T@W Weekly: (Un)Trustworthy Bosses

Blockchain ethics, AI lists, and work technology convergence

The Word: Blockchain Ethics

Blockchain is more than cryptocurrency and some of its ethical quandaries are coming to work.

Still, it’s hard to hear the words blockchain and HR in the same sentence and not have your eyes roll to the back of your head. To date, mostly softball stories about the nature of identity and security at work have largely gone unimplemented. It’s hard to find even an HR technology leader that has a firm grasp on the implication of blockchain at work.

That’s why it’s important to consider the ethics of blockchain today, Mike Orcutt writes for MIT Technology Review:

If blockchain technology can be reasonably expected to make a significant difference in society, then it deserves its own field of ethics, just like biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and nuclear technology, argues Rhys Lindmark, head of community and long-term societal impact at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative.

Lindmark spoke October 6 at the group’s Cryptoeconomic Systems Summit, a gathering of blockchain developers, economists, financial engineers, lawyers, and others whose academic disciplines are relevant to the technology. The summit was an attempt to lay the foundations for a new academic field focused on the many interdisciplinary aspects of blockchain development. Blockchain ethics might be considered a subfield of that. Lindmark described it as “a group of people focused on the question: How we can positively shape the development of this technology?”

Security is a real issue in the workplace that has yet to blow up like the Equifax security breach.

For example, outside of the U.S. government, the only organizations that have my daughter’s social security number are my wife and I’s employers. Across the different work systems I interact with are all kinds of sensitive information about my life that are replicated nearly nowhere else.

That means possible solutions like blockchain need to be vetted, both ethically and technologically.

In the meantime, we can also cross our fingers that our employers are taking care of our most sensitive data.

What the Click?

  • John Sumser has released his HRExaminer 2020 watchlist for intelligent tools and AI in HR. Sumser will continue to highlight in the coming weeks some of the most interesting AI tools in HR, most of which revolve around recruiting.

  • Another study, another set of questions about how much employees really buy in to the AI hype versus reality. Two in five employees age 18-34 believe their job will be taken over by AI. Maybe they are recruiters?

  • SAP runs back to the co-CEO model after an acquisition-filled run by Bill McDermott. There’s lots of rumbles about Elliott Management’s role in the shake up, which may be premature, but it seems like Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein are up for the challenge.

  • Kathryn Mayer covers new data in employee financial wellness. The number of companies offering financial wellness have doubled in the last four years and at a time when employees are more nervous about finances.

  • What role has emerging technologies played for different groups of people? Perhaps not a shock that low- and medium-skilled workers, along with younger workers and women got the short straw. Good news? The study showed that employees and robots can work together.

Happy (Untrustworthy) Boss’s Day

Did you miss National Boss’s Day in the U.S.? If so, you’re not alone in avoiding celebrating a holiday that only the biggest workplace brown-nosers feel comfortable with. Being a boss isn’t always easy, but are you kidding me with this not-even-a-Hallmark holiday?

Anyway, to celebrate the day, TLNT published an article describing the gulf in trust between managers and employees. While less than half of employees trusted their boss, about a third of bosses trusted their employees. It also featured this wonderful quote:

“Some of my employees are shifty. They will do exactly what is asked of them, and then behind your back complain about it and get pissed that they can’t sneak in extra breaks.” Female middle manager

That added emphasis is mine. So they are shifty because, let me check my notes again, they did their jobs and then complained about it.

There is nothing more American than complaining about a job. Especially a good one!

Trust your employees a little more, managers. Even if they do complain about doing exactly what you ask them to do.

T@W Podcast of the Week

Interested in dorking out on AI and its role in people analytics? How about what AI can tell us about human behavior? This episode from Don McPherson’s 12 Geniuses podcast interviews Ben Waber, president and co-founder of Humanyze, and covers a couple interesting topics along those lines. It’s worth 40 minutes of your commute or workout time.

And Finally… Convergence

This week, Workfront announced the acquisition of Atiim (said like A-Team). For those who don’t know, Workfront is a project management software and Atiim is a next-generation performance and OKR-driven goals solution. Their press release covered what they plan to do:

By adding the new goal management capabilities, Workfront will enable enterprises to manage organizational and individual goals, work, and key results on a single platform for the first time. The acquisition is complete, effective immediately.
Building on Atiim's leadership in strategic goals management, the company will release a new Workfront Goals product in early 2020.

"People do their best work when they know their role, have clear goals, and understand how the work they are doing supports company objectives," said Steven ZoBell, chief product and technology officer at Workfront. "With the addition of Workfront Goals, we are bringing a breakthrough in modern work management by providing the key capabilities that enterprises need to align people and their work to strategic goals and objectives, ultimately driving powerful business results."

It may seem like a weird match, but this convergence is part of what me and my colleagues covered in the Work Technology Brandscape. Embedding HR practices right into the software people use every day? It makes sense. Most companies are doing this embedding via API access or integration rather than acquisition. That could change.

This union is truly interesting to me because the company I work for is a paying customer of Workfront and I am curious to see how it’s rolled out and activated as a consumer of that technology.

That said, maybe Workfront could work on their mobile and web app a bit more in the coming months? Oh, who am I kidding! The weight of low expectations hangs on all of these companies until they can prove otherwise. Maybe, just maybe, Workfront proves to be the exception.

Cheers, Lance