The Five Horsemen and you

A rambling post of thoughts for you.

For a few years there has been talk of the “five horsemen” of tech – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The opinion of having Microsoft included has varied over time the final number doesn’t matter, these five organisations are massive – in terms of impact, revenue, employees and valuation.

In fact they are the largest in the US stock market! What a change. In 1996 (20 years ago) the five largest companies were – General Motors, Ford Motor, Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores and AT&T. Even ten years ago the list had not changed a lot – Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores, General Motors, Chevron Corporation and Ford Motor. Today the top spots are filled with technology based companies.

(It is not just US companies – Alibaab is a valuation of $210b with approximately $16b in cash.)

Today I was listening to TWIT’s episode “Headless Body in Topless Bar” where the discussion continued and what struck me was the impact these five companies are (and will in the next decade) have on our lives and the workplace.

The impact is and will be profound  – they are all shaping today’s workforce and tomorrow’s. Be it through smartphones, collaboration, social media, retail, search, machine learning, logistics and artificial intelligence. Yes Microsoft might be replaced by a Telsa/SolarCity (or another) but the fact still remains technology and the companies that create it are defining the modern era.

Some initial thoughts – What is the impact of these technologies on your workplace? Are you embracing them?

It must of been the recent earnings announcements from many of the five, as Jason Calacanis today published an interesting piece on what the five could be also doing on the M&A front. As he states it is pure speculation based on a tweet, but the results are interesting.

Jason talks about how poker players act differently depending on the size of their stack. When you have a lot of money the game you play is very different to when you don’t. Just look at the “stack size” of the “five horseman” and then their M&A activity compared to some “traditional” companies:

Tech companies that are wildly deep-stacked right now:

1. Apple $200b+ in cash/equivalents, $593B valuation
2. Google $75b+ in cash/equivalents, $551B valuation
3. Amazon $16b+ in cash/equivalents, $366B valuation
4. Facebook $23b+ in cash/equivalents, $362B valuation
5. Microsoft $105b+ in cash/equivalents, $457B valuation
6. Cisco $60b+ in cash/equivalents, $157B valuation

Those six companies have $470b+ in cash/equivalents and $2.5t in market cap.

Zuckerberg has been the master of acquisitions in the past couple of years, having the audacity to pay $22b for WhatsApp and $2b for a *pre-customer* Oculus. Think about that for a moment. Zuck paid $2b for a company without a market, and that may take a decade to have 100m users — if that ever happens!

And look what just happened. Unilever, GM and Walmart just sat down at the big game and shot the locks off their wallets:

1. Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1b
2. GM bought Cruise for a rumored $1b+
3. Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3b
4. Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83b

Jason goes on to review a few companies who are the most desirable to deep staked players aka “five horseman” and some companies “wanting” to sell.

Interesting in both lists are two enterprise software vendors – Slack (desirable), and Zenefits (“wanting” to be sold).

Finally have a think about your workforce. Is your talent pool deep-stacked? Can you use that talent to out maneuver your competition? Can you make bets like Facebook’s $22b for WhatsApp or are your stuck with buying Jet.com for $3b?

The glass is full with Google Glass

One of the coolest inventions of 2012 is Google Glass, a wearable computer, running Android, that looks like a set of regular glasses that includes a video camera and augmented reality head-up display unit.

Sergey_Brin_Glass

Wearers of the glasses interact with them using natural language input while connected to the Internet. The best way to describe how they work is through a short video Google released called Project Glass: One day…

Yes the obvious functions of this type of device are to mimic today’s smartphones and go towards creating a world as shown in Apple’s Knowledge Navigator video from 1987!

Now back to how Augmented Reality fits with HR and management. What could be done in the workplace with such devices?

Steve Boese covered a few of the options late last year to gain access to real-time information during the work day:

Candidate Interviews – Feedback from references, instant assessment of candidate body language and verbal cues, real-time fact-checking for candidate job history – what wouldn’t these AR glasses be useful for in interviews?

Performance Management Discussions – Context is everything in these discussions. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a ‘live feed’ of the last 3 months of peer comments scrolling by as you chat with an employee about their need to be more of a ‘team player.’

Talent Planning Sessions – it would be cool to see the updated and real-time financial performance of each unit for the execs under discussion just as the CEO is advocating for one of their golfing buddies for a plum assignment or promotion

I see the ability to have access to real-time information at points in time when it is needed is as the “killer app” for the devices to go from hype into being a productive part of the workplace. I also see great potential for these devices, away from the office worker.

  • Safety: The glasses could alert workers to unsafe practices like moving too close to a edge or in mining that a colleague is on the other side of a tunnel before drilling or laying explosives.
  • Real-time information: In a hospital setting have nurses and doctors be able to get live updates on how their patients are doing. As they approach the bed side of the patient the relevant information is displayed on the screen no longer requiring them to flip through a chart. The wearable device removes some of the big issues with technology by the bedside; portability, obstruction, safety and infection control. Wear a device like Glass is no different than wearing regular glasses.
  • Quality control: Glass could use the video feed to take photos to complete with specifications to ensure products are being manufactured at the right quality levels.
  • Stock taking: Instead of manually counting stock Glass could count for the wearer.

The list goes on.

With this type of device also comes great questions and obstacles for employers. How do we protect the privacy of our employees? While we are seeing BYOD starting to make their way into the enterprise how will CIO’s react to bringing your own Glasses to the workplace? How do we stop the devices being used for time and motion studies?

How long till we see these devices in the “real” world, not long. Mashable reports that Google is starting to provide developers access to Glass through a “Glass Foundry” in San Francisco and New York to begin working with the APIs and have allowed developers to pre-order the Explorer Editions for $1,500 to be shipped sometime during 2013.

Are your offer letters keepsakes?

Something I get asked a lot is “How does social media impact the HR department?”

There are lots of ways, including areas that crosses into the recruiting; attraction, branding, onboarding and closing the deal.

Do your offer letters engage future employees like this?

All kidding aside, any company that can give this much attention to detail just in their HR paperwork should be fun to work for.  I am looking forward to this new adventure.

How about something someone would never throw out?

I don’t think I’ll ever throw this out. It’s a keepsake that reminds me of the major move I made from Toronto to San Francisco and all the sacrifices made and opportunities gained.

Or make your experienced hire feel “like a kid on Christmas morning”?

Enter the Apple Job Offer.
ioffer

(Via Glyph)

These are the feeling expressed by Glyph about his current Apple job offer and Justin Reid’s historical offer.

Just imagine how engaged your new employees will be if they feel proud enough to photograph your paperwork and describe the “tension on the hinge of the folder is perfect: not too tense, not too loose”! Let’s not over look the complete alignment of the above offer packages to the corporate culture of Apple.

Unfortunately onboarding processes are a frequently overlooked part of both recruitment and HR processes.

Succession planning a critical process

Managing your talent is one of the most critical activities an HR professional undertakes. Starting with the workforce plan, the right mix of hires, supporting performance and development, to planning succession which feeds back into your workforce plan. Of these steps succession planning, and workforce planning tend to be overlooked by many organisations.

For many HR professionals one of the challenges is having the time and money to develop and execute these plans. Succession planning can be viewed by senior management as not adding value to the organisation due to the long lead time it takes before the benefits are realised.

The events over the last two weeks should be a rude awakening to all business leaders who have not supported their HR team’s efforts around succession planning.

Which brings me to Apple.

For a long time there has been speculation over Steve Jobs’s health. With even rumours of his death circulating every few months. In September 2008 Steve joked about these reports in a presentation to the Apple faithful.

Steve Jobs Health

Source: AP

Which brings us to 2009. On January 5th Steve Jobs admitted to some minor health issues, caused by a “hormone imbalance”.

Then 2 weeks later, Jobs takes medical leave until June 2009. Sending the technology world into a spin and Apple stocks dive 7%. Now there are talks of investors suing Apple over the health issues. Ouch, costly.

Time for the board to execute the succession plan.

Who will step in for one of the world’s greatest visionaries? Tim Cook. Tim has stepped in before to run Apple, during 2004 when Steve Jobs was recovering from surgery. Or could it be Philip Schiller who delivered the recent MacWorld Keynote? It seems Apple’s board has been thinking about succession. But more needs to be done, most people do not know who they are, a fact highlighted by a recent Knowledge@Wharton article on the issue.

Apple has a strong bench of executives who could succeed Jobs, but major stakeholders, such as investors, customers and partners, don’t know much about them, according to Wharton faculty. The first step in any succession plan may be illustrating that Apple is more than Jobs.

But if Steve does not come back from medical leave is Tim or Philip the visionary leader to replace Steve Jobs? Or is there another solution, like the Microsoft process with replacing Bill Gates. Business guy as CEO, Steve Ballmer and technical guy Ray Ozzie.

Succession planning matters.