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    New Technology for Human Resources

    Later today I am heading to Washington DC to attend and give a brief presentation on HR Technology to the WTPF - The Business Forum for Washington area Human Resources Professionals,  at their annual SOARS day.

    I am really excited and appreciative for the opportunity to present, the only downer is that the WTPF event is also the start of the HR Technology Conference in Chicago.  (Anyone looking for me in Chicago, I promise I will get there on Wednesday night).

    The subject of my talk at WTPF is of course HR Technology, and rather than bore the audience with tales of delivery models, maintenance fees, and competency modeling across talent processes, I thought I would talk about some interesting, new, and yes fun technologies that HR professionals might use in their own departments, and broader organizations.

    Some of the technologies I will touch on during the session:

    Sociacast - an activity streams tool for the enterprise, similar to FriendFeed but not as nerdy sounding

    Socialtext - wiki-based platform that has expanded into micro-messaging

    Shareflow -  a Google Wave-like tool for aggregating and collaboration

    UserVoice - A classic customer and employee feedback tool that is easily embedded on websites

    Rypple - tool for getting and receiving feedback, built around the idea of improving individual performance

    VanillaForums - simple forum solution to capture ideas and comments from employees with a minimum of complexity

    Ideascale - harness the ideas and innovations from your employees, allow the 'best' ideas to surface

    And of course what 'new Tech' presentation for an HR group would be completed without mentioning social networking, so I will give the requisite 'Twitter is fantastic' bit.

    If you are at the WTPF event, be sure to say hello. Many thanks to the WTPF for having me, the last time I was asked to speak at such a classy event it was my brother's wedding, and let's just say that speech did not go over too well.


    The Week to Talk Technology

    In the HR world, this is the week the Technology gets top billing.

    The HR Technology Conference in Chicago runs from this Wednesday, September 30 through Friday, October 2.

    I will be attending with the aim of seeing as many interesting technologies as I can, talking with tech leaders and visionaries about the current state and future directions of workforce technology, and arm wrestle a few folks to come on the HR Happy Hour show.

    Mark Stelzer at Inflexion Advisors and Laurie Ruettimann at PunkRockHr offered there takes on what they are looking for and expecting here and here, so I figured I would offer my two cents:

    I am offended by massive technology projects that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, take a year to implement, and leave the users angry, frustrated, and dreading their forced interactions with the systems.

    I am deeply offended by massive technology projects that cost millions of dollars, take many years to implement, and cripple organizations under their weight for years to come.

    I want to see solutions that can do the following:

    1. Solve an actual problem that matters to the actual employees and users of the technology.

    2. Do it quickly, efficiently, and gasp - in a manner not reminiscent of a root canal.

    3. Work and work well in the shortest possible time from when they are purchased. 

    4. Support not only the massive, global Fortune 1000 company, but the 117-person small business that  has 1.5 HR employees buried under piles of paper. I want to know what your solution offers them.

    5. Show how what you make empowers employees, contributes to their individual success, and helps enable them to perform.

    Show me all that, and you have a fantastic technology.

    I look forward to the show, and meeting lots of folks for the first time. If you see me there, be sure to say hello.


    Why Technology?

    I am getting ready to head to Chicago later this week for the HR Technology Conference, a three day extravaganza of all things workplace and technology and I started thinking about the reasons why technology is implemented in organizations, and the key drivers for the executives that write the checks and give the go-ahead for big tech projects.

    Cost reduction - Process 'XYZ' costs us too much today, lets apply a technology solution that will reduce 'XYZ' cost.  A solid reason in many cases, but if cost reduction is the sole or primary objective of the technology project, it will have limited effect, and it certainly is not all that interesting.  Lots of outsourcing deals are done on cost reduction alone. So HR Technology vendors that pitch primarily on cost reduction may be successful, but they too probably are not all that interesting. Have you met very many really fascinating accountants?

    Compliance - HR knows all about the demands (certainly in the USA) around compliance.  Whether it is payroll, benefits administration, EEOC regulations in the recruitment process, it goes on and on. And truly it seems there will be a continuously expanding set of demands on HR for 'required' reporting and disclosure.  Compliance sucks, it is a pain in the neck, and your CEO demands that HR places a high priority on it, since he/she does not want to end up on a perp walk one day. Compliance is REALLY important, but also not terribly interesting.

    Efficiency - Spin this as 'improving productivity' or 'doing more with less'. It usually comes down to this type of discussion : We have to perform activity 'ABC', and it takes too long, we make too many errors, or not enough employees actually complete the process.  A great example in HR is the annual employee performance review. There are plenty of technology solutions that can be applied to performance management issues to increase participation, ensure consistency, and speed up the process. Certainly these are all important, and if you believe in the strategic value of the process itself, then clearly simply improvement to the process can drive organizational value.  Vendors that offer technologies to support process efficiency typically also enable the next and more important reason for implementing technology.

    Performance - I am not just talking about individual employee performance (although that is the critical element that supports everything else), but rather overall organizational performance, and the support necessary to execute the business strategy. Technologies that assist HR in attracting the best talent, ensuring that employees are aligned with and fairly measured on critical organizational objectives, have access to great resources for training and development, and finally drive compensation and rewards appropriately are probably what most great HR leaders are looking for.  In the last few years technologies that also facilitate, enhance, and improve employee 'connection' and workplace collaboration are on the radar of HR leaders.  These technologies, when chosen carefully, applied creatively, and managed effectively can lead us to the final aspect of technology in the workplace.

    Fun - How many workplace technologies just suck the life out of employees? From bad interfaces, to redundant steps, and arcane language bad HR technology can drag down the organization.  The best and most exciting new technologies do more than automate, they improve and add value, AND engage users on a whole new level.  Technologies that benefit individual employees as well as the company are the ones that are the most interesting and compelling today. Work has changed, no one (hardly) stays in one place very long, tools that employees see as enhancing their personal effectiveness, skills, and value are in many ways the future of HR Technology.  Systems that move beyond 'Doing my job better, faster, cheaper' to 'Making me better, smarter, and more connected' are the ones I want to see at HR Technology this week. What is more fun than growing as a person and as a professional?

    If you are at the HR Technology Conference this week, be sure to find me, I look forward to meeting as many people as I can.


    O Canada

    This week has been crazy, first getting accosted in a mall parking lot on the way to RecruitFest, and then the fantastic RecruitFest event itself (and an even better party afterword), and followed on Thursday a chance to meet the team at Rypple and Halogen.

    If you don't know about Rypple, you really should take some time and check out their service.

    Designed to enable individuals to solicit anonymous feedback from trusted advisors, colleagues, friends, customers, or students, it is a fantastically simple, yet powerful solution.  Users craft a simple and concise question, and get feedback that they can use to improve their performance.  The feedback is stored by Rypple, so users can track their performance over time.

    Rypple was selected to present as the Cool New Technologies session at next week's HR Technology Conference, and I recommend you check out what is happening at Rypple, the team is constantly improving and innovating and some really interesting new features are in the works.

    I left the team at Rypple to head to Ottawa, home of Halogen Software, a provider of strategic talent management solutions and a long time supporter of my HR Technology class.  Halogen continues to innovate in the talent management space, with the recent release of next generation Talent Profiles and and a new Activity Tracker, that collects all activity related to performance and development and presents the information in a consolidated feed.

    And most fun of all, today Friday September 26 at 6PM EDT the folks from Halogen will be my guests on the HR Happy Hour show - 'Talent and Technology'.  We will be talking about the role technology can play in helping organizations manage, assess, and optimize talent to help the organization meet its strategic objectives.  Since we are in Canada, I imagine we will also talk a little hockey and perhaps enjoy a few Tim Horton's donuts.

    Thanks again to Connie, Maggie, Brent, Donna, Sean and the entire Halogen team for welcoming me to Halogen and letting me broadcast the show from Halogen HQ.


    RecruitFest Wrap Up

    RecruitFest was everything I expected, and then some.

    It was a really excellent setting in an old hall on the campus of the University of Toronto and a fantastic day.

    From the inimitable Bill Boorman sharing his vision for the futures, and John Sumser and Gerry Crispin gracing us all with their insight and wisdom, to Jenny DeVaughn absolutely bringing her A-game to the Social Media discussion, and Jerry Albright telling it like it is, altogether it was a really interesting and fascinating day.

    Can third-party recruiting survive without re-invention, will recruiters be prepared for any anticipated uptick in hiring, what does the company of the future look like, and how will that force recruiting and HR to adapt were just some of the intriguing conversations I was lucky enough to be able to participate in.

    But for me the real benefit was meeting some fantastic folks for the first time like Chris Havrilla, Jessica Miller-Merrell, Laurie Reuttimann, and Recruiting Animal, just to name a few.

    Lots of great conversations, discussion, debates and certainly friendships being formed.  I think the format and framework, in the 'Unconference', informal style was awesome, and certainly the vibe that I expect we will have at HRevolution in November.

    To Geoff, Jason, Maren and everyone else involved, well done!