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    Published on: January 9, 2023

    There's a terrific business lesson to be found in the story of a 26-year-old "TikTok Whisperer" who was able to help a political campaign overcome some significant odds and find success by targeting a new and receptive audience.

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    CNBC writes that "quiet hiring" is a workplace phenomenon likely to occur this year, defined as "when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees … Sometimes, it means hiring short-term contractors. Other times, it means encouraging current employees to temporarily move into new roles within the organization."

    Emily Rose McRae, who leads Gartner’s future of work research team, tells CNBC, "The reality for the next year is — whether or not we go into a recession — everyone’s a little nervous.  In a lot of cases, organizations are not necessarily doing a hiring freeze, or layoffs, but maybe slowing down a little bit on their hiring … The talent shortage that we talked about throughout 2022 hasn’t gone away.  So, you’re in a situation where it’s harder to get head count, and you have a desperate need for talent.”

    CNBC goes on:

    "Hiring usually falls into one of three categories: backfilling old roles, creating new ones to help the company grow or addressing an acute, immediate need.

    "Quiet hiring is all about that third category, even if it doesn’t technically involve any new hiring at all. The idea is to prioritize the most crucial business functions at a given time, which could mean temporarily mixing up the roles of current employees."

    There is, the story suggests, "some inherent tension here: If you’re temporarily reassigned to a different part of your company, you might interpret that as being told that your regular job isn’t particularly important. After all, nobody’s getting hired to backfill your old responsibilities.

    "Bosses can help address that by clearly articulating why the specific project or business division is so crucial to the company’s success. It’ll help the employee feel valued, and less likely to see the move as a sign that they need to start looking for jobs elsewhere."

    KC's View:

    Seems to me that one of the ways to address the "inherent tension" is to give people a greater sense of the whole, to give them a sense of being invested - both tangibly and intangibly - in the success of the entire enterprise.  It means discouraging siloed thinking, with folks just focusing on their own functions and own departments.

    One of the examples cited in the CNBC story is "Australian airline Qantas, which asked executives to address a labor shortage last year, in part, by rotating in as baggage handlers."   This reminded me of the conversations we were having here last week about Southwest Airlines, and how the company's founding CEO, Herb Kelleher, exemplified this sort of attitude before it was a management buzzword.  There are few messages more clarifying than when a senior executive grabs a mop or takes over a checkout lane or carries bags out to a car.  And when this kind of attitude is institutionalized - part of the executive's regular responsibilities, it becomes a cultural norm, not an anomaly.

    I also think that one of the things this suggests to me is the importance of investing in continuing education.  When new skills are needed, one of the ways to address the challenge is to make sure that existing employees, at a variety of levels, have the opportunity to grow … it helps them feel more invested in the company, because they feel like their company is more invested in them.

    Note:  MNB tomorrow will feature a conversation with Greg McNiff, COO of Stater Bros., who will discuss this issue, especially in the context of how members of the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) works with the University of Southern California (USC).

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    Forbes reports that VillageMD, which is 60 percent owned by Walgreens, "now has a network over more than 680 locations across the U.S., including 200 adjacent to the pharmacy chain’s U.S. drugstores."  The expanded footprint is due to Village MD's $8.9 billion acquisition of Summit Health.

    According to the story, "The early and future success of the Village Medical at Walgreens clinics, which include eight exam rooms with two physicians and a staff, is already figuring in a more positive future financial outlook for the drugstore chain … Having more healthcare services and closer relationships with physicians makes Walgreens medical care provider network more attractive to health insurance companies, looking for more convenient and lower cost primary care options for their clients."

    KC's View:

    If nothing else, the past three years have reminded us how important it is to have easy access to various levels of healthcare.  I've long felt that this is a smart strategic move for retailers to make, though I've expressed some skepticism about retailers' ability to deliver on the promise;  the long-term play of creating enabling relationships between healthcare professionals and patients may not always be in synch with the short-term demands of being a chain retailer.

    But I admire the impulse.

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    CBS Sunday Morning yesterday featured a profile of billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, whose latest high-profile endeavor is the Cost Plus Drug Company, which aims to dramatically reduce the cost of prescription medications in the US - an effort that, if successful, conceivably could reshape this segment of the healthcare business.

    You can watch the piece below … and the discussion of Cost Plus starts at about 1:12.

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    •  While Amazon reportedly is laying people off and scaling back some of its investment in its devices business, CNBC reports that Amazon "is betting that Alexa, its voice-activated virtual assistant, can help ease one of electric vehicle drivers’ biggest worries: finding a charging station while on the road."

    Amazon last week announced a new collaboration with EVGo, described as "one of the largest U.S. charging networks," that will enable people with cards equipped with Alexa systems to navigate to its charging stations and pay for service, all via voice command.

    CNBC writes that "while Tesla owners can rely on the company’s proprietary 'Supercharger' network, drivers of non-Tesla EVs are confronted with a mishmash of competing charging networks, chargers that may not be well maintained, and apps that provide incomplete — and sometimes outdated — information."

    Anes Hodžić, vice president at Amazon’s Smart Vehicles group, tells CNBC, "We want Alexa to be useful for customers in their everyday lives, and EV charging is a great example of a task that can be simplified and made more convenient through the power of AI."

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "America’s employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in December, evidence that the economy remains healthy yet also a sign that the Federal Reserve may still have to raise interest rates aggressively to slow growth and cool inflation.

    "The December job growth, though a decent gain, amounted to the lowest monthly increase in two years. The unemployment rate remained fell to 3.5 percent, matching a 53-year low, the Labor Department said Friday.

    "Last month’s job growth capped a second straight year of robust hiring during which the nation regained all 22 million jobs it lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the rapid hiring and the hefty pay raises that accompanied it likely contributed to a spike in prices that catapulted inflation to its highest level in 40 years."

    •  From the BBC:

    "The head of McDonald's has warned staff to expect job cuts in a huge reorganisation that will also see it speed up plans for new restaurants.

    "Its boss Chris Kempczinski said the fast food giant was being hurt by an 'outdated and self-limiting' structure.  'We are trying to solve the same problems multiple times, aren't always sharing ideas,' he said.

    "In a letter sent to employees globally, it said it would review corporate staffing levels by April.  'There will be difficult discussions and decisions ahead,' the memo said.

    "McDonald's employs about 200,000 people in corporate roles and its owned restaurants, with 75% of them outside located outside of the US."

    •  Bon Appétit has a piece about social media outrage generated by Ronzoni's announcement that "it would be ceasing production this January of pastina, the star-shaped pasta beloved in so many Italian American households.

    "Ronzoni gave little information as to why it would be discontinuing pastina, besides a tweet the brand shared, claiming it was a difficult but unavoidable decision resulting from a problem with its supplier … six separate petitions have formed on to try to save the pasta. Meanwhile, offline pastina lovers have already started hoarding boxes."

    Some context from Bon Appétit:

    "Pastina literally means 'little pasta' and can refer to any number of miniature pastas, but Ronzoni, founded in 1915 by an Italian immigrant, helped to mainstream the star shape found in pasta bowls across the U.S. It boils in a few minutes because of its small shape and makes a whimsical addition to soups, whether in a chicken-and-stars or a celebratory Italian wedding. It’s often cut from the leftovers of pasta. Scraps of dough, rendered celestial.

    "The adoration for pastina starts at an early age. YouTube hosts thousands of videos of users making pastina 'just like nonna did.'  'The Sopranos' references it multiple times; Carmela lovingly calls the dish 'pasteen' when offering to make it for sick family members."

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    On Friday, we cited columnist Martin Peers in The Information, who had a piece that is very tough on Amazon, suggesting that its current problems - low stock price, mounting layoffs among them - are largely self-inflicted and arguing that "after nearly 30 years in operation, Amazon should be in better shape. It’s time for the wild spending to stop."

    MNB reader Brian Blank responded:

    One quibble with the article from The Information:  I don’t know that it’s quite accurate to say that e-commerce has “tanked”.  Yes, it is down compared to pandemic levels, when it was the best - or only - option for so many, but I think it’s more accurate (and less hysterical) to say that e-commerce has normalized.

    Personally, I only find e-commerce useful when I know what I need.  Christmas shopping, for instance, was almost entirely in person this year, as I needed to see what’s out there to get ideas and inspiration, and - especially in the case of apparel - I didn’t want to buy anything for anyone (including myself) that I hadn’t seen and touched (is that sweater soft enough? What does that color look like in real life?).

    I have also decreased my spending at Amazon over the last year or more simply because things I used to order from Amazon I have now found to be less expensive from other retailers, especially Walmart. (And I can order through Walmart+ and pick up from my nearby store without having to go inside, which is even quicker delivery of most items than waiting for 2-day Prime delivery.)

    MNB reader Philip Bradley wrote:

    Martin Peers says "wild spending."  No!  What Amazon is doing is capital investment.  Perhaps too heavy, but still capital investment.  This has been Amazon's avenue for growth in the past.

    Another MNB reader chimed in with his Amazon experience:

    My RING doorbell Annual Subscription was $30 a year for the past few years. Renewal this Feb. will be $42.99.  This is basically just on-line event video storage.  Helpful to see package deliveries, porch pirate activity, and who is at the front door.  With well over 100 homicides and countless near homicides in Columbus, Ohio annually the police have little interest here in investigating/arresting porch pirates.  Most of my alerts are people jogging or walking their dogs, or cats roaming in the wee hours of the night.  Bezos is finding this an easy way to enhance Amazon revenues.  It's only another $13 plus tax so I assume most of us will just pony up.  I do not have an Amazon Prime  membership.  On the rare occasion I need something from Amazon (perhaps twice a year) my son has that membership.    I may cancel - the RING still would serve as a nice doorbell. 

    Published on: January 9, 2023

    Week 18 … the final week of the National Football League regular season…

    Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders 13

    Tennessee Titans 16, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

    Cleveland Browns 14, Pittsburgh Steelers 28

    Baltimore Ravens 16, Cincinnati Bengals 27

    Minnesota Vikings 29, Chicago Bears 13

    New England Patriots 23, Buffalo Bills 35

    New York Jets 6, Miami Dolphins 11

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17, Atlanta Falcons 30

    Carolina Panthers 10, New Orleans Saints 7

    Houston Texans 32, Indianapolis colts 31

    Arizona Cardinals 13, San Francisco 49ers 38

    Dallas Cowboys 6, Washington Commanders 26

    Los Angeles Rams 16, Seattle Seahawks 19

    New York Giants 16, Philadelphias Eagles 22

    Los Angeles Chargers 28, Denver Broncos 31

    Detroit Lions 20, Green Bay Packers 16