “become available.”

As many business leaders around the world are dealing with talent shortfalls and struggling with how to ensure their competitiveness in the global marketplace, Cuba’s government leaders are trying to feed, clothe and shelter their talent – whom they also employ. More than 95% of all workers in Cuba work for state-owned enterprises, educational or healthcare institutions, or the government itself. It’s hard for even the unions to be effective championing worker rights when the employer is the government.

Cuba isn’t the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It makes no effort to hide the reality of its challenges.

It’s pretty clear that Cuba needs significant policy changes at the top in order to bring a chance of prosperity to its citizen workers. If Cuba ever expects to play on the global stage, as an employer it needs to create a culture that moves up Maslow’s hierarchy. Subsistence living conditions do little to build loyalty, or motivate high levels of performance, innovation or learning. The U.S. doesn’t have to be the model. Use the Czech Republic, Hungary or Poland – all of whom have entered the global economy and are making economic and social progress benefiting all of their citizens.

Cuba Street

Cuba could be at a crossroads. Raul Castro has said he will not stand for re-election in 2016. It’s hard, however, for both the believers and non-believers to envision a more free society and economy. The future is looming large and unknowable. But we saw a glimmer of hope that perhaps incremental freedoms will soon come at a faster pace and allow for the advancement of a society, economy and people that are all past ready to bloom. This would be good for Cuba and its people – and good for the global economy.

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Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Data Point Tuesday, Human Resources, Human Resources in Cuba, Uncategorized

Cuba: Jerry-rigged To Fail

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Gerry Crispin and I led a delegation of 21 senior HR executives to Cuba last week. I’m still processing what we experienced and learned, but wanted to share some high level observations for you. First of all, read Laurie Ruettimann’s blog post from yesterday here. Her take is, as always, captivating and profound.

Second, let me set the stage for you. With recent developments in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S., it seems important to begin to understand how work happens in Cuba. It may not be long before U.S. employers can open up businesses or begin to invest in Cuba’s infrastructure. And understanding the history of work since the revolution would be a critical step. Additionally, understanding the social context of the revolution and the subsequent U.S. embargo and their impact on the people, careers and lives of Cubans would be another critical step. And finally, understanding how Cuba works (or in many cases, doesn’t work) would be the ultimate learning.

So, 21 hardy HR executives set out on the 14th of November to get those questions answered. Our delegation was made up of CHROs, heads of Talent Acquisition, consultants, bloggers, job board owners, academics and other senior HR types. Age-wise we ranged from early 30’s to early 70’s, so we were an amazingly diverse group from every angle.

Because this was an education-focused delegation we met with senior level government officials in the Ministry of Work and Social Security, the Foreign Ministry, the national workers union, the Ministry of Tourism, the national Jurists union, and several other senior government representatives who could interact with us about work and employment in Cuba. Additionally we met with members of a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a sort of “neighborhood watch” group that provides social activities as well as a way for the party to watch over citizens at the most grass roots level.

Our interactions were fascinating, challenging, and disturbing. I’ve been to developing nations and seen abject poverty in places like India, China, Jamaica, Uruguay and others. And in those places I’ve been aware that the governments were working hard to lift up their economies and their people. But not Cuba. And that is kind of insane. There’s an insistence that the Revolution is working and that the hardships their citizens have endured – particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union – are all for the good of the populace in service of their communist/socialist ideals. The insistence that unemployment is 2.7% when only 4 million of their more than 11 million citizens are working seems completely out of touch. The fact that the Cuban government just raised the salaries of doctors to 1,600 Cuban Pesos a month (about $60 U.S.) is noteworthy because it was used over and over again as an example of how the government is loosening its grip on worker compensation and embracing a more market-based approach to “business.” The anticipation/fear about what will happen in the next Presidential election as Raul Castro has declared he won’t stand for reelection is palpable. In short, the world of work in Cuba is tenuous at best. Everything in Cuba is tenuous at best.

Cuba 1

It seemed to me that the people we met with – officially and unofficially – fell into two camps: those who are true believers in the revolution and those who would like to leave Cuba this very minute and never return. Unfortunately, the true believers are all in official government positions with perks and influence, and the ones who would like to leave and never return are everyone else.

The infrastructure of Cuba is decrepit. It truly is as if time stopped in 1960. The classic cars from the 1950’s are something amazing to behold (and held together with duct tape, wire and glue), but they are the perfect example of life in Cuba: sometimes things work, but mostly they don’t. And when they do work, they don’t work like they’re supposed to and only do work because they were jerry-rigged.

Cuba 2

Despite all of this adversity the Cuban people are warm, lovely and eager to be hospitable – particularly to Americans. Most Cubans have family in the U.S. who fled during the revolution or who left in the subsequent mass migration. More than one Cuban joked with us that the “real” capital of Cuba is Miami. These people want to be productive, to live happy lives and provide for their families. In that way they are no different than we are and they are a potential gold mine in the challenging global talent pool. The Cuban government declares 100% literacy in their population and if that’s true, they could add significantly to the global economy. If they can get to it.

Gerry Crispin said something really profound early in the trip when I asked him how he was doing. He replied, “Wonderful. Because that’s the only option.” I think the same is true for Cubans. How is life in Cuba? It’s wonderful, because to admit it isn’t is to cast aspersions on the revolution, Fidel and Che – and most importantly, because it makes the future far more terrifying than it already is.

Our trip to Cuba was fascinating, interesting, challenging, more than a little heart-breaking, and disturbing. Whatever is next for its economy, social and political structure, and its people – they need help. Lots and lots of help.



Filed under China Gorman, Cuba, Gerry Crispin, Global HR, Global Human Capital, Uncategorized

Should You Care About Worker Happiness?

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Universum has just published another fascinating survey analysis that should be required reading for any leader wondering about the engagement of their employees, humanity in the workplace, or whether or not their workforce is happy. The summary is available here and it introduces the Universum Global Workforce Happiness Index™.

The survey covered 250,000+ professionals in 55 markets in order to set country- and industry-level benchmarks. The Universum Global Workforce Happiness Index is calculated based on:

  1. Employee satisfaction in their current job,

  2. Likelihood of recommending their current employer, and

  3. Their stated sense of job loyalty.

Starting off with a simple four-box model of work happiness, the four quadrants are simple to understand because of their common sense approach:

Universum Happiness 1STRANDED employees feel dissatisfied in their current jobs, but are unmotivated or unwilling to make a change. SEEKERS are dissatisfied at work and looking for a change. RESTLESS employees require immediate attention because even though they are satisfied and likely to recommend their employee, they are open to changing jobs. FULFILLED employees are satisfied, feel positive about their employer as a place to work and aren’t interested in changing jobs. This construct is simple and makes it easy to relate to these four types of workers.

If you are leading a global business, then the Global Workforce Happiness Index By Country chart will give you some interesting data to chew on:

Universum Happiness 2If you have global expansion plans should you prioritize those countries whose workers are Restless? Or countries whose workers are Seekers? Or do you go right for the Fulfilled worker countries? Maybe it isn’t enough to be looking at skills availability – maybe the availability of hearts and minds should also be a factor.

This report summary packs a great deal of insight into just 17 pages and I’ve just skimmed the surface for you. In the final section, every employer would do well to follow this recommendation: separate “attraction drivers” from “retention drivers.” Do the characteristics that attract high quality candidates to your organization retain them for the medium- or long-term? For organizations battling it out in the talent wars around the globe, this is the next tough question to answer.

The implications of workforce happiness around the world – especially with GenY and GenZ becoming the dominant generations at work – are beginning to change how every organization relates to its people. We’re re-thinking lots of fundamental people processes, policies and behaviors. Factoring the happiness of our people is just one of the ways things are changing.

This is a super report. It gives just enough analysis to be useful, while creating the case to get the full report. I liked it a lot.


Filed under Analytics, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Global Workforce Happiness Index, Happiness at Work, HR Data, Universum

Sometimes it IS about the methodology!

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There’s no denying that Linkedin is a 600 pound gorilla in the talent acquisition space. But as I write that, I wonder in what space exactly Linkedin is. Wikipedia says Linkedin is a business-oriented social networking service. Linkedin says it’s the world’s largest professional network with 380 milllion members. Is it the ultimate job board? Is it an employer branding consulting firm? Is it a talent research firm? Is it a recruiting company? Maybe it’s all those things. Maybe it’s none of those things and it’s something else altogether. But whatever it is, I think we’d all agree that it’s big, it seems to be influential, lots of companies in the talent space are afraid of it, and most professionals – all over the world – wouldn’t look for a job without it.

So I read with interest Linkedin’s new report, Global Recruiting Trends 2016. It’s a quick read with some interesting data. The report sections are:

  • Introduction

  • Key takeaways

  • Quality of hire: The magic metric

  • Employee referrals: On the rise

  • Employer brand: A cross-functional priority

  • Retention and internal mobility: Time to align

  • Parting thoughts

  • Methodology

I like simple and straight forward reports like this. They tell you what the headlines are, give you charts and graphs that are easily understood, and then they end with a summary and the description of their methodology.

So the highlights are these:

  • Quality of hire is most important to talent acquisition practitioners, but there isn’t a lot of agreement on how to measure it
  • The use of employee referral programs is continuing to increase
  • Other functions, most notably Marketing, are getting in on the Employer Branding act

That’s about it. Not really surprising. But here is the really interesting part to me: the methodology.

  1. It’s a global survey – 3,894 talent acquisition decision makers in corporate HR departments who have some stake in the recruitment budget took the survey.
  2. Those responders were Linkedin members.
  3. They were from all over the world (see below).

Linkedin 2016 survey footprint

Although the report doesn’t specify that the numbers shown by country represent the number of survey respondents by country, we must assume that is the case. And if it is, I find it fascinating that only 200 U.S. respondents were included. It’s true this is a global survey. And it’s also true that the world of talent does not revolve around the U.S. But when 400 U.K. responses, 300 Australia/New Zealand responses and 231 Brazil responses are included – and only 200 U.S. responses were included – I’m not sure whether this analysis is compelling. The U.S. has ~7 milllion organizations; the U.K. has ~ 4 million; Australia and New Zealad have ~ 2 million; Brazil has ~1 million.

I’m not arguing that there are too many respondents from countries other than the U.S. There are some incredible talent innovations emerging all over the world in countries like India, Brazil and China. I’m positioning, rather, that there are too few respondents utilized from the U.S. I’m pretty sure that if the survey had included 400, or even 500, talent leaders from the U.S. instead of 200, the results would have been different. It’s hard to say how different, but different nonetheless. Having a more representative national sample vis a vis other nations would make the conclusions more compelling.

With a hat tip to Laurie Ruettimann, this raises the issue that we have to be mindful of the results of vendor research analysis. When sample size is too small, or when questions are ambiguous, or when the answer selections are biased (which they almost always are in vendor sponsored research), we really do need to take the results and analysis with a grain of salt.

There are interesting analyses and conclusions here that are worthwhile. But I wouldn’t build my budget from this report if I were a talent leader in the U.S. I appreciate that Linkedin, the world’s largest professional network – or whatever it is, is asking its members questions related to the talent acquisition challenges with which every employer around the world is grappling. And it’s interesting to see the results country by country. I’m just not sure the U.S. data are solid enough on which to build action.

What do you think?


Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR Data, Laurie Ruettimann, Linkedin, Quality of Hire, Talent Acquisition

Annual HR Systems Survey Analysis Is Here!

data point tuesday_500One of the highlights of the HR Technology Conference each fall is the publication of the annual HR Systems Survey White Paper by Sierra-Cedar. With the retirement of long-time analyst Lexy Martin, Stacey Harris has stepped up magnificently and published a whopper of an analysis of all things HR tech, the 18th since 1997.

Sierra-Cedar encourages the dissemination of this white paper and I encourage you to download it here because it’s full of interesting survey data analysis. Here are a few high level nuggets from the executive summary:

  • This is the year of the Enterprise HR Systems Strategy: 43% of organizations are undertaking a major HR systems strategy initiative

  • HR organizations achieve higher levels of HR, Talent and Business outcomes by embracing their organization’s culture.

  • We’ve hit the tipping point: over 50% of purchased core HRMSs are SaaS solutions.

  • More than 50% of organizations are using new Talent Acquisition tools outside of their applicant tracking systems.

As organizations invest more time, attention and financial resources in HR management solutions, Sierra-Cedar sees three primary outcome models for these investments: Talent-Driven, Data-Driven and Top Performing. It’s good to see organization principles for how business spend their money and time. And these three buckets make good sense. We could probably all tick off well-known brands in each of those buckets. As a business leader, I find it interesting to see the comparison between talent-driven outcomes vs. data-driven outcomes.

Here’s one of many charts in the report that I found interesting:

Sierra Cedar 2015 2It is interesting to note here that the business outcome measures – especially market share and profitability – trend higher across the board. A great reminder that using data and business intelligence to be smart about talent makes the business more successful.

I love reading this report each year. It provides a frame of reference for what’s new, what’s old and what’s coming. If your organization is currently thinking through the effectiveness of any of your suite of HRMS solutions, this is a must read. If your organization is not currently thinking about the availability of HR related business intelligence, this is a must read. If your current HRMS solutions all live on premise, this is a must read. Come to think of it, if you’re in HR, this is a must read.

You can download it here. And then read it. Really. And then send Stacey Harris a thank you note.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR Data, HR Technology, Sierra-Cedar

Get To Know Me: Here Comes GenZ

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We haven’t quite got GenY figured out, and here comes GenZ! Universum, the global employer branding firm, has conducted a GenZ survey and found some interesting conclusions. In Generation Z Grows Up we’re given a bit of a peek into this new generation that will be 40% of all consumers by 2020 (less than 5 years from now!) and there is news:

  • GenZ is spooked by the college debt of the Millennials

  • GenZ doesn’t think universities are preparing students for workplace success

  • GenZ perceives current high levels of unemployment following university/college graduation

And it appears that Gen Z’s current orientation to post-secondary education isn’t what we might expect:

Universum Gen Z 1It would appear that 62% of Gen Z would consider joining the economy right after high school – particularly if employers will invest in their training. Of course, as with all things global, attitudes are different around the world. On average, though, if only 38% of high school students globally are committed to enrolling in a university degree program before joining the world of work, there are a great many young people considering forgoing the traditional post-secondary education route in favor of less debt, more employer-sponsored training, and more employment opportunities. Maybe.

Universum has been surveying college/university and graduate school students about to graduate for almost 30 years. It probably has the biggest and most robust data set of student expectations and employer preferences in the world. The 2015 Gen Z survey asked more than 50,000 recent high school graduates about their future careers, higher education plans, as well as their attitudes about work and life. A real window into the next generation of employees.

I know it seems like we haven’t figured out the Millennials yet. But time is marching on and it’s time to meet and greet a whole new generation of employees. Given the dramatic demographic shifts we’re experiencing, we can’t get to know these newcomers fast enough. The first truly digital natives are sure to provide employers opportunities as well as challenges.


Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Gen Y, GenZ, Universum

Lights Out Productivity

data point tuesday_500One of the benefits of writing a blog that is focused on bringing interesting research analysis to the HR community is that people (vendors, academics, researchers, associations…) send me all kinds of research reports. I receive cool data analyses every day. And I learn a lot reading through them. Here’s a funky little survey analysis that won’t surprise anyone. But it brings up a good point.

The research goal of Generational Trends in Employee Desktop Expectations and Behaviors sponsored by AppSense, was “to capture hard data on experiences and attitudes towards desktop experience among business users.” The methodology included a series of online surveys that were fielded to independent sources of business professionals, all of whom worked at companies with more than 500 employees (1,000 employees in the U.S.) and lived in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, The Netherlands or Australia. All in, a total of 258 full-time business professionals who use a desktop computer for than 10% of their work participated in the survey.

If we needed to see more data that would drive a wedge between the Millennials and the Boomers, this would qualify. Except that the data aren’t surprising. Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, pockets and backpacks. Boomers grew up with almost no technology and when it did appear it wasn’t personal, mobile or transportable.

Generational Trends 2 October 2015So, while we all get distracted when our desktops are slow to load, how we spend our time while waiting is different. Evidently Millennials only know how to be productive on a computer.

Generational Trends October 2015On the face of it, it looks like Boomers try to be more work-productive while waiting for their slow desktops to catch up with them, and Millennials tend to be more personal-productive. What we don’t know is how much time these activities take – seconds, minutes, or more.

As I said, this is a funky little survey analysis. You certainly wouldn’t create any policy changes based on these findings. But you might ask questions about how much time is actually spent waiting for slow computers at your organization. If it’s minutes a week versus hours a week, you’re probably fine. If the available time due to slow computers is hours a week, the investment in alleviating the down time might be well-spent.

But the more interesting question this brings up for me is whether or not our workforce, now dominated by digital natives, can be productive when the lights go out. Are we’re teaching them how to be productive off the digital reservation? For sure the Boomers can go Old School and use paper, spreadsheets, telephones and other relics of bygone business eras to get work done if the systems go down. Is it possible that our younger colleagues don’t know non-digital ways of being productive? Is this funky survey and analysis an inadvertent call to ensure that productivity isn’t bound by turning on a computer and being connected to the internet?

Can your workforce continue to serve your customers and be productive if the systems go down for an hour? For a day? For several days?

I’m just sayin’.


Filed under AppSense, Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Desktop Computers, Millennials, Time Management