T@W Weekly: #MeToo and Scaling

The real impact of data, superjobs, and why we can't have nice things

Meet Me at InfluenceHR in SF Next Week

Are you near the Bay Area or can you get there quickly? Are you free next Tuesday afternoon? Are you a HR/work technology leader? I’ll be speaking at InfluenceHR and I am happy to offer my newsletter subscribers a free set of tickets if you follow this link (normally: $200, still a deal!). See you there!

The Word: Slow Data Revolution

Note: You didn’t miss my newsletter last week. The upload got lost somewhere on a flight between Detroit and Portland. I’m sure the intelligence agent who intercepted it got an education on work trends, though.

Watching the World Series last night (plus the beginning of basketball season), I’m reminded that sports is a fun stand in for understanding work. Even if you’re not interested in the game aspects, there are some other things that keen observers of work can see. For one, the rise of sports analytics have called into question judgements like “an eye test” for certain positions. Hell, even just some good bets by teams desperate for talent can lead to better results.

Want an example? For many years, the prototypical quarterback in the NFL was usually over six feet with a certain physique. Yet, the NFL’s leader in passing yards is Drew Brees, a player who is listed at 6’0” but is certainly shorter than that.

I don’t bring this up to pepper you with rudimentary sportsball knowledge. In fact, I mainly want to point out that even with a raft of data at their fingertips, people who make personnel decisions for multimillion (or billion) dollar organizations don’t always have it all figured out.

In this newsletter, I harp on the role of AI and data in the work technology space. But let’s also not pretend data and analytics is going to solve all the issues in the workplace, especially in a short time horizon. Interpreting the meaning and impact of data is still a very human task, one that fails in many of the same ways we’ve been repeating for our relatively short existence.

What the Click?

  • Ridesharing service Lyft is offering free rides to people heading out to job interviews and free rides the first few weeks of the job until they get their first check. If you’re waiting for the bubble to pop on rideshare, you may be waiting awhile. (CNN)

  • Will AI give us the emergence of “superjobs”? What exactly is a “superjob”? Think of a warehouse manager that not only will have to manage the robots that work doing manual labor but also their specialized workforce that keep it running. Maybe I’ll get to manage writers and a little bot farm in the country for my superjob. (HRE)

  • Is blitzscaling over after the WeWork meltdown? Don’t bet on it, as some of this is as much of an ego play as anything else. Softbank can’t keep this up forever, but maybe they need to change their investment thesis a bit. (Wired)

  • Getting back in the job search game after a hiatus can be tough. I like the tips shared by Andrew Seaman but organizations also have to change their attitudes about actually hiring these people. From personal observation, we can do better. (LinkedIn)

  • Some new stats on the role of automation on human resources. According to The Hackett Group, HR can reduce costs and staff hours by 17% and 26% respectively, all while increasing outcomes. Sounds like a win, except for the staff. (HRE)

Startups and #MeToo Make a Bad Mix

What happens when sexual harassment happens and there’s no HR to report it to? Well, as it turns out, not a lot differently.

Just to set the scene: An employee experiences harassment pre-HR and keeps on working through it. Then, as the company scales, the situation continues to be a problem and, well...

The situation festered until this year, when she and a colleague filed formal complaints with the company against the same manager. Virta, which now has 165 employees and a three-person HR team, commissioned an investigation in March and found their claims of harassment to be credible, according to a copy of the report reviewed by Bloomberg. The initial determination was that Wali would keep reporting to her boss because there wasn’t another manager available. That sparked an uproar in the office, and she was eventually reassigned to a new boss. But by then, damage had been done, former employees said. Their faith in management had been shaken, and several people said they sought jobs elsewhere as a result.

My good friend Laurie Ruettimann, one of a few handful of people not related to me in my life who remember my birthday and sends me shit to get fat, always says that if you get harassed at work, you find a new job.

I don’t know if that is 100% always the right answer, but after a couple of years of being immersed in the brave, honest #MeToo stories from women around the world, I get it. The stigma you’ll carry in the organization as the MF’ing victim is heavy and unfair.

Put me in the “believe women” camp, because making it up is too painful and stigmatizing for all but the most deranged.

T@W Playlist of the Week

It dipped below freezing here, just in time for Halloween. But, from a lifelong Pacific NW resident, we’ll take it over rain. This playlist is getting me in the mood for the weather but I did have to skip over a Bieber song.

And Finally… Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Here’s the newest from the The New York Times, about how big tech companies like Facebook and Google are capturing the ad revenue that used to go to journalism:

Facebook just removed an “I Love America” page, run by Ukrainians, which pushed recycled pro-Trump imagery from the Internet Research Agency, the Russian group that tried to influence the 2016 election. As it turned out, “I Love America” wasn’t state sponsored — the Ukrainians were just running the page for the advertising money. A similar page with falsified content, “Police Lives Matter,” is now run out of Kosovo.

These two phony Facebook pages illustrate the crisis of the free press and democracy: Advertising revenue that used to go to quality journalism is now captured by big tech intermediaries, and some of that money now goes to dishonest, low-quality and fraudulent content.

But Facebook isn’t the only thing trying to destroy the things we all love. Our favorite private equity groups have to get into the fun, this time by running out the core of writers at Deadspin.

On Wednesday night, most of the staff of Deadspin announced their resignations, signaling the end of the popular blog as we know it.

The resignations come at the end of a contentious few months which saw new ownership come in and try to remake the site on the fly, a disastrous decision that has played out, well, horribly. Two editors, Megan Greenwell and Barry Petchesky, left the site. Greenwell resigned; Petchesky said on Tuesday that he had been fired for refusing to follow a managerial edict to "stick to sports."

We’re a year away from one of the most consequential elections of a lifetime and we need a free press more than anything. Seeing institutions I love and support getting sucked dry by vultures and tech companies that add no value is the worst. Can we make it stop?

Cheers, Lance