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    How much HR Technology do you need?

    One of the really cool bonuses of teaching a class at RIT, which has many deaf and hearing-impaired students, is that frequently classes are supported by a C-print Captionist.  For those who are not familiar with the term, a C-print Captionist creates a complete transcript of everything that is said in the class, (similar to a court reporter).  During class, the captions appear immediately on a computer screen setup near any students who need to rely on the captions to better follow the class dialogue.  A day or so after class, the full transcript is converted to a document, which students can download, and that I also post on the class wiki.  It is also interesting for me to take a quick review of the transcript to do sort of a 'self-evaluation' of sorts. 

    In class this week we were focusing on Performance Management as a part of an Integrated Talent Management strategy, and discussing the software solutions that support the performance management processes.  Yesterday I was reviewing the transcript and came across this.  One student, posed the following question:

    If I have a small company and if I wanted to use regular paper or forms (for Performance Management), can I still be effective? Or is it necessary to use or incorporate technology?

    In class, in real-time, with 20 people looking up at me for wisdom I gave the following answer (slightly edited for clarity, and to make me appear more intelligent):

    Since you are in the HR technology class, I am going to tell you that you have no success using paper forms. (Laughter).  It can be effective for small companies to use paper. But we for a larger organization (paper) is not going to allow a company to leverage their talent in a way to seize opportunities. If a company decides they need to exploit a new market and buy a new factory or hire a bunch of new people and you don't have systems like these in place, being able to deliver on those strategic plans becomes hard.  Companies that aren't exploiting technology are at a disadvantage. Very small companies can live without this stuff. Once you start moving up the market in size and reach, especially global reach, this is important.

     A decent answer, I think in the moment.  If I had more time to reflect on the issue and the answer, I might have talked about the Gen Y worker not wanting to work for an organization with such primitive processes, or the efficiencies and cost savings that can be derived with simple automation. 

    But at the core the question of how much HR Technology an organization 'needs', has to be answered by each organization individually.  I don't think there can be a generic 'blueprint' that says, if an organization has 1,000 employees, then they must have systems for X,Y, and Z processes.  It just is not that simple.  Which is why I suppose we have an HR Tech class, and why there are several consultancies that assist organizations develop their HR Technology strategy.  The uniuque characteristics, challenges, and culture are all factors in the discussion.

    How much HR Technology does your organization need?



    Facebook and LinkedIn for Recruiting - The students speak out

    So if you are a breathing, upright HR Professional in 2009 I know you have read countless blog posts, articles, or attended webinars exhorting you that you need to be mining social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for recruiting purposes.  Whether it is to network with and uncover passive candidates, (the primary use of LinekdIn) or research and background check prospects (primarily what recruiters are doing on Facebook), you have been told over and again that you need to be leveraging these tools in your recruiting efforts.

    This post isn't another one of those 'How to recruit on Facebook' pieces.  If you are interested in that sort of thing, check out the HR Tech News blog which ran a fine series of 'Recruiting on Facebook' posts early in 2008.

    In my HR Tech Class for this week's discussion assignment I asked the class to offer comments and observations on this new trend in recruiting.  These students are quite likely in the target demographic for many recruiters, mostly young, educated professionals working on an advanced degree.  And they are almost all on Facebook and LinkedIn.  So what do they think about recruiters and employers 'snooping' around their social networking profiles?  Here are a few of the best comments from the class:

    The general consensus was 'beware what you post online':

     Even though we might not like it, we have to realize that employers are going to be googling our names and we have to be careful about the type of information we put online, because if we put it there it is fair game for anyone to see. - 'S

    On the usefulness of Social Networking in onboarding and relationship building:

    If employees can be 'friends' with their manager on facebook then that could help them to have a mentor. It's a safe and informal way for the employees to interact with their managers on a social level where they can learn from each other. - 'A'

    One student astutely observes ways in which the progressive organization is starting to leverage these social networks in a more positive manner:

    For example, companies and organizations have taken up these social networking sites to create their own business networks as a motivation to maximize interaction and networking among their own employees, even with the CEO. It not only limits to the networking connections, but to more job opportunities. For example, I have noted one CEO posting on Twitter about job opportunities. - 'V'

    There were many other comments and observations in the discussion, some students really wishing that their Facebook information would remain strictly personal and never be used in a professional situation. But realistically, they realize that the horse is out of the barn, and anything they post on any site is likely ot one day be scrutinized by employers and recruiters.

    A really good discussion, any one have a recommendation for the next HR Tech issue we should discuss?



    Seven things about me

    Some time back I was 'tagged' by Michael VanDervort from the Human Racehorses blog with the '7 things about me' bogey. I have been remiss in responding, with a lame excuse of work, class, holidays etc. but I did promise myself I would respond to the 'tag' before the holiday break was over.

    Also, since pretty much all the bloggers I admire have already been 'tagged', sometimes multiple times, I will just list a few of their blogs and links as sort of an homage, but not intending to keep passing the '7 things' baton back to those folks I am sure they have already had it (and may be tired of the whole thing). Also, I added a couple of other blogs I like that really don't have anything to do with HR.

    So here goes:

    1. For the first few years of my professional career I worked as accounting analyst (boring).
    2. My first real technology project was assisting in the implementation of Oracle Applications for AT&T - Saudi Arabia in the mid-90's, I spent about a year in Riyadh and had a great time.
    3. While in Saudi, I became acquainted with the English Premier League (pretty much the only sport on TV), and became a huge supporter of Liverpool FC, which I remain to this day.
    4. I love to barbecue, I am not talking about grilling, but real southern-style, slow cooked barbecue, I have a nice smoker and spend many a summer Saturday afternoon looking after brisket and pulled pork. I have considered leaving the 'professional' world to work the county fair and motorcycle rally circuit selling barbecue.
    5. I love baseball, and my 7 year old son and I are on a quest to see a game in every Major League park.  So far together we have visited PNC Park, Progressive Field, Rogers Centre, and Shea Stadium (which of course is no more).  Next season we plan to go to both the 'new' New York stadiums and probably Minnesota and Cincinnati.
    6. We own a dog and a horse.  The horse lived with us for a couple of years, but right now he is at a boarding stable up the road.  I miss him in the back field, but it really is a boat load of work to take care of him.
    7. I am a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina, and I really love the south and the southern people.  To paraphrase Lewis Grizzard, 'If I ever get back to South Carolina, I'm gonna nail my feet to the ground'.

    Well, that is enough about me. As promised, here are some blogs/bloggers I admire, read all the time and highly recommend.

    1. Hr Thoughts - great observations on HR and leadership
    2. HR Bartender - insightful, thought-provoking and cool
    3. HR Wench - no-holds-barred, honest, and really cool
    4. The Hr Maven - great observations, advice and the best photos around
    5. The Milennial Professor - observations from a young professor
    6. UniWatch - an almost obsessive analysis of sports uniforms, which I find endlessly fascinating
    7. Theories of Bacon - all bacon, all the time

    Ok, that's it.  I apologize for not following the 'official' rules, but maybe it is time for a new type of 'blog tag'.  How about, 'Name your favorite 80's and 90's bands?'



    Wikis for your Class (or team)

    I am almost midway through a new HR Technology class and the 'Wiki as intranet' project is just starting to get going, I thought it would be a good time to review some of my key findings and observations on the wiki-based class project and some overall observations about Wiki use in the classroom.Flickr - cogdogblog

    Honestly, these observations on wiki adoption also apply to any internal organizations as well, I have rolled out wikis for my faculty group and another internal workgroup and have seen many of these same types of issue.


    I am on my third different wiki platform, (SocialText, PbWiki, Confluence), and while they all have their unique strength and weaknesses, the observations below are valid for all three, and I suspect any other platform you could use.  There are two main areas to consider for your class, adoption and administration.


    1. If Wikis are new to your program, chances are 90% of the students will have never 'used' a Wiki, beyond reading entries on Wikipedia. You will have to devote class time to 'teaching' wiki.

    2. You should make wiki use 'required'.  Mandate use of wiki for specific projects, activities, discussions, etc.

    3. Even though Wikis are touted as simple, no-training-required tools, doing more that adding simple text will initially require demonstration and review for most non-technical students.

    4. Wikis that make as simple as possible the steps for embedding video, slide shows, Flickr images, chat, and polls (love Zoho Polls for this), will be most effective in the classroom.  Too much 'code' to accomplish these tasks will hurt your adoption plans.

    5. For the best chances of adoption of the Wiki as the primary class communication platform, put everything on the Wiki. Syllabus, course overview, assignments, presentations, and any 'sign-ups' should all be Wiki pages. Encourage the class to post questions and comments everywhere.


    1. Get yourself trained!  As the instructor or wiki evangelist, you need to be sure you understand, can demonstrate, and clearly articulate the use, benefits, and nuts and bolts of the tool. Students in particular will get quickly frustrated when they encounter technical issues that you can't quickly help them resolve.

    2. Old habits are still hard to break, you may need to 'cross-post' for a time in both the Wiki and the old course management system. Certain items like the gradebook still have to reside in the CMS. Try not to make the students have to bounce back and forth between the two platforms too often.

    3. While all students are used to group projects, probably none of them will quickly warm up to the concept of 'real-time' editing and  commenting on other's content that is the foundation of wiki. You may need to 'push' to get them more actively collaborating in that fashion.

    4. Keep the wiki alive even after the class ends. There's lots of good information there. Figure out a way to keep it accessible for students in the future.

    I am absolutely convinced that Wikis are a much more effective tool for almost all class activities, with the added bonus of giving the students exposure and experience to a technology they will see in the workplace.  I have had several students comment at the end of class that the wiki experience was the most beneficial aspect of the class, and that they had plans to implement wiki technologies in their organizations.

    If you have used wikis in your class, post a comment and let me know your thoughts.



    Closing thoughts for 2008

    Some quick thoughts for the last day of 2008:Flickr - Nal from Miami

    1. HR Technology is only partly about the technology. It is usually more about the will and courage of the enterprise to embrace and handle change.

    2. The most important technologies to HR in the future may not even need the 'Technology' department to be that involved. Check out this prediction for HR in 2018, courtesy of Workforce

    In the "Structure of Work" category, experts collectively pointed to collaboration as a key in 2018. The top-ranked prediction was: "There will be an increased focus on infrastructures—such as social networks and wikis—to support building strong relationships and collaboration"

     3. The HR Technology space is fast-moving, interesting, and changing.  To me, that is what make its fun to practice, teach, and blog about.

    What do I want to get out of 2009 personally?  I want to continue to learn from and if I can, assist the dozens of great HR and HR Technology folks that I have met this year. 

    I want to continue to improve my HR Technology class to make it more relevant, meaningful, and fun.

    I want my South Carolina Gamecocks to win the Outback Bowl on January 1, 2009.

    I hope more great folks follow me on Twitter

    Happy New Year!