“I’m too old for this shit.”

Danny Glover is a black man that Michael Scott trusts more than a white person. For context, Scott trusts Apollo Creed more than Jesus too.

Of course, how can you not trust Danny Glover after his Nth time professing the mismatch between his age and this shit, whatever shit he was in, in the Lethal Weapon movies? From shielding a loudmouthed Joe Pesci from drug-smuggling South African diplomats to getting his ass kicked by Jet Li, Danny Glover was too old for it.

Last week, the good people at Barhead did not think I was too old to be invited to their shindig at this happenin' club (is my lingo too old?). Here with the dish on what this event served up is our BPO event correspondent, Manila Stefon (cue SNL's Stefon):

Manila's hottest event was the My-Checkpoints launch at Valkyrie. Located at the pretentious annex of Megaworld’s latest materialistic monstrosity, this club made full use of its Tuesday night slowdown by opening itself up to nerds like myself who wouldn’t normally be caught dead in its proximity.
This place had everything: loaded funding, an expensive awareness-building gig, seemingly high lead acquisition costs, onscreen flashes of some Facebook pages, a female DJ…
(Long emphatic pause)
…Backup dancers, a couple of wardrobe malfunctions and broken heels, and quite a number of AV difficulties.
So I hope you went down there last Tuesday. The bouncers were total gentlemen and the password was, “I’m here for the thing?”

What it really was, was a seemingly extravagant means to build awareness within, collect email addresses of, and start connections with Philippine BPO leaders, for Barhead's My-Checkpoints, a cloud-based "employee engagement and rewards platform specifically for BPO" that is apparently (as I understood it in a club-noisy environment) built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Power BI.

New adventures of old Microsoft

Despite My-Checkpoints / Barhead being funded by John Orrock, co-founder of Salesforce specialist Cloud Sherpas (acquired by Accenture), it still shouldn't be a surprise that the (anti-Dynamics) Salesforce posse would be a tough crowd.

They were. My Salesforce colleague wasn't impressed. The Dynamics CRM UI is obviously a Salesforce knockoff, she said. (Even to a non-technical Salesforce power user like me, Microsoft's CRM+BI offering gives the first impression of being just a "me too.") "Not groundbreaking," she said.

Another colleague observed, “It’s a shame they’re using an iPad instead of a Surface.” Burn.

  FutureNow Ventures’ John Orrock addresses Philippine BPO in da club. (Image c/o Barhead)

FutureNow Ventures’ John Orrock addresses Philippine BPO in da club. (Image c/o Barhead)

Tale as old as time

More importantly, I'm a little—okay, a lot—skeptical of My-Checkpoints' catchy-sounding but, in fact, superficial Engage-Visualize-Analyze formula. I think it's what happens when you present a product that aims to solve a very important challenge, using people who are not too old for shit and still too naïve to even recognize it. (Note: In this context, I mean 'old' as an indication not necessarily of age but of business maturity.)

There's a Culture thing happening before, throughout, and way after that convenient three-step panacea. A culture thing that's way more profound than the employee chats, polls, contests, and photo albums that My-Checkpoints would have you believe.

First of all, let's address the elephant in the room: most people hate their jobs and many companies are bastards screwing society, knowingly or unknowingly, in small increments or in large quantities. Why don't we start with that realistic premise?

The answer, then, to employee disengagement seems to be, simply: don't be a bastard who screws society. Of course, it also helps that a company's owners and leaders aren't despicable, self-serving assholes. Assholes who hire people smart enough to follow orders but don't want these people to be independent enough to think for themselves and question those orders. Assholes who fudge numbers in order to look good to clients and the public. Assholes who trick employees as early as the recruitment stage, for every penny they can pinch. Assholes who outright lie on proposals and confidently justify doing so.

And if the company's owners and leaders aren't those types of assholes, that would mean team members wouldn't be imagination-deprived bean-counters. Or political ass-coverers. Or clueless numbskulls. Or self-important aggrandizers.

If you're meeting your corporate goals by trusting your smart people enough to let them be themselves, would you be that worried about engagement? If your culture stems from you, as a leader, being not a poseur Gandhi but an authentic human being, with faults, transparent personal agendas, but also practically achievable principles, would you really badly need a tool to cascade that culture?

Old dog, new tricks

I recognize if My-Checkpoints didn't want to antagonize its potential clientele and avoided the premise I laid out above. But honestly, without this premise, My-Checkpoints (or any other "employee engagement and rewards platform") in the hands of society-screwing bastards or despicable assholes is like giving an old dog new tools to preserve his self-serving status quo.

The dystopic scenario would be scary if it wasn't so annoying. Picture it:

Hey, let's play games and hold contests.
Look, Rachel's team is today's best, here's some flip-flops.
Let's try to be like her—we’re not envious and disgruntled at the unfairness at all.
Yo, Mr. CEO says we're his greatest asset, woohoo, my life finally has meaning!
Look at that heat map of discontent—send those guys to laser tag.
We need to give them more distractions from their mind-numbing work, our deceitful promises, and their impending replacement by automation—let’s bombard them with games, materialistic prizes, and new-agey platitudes.

You know. Just like now.

Out of time

Despite all this, the people at Barhead whom I personally met all seemed to be genuinely well-intentioned. Managing Director Andrew Mault said he envisions a Barhead BPO service model that blends both FTE arbitrage and automation (e.g. chatbots). Barhead's account managers were very accommodating too.

One of their salespeople even got around to telling me about her eagerness to take an MBA, despite being on the workforce for only three months (and having already closed an Office 365 sale during those three months). She said she felt she was running out of time.

Now if you weren’t born yet when REM's Out of Time was the Best Alternative Music Album, running out of time at age 22 for an MBA should be one of the most preposterous thoughts that could cross your mind right now.

And if you could lend an ear to your employees' individual apprehensions in personal conversations like that, maybe you too would be too old for something like Engage-Visualize-Analyze as a formula for employee engagement.

I'm too old for this shit.

So back to our question: Is the BPO industry too mature for flashy shenanigans?

Answer: Have street recruiters and free breakfasts for job applicants gone out of style yet?

Oh. Right.

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