Our biology often prevents us from paying attention to the future.

Our biology often prevents us from paying attention to the future.

As I have mentioned numerous times I do a presentation called 7 Steps to being a practical HR Futurist. I also teach the HR classes in which we include “environmental scanning” as one of the key skill sets needed by HR professionals. People nod and agree that it is important to pay attention to the things that may affect their world of work yet they don’t. They may get excited about it for a while, but then their attention wanes. I have wondered why, after all I find it fascinating, but then I read about the “paradox of the present” and an explanation was offered.

What is the Paradox of the Present?

I am reading a fascinating book called The Signals are Talking, written by futurist Amy Webb. (Link below) Webb says that several factors are involved in our lack of attention. First is our basic biology. We have a “reptilian brain” that is important to our survival. It controls our “fight or flight” reaction. As a result, Webb says, “Adapting to big, sweeping disruption or taking risks on unproven technology causes that part of our lower brain to kick into gear. It’s more comfortable for us to make incremental changes…. Our reptilian brains sometimes tempt us into denying that change is afoot in any meaningful way.” In our history, or rather prehistory, it was more important to pay attention to the present lest we get eaten by a lion.

Secondly, in today’s world it is hard to recognize change. She says that “novelty has become the new normal.” After all how quickly does your phone change or your computer need to be upgraded? Webb says “The gravitational pull toward what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next has left us in a constant state of fight-or-flight.” As a result of this novelty and our biology we have a tendency to miss what is really important. We don’t pay attention to things that are developing, that will become the trends that will affect how we work and how we live.

Training is needed

Because of the overwhelming nature of the change that occurs around us instructions are needed to help us realize what might be important, help us recognize those trends that may rock our businesses and eliminate our jobs. Webb says “Without instructions as a guide, we face the same perceptual bias as all of the generations who came before us; we have a difficult time seeing how not only the far future will unfold but the near future as well…. Novelty is the new normal, making it difficult for us to understand the bigger picture.”

I am going to be reading and learning from Webb. I plan on bringing you along on that journey. In future installments of Future Friday I will be exploring Webb’s suggestions. I hope you learn along with me. So stay tuned. Don’t let your reptilian brain make you flee from reading this material.


Advice on Handling Negative Feedback

by Michael Haberman on December 8, 2016 · 0 comments

I thought this infographic was interesting. Not everyone knows how to handle negative feedback, especially those new to the workforce. Here is advice from 57 people.
Infographics: Negative Feedback | Venngage

Negative Feedback | Make an Infographic


What is confirmation bias and how to overcome it?

by Michael Haberman on December 7, 2016 · 1 comment

Avoid cognitive bias in your interpretation of interview answers and data interpretation.

Avoid cognitive bias in your interpretation of interview answers and data interpretation.

Have you ever had a situation where you looked at some data and it confirmed what you thought? Or you were interviewing a candidate that belonged to the same sorority you belonged to and she was just as bright as you expected her to be? Or the millennial employee you have is just as spoiled as you expected them to be? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, you may be a victim of “confirmation bias.”

What is confirmation bias?

According to Wikipedia confirmation bias is:

“…is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.”

Another way of looking at this is as Kendra Cherry wrote on the website VeryWell “A confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases.” We saw this type of cognitive bias in abundance in the Presidential election. It is not however just a big event phenomenon, it occurs on a daily basis, such as in interpreting data or in evaluating candidates for a job.

Analyzing data

An HBR Tip of the day stated that “we’re likely to pay more attention to findings that align with our beliefs and to ignore other facts and patterns in the data.” The tip suggests there are ways that you can avoid doing this by embracing information that is counter to your beliefs. They suggest you can do this by:

  • Specify in advance the data and analytical approaches on which you’ll base your decision. This will reduce the temptation to cherry-pick findings that agree with your prejudices.
  • Actively look for findings that disprove your beliefs. Ask yourself, “If my expectations are wrong, what pattern would I likely see in the data?” Enlist a skeptic to help you.
  • Treat your findings like predictions, and test them. If you uncover a correlation from which you think your organization can profit, use an experiment to validate that correlation.

HR situations

Interviewing is an area that is especially susceptible to cognitive biases. When I was trained in behavioral interviewing I was taught to do what the instructor Paul Green called “disconfirming.” That means if you found that you liked the candidate a great deal you needed to ask yourself “Why do I like this person so much? What should I dislike about them?” It is very similar to the second point made about data, you need to actively look for findings that disprove your beliefs.  For example with a candidate that is just really “wowing” you, sit back and determine if it is really their qualifications or is it because they went to the same school, or belonged to the same sorority, or their life modeled yours?

Having the ability to question your evaluations, or the evaluations of others, will help you overcome the cognitive error of confirmation bias. Having this insight into your own behavior will often make you the wisest one in the room

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Mandated Paid Sick Leave- an inevitability?

by Michael Haberman on December 6, 2016 · 0 comments

Will mandated sick time become more common?

Will mandated sick time become more common?

Many large companies offer paid sick leave to their employees. Many smaller companies do as well, but some do not. For those companies that offer it the amount of time offered varies. In the smaller business market that I work in the average is three days with a range of 0 to 5 days. Some companies have combined sick leave with other paid time off, such as vacation, and allow the employee to use the time as desired. That is what companies do on their own volition, but there is an increasing tendency for governments, both state and local, to mandate that employers provide paid time off for sick time.

Mandated time

We all know that the Federal government has mandated leave time that is unpaid, aka FMLA. Most people also know that at least one state, California, as a mandated paid leave. But what about paid sick leave? That time that does not really fall under FMLA definitions. There have been 7 states, 29 cities, 2 counties, and Washington D.C. that have paid sick time laws on the books. The two most recent cities to join this list Morristown and Plainfield, New Jersey. There is some variation in the amount of time that is mandated, but the most common time is 1 hour of sick time earned for every 30 hours worked. The next most common time is 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.

Many of these laws limit the total amount of sick time that must be paid for to 40 hours on an annual basis, while some require 48 hours. There is some variation in how much based upon the size of the company, with very small companies, i.e., 6 or fewer employees, being relieved from the obligation to offer paid time, but being required to offer unpaid time. Every one of them requires time for personal illness and the illness of children. Many have extended this to include even more family members.

Will this be extended?

More and more discussions are occurring that indicate that state and local governments are considering mandating paid time. The Northwest and the Northeast states lead this effort, but there are some Midwest states that have done this as well. I think it is an idea that will spread. Like I indicated above, most companies of any size offer paid sick time as it is. They find this is a necessary benefit to be competitive in the job market. States may also be using mandated time off to be competitive in attracting talent to the state in order to attract business to the state. That however, may be a two-edged sword and may drive as much business away as it does attract. If the Federal government considers mandated paid leave, yet to be determined, that would level the playing field.

In reality the business that will be most affected by mandated sick time is small business. Lawmaking bodies, be they state or local, need to take in consideration the impact any such legislation will have on the small companies that are trying to establish themselves.


Ignoring the minimum wage is a big deal!

by Michael Haberman December 5, 2016

Tweet With all the talk about minimum wage and minimum salary, a company ignores at its own peril their obligation to pay people the proper hourly wage. So Life Time Fitness found out. They were ordered to pay Corporate-wide back wages of $476,329 due to 15,546 employees at locations in 26 states. They had to […]

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Future Friday: Shifting Megatrends and how they will affect the workplace

by Michael Haberman December 2, 2016

Tweet Price Waterhouse Coopers, LLP also known as PwC just released a new paper discussing five megatrends they have identified. These five megatrends are discussed in their paper in terms of how they will affect global defense and security. I am going to discuss two of these megatrends in terms of how they will affect […]

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Is the Fight for $15 self-defeating?

by Michael Haberman December 1, 2016

Tweet As I write this the employees at O’Hare Airport are on strike in conjunction with multiple Fight for $15 rally’s spread across the country. Bolstered by support from unions, particularly the SEIU, workers are trying to get increases to $15 per hour. Is it working? Or are they shooting themselves in the foot? Who […]

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EEOC issues National Origin discrimination guidance

by Michael Haberman November 30, 2016

Tweet National origin discrimination is certainly in the news today. With large numbers of people seeking refuge in the United States from the wars and dismal conditions in their home countries and due to the rise in terroristic act national origin discrimination has been at the forefront of many discrimination cases. It is however not […]

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Hey Employers you now have to train employees on the use of a ladder!

by Michael Haberman November 29, 2016

Tweet On November 18, 2016 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new 513 page final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems. This rule becomes effective January 17, 2017 and will affect 6.9 million establishments that employ 112 million employees, according to Seyfarth Shaw. Included in these regulations is a […]

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The FLSA changes have been stopped, NOW WHAT?

by Michael Haberman November 28, 2016

Tweet Most of you by now have heard that the FLSA changes on the salary level to be and exempt employee scheduled to go into effect on December 1 have been stopped, at least temporarily, by a Federal judge in Texas. This will have different meaning to different parties, depending on where they were in […]

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