T@W Weekly: Are You Experienced?

Sharing feelings at work, AI-generated people, and a $70M payroll fraud case

The Word: Unreal

Look at the picture above. It looks like a normal montage of people. Except, none of these people are actually, well, people.

They are AI-generated people and they may be out to kill stock photo models. It takes the uncanny valley to a whole other level. As Fast Company writes:

Generated Photos is a collection of 100,000 human faces, all free to download and use for any purpose. These people are beautiful, diverse, and ready to show up in your next ad campaign. Oh, and none of them are real. They’ve been generated by artificial intelligence. Most look indistinguishable from real human beings, but they are all just very cleverly arranged pixels, sorted by a machine.

If you look closely, some of the models are a little suspect. The most obvious tell are the eyes. Some look very strange. But in a montage, like the above? It’s a lot harder to tell.

What does this mean for work? Shouldn’t we know that the people we are looking at are actual people? If you use an AI-generated person in advertising an open job or your HR technology, shouldn’t you disclose that the images generated are not real? What if AI generates a face that looks like you?

AI can push the limits of identity and that certainly has a work context.

What the Click?

  • Rani Molla writes a great story about Slack on Recode. Funded startups love it. Bigger companies? They are using Microsoft Teams (bundled with Office 365), not seeing the value of paying for two similar applications. The power of bundled apps, even if they are arguably inferior.

  • The CEO of MyPayrollHR has been arrested on $70M in fraud charges. Earlier this month, the company closed its doors and pulled money from client and employee, leaving thousands of small businesses and their employees scrambling. Let’s hope justice is truly served here.

  • Is employee scheduling strategic? Yes it is, argues Bret Starr. I don’t share stuff from work very often but this is a point I really care about. Many of the most important issues at work have nothing to do with white collar workers and tech bros in the coastal hubs of America. Let’s fix them.

  • Under pressure from investors, WeWork CEO Adam Neumann has stepped down. The point and laugh here is too easy and unnecessary. Whoever has to pick up the pieces has their work cut out for them but they could take a page from Zenefits recovery after a similar rise and fall.

  • Stacia Garr of RedThread Research covers the fight over employee experience. As is typical, Garr brings in a larger perspective on her coverage of SAP’s SuccessConnect event held earlier this month.

Tech’s Role in Employee Experience

Can technology play a role in the employee experience? Is it helping or hurting the cause? Human Resource Executive covers the trend in a recent article:

“Despite the promises of prognosticators, technology and the future of work are not alleviating the heightened state of anxiety for most of today’s workers,” [Mark] Stelzner [of IA HR] says, explaining that the constant need to re-skill as work evolves—combined with overscheduled, underproductive days—means workers and companies alike are searching for any solution that offers relief. As a result, the concept of “employee experience” was born.

But how is that any different from all the other magic bullets promised by technology and process improvement over the years?

“Long story short, it isn’t—at least, how most organizations currently apply the concept,” he says.

Bow shot.

Friends of Tech@Work Mark Stelzner and Mary Faulkner will presenting on this topic next week but this preview is helpful.

Organizations aren’t there, yet. And if you’re looking for a magic bullet here, you are SOL.

At some point, organizations are going to have to buckle down and actually be thoughtful about all elements of the employee experience. Not just at work. Not just in a way that benefits the organization. It’s not just about delivering a laptop on the first day or helping during benefits enrollment. It’s every element — from the commute, to the temperature at work, to the way meetings are booked, to shift scheduling, and more.

There will be some people that scream “not my job!” Yes it is. And if it isn’t, leaders will have to figure out whose job it is.

T@W Podcast of the Week

This week’s podcast features HR Happy Hour which covers the state of AI in the workplace with Jeanne Meister of Future Workplace. I thought this was a great convo to help make sense of the market claims we might see at and coming out of HR Tech.

And Finally… Share Your Feelings

Alison Green from Ask A Manager writes a column for Slate that covers an emerging, horrible trend:

I’ve written a workplace advice column for 12 years, but it’s only in the past two that a new theme has emerged in my inbox: employers who mandate that employees talk about their feelings—publicly and often.

No doubt this stems from an increased awareness of mental health issues, which is a good thing. Reducing the stigma around these struggles makes it more likely people will seek help and less likely they’ll encounter discrimination when they do. But the implementation of these efforts in some offices can be intrusive and even counter to employees’ mental health needs.

Oh no. Oh. No.

Please don’t do this to your employees. More importantly, please don’t do this to me. There are ways to take the stigma out of mental health issues without making everyone do this mandated exchange. People will share their feelings, when it’s safe and when they can trust others inside the organization.

See you next week if you’ll be at HR Tech!

Cheers, Lance