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    HR Tech in 2009

    Wow, what a crazy year.  Banking industry collapse, stock market plummets, US auto industry teeteringFlickr - ViaMoi on the brink, every day another round of corporate layoffs.  Lots of great people out on the job market, or soon to be, as I have not seen any prediction that 2009 will be any better than 2008. What does it all me for the world of HR and HR Technology specifically?

    Since in the 'Big Book of Internet' I read that every blog must post an obligatory 'predictions' post for the New Year, I will go ahead and take a shot at some predictions in the HR Tech space for the coming year:

    1. Large organizations will drastically reduce, or postpone major initiatives (massive ERP upgrades, major deployments of new global systems to support talent management).  I think that the projects that will continue will be smaller in scope and application.  Perhaps individual country or division pilot projects, ones that try to limit initial investment and overall risk.

    2. Small and medium sized businesses that are healthy (there must be some right?), will be under pressure to improves their e-recruiting and applicant tracking systems.  When the large organizations are letting droves of workers go, the small and medium size businesses are going to be swamped with not only an increased volume of applications, but a real increase in talented, qualified applicants.  It may be that in 2009, selecting the right talent from a large talent pool will be one of the most important challenges facing the SMB segment.

    3. More organizations will look to experiment with Web 2.0 technologies for internal collaboration, networking, and knowledge management. Many organizations have already stepped into this market, notable examples include Best Buy, Deloitte, and Pfizer, and many who have not will wade in in 2009.  Why now?  These technologies are typically easy to deploy (many pilot deployments will not either involve or require internal IT resources), cost significantly less than 'traditional' enterprise systems, and present a low-risk, high-reward potential for the HR leader.  Deployment of a company-wide platform for networking and collaboration could be one of the most impactful positive contributions and HR department can champion in 2009.

    4. Not really an original thought, but iin 2009 I would expect more vendor consolidation.  Some vendors in the Talent and collaboration space will not survive, and the vetting process that HR must undertake before launching any new initiatives is of the utmost importance. The HR pro may also need to re-evaluate some of their current tech vendors just to be prepared for any suddent and potentially harmful disruptions in service.

    5. I don't really have a number 5, but I will close with this: employees may be uneasy, concerned, and fearful about your company's and their own future.  Do whatever you can to be open, honest, and timely with your communication.  Technology can help in these endeavors, but it will never be the solution to the most basic rule, 'Do the right thing by your employees'.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this blog in 2008. 



    Finding the right talent (that I already have)

    How can I find the right employee (one I already have)?

    Recently, I heard high ranking information technology leader complaining about the lack of completeness of Flickr - Tambako the Jaguaremployee information (correct office phone number, IM names, etc.) in the corporate LDAP directory.  This leader was relying on the technical system used to provision corporate network computing resources to be a data store for employee 'profile' related information.

    Now an employee office phone number probably does belong in an LDAP system, I can't argue with that, but external IM user names?  Surely, the LDAP system is not the best place for these.  And how about elements of the profile that are not related to 'devices' (phones, computers, etc.).  Things like experience, skills, interests, connections, and career plans.  All these, and many other attributes, combine to paint the full picture of the employee talent profile.

    It is no secret that companies are under extreme pressure to leverage their internal talent, when faced with enormous marketplace challenges, and for most, little to no ability or funding to seek external talent, either new hires or contractors. 

    So let's take an example of a possible situation where an organization might need to rapidly leverage the 'rich' employee profile data it needs to capitalize on an opportunity. A logistics and distribution organization, in an effort to expand to a new line of business and capitalize on a market opportunity, enters into agreements to begin supplying services to a high-end retail chain, it had not previously served. The challenge - identify rapidly a project team with the necessary skills, competencies, experience, and contacts to support sourcing new product, developing new distribution strategies, and with an understanding of the higher end of the market than they usually support.

    Employee Profile Data - Sources

    Legacy HRIS systems - These are typically decent repositories for basic information about the employee profile that may help our company assemble their project team.  Things like position or assignment history, demonstration of growth in salary grade or level might assist the Project Leader in assembling a team. But key information would certainly not be present in a typical HRIS, thing like career aspirations, competencies, training plans, and experience prior to joining the company. Many of the larger ERP-based systems may have the capability to 'fold-in' this kind of talent profile data, but most implementations of ERP do not extend very deeply into these areas.

    Talent Management Systems - all good Talent systems will contain aspects of the key data needed to build the project team: information on past performance, current skills and capabilities, and possibly information on training and development that the employees have taken. These are all key pieces of the puzzle. Recently some larger Talent Management vendors have developed more rich 'profile' capabilities, SuccessFactors being one. Usually missing from these types of systems, especially ones that very rigidly look to automate performance management processes, are indications of employee 'fit' or perhaps desire to be included in this type of project team.  The information gleaned from these systems can tend to the strictly analytical, and not give the Project Leader any 'soft' insight.   And finally, these systems are not in place today in many, many organizations.

    Internal Social Networks - In the last couple of years the market for so-called 'Corporate Social Networking' has grown rapidly. The idea is to deploy a platform or solution that provides the employees sort of a 'Facebook' like experience, usually augmented with the knowledge management and creation features of blogs, wikis, rss, and forums.  These systems usually have a profile feature that allows the employee to supply much of the same data they would typically post on popular external social networks. They can also utilize the Twitter concept of 'following' other employees to keep aware of the contributions of content, comments, and other information for the key influencers in their internal network.  These systems provide the Project Leader with a wealth of information relevant to the building of the team, they can review specific work products and content created by employees, they can see feedback left by other employees, and the profile data can typically be mined for keywords or 'tags' that may indicate the right experience or inclination for participating on the new project.  Some vendors to consider in this space are SelectMinds, HiveLive, and Socialcast. This really is an emerging space, and relatively few organizations have deployed these internal networks.

    External Social NetworksJason Averbook from Knowledge Infusion has stated 'LinkedIn knows more about your employees than you do'. The truth is, many (or most) of your employees are providing vast quantities of personal and professional information on external sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Key information like employee authored statements of skills and aspirations, former employers and assignments, third-party recommendations of their work, and some insight into their networks both inside and outside the company that they may be able to leverage to make the new project a success. Did any of your employees formerly work for the high-end retailer you need to serve? This information is likely on LinkedIn.

    Should your company simply encourage employees to register for these sites, provide their information, while you take advantage of the information and profile data for essentially almost no cost? Of course the downside could be your competitors for the same talent could mine the information as well, but honestly they probably are already doing just that.

    That really just scratches the surface of the various options that organizations face when trying to develop a strategy for capturing, analyzing, and making actionable their strategic talent data. Most larger organizations may be utilizing some kind of combination of the above approaches, or may have even built custom systems to help locate talent and deploy talent (the big professional consultancies for one).

    Lots of options, lots to think about, a complicated topic.

    I would love your thoughts and comments.



    An Introduction to Twitter for the HR student


    My class hears me talk about Twitter every week.  'You need to be on Twitter', 'Guess who I met today on Twitter', 'I learned about this new software vendor from Twitter'.

    I am quite sure they have grasped some kind of notion that Twitter is relevant, interesting, maybe important, but they can't seem to grasp how it actually can be a valuable resource to the study and practice of HR. They also have likely concluded that I am a little obsessed with it.

    So how to frame the discussion of Twitter in terms that students (90% of whom will have never heard of Twitter before class).

    First things first - what the heck is Twitter anyway?

    From Wikipedia -

    Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

    Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.

    OK, so you sign up for Twitter, post some status updates (140 characters or less), and decide which other Twitter user's updates you would like to see. Easy enough concept to grasp.  Everyone has sent text messages on their phones, (Twitter updates are more or less the same), and most students are on Facebook, so the idea of setting a 'status' that all your friends will see is also easily understood.

    So what happens to most students when they sign up?

    Well honestly, not a heck of a lot. They create an account, maybe post a quick update, possibly 'find' the person who convinced them to sign up and start following them, and then they wait for something interesting to start happening. And as you would expect, pretty much nothing interesting starts happening. The student fairly quickly loses interest, stops checking Twitter and posting updates, and concludes that the whole exercise was a waste of time.  Besides, everyone they are interested in connecting with are already their Facebook friends anyway.

    So what should the student do?

    Twitter, like every other social site, can be a really lonely place when you first arrive. You have no 'friends' no 'followers' and may not know exactly how to find anyone, much less the right people to 'follow'.  Unlike Facebook, the student's close and extended circle of friends and classmates are probably not on Twitter as yet, so making those initial connections can be a daunting proposition.

    The key or essential component of deriving value from Twitter almost completely relies on finding the 'right' people to start following.  Once the student starts to make these connections, and then proceeds to extend them by following some of their first connection's followers, the value proposition starts to become more apparent. In fact most folks on Twitter will 'reverse-follow' you out of politeness even if they don't know you.

    And in short order a student, (or anyone else for that matter), usually starts to contribute to the ongoing conversation, begins attracting followers or their own, and discovers even more interesting people to follow. Some say after about a month or 100 updates (Tweets), the student starts to 'get it'.  It becomes obvious the value of these conversations and connections, and many become firmly entrenched in the fabric of their Twitter community.

    A Starting Point

    So we have established the key to deriving value from Twitter is the forging of the initial set of connections to the 'right' people and organizations in your particular area of interest.  I am primarily concerned for my HR students and other HR practitioners.  Who should the HR student or practitioner consider 'following' once they join Twitter, (I know there are some other lists around on this topic, so I won't attempt to make an 'all-knowing' or 'all-encompassing' list, but rather a good starting point for the HR student).

    The Instructor

    Steve Boese - Me, if you are one of my students, you'd better follow me!

    The Bloggers

    Lisa Rosendahl - from the HR Manager blog

    The HR Maven - from the HR Maven blog

    lruettimann - from Punk Rock HR

    sharlyn_lauby - from HR Bartender

    hrwench - from the Hr Wench blog

    Hr_Minion - from the HR Minion blog

    jwilliamtincup - from the Human Capital Vendor space blog

    kris_dunn - from the HR Capitalist blog

    pdxmikek - from the Info Box blog

    penelopetrunk - from Brazen Careerist

    The Consultants

    jasonaverbook - Jason Averbook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion

    jcorsello - Jason Corsello, also from Knowledge Infusion and the Human Capitalist Blog

    joningham - Jon Ingham of the Strategic HCM blog

    The Vendors

    Success Factors - Performance Management solutions

    Salary.com - Compensation data and planning, recently expansding into Talent Management

    Smart Recruiters - Recruiting solutions for small and medium size businesses

    Human Capital Institute - great source of information and knowledge

    Workscape - suite of Talent Management solutions

    Sum Total Systems - learning management solutions

    Standout Jobs - Really cool and innovative approach to recruiting solutions

    Twitter Rockstars - these Twitterers have huge followings and post constantly

    jowyang - Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester Research

    chrisbrogan - Chris Brogan, Social Media Marketing thought leader

    ross- Ross Mayfield, Chairman and co-founder of Socialtext

    barackobama - I am pretty sure you know who he is

    ev - Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter

    For fun

    SantaClaus25 - keep up with the big man's preparation for the big day

    FakeMagnumPI - happenings with Magnum, Higgins and TC

    Steven Colbert - from Comedy Central

    NASA - goings on in space


    The above list of Twitterers is not meant to be exhaustive, complete, or even exactly what the HR student is looking for.  But it is a start.  Sign up for Twitter and start following some of the folks on this list and see what you think.  Give it a chance.  It's said that it takes a while to determine how you can best leverage Twitter for your own purposes.  I can say unequivocally that Twitter helps me every single day, and sometimes, I hope I actually help some of my Twitter friends.

    Please add any names of 'key' folks to follow to the comments, and happy Twittering!





    When you rely on technology...

    be sure the technology is reliable.

    Backstory - our hosted, ERP-based e-recruiting front-end and applicant tracking system has been rejecting all candidate document uploads for about four days now.

    That's right, no resumes, cover letters, recommendations, etc.  Worse still, the error message EVERY candidate sees is 'Your document could not be uploaded, it has a virus'. 

    Just great.  Not only are we turning away and turning off scores of candidates (although in this economy they may come back anyway), we are scaring the crap out of them that their own systems may be infected.

    When you rely so heavily on third-party, hosted or SaaS solutions, particularly for your public-facing applications, you better be confident in their reliability, the vendor or host's ability to respond quickly to a problem, and your own capability and actions plans to mitigate and deal with the fallout.

    Hold your vendor's to their obligations for uptime and issue resolution. When they fail, make sure they prove to you how they will ensure it won't happen again. If they can't prove to you they won't continue to let you down, then take your business somewhere else.

    How many good candidates are we losing right now?




    Technology and the University

    I recently came across this article titled 'Fluid Learning' - from the human network blog that makes some very interesting and provocative predictions about the future of higher education. This is a fairly long article, but definitely worth a read, I feel. Essentially, the author asserts with the increasing use and utility of social networking, crowdsourcing, and instantaneous collaboration and communication that the very concept of the University is under threat. In this new world, the University ceases to maintain the advantage in organization of resources and capacity, and rather like-minded students could and will band together in sort of a 'knowledge-seeker' marketplace to identify their needs and universities, or even individual instructors would bid to supply their services.

    I am not really sure of all that, but there are some specific recommendations in the article that I do happen to agree with. Namely, the importance of sharing and making available content from classes in as many forums as possible. Class lectures, materials, presentation slides, etc., not only should be made available on YouTube, SlideShare, iTunes etc, but you should also actively promote this, from the article 'You should trumpet their existence from the highest tower.'

    The argument is that the more widely something is shared, the more valuable it becomes. 'You extend your brand with every resource you share. You extend the knowledge of your institution throughout the Internet. Whatever you have – if it’s good enough – will bring people to your front door, first virtually, then physically' - Fluid Learning.

    I post any slides I use in class on SlideShare, once I figure out the best way, I want to get the class transcripts posted online somewhere (probably on some kind of 'open' wiki'), and I really want to get the classes recorded and have video posted one day. So I find myself in agreement with most of the author's assertions regarding openness. In fact just today, I corresponded with a recent HR graduate and directed her to my SlideShare space to learn a little bit more about my class, and told her about the class and the program via Twitter. She may or may not be interested in enrolling in our program, but it seems more likely to me that she would choose to enroll if 'real' content was more readily available on the internet.

    I think that schools and instructors would benefit greatly from more openness, more sharing, and more real connecting with both current and potential students in the new technology frontier.

    And to back up what I just said, here are the Week 1 and 2 presentation decks from my current class, enjoy!