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    Defending Technology

    For one reason or another, I have noticed a bit of a backlash lately against technology, specifically some bashing on the over emphasis on social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn for job seekers and recruiters, and of course some re-hashing of the old standard, 'It's not about the technology', when discussing business problems and the relative importance technology should play in forming strategy and making decisions.

    Just this week the the Clue Wagon blog ran a post that stated 'Getting a job on Twitter is 'complete crap', and it was pretty well received with many comments in agreement with the main idea of the post, that the technology is always secondary to the 'human' element.  In these arguments the technology is always positioned in a subservient, almost unimportant role. This ignores the clear fact that certain technologies (like Twitter) enable 'human' connections in powerful and new ways, and on a scale previously possible for only the traditional 'mainstream' media or the mega-celebrity. And at least one commenter clearly stated that indeed, he did 'get' a job on Twitter.

    But I don't really care to write a post defending Twitter. 

    Mainly, I want to defend technology, or more accurately the understanding of technology particularly for the HR professional. In the corporate HR function, technology is deeply woven into the very fabric of the day-to-day processes.  Think about what might happen in your organization if the HRIS was down for a day or two.  If the time and attendance package suddenly seized up, and employees could not clock in their time. If the online portal that employees access to look at their paystubs, paid time off balances, or benefits information was dark.

    Those are admittedly obvious examples of the critical nature of HR Technology in the organization.

    But there are less obvious examples where the lack of understanding of available technology solutions causes many HR departments to continue with inefficient processes, collaborate with each other and the rest of the organization primarily via e-mail, and get stuck waiting for corporate IT to come to their assistance time and time again.  And we all know where most HR project requests get prioritized on the IT project list.

    In my classes and in discussions with HR professionals from both large and small organizations I get questioned all the time about basic technology and tools that certainly would be of benefit to many, many HR departments. Basic solutions, like Twitter, Yammer, Wikis, Rypple, and SurveyMonkey.  I am absolutely convinced that if more HR professionals had at least a passing understanding of these tools, many problems could be solved, processes improved, and overall make many HR jobs both more fun and more valuable to the organization. Countless times, when I have explained tools like these, I am met with comments like' Wow, I did not know about that.  I can use a tool like that to do XYZ process'. The awareness of the technology really does drive the solution, not the other way around.

    I try, from my small platform in class, and in this blog to share as much as I can about Technology to the HR community, but it really will take the next generation of HR professionals to take their understanding of technology along with them as they assume their place in HR leadership.

    Sometimes, it really is about the technology.







    HR Tech Central


    I am excited to be participating in and helping to announce the launch of HR Tech Central

    I was contacted a few weeks ago by Tony Karrer from TechEmpower about participating in the site, and when I heard the idea, I was happy to have my blog's feed included.

    This site collects and helps to organize the best content from blogs, news sources and other web sites all about HR Technology.

    The goal is to create a place where it's easy to find current and highly relevant content. And perhaps to help folks discover bloggers and resources that they never knew about.  HR Tech Central tags content by 'Concept' and 'Vendor', so readers can easily view and subscribe to particular focus areas of interest.

    You will find lots of great information here, many bloggers that I really admire and respect are represented, like John Sumser, Michael Specht, Mark Bennett from Talented Apps, and Mark Stelzner to name a few.

    Hopefully, HR Tech Central will be a useful resource for HR pros and my HR Tech students alike.

    Thanks to Tony for putting this together, and for including me in the launch.


    HR Technology, Amtrak, and Priorities 

    Last week Amtrak announced it would spend $9.4 Million on HR Technology, specifically for what it is calling 'Employee Information Management'. Notably, the $9.4 Million is significantly more that will be spent on 'Customer facing' type initiatives like CRM and an improvements to the passenger information systems.

    Full details on the Amtrak projects can be found here.

    Of note in the article is how Amtrak feels its HR Technology is 7 to 10 years behind other similarly sized organizations, and that significant cost savings can be realized by the introduction of automated processes and the use of Employee and Manager Self-Service. A key component of the project is the E-learning portal to help define and deliver needed development content to the employee.

    It does beg the question of how did Amtrak allow the critical HR Information Systems to get so out of date and how can such a large organization still be so reliant on manual and paper-based HR processes to such an extent.

    I don't claim to know the inner workings of the Amtrak IT strategy, but since they are earmarking $9.4 Million for HR Technology, and only about $6 Million on the CRM and passenger systems combined, it does seem apparent that the HR systems have been neglected and underfunded.

    So it is good and refreshing to see such a significant investment on HR Tech, the key systems to help employees manage their infromation, learning and development, view competency information, and hopefully become more engaged and productive in their careers.

    Maybe Amtrak is finally seeing that a great CRM and a fantastic passenger information portal are not the only critical systems in an organization.  Because truly, it is the employees that have to serve the passengers, deliver excellent service, and make the crucial decisions to execute the strategy.

    And employees can't do any of those things at their best if they are busy filling out HR forms, waiting days for HR information, and chasing down data that should be readily available.

    So Cheers to Amtrak for making a commitment and investment in HR Technology and in their employees.




    Corporate Social Networking Vendors - Here's your chance

    to give something to the community, support an educational program in Human Resources, and get some free publicity.Flickr - pascal.charest

    Some background - I teach a graduate course at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, NY.  My course is one the very few in existence 100% devoted to Human Resources Technology.

    We cover the fundamentals of HR Technology (ERP, HRIS, SaaS), the important Talent Management processes (Performance, Succession, Comp, Recruiting), and lastly the emerging and growing area for corporate social networking and collaboration tools (blogs, wikis, Twitter, and such).

    Since I started teaching HR Technology almost two years ago, I have spent considerable time soliciting assistance and trying to build partnerships with the HR Technology vendor community, in an effort to get more hands-on access to software and 'real' experiences for my students, the vast majority of which have not ever had such an opportunity before my class.  To date several vendors have graciously offered access, assistance, and support, most notably Halogen Software and SpectrumHR. To both of these organizations, once again, I offer my sincere thanks, and I certainly hope that we will be able to continue our partnerships in the future.

    But for my next class that starts in June, I am faced with a new challenge that makes integrating a core HRIS (like Spectrum's iVantage), or a robust Talent Management suite (like Halogen) quite difficult. I will have  a class of students unfamiliar with these types of systems and the course will be offered completely online.

    No 'in-person' class meetings means no opportunities to do 'live' demos or in-class exercises that were the primary benefit of using these 'donated' platforms. Based on my experience with the class so far, attempting to integrate these systems in the manner that I would prefer is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible in an 100% online delivery method.

    So for the new class, the online class, I still need to provide a 'real-world', 'hands-on' experience with a relevant technology that the students could very well encounter in their workplaces, or better still, bring to their workplaces, armed with the expertise and knowledge gained in class.

    What better technology then, than Corporate Social Networking?  The very type of solution that is designed to foster connectivity and collaboration amongst a dispersed workforce, is meant to be simple enough to use to achieve rapid and widespread adoption in the organization, and is growing in popularity in the corporate world, thus exposing the students to a technology that is suddenly 'hot'.

    My idea is to essentially 'run' the class in the social network, have the students collaborate on assignments, post and respond to discussions, create 'HR related' content and resources typically housed on corporate intranets, and interact with each other in real time from their dispersed locations.

    The types of vendors that I think would be a good fit for this project would be SelectMinds, Jive, or perhaps Telligent. There are many other vendors as well that would be a fit, too many perhaps to list here.  Or perhaps one of the newer, less well-known vendors would like to participate in the project to generate some publicity.

    It would be a pretty simple effort on the vendor side, since I need a hosted solution, the vendor would need to create an instance for my class, with perhaps 20 user licenses for a period of about 3 months. I would set up and administer the class network, and the students would be the 'users'.  At the end of the class, the vendor could simply close off access to the network.

    In return for the software use and support, I would offer good, constructive feedback from the class as this project amounts to a 3 month extended 'test', I will publicly blog, tweet, and otherwise promote the product and the vendor, and make myself available to the vendor as a reference for articles, internal blogs, press releases etc.  It is a mutually beneficial arrangement that I think worked really well last class with Halogen, and I think it would be a good opportunity for the right vendor.

    Ok, that is the pitch.  For any social networking vendors who might be interested in this project here is my contact information:

    E-mail - steveboese@gmail.com

    Twitter - sbjet

    Or simply leave a comment on the post and I can get in contact with you.

    Thanks in advance for your support of my class and the education of some future HR leaders.





    The Man Without Fear

    My favorite comic book super-hero is Daredevil, known as 'The Man without Fear'.

    If you are not familiar, Daredevil is the only blind super-hero. A childhood accident blinded young Matt Murdock, but somehow his other senses compensate to such an extreme degree, including the development of a "radar-sense" that allows him to perceive his surroundings, that he is able to assume the persona of Daredevil.

    Daredevil is 'The Man without Fear', because he never hesitates to leap into action, he never second-guesses himself, and never hesitates to put himself at risk for fear of his own safety.  He is bold. He takes action. He takes risks.

    He is the kind of guy we all wish we could be.

    I know, Daredevil is a comic-book hero, real life is so much more complicated, and the economy is so bad that most of us feel afraid to take risks, to expose ourselves to scrutiny and potential problems.

    So many of us just want to go to the office, keep our heads down, and hang on.

    Believe me, I completely understand that point of view. We all have bills, mortgages, kids to worry about.  Taking unnecessary risks is just about the last thing on our minds.

    But the future, whatever it holds, will not be written by the folks who spent most of their time staying out of the line of fire.  History forgets the timid.

    You have a great idea, or maybe just a good idea.  A way to fix a broken process, improve a customer experience, or build a better, more productive workplace.

    Don't keep it your yourself.  Don't be afraid for your reputation or image. There may be more opportunity now than any time in the last few years. The markets have perked up lately, it for a time anyway, seems the stories of massive corporate layoffs have slowed down. 

    If a blind man can put on a costume and venture out into the night to protect his city, then you can be bold too.

    The economy is not going to be revived if all of us just keep our mouths shut and hope not to get fired.

    We all need more men and women 'without fear', and I include myself in that admonition.