How AI Can Support the World of Work

AI

On the surface, preparing for the integration of AI into the world of work can sound like a formidable proposition. While we might have reservations concerning its integration, the more balanced question centers on how we might integrate AI to improve our own capabilities — and in turn the heath and capabilities of organizations.

Most of us would concede that as human beings we are prone to biases that lead to less informed decisions. In many situations, AI can address our shortcomings and improve our performance.

As Erik Brynjolffson of MIT points out in a recent HBR interview:

“…the benchmark for most entrepreneurs and managers is: who’s going to be better for solving this particular task or better yet can we create a system that combines the strengths of both humans and machines and does something better than either of them would do individually.”

Interestingly there has been much discussion about AI’s application to HR and work life. Here are just a few topics that I’ve noticed:

  • Chatbots. In the HR world, chatbots can be utilized to address and improve many aspects of the employee experience. Chatbots have the potential to support numerous processes — through conversation — within on-boarding and coaching — helping HR departments to meet their goal of supporting contributors. (See how AI has also impacted “summer melt”, where students fail to matriculate in college settings here.)
  • Job listings. A better informed candidate — one that has ample information to determine potential fit — is the first step to secure the right the role, for teh right person. The augmented writing platform Textio, for example, utilizes AI to improve the quality of information within job postings — potentially reducing bias and attracting a broader, more diverse pool of applicants.
  • Interviewing. Google has developed the automated tool qDroid based upon the seminal meta-analytic selection research completed of Frank Schmidt and John Hunter. This work illustrated that a work sample was the best predictor of candidate success, followed by tests of cognitive ability and structured interviews. The tool generates behaviorally based questions, that are specifically tailored to the job in question.

We cannot overlook the fact that a mindset that embraces progress, will hasten the integration of AI into the world of work. Simply engaging with AI is the best start to determine if it might help your organization. In fact, organizations can (and should) begin utilizing AI at little or no cost. (See the access options to Watson here. Please note, as referenced in this discussion there are other AI alternatives for voice recognition, for example, driven by the specific need).

For organizations that may not have a skilled data analyst on hand — and may not require one on a full-time basis — these AI options can become vital. For those more skilled in data analysis, the notion that an insight might be left undiscovered, leaves me quite curious as to how the work can be improved. (In fact, training employees to utilize AI and ML has opened up recently.)

Not unlike Andrew McCaffe’s 2011 discussion of Enterprise 2.0, the deciding factor rests in the following questions:

“During times of great business change, two fundamental questions are: what kinds of companies are able to make the transition, and what happens when they do?”

Has your organization embraced AI? How has it impacted the work at hand?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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The Stability Paradox

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Stability is an often underrated element of work life.

Like an unsung hero, it is critically important, yet rarely discussed.

While breakneck change and innovation are lauded — we often jump much too far ahead. In a way, we forget ourselves that we are first human beings.

Simply put, there are certain elements within work and organizations, that should remain constant and steadfast. Think of the importance of a healthy, supportive work environment, role clarity or a wise manager. These can keep us on a productive path, even when things are quite difficult.

This is not the type stability that signals an individual’s or an organization’s downfall (resting on laurels, complacency, etc.). It is a very different animal. It is a dynamic that serves as a springboard to desired outcomes.

Over the last decade, stability has become a somewhat reviled and forbidden. While we have glamorized new and dynamic components, we have effectively sidelined the beauty of a solid foundation. However, the evidence of the need for stability exists — and is peppered throughout the literature. (Think of the work of Edmondson or Luthans alone). In fact, stability has catapulted off of our radar with great haste, leaving a gaping hole that only deepens.

I believe that lagging metrics and the overwhelming failures that plague organizations, are partially related to this need. Truth be told – its absence likely haunts our workplaces each and every day.

The force of stability also affects both individuals and organizations (as practices). In many cases, the pillars of work life, such as performance management or communication channels, have let us down — unable to provide the needed fuel to excel.

The potential sources of stability are varied and in some cases personal. However, these sources are vital. They are necessary. When these elements are present we somehow find our way (and discover our place) through needed progress and change.

Inevitably, as the pace of change quickens in our work lives, the more we will require certain elements to remain solid. We’ve wrung our hands over persistent issues such as low engagement, while leaders lament the possibility of losing their most valued contributors. All the while, we undervalue key sources of stability. Sadly, there are countless organizational decisions made every day that completely disregard its lower boundary.

When individuals (whether in life or work) achieve great heights, there was likely an element of stability that served as a necessary foundation. (Think of creativity as it relates to psychological safety, for example). Even in the face of tremendous odds, people and organizations do prevail. However, that element — stability — whether emanating from within, or existing from a structure, was likely present.

Bringing needed stability into our work lives and balancing this with opportunities for experimentation is an important challenge. I believe that the quality in which we address this “push and pull” is vital.

Innovation and progress will remain.

They are the way of the world.

However, if we also embrace stability — the journey forward may become much clearer.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and HR Tech champion. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Seeing Our Work in Context

Myopia

Context is important for both people and organizations.

None of us are allowed to move forever through the universe with a myopic vantage point.

This strategy eventually fails — as the broader perspective overtakes us.

One of the most difficult challenges is to see ourselves (and our actions at work) in context. This is a real problem established environments. We can become distracted from our true mission by long-standing biases and mantras, including “this is the way it’s always done”.

When organizations reach this point, functions often express that they cannot work together. To be certain, there is myopia operating. Groups are too close to their own work to see how it affects neighboring functions. Or they simply don’t have the time or inclination to examine what might really be happening.

We often think of clients or customers, but rarely think of how we affect our peers. Most of us do not fully understand the demands placed on the roles that touch our own.

If we took the time to do this — we might see our own actions in context.

Silos hurt all of us.

Start in the right direction.

Great things can follow.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

4 Things to Consider to Put Resolve in Your New Year’s Resolutions About Work

Never Settle

I’ve just read this at HBR.

A great reminder — and definitely worth a solid look. Not unlike this author, I am all for feeling more satisfied with our work.

Yes, awareness is indeed the first place to begin.

However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, change is hard.

Curiously so.

I will venture to say this applies to most of us — regardless of level, role or age.

It applies even when we know that something different might be better for us.

To bring meaningful change to fruition, we have to take a deeper dive into why we don’t actually make changes we identify as needed. This inevitably, leads to a discussion of motivation. (For a little food for thought concerning motivation, read about expectancy theory here.)

On a related note, I’ve written previously about how to better manage time at work. This of course, touches bringing alignment to time as it relates to valued activities. (See that here). We should meld the two topics. You see loving what you do, is not only about subtraction and addition of tasks on a Venn Diagram — it’s about teaching yourself to respect that blueprint.

Your behavior (and your work life) won’t shift for the better — until you examine why you aren’t budging.

So, let’s take that step. While you are identifying the tasks that fall into categories A (things you love), B (things you are neutral about) and C (things you detest) — explore the source of the “blocks” that stop you from shifting time spent and why.

We can always wish for healthy “job re-design”.

However, we must deal with the backlog of issues that stop it from happening.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • It’s you. Stand up and take a bow. The reason why we don’t improve our roles, is because we are not willing to actually invest and do it. We’ll obsess, however, when push comes to shove we explain things away. We intellectualize, in an effort to avoid the problem. “It’s not that bad, that I’ve not been recognized for my work.” or “I can deal with my manager until they leave.” or “This might be better to address next year.” You have to be willing to pull up mental stakes, fight inertia and accept that the change requires action. In other words — lay claim to another work life homestead.
  • Accept you’ll make waves. Calm is good — until it isn’t. There is always some fear attached to striving for something better. You have to help yourself deal with the approach/avoidance gradient. That activity that headlines your Category B? You have to take a stand and make it go away. That won’t come without a little bit of stress. Gather the resolve to either campaign for its execution — or propose a new and exciting rendition that you’d like to be a part of. Why? Because how you feel after the fact will be worth the trouble. Try to envision how that would look.
  • Pick the right battle. Not all As, Bs and Cs are alike. Consider Category C. There are huge annoyances (an office location where people tend to stop in to chat) and there are deal-breakers (no time to engage in “deep work”). Similarly for Category A, there are “nice to have” elements, and those that would transform your work life. Be sure to note the difference, before you make a decision to act.
  • Psychological Capital. Always consider the end state if you decide to do nothing. Issues at work drain us. When we don’t address these issues, it can be damaging on a level that we do not recognize. Our psychological resources begin to wither. Think of the HERO acronym: Hope — Efficacy — Resilience — and Optimism. What might suffer if you do not act?

Side note: Here (as promised) is my list of A’s, B’s & C’s. I’m sure you can offer advice on how I should proceed.

Category A. Things I love: Reading research concerning work/career. Delving into a data set for the first time (with no interruption). Writing about insights/observations. Offering an “aha” moment about work or career.
Category B. Things I’m neutral about: Running analyses. Developing presentations. Deadlines.
Category C. Things I detest: Not getting paid for my time, because curiosity got the better of me. Flying. Meetings that lead to absolutely nothing. Speaking last at an event.

What did you resolve to change career-wise in 2018? Are you making progress?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

Moving On From a Negative Narrative That Just Isn’t You

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“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are part of your history, but not your destiny.”  — Steve Maraboli

The people that surround us affect our lives. Our managers, colleagues and clients — all help to create the supporting stage in which we find ourselves. When facing tense workplace situations, such as a misstep or difference in opinion, the eventual outcome can become an important inflection point. When a narrative emerges among these vital players that doesn’t reflect the real you, the situation can quickly become troubling.

If possible discuss the situation openly. Explore what might led to that point and if the situation can be saved. (This allows us to move past the impasse.) Be clear that the situation isn’t acceptable, that it is uncomfortable. Provide information to counter the confusion,

However, if you suspect that the poorly deemed decision or opinion has begun to negatively define you and cannot be revised — it may be time to reconsider your surroundings. When a negative narrative is written that appears set in stone, it can become an unhealthy place.

Ultimately, you should be surrounded by those who see the best in you (and you in them).

If necessary, explore a new stage that fits.

A narrative shouldn’t define you — unless it is your own.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

Praising Stability

JengaI’m not sure it is the turkey or the dressing or the gifts that we crave during the holidays. It’s more likely the promise of it.

The continuity. The foundation.

It can all be “less than” (carry out is fine), no matter the delivery (paper plates work) or setting (dining rooms are not required). It still works. The important bits — the people, the conversation, the support — must be there.

In workplaces, we laud disruption at work. However, we rarely emphasize this same form of stability. For example, the promise that hard work will be recognized and rewarded. This might explain why we see lower levels of satisfaction and engagement. In this domain as well, it not the delivery that matters or the setting. The snacks or the stocked fridge.

It is the core. The foundation. The mutual respect. The simple things.

Saying “thank you” does matter. Noticing hard work matters. Spreading the word about a job well done matters.

It’s not the grand gesture.

It is simply keeping the promise.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Be a Mentor. End of Story.

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Please note: While the opinions below are my own, I was compensated by Johnson & Johnson for this post.

In the United States more than 50% of the work force is women. Yet, less than 15% hold corporate board seats within global companies. Organizations that embrace women on their boards enjoy a number of potential advantages, including financial performance and problem-solving capabilities. However, the numbers remain dismally low.

It is clear that we are missing something vital — an unsung element that could possibly help more women reach their potential.

One such element that may be vastly underutilized is mentoring.

Without mentors, meeting our potential can elude us. We might fail to build the mastery and confidence we need, or envision our own potential. While there is ample research to back up the merits of mentoring, we need to pause and reflect on the topic.

Why are so many women seeking mentors — yet cannot find them?

It is time to pause and openly discuss this question.

One great example of elevating the mentorship conversation is Johnson & Johnson.

At Johnson & Johnson, they have a steadfast commitment to the role of mentoring in women’s careers — as they are committed to igniting the power of women to create a healthier tomorrow.  More mentors are stepping forward. Two ideas are central to this initiative. Firstly, mentoring is a valid tool to increase the number of women in management (at Johnson & Johnson this is 43% in the U.S.). Secondly, reaching out to young women in their formative years is critical. Through Johnson & Johnson’s mentorship partnership with Girls Inc., women executives are being paired with high school students who would like to make an impact within their own communities.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Check out their video, “Igniting the Power of Women & Girls Through Mentorship,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NKs-IMDDL0.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Becoming a mentor can feel like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t need to be. We can all do more.

The bottom line is this: We hesitate to step forward and mentor women. Yet, mentoring relationships can alter someone’s life and career — serving as a loud, positive internal voice in an often noisy environment.

Strong, empowered women are raised by many.

Addressing the reasons behind our hesitation is vital. Research has pointed to the reluctance concerning time commitments and concerns about appropriate expertise. We need to collectively move past these thresholds. Move beyond our fear of a misstep, when we can do so much that is right.

Let’s pose a collective challenge.

Mentor another woman — a young girl, a student. A less established co-worker. Another woman’s daughter. Your niece. Your neighbor.

Someone who might truly benefit from your knowledge and experience.

A few things to consider:

  • You may not see yourself as a mentor — but you do have that capability. Every time a contributor reaches out to you, it is a signal. A signal that you may be viewed as a mentor. Explore the following questions: How can I help or support this individual today? Is there something I have learned in my journey that may help another woman evolve positively? To help them grow?
  • Mentoring is about small steps. We tend to think of mentoring as an overwhelming, grand commitment. However, it takes a community of people to build a strong career. Small moments can matter. They sum to a notably stronger foundation on which to build a career.
  • Be honest about your own journey. Although it may not feel entirely comfortable, reflect on the moments where you needed guidance and received it (or did not). Use these moments as a guide to help others.
  • Consider sponsorship as well. If you remain hesitant to make the mentorship commitment, consider sponsorship as an alternative. Shine the spotlight on another’s work. Make an introduction. Encourage productive collaboration. Help build stronger networks of expertise.

We do not need justification to nurture another’s talent or recognize a job well done.

Mentoring is about seeing ourselves in a supportive role.

It is about being generous.

Sharing what you know.

Supporting the same inflection points, where you may have needed a boost.

It is about building someone up.

Helping someone see their own potential.

Mentoring is the right dynamic.

You are perfect for the role.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Silencing of Career Vision

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Most of us keep our wildest career dreams under wraps.

I’m convinced this is completely normal. What we value most — is always the most heavily protected.

However, most of us have a story to tell.

When I decided to become a psychologist, I really didn’t know my own mind or what I had to offer. Over the years that picture has become more defined. It has also pivoted away from the original dream that flashed through my mind’s eye at 17.

That is also completely normal.

When we are young, everyone asks about our career “dreams”. Where we want to go, what we would like to contribute.

As we get older — not as much.

That’s where organizations can fall flat. Either managers do not have the time to discuss such things or contributors aren’t encouraged to force the conversation.

The best places to work, get things done. But career vision is always in the corner of their eye. It isn’t ignored. They acknowledge that when work life begins to markedly depart from our vision, we can disengage.

That is why it is critical to share those dreams.

In that way, we can flesh out what is there (or not). In that way we can hammer out a path or at least away to incorporate that passion into our lives.

I challenge you to share your next dream chapter with 3 people.

Consider how that vision can become (at least in part) a reality.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Designing Your Life

When I look at a Parsons table (designed at Parsons Paris in the 1930s) — I see a thing of great beauty.

Fresh simplicity.

Lines that sing.

A presence that cannot be ignored.

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Legend has it, the iconic design emerged from a design class where its instructor, Jean Michael Frank, challenged students to design a table that would retain its design integrity sheathed in various materials, such as mica, burlap, etc. From Frank’s sketches and student participation came the elegant minimalist design. (Read more of its history here.)

It was the product of an inspired design moment.

It is a thing of beauty.

What if we could take the same engine that drove this type of creation — and apply it to our own lives?

What if you could design a life that sings for you?

I’ve spoken to countless people who are less than thrilled with their lives. Something seems off. Something isn’t working. But, the more telling question must be posed — is there something better? The authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life explore the dysfunctional beliefs that stifle the answer to that question. The answer is likely a resounding “yes”.

But how?

We are rarely offered the tools to unpack such a problem.

However, that is changing.

At Stanford University, students have had the opportunity to explore their life as a design challenge, in a course named: Designing Your Life. The crux of the course involves applying design principles to build a happy, fulfilling, post-student life — prototypes and all. Initially an experiment (the brainchild of the book’s authors Bill Burnett & Dave Evans), the class became such a campus phenomenon within the engineering department — that it was then offered to all Stanford students. (The information is now being shared with other universities – from Harvard to Cal State Dominguez Hills to Trinity College, serving students across the country. That works.)

The most important element of the course is to build a life that holds meaning. What might you want to build or leave behind? That exploration is much more than money — or a job. It is about living a coherent life; congruent with whom you are.

So, this is where the book comes in. It is jam-packed with observations concerning the history of this now 10-year-old course experiment.

Interestingly, the concepts in the book are now being offered to the public in a workshop format and there is one version especially tailored to women. (See the dates below — you can still register). Course instructor Susan Burnett, describes the workshop as perfect for anyone who finds they are at an “inflection point”. Whether that is leaving college, a marriage, job or career, or just being ready to try something new. As Stanford Life Design Lab’s Kathy Davies describes, “the course for women was born from the observation that women engaged with the process with a different perspective. The workshops provide the time, space and a community of support to have those life design conversations.”

Hooray. We all require help with inflection points.

So, pick up the book or register for the course and get ready to break down that petrified view of your life — and then put it back together again.

Only better.

Now do it again.

And again.

What do you see?

Click on book icon to learn more:

The Designing ​​Your ​​Life ​​for ​​Women Workshop

Overview: Designing Your Life for Women is an intensive, hands-on workshop experience where you will learn and apply the Life Design© method to your own life.  We will focus on balance and energy, use ideation techniques to help get you unstuck, build Odyssey Plans for three potential futures, and define ways to prototype the compelling parts of these futures. Best of all, you will do this in a community of women who have come together with a common purpose and who will support you on this life design journey.

UPCOMING SESSION: Click to register

Nov 11-12, 2017 in San Diego, CA

How to Make the “Own Your Career” Mantra Viable

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Owning our own careers has long served as a rallying cry — echoing down the halls of organizations worldwide. Indeed, individuals should be empowered to take the helm of their own ship. However, we must acknowledge the needed elements required for this to work. These vital elements serve to “inform” the process; capturing contributor qualifications, communicating possible roles and describing organizational initiatives.

Organizations vary in their ability to support the process. Yet, these elements could help complete the career puzzle facing contributors. (As organizations increase in size, the challenge to deliver these elements can become increasingly difficult.) Organizations are becoming cognizant of the issue — and realize that employees are stymied to handle the challenge on their own. However, managers are often not in a position to help and supporting systems aren’t able to accommodate the load.

While “owning your own career” is a formidable tag line, it remains wrought with problems. Respectfully — the dynamic relies on more than self-knowledge, motivation and “exuding positive energy“.

The truth is this: contributors are often left alone to fight the battle.

Here are a few of the issues we should consider:

  • Time. With the dizzying pace of career life, committing quality time to plan next steps can be difficult. This leaves many of us without time to reflect on where we’d like to land and how we should evolve to really get there (knowing our weaknesses is vital). In fact as our careers progress, there may be less and less discussion of career vision. Moreover, this process cannot be completed in a vacuum. We should be actively discussing our career vision with people that can offer guidance — beyond our own managers.
  • Internal information. If the general goal is to have talent freely flowing toward organizational needs & goals — the quality of outbound communication concerning these topics becomes critical. This includes the information available internally concerning roles, team opportunities and initiatives that have been launched. However, if employees are left with an informational void, none of this works. Sadly, many contributors leave for external opportunities (even for a lateral move).
  • Capturing how contributors evolve. To match skills with roles, we have to do a better job of documenting how employees are evolving. This includes not only training & experience gained in-house, but evolving interests and personal career goals. In this case, the contributor is the expert that must be involved — and we must somehow collect this information.
  • The role of HR technology. We cannot address either of the above issues without talking about technology solutions. Platforms that have the ability to collect, track and share this information are vital. Although the landscape of HR tech applications is expansive — it is unclear if they handle all of these challenges simultaneously. (Ultimately, consolidation may be the solution). Elements that would prove useful include useful recommendations for training, future team memberships, internal mentors/sponsors and flexible internal postings. (Platforms such as Jostle for example are building the ability to lend a hand.)

Has your organization struggled with career development? Have you found solutions? Share them here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz, The World Economic Forum and The Huffington Post.