Tag Archives: Human Resource Management

If UPS’ Accountants Can Deliver Holiday Packages, Human Capital May Be More Flexible Than We Expected

Now that the dust is clearing on the blow-out holiday sales season that retailers enjoyed last month, tales are emerging about the extraordinary steps that their supply chain managers took to meet customer demand.

What tales? Consider, for instance, the global delivery firm UPS. It received so many packages in the days leading up to Christmas that it was forced to ask hundreds of its accountants, marketers, and other office workers to join their colleagues in sorting and delivering packages.

Some were actually met at the doors of their office buildings and told to go home, change clothes, and report to operations facilities. Others were instructed to deliver packages with their own automobiles.

Pretty unusual, huh? Even more noteworthy is that the office workers completed these tasks responsibly. Apparently, their lack of training and personal unfamiliarity with delivery tasks failed to impede their performance.

That raises a few interesting questions. If accountants and marketers were able to succeed at these operating tasks, is human capital more flexible than we expected? If so, is the principle of work specialization overblown? And if true, are we spending too much time, effort, and resources on specialty training, and not enough on cross-training?

After all, cross-training was the fundamental Human Resource Management philosophy for centuries before Henry Ford and others developed modern Operations Management theory during the early 1900s. Business managers previously believed that it made more sense for craftsmen to learn all of the functions of producing a product or service, instead of specializing in a single function or two.

We now live in an era when many long-accepted assumptions about workers are falling by the wayside. For instance, riders now trust part-time Uber drivers as much as they ever trusted part-time taxi drivers. And travelers now trust part-time Airbnb hosts as much as full-time hoteliers.

Indeed, the UPS experience may simply represent another case of Human Capital being more flexible than we ever expected. And that very flexibility may be the harbinger of a human labor revolution.

The Ethics Of Data Scraping

What is your position on the ethics of data scraping? Is it right, or is it wrong?

Huh? You’ve never even heard of data scraping? That’s not unusual; most people probably haven’t heard of it either.

But if you utilize a professional networking web site like LinkedIn, you place yourself at considerable risk if you fail to consider the presence of data scrapers.

Why? Because these firms “scrape” information off publicly available web sites and then use the data to produce products and services. One such firm, a small organization named hiQ, culls information from LinkedIn’s public profiles. Then it relies on that data to identify employees who may be seeking jobs elsewhere, and it reports those employees to their current employers.

How can hiQ possibly know if a LinkedIn user is looking for another job? It might assume, for instance, that an individual who suddenly updates his LinkedIn job profile might be tidying up his resume for a career search.

It certainly isn’t a foolproof method, but data scrapers don’t guarantee the predictive accuracy of their information. That’s why hiQ’s web site promises employers that it will simply “provide a crystal ball that helps you determine …turnover risks months ahead of time.

LinkedIn, needless to say, is displeased with hiQ’s use of its data. It is now engaged in a legal action to compel hiQ to cease these activities.

So what do you think? Is hiQ acting in an ethical manner? Is it right to make a profit by using a person’s data, without notifying him, to inform his employer that he might be looking for employment elsewhere?

To be sure, reasonable minds may differ about whether data scraping is an ethical business activity. But regardless of your opinion about this question, perhaps we can agree on a practical implication.

The next time you’re ready to update your LinkedIn profile, you should stop and think for a moment. Do you really want to do it?

It may not be a harmless action. After all, your employer may be tracking you.

The Congressional Busy Season

As you probably already know, the current United States Congress ranks among the most dysfunctional in history. Given its state of inactivity, is it possible that our local legislators might be growing bored and fidgety with all of their free time?

Don’t count on it! Apparently, our elected officials aren’t concerned about their failure to pass productive legislation. Instead, they are spending their time proposing legislation that has no chance to pass into law, and passing legislation that serves no purpose.

Last week, for instance, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4890, the IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act. If enacted into law, it would forbid the Internal Revenue Service from paying any bonus compensation to its employees until it “puts taxpayers first.”

At first glance, of course, one might conclude that this Act is a reasonable one. After all, why should any employee receive a bonus if he doesn’t put his customer, client, or constituent first?

The problem with the proposed legislation, though, is that it bans the payment of bonuses to any IRS employee. In other words, the Service would be unable to recognize, incentivize, or reward any individual employee who wishes to “put taxpayers first.” Under such circumstances, why would any employee actually choose to do so?

The proposed Act itself serves no purpose because President Obama has already declared that he would never sign the legislation. But Congress passed it any way, and then moved on to a proposal entitled No Budget, No Pay. Sponsored by Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, the Act proposes that Congressional leaders should not be paid any compensation when they fail to enact a federal budget into law on a timely basis.

But … hold on! Wait a minute! Didn’t President Obama sign a No Budget, No Pay Act into law three years ago? Well, yes … he did. But it only applied to that single year of budgetary activities. And it didn’t actually require Congress to fund its own budget; it simply required that the legislators pass a resolution to approve one. So Congress proceeded to approve a budget that year, and then never funded it.

Apparently, our legislators are quite fond of “no pay” legislation. But in the case of the IRS law, they proposed it while knowing that there was no chance of it ever becoming law. And in the case of their own budget law, they passed it with terms and conditions that would ensure that they would never actually lose any pay.

Nice, eh? It’s the Congressional busy season, and our legislative leaders are busy at work, doing what they do best.