Strangers in a strange land

There’s an article in the BBC lamenting that the whole world is designed for men and, having succeeded in their demands to access every workplace in the land, women are finding they’ve not been tailored to suit them.

From police stab vests that don’t account for breasts, to safety goggles too large for women’s faces, to boots that don’t fit women’s feet, Ms Criado Perez says the list is endless.

This reminds me of the oft-heard complaint that there are not enough female film directors, in response to which Tim Almond among others likes to ask: “So what’s stopping them?” The complaint isn’t so much that women are being prevented from making films, it’s that Hollywood studios aren’t handing directing duties on blockbuster films to women. Which isn’t the same thing.

Similarly, what’s stopping a bunch of entrepreneurial women spotting this giant gap in the market for women’s stab vests and safety goggles and touting their wares around every organisation (meaning, all of them) which boasts about their gender diversity? Surely the management would welcome them with open arms and submit an order tout de suite, if only to stem the flood of complaints being submitted to HR. But no, the demand is that people already out there doing stuff should consider their needs more. The individual female employees who’ve been forced to use unsuitable kit have a genuine complaint, but when it’s presented by the BBC as an example of widespread patriarchal indifference it sounds like a bored wife complaining her husband is inconsiderate and doesn’t notice her enough.

Democratic Congresswoman Niki Tsongas at the time called out the military’s unresponsiveness to the needs of female service members, citing the “alarming” disadvantages for women, including being unable to properly fire a weapon, Military.com reported.

Yes, there are women in the US military who can’t fire a weapon properly. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Of course, the implication here is the weapon should be redesigned to suit women, or women given a different weapon, which would be interesting in a war to say the least. I bet none of this was discussed during the debates over whether women should be allowed to serve in the first place.

From apps to the actual size, there are a number of design features that have made some women say smartphones have been designed with only men in mind.

Women’s hands are, on average, around an inch smaller than men’s – which can make the industry’s ever-increasing screen sizes problematic to use.

Texting one-handed on a 4.7-inch (12cm) or bigger iPhone can be difficult to impossible for many women (and small-handed men).

So they can buy the smaller-sized phone, can’t they? Or do they want the version with the big screen but an option to defy physics during text messaging operations?

“The comprehensive health app on the iPhone that didn’t have a period tracker; the way Siri could find a Viagra supplier but not an abortion provider – that’s what happens when you don’t include women in the decision making process,” Ms Criado Perez says.

Apparently if women are included in the decision-making process they’ll equate aborting a fetus with buying viagra. Could that be the reason why they’re not? And as Tim Almond would say, “Why can’t they build their own abortion app?” It can’t be that hard. What I expect is lacking is demand; how many women really want to arrange their abortions using Siri?

The formula for standard US office temperatures was developed in the 1960s, based on the metabolic rate of an average 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds (70kg).

A 2015 study published in the journal Nature found that a female metabolic rate can be up to 35% lower than the male rate used in those calculations – which amounts to, on average, a five degree temperature preference difference.

Of course, this has nothing to do with men being required to wear suits in the office while women get to wear nice dresses showing lots of skin. But again, this is an example of women demanding access to workplaces and then complaining about everything once they get there. The old dinosaur patriarchs said that women wouldn’t like it, and it would make them miserable, didn’t they? The logical answer is staring us in the face, especially in the MeToo era: segregated workplaces. Is that what they want? Seems like it, doesn’t it?

“But it makes me so angry to think of all these women, living their lives, thinking there’s something wrong with them – that they’re too small or don’t fit or whatever it is.”

“It’s just that we haven’t built anything for women.”

The irony is that this is genuinely proof of how gender equality programs have failed, but not in the way she thinks. This is not the 1980s; women have occupied senior positions in every department of every large organisation for more than a decade now, so this “we” she’s referring to is as much women as men. But the power-skirts haven’t done anything about these practical issues women face, because power-skirts rarely get involved in practical issues. The actual design, manufacture, and supply of useful goods and services appears to still be done by men, while the power-skirts do…well, what exactly? HR departments are dominated by feminists holding seminars on sexual harassment and celebrating International Women’s Day but they’ve not even made sure their female employees have got the right kit. There’s a term for this sort of thing: abject failure.

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Departments of Higher Religion

Via a Twitter correspondent, a piece by Toby Young in The Spectator on Accenture’s wokeness:

New employees at the British headquarters of Accenture, a global management consultancy, were slightly taken aback during a recent induction morning when the head of human resources encouraged them to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards declaring themselves ‘allies’ — not just at the meeting, but permanently. In addition, they were given the option of adding the word ‘ally’ in the same rainbow pattern to the footers of their company email addresses. Anyone confused by HR language — a reference to the second world war perhaps? — was referred to the company website, where the word ‘ally’ was helpfully defined: ‘An ally is someone who takes action to promote an inclusive and accepting culture regardless of their own identity and demonstrates commitment to an inclusive workplace. We currently have allies programmes for Mental Health, LGBT and People with Disabilities.’

It’s not just politics that’s becoming infantalised with cheap gimmickry, it’s everywhere. There is some good news, though:

This madness, which long ago infected university campuses, is now seeping into HR departments of large employers. The result is the rise of the woke corporation, and it might affect the way you work. Certainly, no one should assume that their own company, however sensible-seeming, is immune.

Crackpot ideas that used to be confined to neo-Marxist professors in grievance studies departments have been enthusiastically embraced by the giants of capitalism. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola are all on board and anyone who publicly challenges this new orthodoxy is not merely endangering their chances of promotion, but at risk of being fired.

And that is that companies which operate like this will not survive long once their legacy rents run out. As I’m fond of saying, it’s small and medium-sized companies which reject this garbage or turn it to their advantage which represent the future for bright, capable individuals.

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Ex Boss

A reader sends me a link to this article. Let’s take a look:

I’d had my eye on the biggest company in my field for a couple of years, just waiting for the right role to come up. They had a reputation for staff retention, beautiful offices and great workplace flexibility, and after proving myself and climbing the ladder at the company I joined after I finished uni, I was ready for a new challenge.

Some questions for my readers. Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this? Do you think he or she is in role where outcomes matter, or whether following the process is more important?

A friend had alerted me to the opportunity, which wasn’t being advertised publicly, so I thought I was in with a good chance. I stayed up past midnight one night polishing my resume and ensuring I tailored it to the values of my dream company.

I’ve tailored my CV to a particular role, but never to the values of a company. It sounds as though she just filled it with whatever drivel she found on the corporate website.

So I was thrilled when the HR manager – a guy named Brendan – called to offer me an interview. I told him I’d see him tomorrow, and left work early to go home and prepare. I practised answering curly questions with my housemate and made sure my best corporate outfit was pressed and clean.

I had to look up “curly question”. Apparently it’s Australian slang for a difficult question. In any case, this reads like something from a teenager’s diary.

I felt ready when I walked up the broad white stairs of the building, through the glass doors and up to reception. I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see, and I waited.

I might have guessed the interview didn’t take place in a porta-cabin at the muddy end of a building site.

He was Brendan. From Bumble. We’d chatted for three solid weeks before I’d decided he was a snoozefest and unmatched with him.

The joy of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, for those lucky enough to not need them, is that – as long as you haven’t exchanged phone numbers yet – you can unmatch with people on there at any time and they have no way of finding you again.

I use this function to my advantage all the time because I hate telling guys I’m not interested. So I will talk to them for weeks in the app and then either go on a date – at which point I have to offer up my number – or unmatch and disappear forever.

I’ve written before about how the mobile phone has allowed people to dispense with the normal politeness that governed ones behaviour when dating. If she lacks the courage to tell people she’s not interested and simply disappears, it’s hardly surprising she’s on Bumble looking for a boyfriend.

Brendan seemed like the perfect guy for me when I first swiped right on him. He was good looking, fit and had a good career in HR.

People will say that about me soon.

But as we chatted back and forth over the weeks, I realised he’d never really done anything off the expected life plan. He’d never messed up. He’d never travelled or been arrested or even bared his bum in public.

In short, he was too straighty-one-eighty for me.

I like my guys to have a past. Some perspective on life so they know what they’re doing is the right thing for them. I want them to have stories about being arrested in Amsterdam or streaking at the soccer in Rio.

And being convicted of possession with intent to supply and smacking their ex-girlfriend in the eye when she got a bit lippy. I’m reminded of this post.

Brendan had none of that, and he had to go.

I expect she did a backpacker’s trip to Europe with ten thousand other Australians and now considers herself worldly.

And all I could think about in this moment was that I shouldn’t have ghosted him.

Because it’s a cowardly thing to do, or because it might now affect what passes for your career?

I could identify the exact moment, as he reached out and shook me hand, that Brendan realised who I was. There was a flash of recognition in his eyes but it quickly disappeared as his professional face took over, and he ushered me into an office with two of his colleagues.

A penny for Brendan’s thoughts here.

I was rattled, but I tried to shake it off and focus on the interview. I still really wanted this job, and I couldn’t let a failed dating attempt get in my way.

The trio fired question after question at me, and I think I answered pretty well. I even started to think for a moment that perhaps Brendan didn’t realise who I was.

Then, after I had asked a few questions about the role, and we were winding up the interview, Brendan said, “What about challenging conversations? How are you at having those?”

This is the kind of thing HR people ask at interviews for a job requiring complete and utter obedience.

I could see amusement in his eyes as he asked and I could tell he was toying with me. But the others didn’t know that so I knew I had to be careful how I answered.

“I’m comfortable dealing with people at all levels and I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations,” I lied. “I believe if I conduct myself professionally and communicate openly, that will foster respectful and clear conversations with others, so everyone can get on with executing their roles to the best of their ability.”

She lied then, and she’s lying now. There is no way on earth she said that.

The other interviewers seemed pleased with my answer and Brendan smirked as he said, “Thanks Sophie, we’ll be in touch.”

I was so relieved to get out of that office, and was surprised when one of the other interviewers called me later that day to offer me the job.

I don’t know how I’ll handle things with Brendan now that we’ll be working in the same office but I do know I’m about to become an expert on having challenging conversations.

I expect it will end in your very own MeToo moment. At least you should be able to get another article out of it.

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Graph Trouble

Maybe my readers can help me out here. I’m researching the link between gender diversity and company performance, and having read about 20 academic papers on the subject I’m now looking at studies various companies have done. Currently I’m on this one (.pdf) from Credit Suisse, in which they evaluate 3,400 companies across 10 sectors in 40 countries including 27,000 CEOs and senior executives. This graph on page 25 is confusing me:

If you were to plot the share prices of two random companies, you’d not expect them to follow the same path. If you were to plot the share prices of two companies in the same industrial sector exposed to much the same market forces, you’d perhaps expect to see them follow similar paths. But how likely is it that you take 3,400 companies across 10 sectors and 40 countries, divide them into baskets depending on the number of women in senior management, plot the share prices and they all have roughly the same shape?

Given the only differentiation between the baskets is the number of women in senior management, I’d have expected each line to be of a different shape, reflecting the combined fortunes of each individual company in each sector in each country. Is this a complete fudge, or am I missing something here?

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Visa applications

Staying on the topic of HR and yesterday’s post, here’s a comment from Bardon:

We do outsource visas, not sure if that is in the HR bag. We use a well know international firm for this, the McDonalds of visas and right now I am thinking that we will be getting our Canadian mob to use them as well.

Visa applications and work permits do fall under HR, but not all manage the process competently. The best I saw was in Russia where the company I worked for had a small team of HR women dedicated to nothing other than renewing the quotas and applying for work permits for the thousand-odd people we had on site. They even arranged the medicals for each person. That said, it took them a few years to get the system working well; incentives were provided by new laws imposing heavy fines on any company caught employing people on a business visa.

The worst I saw was a Malaysian friend of mine seconded to the UK for 6 months by a giant multinational and expected to enter the country as a tourist and work on that. HR didn’t even mention the issue of a visa, but when I asked him about it he made inquiries. HR’s response was that as a Malaysian he shouldn’t need a visa to enter the UK. It seems HR professionals involved in sending people on overseas assignments are not always aware of the difference between a tourist entry visa and a work permit.

The laziest I saw was when I was sent to Australia. My company had a full local HR department who’d decided to outsource visa applications to an agency, presumably being too busy to do the administration themselves. The agency contacted my colleague and me, directing us to the government visa page where we could find the application form along with an instruction to fill it in and send it back to them. So it was left to us to work out what visa we were applying for, what company addresses to put, what durations, etc. My colleague spent several weeks trying to assemble documents proving her grandparents’ birth dates before I eventually wrote a blunt email to the agent asking why this was necessary for a 6 month assignment. He wrote back and said it wasn’t necessary, because we were only on a 6 month assignment. I have no idea what my company was paying this agent on top of their own HR staff, but their added value insofar as visa applications went was nil. In fact, it might even have been negative: they gave us advice on how to renew our initial visa which turned out to be completely wrong when we turned up at the immigration office.

From what I’ve seen, outsourcing visa applications can work well but you need to get the right agent. And if it’s really important and you have a lot of people who can’t be relied upon to do it themselves (e.g. manual labourers), you might be better off keeping it in-house.

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Posted in HR

Advance-booked appraisal scores

Allow me to pluck excerpts from two comments from beneath my post on HR robots. The first from MJW:

To get into senior management/exec ranks they need patronage. Ability and tacit understanding is not so crucial as decisions made may destroy the organisation, just not immediately, anything likely to cause immediate damage should be routed to an underling who understands what they are doing. If the senior manager/exec knows what they are doing it’s a brucey bonus, if they don’t it doesn’t matter, the ‘managerialist’ approach treats the business does as a black box administered by generic techniques.

 

Rotating senior managers/execs through posting for ‘for experience’ is mainly done to boost CVs so their patron can elevate them if/when opportunity to put one of their clients in place emerges. It also helps to diffuse accountability and protect both client and patron.

The second from Fay:

Managers were informed by HR that they could no longer rate employees as “outstanding”.

These two comments are actually talking about the same problem. The golden boys and girls who are fast-tracked to senior management need to give something back to their patron that they can wave around as proof their prodigy deserves such rapid promotion. The best thing they can offer besides hours of grovelling to senior management is an “Outstanding” score on their annual appraisal – the highest level. If the prodigy scores Outstanding in successive years, the patron can point to it when haggling for his golden child to take the next plum position, and use it to fend off their detractors. This got to the point where the golden children would be pretty much guaranteed to get an Outstanding score, no doubt due to pressure from the patron on the manager doing the appraisal. Perhaps that’s not even necessary: most managers are fully aware if they have a golden child in their team and get with the programme of not doing anything which might upset their ascendancy. Who knows, they might need to call in a favour sometime in future?

This was working well until someone decided a few years back that too many people were getting Outstanding scores. With brown-nosing so ubiquitous and modern managers wanting the love from their team they can’t get from their wives, pretty much everybody was scoring well on the appraisals (it’s also quite hard to mark someone down if they turn up and merely do the job). Hell, even I got reasonably good appraisals. So they tweaked the system and decided only a certain percentage of people could get an Outstanding score.

What this meant was the patrons in senior management advance-booked these scores for their golden children and issued instructions to the middle management that no mere pleb could score Outstanding, regardless of actual performance. I was in the room when this was announced and I twigged straight away what had happened and started laughing (it’s not like it would affect me). But a lot of people, especially those who probably deserved the highest appraisal grade, were absolutely livid and rightly so. For fun I asked our department manager how any appraisal system worthy of the description can eliminate an outcome before it’s even started, and all I got was a pathetic shrug and bleating that “this is what management have said”.

It seems that with Fay’s anecdote, this wasn’t only happening in my company. What made it worse is the quota system made it necessary for managers to assign bad appraisal scores to people as well. I was a ripe target for that but I could tell my manager had no stomach for the sort of battle he’d have if he tried that on me, so we tacitly agreed I’d get a middle-ranking score. Instead, he hauled in the quietly spoken Asian bloke and spent two hours coming up with one excuse after another as to why his performance had been rubbish that year.

Welcome to modern management, and modern HR.

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HR robots to replace HR drones

One of my observations through my career has been that HR, in the main, is either a remote bureaucracy which might as well be staffed by Martians or a rather dim soul whose jaw hangs half open and does whatever management tells him or her. In the larger companies it’s been the former that prevailed, to the point many HR tasks were outsourced to an office in another country and everyday issues were governed by bulky procedures written by unknown authors who probably couldn’t say what the company does.

This probably doesn’t matter so much when it comes to stuff like contracts, payroll, and holidays but increasingly such personal matters as career progression, recruitment, and even appraisals are getting handled by people who don’t appear to have ever seen the operational side of the business. I’m of the opinion – which might be completely wrong – that businesses which outsource basic human management duties which used to be intrinsic to a line manager’s role are going to end up as bloated, unwieldy bureaucracies filled with unthinking drones who know all about the hierarchy’s latest wheeze but no idea how their activities contribute to the bottom line (assuming they do). As I’ve discussed on here before, I reckon smart, ambitious young folk will start avoiding the behemoths in favour of smaller, more nimble organisations – or they’ll start their own and work in the gig economy. My move into HR was in large part about bridging the gap between operations and HR in order to help a small company grow without creating a sprawling HR bureaucracy which sends anyone capable running for the exit.

I was therefore probably the wrong person to attend a presentation by an HR specialist in a major consulting firm, who wanted to tell us how automation, computers, and AI is going to revolutionise how companies manage their human resources. Now some of it is obvious, such as the aforementioned contracts, holiday approval, etc. and is ripe for automation. But I was rather surprised to see some of the functions which workers currently detest being handled by an HR drone who might as well be a robot are soon going to be done by an actual robot. One example he gave was a version of the MS-Word paperclip answering questions from an employee about their career aspirations and suggesting suitable training programmes. I can’t imagine any ambitious employee with an ounce of self-respect interacting with an automated chat bot to obtain career advice.

One of the biggest complaints I used to hear from my erstwhile colleagues was about the career management system. You’d be assigned someone who doesn’t know you and, if they’ve read your CV, doesn’t care about anything which occurred before you showed up on their doorstep. Most of the time they have no expertise in the positions they are trying to fill, nor the knowledge to appraise an individual’s skills. My career manager had worked her whole life as a translator before being put in charge of the careers of dozens of project engineers and managers. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter: in many large companies, particularly oil companies, the golden boys and girls are hand-picked early on and their careers carefully managed with plum postings while everyone else is just a pleb who gets slotted in wherever they fit, or don’t. For the vast majority “career management” is simply a charade to convince people they have a chance of promotion and recognition. This is why it’s managed by the cheapest person they can find, and it might as well be done by a robot. The same is true for annual appraisals: it’s blindingly obvious to everyone that managers and employees just go through the motions, and treat the whole thing as a painful admin exercise which must be completed before Christmas after which nothing changes. They are becoming increasingly automated, and eventually will be fully so. You can imagine what value an automated employee appraisal system adds, aside from ticking a compliance box that they get carried out. And if companies are going to automate recruitment, I can’t see it bringing an end to the laments of department managers who are kept out of the process and sent candidates that are hopelessly unsuited to the position.

I stuck my paw in the air and asked whether increasing the already giant chasm between flesh-and-blood workers and HR is a good idea and got an interesting response. Firstly I was told that companies aren’t stupid and they wouldn’t do anything which would harm their operations and upset their staff. That HR functions have already been taken away from line management and given to remote, sprawling bureaucracies ought to give lie to that statement. The second was that the move to automation and AI will free up HR resources to concentrate on those more important, human-related tasks. What those were we weren’t told, but I made the point that unless HR actually knows something about the job the workers do, freeing up resources won’t help. HR is not short of resources, they’re short of knowledge and competence. I’m not sure this remark went down very well.

I suspect what’s happening is this. The consultants have come up with very clever software which they’re now flogging to big companies, whose HR directors see a way to reduce costs, get rid of annoying admin tasks, and boost their prestige by being owners of a fancy IT system. Senior managers in big companies are suckers for big tech solutions, which is why there are fleets of high-end Porsches in the car parks of consulting companies. They’ll adopt this software and fire a few drones, but they won’t save costs. Firstly, many HR departments exist to provide jobs: a proper business review would have got rid of them regardless of technological progress. Secondly, the HR personnel who are now free of the admin burdens will turn their attention to more pressing matters – such as sexual harassment trainings and diversity workshops. I’m sure this will cheer the workforce up no-end.

The one thing missing from this architecture was any solid link in knowledge and experience between HR and what the company actually does. Apparently workers were consulted by the designers of these systems, and I daresay in some cases this was done properly and good feedback obtained. But the whole thing looked to me like a top-down, Soviet-style project where clever people sit in a room and design a system to serve tens of thousands of people they’ve never met and couldn’t even describe, and they’ve done it so brilliantly it can be applied anywhere regardless of industry. And the difference between what this and what we have now is it removes every last trace of human contact and understanding. How will this turn out, do you think?

It’s rather ironic that the new era of human resource management, in which whole ranges of human behaviours, desires, and emotions are supposedly considered, is reckoned by experts to be best managed by an algorithm. I waved my paw in the air again and pointed out there’s somewhat of a contradiction between saying businesses must become more touchy-feely as Millennials join who want to feel special and valued from the outset, and mass-managing all personal issues with a robot. But someone piped up and said they were a Millennial and they didn’t care who processed their payroll. Which is true, but they might care who – or what – decides you can’t change department, alter your workload, or complain about how your boss communicates with you.

I daresay these automated HR systems will become the norm in large companies, increasing the gap between them and those outfits which actually do the productive work in any given industry. And they will be yet one more reason for smart, ambitious young people to avoid huge corporations and go somewhere smaller, or work for themselves.

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Admins who don’t admin

A reader sends me a job advert. Look at the bottom:

Simply apply through seek today with your CV. Once we have reviewed your details we will ask you to apply online through our Johnson Controls job portal. You will then be contacted by the Branch Manager as appropriate for an interview. Good Luck!

So if HR like the look of you, you can do their admin work by putting all your details into their database. Presumably they’re too busy to do it themselves, what with all that diversity coordination and training Kiwi fire protection specialists require.

You see this with a lot of what are laughably called “support functions” in companies: they exist mainly to deal with administration but write their procedures in such a way the admin burden is put back on the workforce. I’ve worked in a company where the travel department – made up of 20+ people – made each worker get quotes from three different travel agencies and complete a ream of forms which they would then review and possibly approve. When I worked in a smaller company you’d email the travel girl with some basic details and any preferences and she’d do the rest. I also worked in a company where the contracts department made the engineers write the entire contract, after which they’d staple the general terms and conditions to the back of it. I worked in another place where every year my career manager would ask for my CV, which she already had but she wanted it in “the new format”.

People talk about AI robots replacing HR and other admin functions, but from what I can tell that won’t be necessary. If it’s replacing existing brain power, a reprogrammed food processor would suffice.

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Pink Petro

Via a follower on Twitter, I came across an outfit called Pink Petro. I first assumed it was something to do with the gay lobby, but it turns out it’s an organisation purportedly aimed at boosting women in the oil industry. The first thing that struck me is this outfit is going to run into trouble if it encounters some proper lefty feminists; they’ve been trying to shed the “pink for girls” maxim for decades.

So what is Pink Petro?

Pink Petro is a global community of energy leaders and disruptors committed to busting the diversity gap and creating a new, inclusive future for energy.

Ah yes, the diversity gap:

The energy industry ranks second to last when it comes to gender diversity, with a workforce that’s just 22% female.

Firstly, so what? Perhaps 22% female participation is the optimum balance? Secondly, how many of those 22% are in admin and overhead positions? Judging by the makeup of the Pink Petro management, it seems to be dominated by over-educated power-skirts from HR and marketing with very few having any engineering or technical experience. Do energy companies really need more of these?

The whole thing looks to me like a racket aimed at enriching the founders by shaking down companies for sponsorship and hoodwinking young women into paying to listen to feminist boilerplate. Naturally, like all good SJWs, they claim to be working for the greater good:

3/4 of industry employees are 50 years of age and older, meaning the need for talent is now.

I’ve been hearing this lament for at least 12 years (see also here and here). The fact is oil companies have no idea how to recruit, largely because they’ve taken the responsibility away from the technical management and handed it to sprawling HR bureaucracies filled with the sort of people who now are running Pink Petro. Amusingly they say they are “disruptors”, as if those who bang the diversity drum while climbing the greasy pole of giant multinationals are non-conformists. You’d see more disruption in an abbey full of Trappist monks.

The need for change is now. That change requires a new way of thinking that focuses on community, connection and purpose.

Do you reckon you’ll hear “new ways of thinking” in a conference organised by this lot? In their next one the headline speaker is Randi Zuckerberg, who is rich and famous due to the efforts of her brother Mark. That’ll inspire young female engineers, I’m sure.

Funnily enough, I actually know one of the keynote speakers and have worked with her. By all accounts she’s a very good senior manager, although the myth built up around her probably wouldn’t stand up to serious scrutiny. I know lots of men who worked with her who said she was a great boss, as well as a good personal friend to some. But I recall a young woman who worked with her who told me that while she was a good boss, she made it very clear that all achievements on the project must be hers and hers alone: nobody else could take any credit. She also said that if challenged she could quickly turn childish, making personal remarks which anyone with experience would recognise as overcompensation for insecurity. This was particularly the case with young, ambitious women who crossed her path. That said, this was some time ago; hopefully she’s changed since then.

So what’s the conference about? Well, you tell me:

The Pink Petro HERWorld Energy Forum is an innovative experience that addresses new frontiers in the energy industry where business, workforce, innovation and policy intersect. Powered by creative disruptor, Pink Petro, our forums are hybrid in-person, digital simulcasted experiences built on a firm belief that energy education is changing and needs to be accessible to everyone, everywhere in classrooms, the field, office, and the C-Suite.

Are you any the wiser? The only effect that word salad had on me was to make my teeth grate at the term “C-Suite“. I first heard it during one of my lectures a few weeks back and it makes a firm’s senior management sound like a bunch of status-seeking egomaniacs whose first order of business is safeguarding their own power and privilege. Does anyone know how long this term has been in use?

HERWorld is proud to boast the contribution of women and minorities in energy. Seeing is believing. For us it’s not about talking about diversity, it’s about socializing energy by tapping the diverse faces and voices in our industry.

Because nothing will boost the prestige of women in the oil industry like paragraphs of woolly guff from a bunch of power-skirts with MBAs from Ivy League business schools.

Since the forum’s inception, our focus has been to put a focus on reverse-representation. Most industry events include 95%+ male speakers. HERWorld reverses that and does better. We include women and minorities in our panels and keynotes (on average 85%) and have over 20% male attendees.

I know lots of very good female engineers working in the oil industry, some of whom do face difficulties because of their sex (see here, for example). Women in the oil industry would be better served by rewarding competence and delivery rather than sheep-like compliance, bootlicking, and an ability to enthusiastically embrace every idiotic management directive. Self-serving, discriminatory outfits like Pink Petro might be able to charm or scare the PR managers of major companies into sponsoring them and have HR managers singing their praises, but they will do nothing to help normal women navigate a career in the oil industry. On the contrary, they are more likely to do them considerable harm.

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Shifting Sands

Via a reader, this is a good blog post which deals with several topics I write about on here, i.e. the degree to which large companies outsource expertise, the bureaucratic burden of compliance, people working in the gig economy, and the role of HR. Some quotes:

Today, Human Resources costs have gone up so much that small companies are outsourcing their HR tasks to service contractors.  If you’re a small company, perhaps around the 50-employee mark, the amount of time required to ensure compliance with the many laws interferes with the other things managers need to do.  As a result, they hire HR service companies to ensure they’re meeting all the regulations.

In the case of big engineering/manufacturing companies like the one I’m retired from, they will probably only keep the people who are their technology leaders as full time employees.  There will be fewer new graduate engineers hired: big companies were typically where new grads went for their first job because they’re too expensive for a small company to make productive. Perhaps those companies will soon be a few percent long-term employees, maybe twice that percentage in promising young engineers, but the majority of the “heavy lifting”; the jobs that require experience and the engineering judgement that experience brings, will go to contract engineers.

You may have heard this referred to as “the Gig Economy”; you don’t have a full time position anywhere, but you have a handful of part time jobs that you do as needed.

Go and read the whole thing.

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