Tag Archives: Employment

Is the “Hollywood Model” Really Something New?

There was a great article in the New York Times the other week called: “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work.” The author uses Hollywood to make the case that this is how work is going to be in the near future for everyone (not in Hollywood):

This approach to business is sometimes called the “Hollywood model.” A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style “gig economy,” which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.

This method sounds really intelligent in that it would — theoretically — save a business quite a lot of money. However, as I was reading it, two things came to mind. The first: this method also sounds eerily familiar. Remember “SWAT teams” (in business)?

“In business, it means a group of ‘experts’ (often fat guys in suits) assembled to solve a problem or tackle an opportunity” says USC’s Logan.

Or what about “Tiger teams?”

A ‘tiger team’ is also a group of experts—specifically a bunch of tech geeks entrusted with curing your computer ills.

While it doesn’t perfectly map onto the Hollywood Model, both of these business “buzzwords” already seem to account for aspects of the Hollywood Model. It may be that the Hollywood Model will become another business fad in the same way that SWAT teams or Tigers teams was/is. Or, maybe the Hollywood Model will have staying power and it will live beyond a fad and become something as normal as the idea as working in a full-time job or a part-time job.

The second thing that came to mind upon reading about the Hollywood Model: Project Management. Granted, the last time I had formal education in PM was almost three years ago, but I don’t remember hearing/reading about this idea of a short-term team. That’s not completely fair. Yes, of course we learned about teams coming together for a short period of time, but it wasn’t written about in the same way that it was in this NYT article. I’d be interested to hear from folks in the PM-academic circles on this.

Facebook is a Poor Predictor of Performance of Job Applicants

A few months ago, I planned on writing more posts about academic research. I wrote one about spending your bonus on others making you happier (than if you’d spent it on yourself), but haven’t got around to it since. My intentions were good as anyone can see from looking at the list of tweets I’ve favourited over the last 100 days. Just about all the tweets I’ve “bookmarked” to read are academic in nature.

I came across an academic article the other day that seemed quite interesting and reminded me of much of what you hear when you’re in university: be careful what you put online! Even after you’ve graduated, you often hear that your employer (or potential employer) will be watching to see what you put online, so be careful what you put on Facebook. We’re told that it can have an adverse effect on our ability to be hired (or maintain our current employment).

This particular study tried to address a gaping hole in empirical research. That is, the popular press often talk about how important it is to have a pared down social media profile, but there hasn’t been much research studying the effects of potential employers using social media profiles in screening candidates. Before we take a look at some of the results, I wanted to share three important points from the article:

First, as discussed, SM [Social Media] platforms such as Facebook are designed to network with friends and family rather than to measure job-relevant attributes. Indeed, most SM information pertains to applicants’ outside-of-work interests and activities, which may have little bearing on work behavior. This factor, in and of itself, may be enough to suggest that criterion- related validity for SM assessments may be low. [Emphasis added]

The researchers raise an important point that — no doubt — you’ve seen elsewhere. Most people use Facebook in order to connect with friends & family and as a result, it may not be the best measure of how one would function at work.

Second, the sheer volume of SM information also may inhibit decision makers from drawing valid inferences. . . This large amount of information may put demands on decision makers’ ability to process all the potential cues and to determine what information (if any) is relevant and what is not. This situation may cause decision makers to rely on biases and cognitive heuristics may reduce validity. [Emphasis added]

I’ve written extensively about cognitive biases. The researchers mention of the volume of information regarding social media makes me wonder how long before organizations are using Big Data to try and analyze all the social media data in painting a portrait of a candidate.

Finally, inaccurate information may undermine the criterion-related validity of SM assessments. For example, the desire to be perceived as socially desirable may lead applicants to embellish or fabricate information they post on SM, such as experience, qualifications, and achievements. Furthermore, because other people can post information about applicants on SM platforms (e.g., Facebook), applicants do not have complete control of their information. As such, applicants may be unduly “penalized” for what others post. In fact, one study found that comments posted by others on one’s Facebook profile had a greater effect on observers’ impressions than did one’s own comments (Walther, Van Der Heide, Kim, Westerman, & Tong, 2008).

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In this study, the researchers had recruiters rate Facebook profiles of potential job candidates and then followed up with those job candidates after they’d secured employment. As you might expect from where this post has led, the evaluations the recruiters gave of the potential job candidates based on their Facebook profiles were unrelated to the ratings issued by supervisors on a number of factors: job performance, turnover intentions, and actual turnover. Moreover, these predictions based on Facebook profiles aren’t more useful than other, more common methods: cognitive ability, personality, self-efficacy, or even GPA. What’s more, they found that Facebook ratings were higher for females (vs. males) and that ratings were higher for White candidates (vs. Black and/or Hispanic candidates).

I understand that many managers think more data will help them make better decisions, but as has been demonstrated in this article, when it comes to job candidates, maybe checking their Facebook profiles could lead managers to make the wrong decisions.

ResearchBlogging.orgChad H. Van Iddekinge, Stephen E. Lanivich, Philip L. Roth, & Elliott Junco (2013). Social Media for Selection? Validity and Adverse Impact Potential of a Facebook-Based Assessment Journal of Management DOI: 10.1177/0149206313515524

An Often Overlooked Component of Job Searching: Finding The Right Fit

When you’re out of work, finding a job can be tough. After you’ve mined your network, attended numerous job fairs, and applied to countless jobs online, there’s a good chance that you’re starting to lose hope. Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.

Believe it or not, finding a job is not just about you. It’s as much about the jobs that are available as the skills you have to offer. Meaning, you might have just the right skills to be a network developer for a technology company, but if the technology company that you’re looking at doesn’t have any openings, then you may begin to question your abilities and skills as a network developer. You may begin to think that you might not be as good at what you do as you thought you were. The key part of that equation is that the technology company that you’re targeting doesn’t have an opening… but another technology company might.

If you’d like a more concrete example, we can look to professional sports. Since I was born and raised in Toronto, I’m a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s currently the preseason, so there are more players “on the team” than there will be in a couple of weeks when the season starts. That is, there are a number of players who are still “trying out” for the team. One of the players who is currently trying out with the Maple Leafs is Mason Raymond, who played with the Vancouver Canucks for the last six seasons.

At the end of last season, the Canucks chose not to re-sign Raymond. As a result, Raymond was able to sign with any team. To start the preseason, Raymond decided to tryout for the Maple Leafs. Given his skill, he likely could have tried out for a number of different NHL teams, but he chose the Leafs. Now, some could point to the popularity of the Leafs as a reason that Raymond chose them, but others could point to the current roster for the Leafs. That is, on paper, Raymond certainly seems to fill a role that the Leafs don’t currently have. As a result, Raymond stands a good chance of making the team.

After the first few preseason games, it certainly seems that Raymond is well on his way to making the team, too. In fact, now there may be some concern among the management of the Leafs that Raymond might be signed away by another team (Raymond’s not technically under contract with the Leafs for the season — he’s just trying out).

My point in sharing this story about Mason Raymond is that when the Canucks decided not to re-sign Raymond at the end of last season, it may have been a rather sad day for him. He might have gotten down on himself and thought that his NHL career was over. A few months later and he’s playing great for the Leafs in the preseason, which will (likely) assure him an opportunity, if not on the Leafs, on some other team.

You may feel like you’re down and out right now (like Raymond might have felt after last season), so it’s important to remember: finding a job is as much about finding the right fit as it is about putting yourself out there.

UPDATE: When I wrote this last week, Mason Raymond was still on a tryout with the Maple Leafs. This past Monday, he signed a 1-year contract. It just goes to show how important finding the right fit can be.

If You Want a Successful and Sustainable Company, Focus on the Workforce

Several months ago in one of those posts where I write about a bunch of ideas, but don’t flesh any of them out, I wrote the following:

Focus on Labor — I’ve never been the CEO or a highly placed Vice President of a company, but from an outsider’s perspective, I always have a hard time understanding the lack of focus on the labor force. At times, it really looks like labor is the key to success. If the labor force is well taken care of, production and profits tend to do well. It reminds me of that post I did about sustainability and pitchers. The relation here is that when management takes care of the labor force, it is with an eye towards long-term sustainability.

I still believe that this is an important idea. Without the workforce, where would a company’s profits be? Without the workforce, where would the economy be? Even after the rise of the robots, I still think it’ll be really important for companies to take care of their workforce. It turns out, I’m not the only one with this opinion.

From Henry Blodget, CEO and and Editor of Business Insider:

If you watch TV, you’ll be led to believe that the problem with the U.S. economy is that one political team or the other is ruining the country.

A sharp drop in government spending this year is, in fact, temporarily hurting economic growth, but that’s not the real problem.

The real problem is that American corporations, which are richer and more profitable than they have ever been in history (see chart below), have become so obsessed with “maximizing short-term profits” that they are no longer investing in their future, their people, and the country.

This short-term greed can be seen in many aspects of corporate behavior, from scrimping on investment to obsessing about quarterly earnings to fretting about daily fluctuations in stock prices. But it is most visible in the general cultural attitude toward average employees.

Employees are human beings. They devote their lives to creating value for customers, shareholders, and colleagues. And, in return, at least in theory, they share in the rewards of the value created by their team.

In theory.

In practice, American business culture has become so obsessed with maximizing short-term profits that employees aren’t regarded as people who are members of a team.

Rather, they are regarded as “costs.”

And “costs,” as we all know, are supposed to be reduced as much as is humanly possible (except the “costs” of the salaries of senior management and investors–those are supposed to be increased).

Bingo! Mr. Blodget hits the nail on the head. Regarding employees as costs is a fundamental mistake in thinking. As we know, our words are important. Not only for ourselves, but for those around us. He continues:

Whenever you suggest to folks that it doesn’t have to be this way, that some companies can and do balance the interests of shareholders with the interests of customers and employees–and, in so doing, create a symbiotic relationship that supports all of these constituencies–folks call you a “socialist.”

This is a strange insult, because the government has nothing to do with this. But, nevertheless, “socialist” is the label you get branded with if you suggest that the senior managers and owners of America’s corporations should share more of their vast wealth with the employees who create it.

This view of capitalism is that it is a sort of Lord-Of-The-Flies economic system in which the only consideration should be “every man for himself.” In this style of capitalism, leaders do not manage teams and organizations in a way that creates value for everyone–customers, shareholders, and employees. Rather, in this style of capitalism, a handful of winners extract as much value as they can from hapless losers who don’t have the skills, knowledge, or time necessary to “demand a raise” or “go get a better job.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There is no capitalist law that says companies have to view employees as “costs” and pay them as little as possible.

Senior managers and owners can choose to share more of a company’s wealth with the people who generate it. They can choose to make only reasonable profits, while still generating compelling financial returns. And they can choose to pay their team-mates living wages instead of viewing them as “costs” and extracting every penny of possible value from them.

If American corporations were struggling to earn money these days, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But they aren’t.

American corporations have the highest profits and profit margins in history.

American corporations can afford to pay their employees better, hire more employees, and invest more in their future and the country’s future.

But American corporations aren’t doing that.

Instead, American corporations are choosing to divert as much of their value as possible to their owners and senior managers.

Doing this is not a law of capitalism.

It’s a choice.

And it is a choice, unfortunately, that is destroying America’s middle class, robbing American consumers (a.k.a., “employees”) of spending power, and, ironically, hurting the growth of the same corporations that are making this choice.

If your customers are strapped, your company can’t grow.

And, right now, American companies are choosing to impoverish their customers (employees), while skimming off as much wealth as possible for themselves.

The idea of viewing employees as costs is perfectly in keeping with the idea that the US doesn’t require any paid vacation daysWhat kind of a company do you want to work for: one that treats its employees as assets or one that treats its employees as liabilities?

You’re Not Supposed to Hate Work

About a month ago, there was a rather disturbing headline that came as a result of a Gallup study: “70% of americans hate their job.” When I first read that, I thought, that can’t be right, can it? 70%!? That means for every person who likes their job, there are at least 2 people who hate their job. Do you like your job? That means that 2 of your friends hate their job.

Even now, reflecting on this, I find it hard to believe that this many people would stay at a job they don’t like. There would have to be an overwhelmingly compelling reason to stay at a job that one hates. A few things that come to mind: mortgage, children’s college fund, student loans, etc. I suppose we could talk about some of these big-ticket items weigh on the minds of people, but I’d rather talk about work. Why is it that we can’t all be doing something that we like to do?

Assuming that there are as many jobs out there as there are people, couldn’t we reach some sort of Nash equilibrium where everyone’s doing something that they like to do and no one’s doing anything they don’t? Part of the problem with reaching Nash equilibrium would be that some people are motivated by different things or are coming from different situations. So, I might really like construction, but I’m not very good at the things that you need to work in construction. If I have a degree in accounting, I might become an accountant, even though I’d rather be working in construction. There may be someone who’s in just the opposite situation, too. If we could switch jobs, we’d both be moving from miserable situations to desirable situations.

I haven’t really touched on the health implications of hating your job, but that’s an important factor to consider, too:

‘Our analysis clearly established that there was no difference in the rates of common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, between those who were unemployed and those who were in the poorest quality jobs.’

I think it’s a misnomer to say that work is supposed to “suck.” Why can’t we do what we love? Maybe for some folks, they don’t do what they love “full-time,” but they can gradually work their way into doing what they love full-time. Ken Robinson, noted TEDTalk speaker, wrote a great book a few years ago about finding your passion. If you’re working in a job that you hate (and statistics would tell us that you probably do) or you know someone who is, I’d recommend taking a look at Ken’s book. It just might change your life…

If You Want to Be Happy, Tame Your Expectations

I wanted to finish 2012 with what I think is my biggest “insight.” That is, the thing that I felt taught me the most about myself and other people. As you know, if you follow me on Twitter  Facebook, or read what I write about here (follow button on the right-hand side!), I like to learn. I think that learning doesn’t end once you leave school (whether we like it or not) and I think that learning about ourselves never ends.

I’ve certainly came across quite a few techniques, perspectives, and ways for being in the world and handling stress. In particular, I think that Byron Katie‘s The Work can be quite powerful. While I’ve never attended one of her seminars, watching the videos of people “doing The Work” can have its own cathartic experience.

I’ve noticed that one of the revelations I’ve come to this year is very similar to what Katie has said, but I still feel it to be slightly different. It’s the idea that our expectations about the world are what cause us stress, unhappiness, and you name it. I’m speaking very abstractly, so let me give you a concrete example.

Let’s say I’m having a problem with a coworker. Let’s say that coworker does something that I don’t like. Why does this upset me? Without getting into any psychological underpinnings and staying right at the surface, it’s simply about my expectations of what that coworker should (or shouldn’t) be doing that’s causing me trouble. How? Well, assuming you believe that each human being is entitled to their own autonomy, they have free will to do as they please (within the law, I suppose). If the person is acting in a way that displeases me, it’s probably because I expect them to be acting in some other way — and they aren’t. Again, still kind of abstract, so let’s make it really concrete.

Let’s say that this coworker (by the way, this example works for family, friends, spouses, pets, pretty much anything), has a particular way of answering a question with a question. And let’s say that I find this really annoying (in fact, I’d find it intriguing, but let’s go with annoying, for now). Every time I see this coworker, I’m going to remember that this coworker asks me questions whenever I ask them questions — so it’s going to make me unhappy, just seeing this person! If I happen to need to ask them something and they ask me a question back, I might begin to feel angry. Why am I feeling angry? Simply because my expectations are that this coworker should not ask me questions when I ask them questions. Should this really matter? No! This coworker can ask me questions when I ask them questions — they’re certainly allowed to do that.

Let’s try another example for which I’m sure we can all relate: traffic. Have you ever been sitting in traffic, late for something? I know I have. While sitting in this traffic, do you ever notice that sometimes people will try to “jump the line?” Does that bother you? If I’m being honest, this has certainly bothered me at times. Why should this bother me (or you)? Well, we expect that people will be kind and wait their turn right. We expect… Oh boy — there it is again! Expectations! If I didn’t have expectations that people wouldn’t try to jump the line, this wouldn’t make me upset. I might think, ‘Oh, maybe they’re in a really big hurry. Maybe someone they know is in trouble and they’re trying to go save them.’ It’s really impossible to know why someone would try to jump the line in traffic, so far be it from me to expect something from them in the way that they behave to the other drivers.

So, if I had to choose one thing to offer you from 2012, moving into 2013, it would be your expectations. Notice when you get upset/angry about something and try to discern what it is that you’re expecting should be happening in that situation. If you want to take it a step beyond, try to tame that expectations. Though, for starters, I think it’s important to notice what it is that you’re expecting in a situation. From here, you’ll certainly be well on your way to determining the root of your unhappiness.

Tying up Loose Ends: Or, a Mishmash of Ideas in one Post

It’s been awhile since I wrote a post () and even longer since I wrote consecutive posts ( and ). Obviously, I’d like to have written more, but that’s just not how things have worked out. Regardless, I thought it might be a good idea to write a “post of posts” of sorts. That is, I’ve had a list of “ideas to write about” for over a year. Some of the things on the list are recent (thought of in the last few months) and some have been there for at least 9 months. As a way to inject some fresh energy into that list, I thought I’d write a post where I spent some time talking about a number of things on the list — rather than writing a post about just one of those ideas. Hope you enjoy!

It’s Kind of a Funny Story () – I saw this movie awhile back and thought it was rather good. The premise is that a teenager checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward. Some very serious issues are addressed and I think they were done so in an appropriate manner.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never () – This whole list won’t be of movies, but I thought I’d group the two. I saw the “Justin Bieber Movie” sometime this past summer. I didn’t really know too much about Justin Bieber, just that he was pretty famous with the younger age groups. While this movie wasn’t necessarily an unbiased biography, it definitely did showcase how much hard work Justin invested in himself. Hard work (by itself) will not get you where you want to go all the time (for example: ), but it will go a long way to getting you where you want to be.

What if the car (automobile) were invented today? – I wonder if the car were invented today, would we accept it as is? Meaning, given everything that goes into making the car and everything that is affected because of the car (read: environment), I wonder if consumers would accept it as a product.

Nordic spas – This past summer, just before moving to DC, I spent some time at in Quebec. It was the first time that I’d seen the idea of (hot, cold, hot) in an establishment. Growing up in Canada, it was a common thing — in the winter — to sit in the hot tub for awhile, jump in the pool for a minute (or the snow!) and then get back into the hot tub. I remember trying to find some scientific evidence to back this up as a (positive) thing for the human body, but I couldn’t find anything. That’s not to say that there isn’t any out there.

Blowing in a dog’s face – I find it interesting that dog’s don’t like it when someone blows in their face — but — they can’t wait to stick their head out the window when you’re driving down the road. I wonder if this has something to do with carbon dioxide (on the exhale of someone blowing in their face) vs. oxygen (from the car ride).

Jaywalking – Intuitively, I would think that laws against jaywalking would have been written with a focus on keeping pedestrians safe. Believe it or not — this was not the case. I forgot where I heard it (maybe NPR?), but did you know that jaywalking was — in a way — instituted because of the automobile associations lobbying legislators? In doing some research for this (part) of this post, I found from three days ago talking about this very thing.

Visioning for a job? – Have you ever noticed how couples plan for a baby? Even before they’ve conceived, (sometimes) they’ve bought the crib, painted the room, and are in a sense, planning for this new part of their lives. I wonder why this is normalized, but doing the same thing for a job is viewed with some disdain. Why shouldn’t someone wake up and get dressed as if they’re going to work (even though they may not be)? They could even go to the “office” (library?) and prepare themselves for work.

Secret to happiness – Short and sweet. The secret to happiness is not wishing things were different from they currently are.

Evolution of the electric car – I wonder if there’s a special (or one in the works?) on the evolution of the electric car. I remember reading that the electric car was first invented in the 19th century, but fell out of favor when the internal combustion engine was invented (see: ).

People’s relationships to their body – It’s interesting to see how people relate to their body (in general) in comparison to how they relate to their body at a place where the body can sometimes be more prominent (at the gym or the beach).

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That’s narrowed down my list to four! Three of those are “recurring posts” (, , and personality tests). There is one post that I do want to dedicate some time to, so I didn’t want to shorten it here. Look for it in the next little while.