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    Entries in HR Tech (257)


    Workday 12 - Working for you

    If you have any interest at all in Human Capital Management software then by now you are familiar with Workday, a provider of Enterprise Resource Planning solutions to mid-size and large organizations.  Founded in 2005, by industry legend and pioneer Dave Duffield, and former PeopleSoft Vice Chairman Aneel Bhusri, Workday has experienced early success and remarkable growth, leveraging the Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model to push innovation and new capability to market and in the hands of its customer base faster than it’s traditional on-premise deployed competitors (SAP and Oracle/PeopleSoft) can match.

    I don’t need to repeat the Workday story again here, but the general narrative is this: by building a modern, next generation ERP/HCM solution from scratch, taking advantage of SaaS deployment to rapidly iterate and deploy new features and capabilities, and lastly (but perhaps most importantly), by giving mid-size and large global customers a real choice outside of the ERP trinity of SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, or Oracle PeopleSoft), Workday has become the most interesting company in enterprise technology in the last 5 years.

    Recently Workday released the latest version of the suite, Workday 12.  The team at Workday was nice enough to give me a briefing and demonstration of a few of the new features in this latest release.  And there are lots of new features in the HCM and Talent Management areas.  But during the demonstration one new feature in particular, called ‘Faceted Search’, stood out for me, and I think provides some insight on what has been one of the traditional failures of big, enterprisey technology solutions, and perhaps gives us a glimpse at what a better and more flexible enterprise solution landscape might look like.

    With Faceted Search, Workday provides the ability for line managers, project managers, HR leaders, talent planners - pretty much anyone with the responsibility for finding, assessing, and deploying the ‘right’ people to the ‘right’ roles, projects, and assignments; to flexibly and with a high degree of personalization locate, tag, and take relevant actions on a group of resources. These groups can be created on the fly, in real-time, and shared as needed and desired across the organization.

    One use case might be for an HR Talent Planner to run an advanced search for all Director level employees that are high performers, but have compensation below the average for their peer group.  

    Screen 1 - Search results with corresponding user-defined tag

    The talent planner can immediately create a custom ‘tag’ or grouping of the selected employees, e.g., ‘Retention Risk - Directors’, and from there with one-click a number of actions can be launched for the new talent pool’  - start a development plan, initiate a one-time bonus, or add to a project resource list, etc.  

    Screen 2 - Launching a targeted action on behalf of newly defined Talent Pool

    This is cool and noteworthy not just because of the slick user interface and the powerful functionality, but because it allows the talent planner to make the system adapt to the way he/she needs it to work, and not the other way around. Identifying the target population, creating the search, modifying the search results, augmenting the results with descriptive meta-data (the tag), and finally taking specific and targeted actions based on this brand new construct (the Retention Risk - Directors group), supports the talent professional in their needs and the needs of most organizations to better understand their talent, to deploy that talent faster and more efficiently, and to adapt to changing conditions and requirements.

    Look, I am not so naive to know that for many organizations the exceedingly hard work of performance management, compensation planning, and talent assessment would all (or mostly) need to be in place before they could fully leverage this kind of powerful capability to turn the information into action.  But, I do think that by allowing more user control of the experience, the definitional data, and with the ability to rapidly and broadly share and socialize these user-created constructs, that organizations will have more opportunity to take advantage of these kinds of advanced and powerful capabilities.

    There are numerous reasons why (for most users) traditional enterprise systems suck.  Having to change the way you want to work to adapt to an inflexible, rigid process and structure is certainly chief among said reasons. Rigiditiy and repeatability is great when the process is paying bills or calculating quarterly taxes; it isn’t so great when the question to be answered is how to find, deploy, and reward the ‘right’ people to the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time.  The answer to that question changes every day, and tools like Workday’s Faceted Search are a step towards providing solutions that can help talent professionals come up with the right answers.

    Thanks very much to Leighanne Levensaler and the team at Workday for the briefing last week.



    Deliver the Wow

    Cleaning up my trusty travel backpack from the last several weeks of traveling to events like HR Florida, HR Technology, and this week HR Southwest, and I found a small slip of paper in one of the pockets that said simply, 'Deliver the Wow'.flickr - wiedmaier

    The phrase sounded familiar, but I could not remember why I jotted it down.  I dug into one of my vendor-branded notebooks from one of these trips (my favorite swag),  and discovered the source of the 'Wow' quote.  

    At the HR Technology Conference during one of the vendor 'shootout' sessions, (where vendors are asked to demonstrate live their solutions to several common and important talent management processes), one of the vendors, (I honestly can't remember which one), was running through the steps and functionality around performance management and appraisal processes.

    The demonstration highlighted the application's ability to assign and rank the importance of key competencies to a given role, and allowed the manager to evaluate the employee on their degree of demonstrated mastery of the identified competencies.  It was solid, if not spectacular functionality, pretty much all the performance management solutions provide that kind of capability today. 

    But what caught my attention was that in the demonstration of manager assessment of employee competencies for a role in a Customer Service position, one of the specific competencies that was being rated was called 'Deliver the Wow'.

    Tucked neatly right alongside some standard competencies like 'Demonstrates Integrity' and 'Customer Focus' was this sort of out of place seeming competency called 'Deliver the Wow'.  It seemed to me that it really did fit though.  So many of the traditional competencies that get assigned in performance management processes are really hard to measure and assess effectively and objectively.

    How exactly do you rate someone on 'Ethical Behavior?' By noting the employee did not steal out of the till 98% percent of the time?.  By taking careful inventory of the supply cabinet to make sure no one nicked a ream of paper for their kids middle school book reports? I guess we just assume most people are behaving ethically if we don't catch them not behaving ethically and leave it at that.  But when performance management processes force the manager to give a numerical or some other ranking on an 'Ethics' competency, then what really justifies a 3 or 4?  It is kind of an all-or-nothing thing I think, and then it becomes sort of irrelevant.

    But something like 'Deliver the Wow', that has some potential. The successful demonstration of delivering 'Wow' moments, whether to external or internal customers seems easier to assess, and likely a better mark of differentiation across employees in a given role. How does the manager know which employees are really successful in 'Wow' delivery? 

    Well, they probably already know. There probably is a paper trail of 'Wow' moments. Unsolicited email testimonials from enthused customers, internal or external (LinkedIn?) recommendations from colleagues and partners, or even special recognition at holiday time from vendors (warning, do not use for folks in Purchasing). It is not so easy to 'know' about focus, ethics, and other more nebulous concepts.

    In fact, Delivering the Wow is probably a competency, if you are a believer in identifying and assessing these kinds of things at appraisal time, that should be on everyone's performance plan. 

    The HR Technology Conference vendor shootouts are really all about the solution, and this particular solution, like all of them, was tight, capable, and effectively demonstrated the required functionality. But to me, the most interesting aspect of the demonstrations was 'Deliver the Wow', and it to my recollection was not mentioned by the presenter or anyone in the audience. 

    The technology on display was fantastic, awesome even.  But 'Delivering the Wow' is more awesome. 

    Any solution you buy for Performance Management these days will let you evaluate any competency you like, but not all of them will make it easier for you to Deliver the Wow.

    That is if you are trying to measure for Wow in the first place.


    HR Technology 2010, Simplicity, and Beer

    The latest installment of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up last week,  and truly by all accounts that I have seen so far, the event was another huge success. Attendance was strong, the vendors that I spoke to all claimed to be having positive shows in terms of traffic and connections, and the (large) assembled collection of HR bloggers present expressed satisfaction and enjoyment with the event and the experience.

    What's not to like?  

    Every major vendor in the HR Tech game is there.  All the important trade publications, consultancies, and independent analysts are around.  And the number, quality, and variety of receptions, parties, and dinners is truly astounding. The event itself is well-organized, well-executed, and everyone stays on message.  Including the conference worker that would not allow me entrance to the Expo floor prior to the 'official' opening of the show floor since I did not possess the needed credentials.

    All in all, well done, and many thanks to Bill Kutik for inviting me to participate as a moderator of one of the 'Shootout' sessions where I got to watch over two vendors sweat to get their complex and comprehensive demonstrations completed in 25 minutes.

    For me, the overall theme to the event was 'simplicity'.  The most interesting conversations I had with vendors, bloggers, attendees, etc. centered around either finding technology solutions that would help to simplify workforce and talent processes, or were about adopting new technologies that frankly were better, cleaner, easier to navigate, to use, and to manage than the ones they are currently using.

    Oh yeah, 'LinkedIn' popped up in probably every second conversation I had as well.  Either as a platform that had to be integrated with, as a competitive threat (real and perceived), or in it's place in the social media trinity in a more general commentary about the social web. Connecting with social platforms is getting to be expected in almost every new product, or new release of an old product.

    So in addition to 'simplicity', I guess my other word from the event is 'LinkedIn'. 

    I asked (rhetorically) earlier in the post, 'What's not to like?'

    If I had to offer something not to like, and this is not so much a critique of the HR Tech conference itself as it is a question about the process of marketing and selling HR Technology solutions in general, it would rather be to ask why these themes of simplicity and connectivity don't seem to transfer all that well to the actual process of finding, buying, and deploying HR software?

    Why is it often so difficult for prospective customers to actually try the software out before committing to a longer term purchase?  Why is the pricing information for most of the solutions on display at the show so hard to come by?  Why are sales processes so long? And why do the large majority of HR Technology vendors seem to do at best an average job of connecting with the greater community by leveraging the aforementioned 'trinity' of platforms?

    Those complaints may or may not be well-founded, and even if they are none of that is the fault of the HR Tech Conference itself.  Unless of course by being too good an event, by being too effective as an marketing device, and having established itself as an enduring institution, that effecting meaningful structural and behavioral change in the 'traditional' sales process becomes an even harder barrier to overcome. Maybe.

    But big changes like those, if they come, will be gradual.  And even if they do, I am sure the HR Tech event will continue to thrive.  If for some reason it doesn't, I have a fallback plan though. As we were leaving the conference hotel in Chicago the next big event coming in was the 73rd Annual conference for the NBWA - the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Ironically, one of the most interesting booths at the HR Tech show involved beer.

    It may be time to start that 'Beer and BBQ' blog I have always dreamed about.

    Update - December 2011 - For reasons I am still not totally sure about, this post was translated to Bulgarian - and you can attempt to read that version here.


    Simpler Answers

    Get the 'right people on the bus'.

    Align corporate goals and objectives with individual employee's performance standards and development plans.

    Ensure the organization is using it's compensation budget to reward the right employees and encourage the desired behaviors.

    These are just some of the many truisms we hear, write, and repeat that attempt to describe what most organizations are striving for in their quest to increase performance, improve financial outcomes, and help sustain and grow the enterprise in the near and long term. Over time numerous technology solutions have been developed to help organizations achieve these and other lofty goals.  And over time, the list of specific features and capabilities of most of the generally available solutions on the market have expanded to encompass more workforce processes, include support for more discrete talent related transactions, and provide better and faster access to analytical data that surrounds and is generated by these processes.

    In fact, if we organized a 'feature and function' scavenger hunt on the floor of the expo hall at the HR Technology Conference there is likely not any specific talent and workforce management capability that some vendor could not support. Dynamic 9-Box generation with variable axis?  Check.  Standard reports describing cost and quality per hire?  No problem.  Integration of the traditional applicant tracking system with the social web?  Everyone is doing that now.

    No, the arms race for 'features' in some respects is pretty much over.  The result? Everyone won. Or soon will. No doubt about it, the set of solutions available across the spectrum of HR and talent management processes has never been wider, better, and more impressive.  If you can imagine it as an HR or talent pro, you can have it. Ignoring for the moment the very real, and troublesome nits about costs, complexity of integrations, maturity of the organization to actually adopt or at least adapt to the leading practices that many of the current solutions profess to support.

    So in an environment where (almost) anything, and everything is possible, how can organizations and leaders ensure that they are making the best decisions around what technology solutions to invest in, and ultimately deploy? 

    How about by taking a longer and harder look at more simple technology solutions?  What?  Simpler solutions?  Ones that don't necessarily have the ability to check 'Yes' on that 89 page performance management capability RFP you just issued?  Ones that don't always demo the best, that perhaps lack the flash and sizzle of some others?  Solutions that take a 'less is more', or perhaps more accurately a 'only the features that are truly needed are included' approach to development and deployment?

    The fundamental questions that most businesses need to answer are, at their core, relatively simple.  Find the right people for the jobs.  Align their activities with big-picture goals. Give them a chance to develop and grow. Make sure managers and employees can engage in a positive and constructive dialog to not only improve individual performance, but to raise the level of achievement for the organization overall.  They are fundamental questions that usually have pretty simple answers. Sure, I know what you're saying - if the answers were truly that simple, why don't all organizations get it right?  Why are so many workplaces talent management practices lacking?  I think that is perhaps a discussion for another time, but I will say this - applying unnecessary technological complexity to these problems won't make them suddenly easier to solve. The best BI analytic dashboard, if supported by data from sketchy talent management processes, is ultimately worthless.

    Yesterday at the HR Technology Conference I spent time with people from two of the solution providers that I admire most in the industry, Halogen Software in the more 'tradtional' talent management space, and Rypple, who are sort of in a unique (because they pretty much created it) position as a provider of recognition, coaching, and feedback tools. Talking with them again today I was reminded why I admire them so much - their solutions are defined as much by what features are not included as by what ones are included.  They both are focused on providing tools that support these fundamental business needs, while not trying to carpet-bomb the user (or really the buyer), with a litany of excess and largely unneeded features. Both help organizations answer simple questions with simple answers. 

    When considering your business issues, and evaluating potential technology providers, the key questions of 'What features have you killed?' and 'What capabilities have you purposefully omitted?' might prove more valuable that the 89 pages of 'Yes, yes, yes' answers from that RFP.


    HR Technology - Do You Care?

    As a sports fan I spend more than my fair share of time watching the ESPN family of networks.  Over the years as the number of different ESPN channels has grown, the variety of programming has expanded.  The networks have experimented beyond traditional live event coverage and news/commentary shows to reality, investigative journalism, and even comedy.

    One of my all time favorite 'non-traditional' ESPN shows is called 'Cheap Seats'.  The basic premise of the show is for two commentators to screen video of old, second-rate sporting events that in the early days of ESPN helped to fill airtime (dog shows, putt-putt, arm wrestling, etc.), and provide witty and at times insulting commentary over the event. It is a really amusing show. For the non-sports geeks out there, it is a kind of poor man's Mystery Science Theater 3000 about sports.

    A recurring feature on 'Cheap Seats' is a segment called 'Do You Care?', where the hosts take turns rattling off a series of little known facts or trivia items about the showcase sporting event, prefaced with the phrase 'Do You Care?'. 'Do You Care that 4-time national Putt-Putt champion Dave Carson once served as a bat boy for the Kansas City Royals?', is a decent example of a 'Do You Care' question.

    The joke is that no, you really don't care, and that the factoid, like the event or person it references, is so obscure and unimportant, that no one else really cares either. The very idea that an entire show was built around mocking these kind of events is the joke itself.

    What do 'Cheap Seats' or the associated Lumberjack/Strongman/Cheerleading and other obscure or niche competitions featured/mocked on the show have to do with HR Technology?

    It seems in many Human Resources organizations the technology function (if it has not been ceded to the IT organization) gets relegated to the late night, off hours, or counter-programmed against the Super Bowl status like many of the events that Cheap Seats so cleverly derides. High profile andHank Stram traditional functions like recruiting, training and development, and employee relations are the equivalent of ESPN's glamour properties like the NFL, Major League Baseball, and College Football.  The technology function, can often be the organizational equivalent of PBA Bowling (way more popular that you'd think, by the way), table tennis, or an NFL films documentary about the legend of Hank Stram.

    Even in the nascent HR/social media/blogosphere the interest in technology topics certainly lags behind 'traditional' subject matter like recruiting, career management, and general leadership.  There are very few regular and steady HR blogs focusing primarily on technology topics. Heck, even this blog, 'Steve's HR Technology', is only occasionally about hard core technology subjects.  Perhaps a re-branding is in order. Of the half dozen or so posts I have written for the popular Fistful of Talent blog, the one piece that was the most 'tech' focused received the least amount of feedback and interest than any of the other posts on FOT that I've done.

    I write this post as I make my way to the 13th Annual HR Technology Conference in Chicago, an event that is clearly all about the technologies that are available to support HR and workforce processes, from the mundane and adminisitrative, to the evolved and highly complex and analytical.  Dozens of experts.  Hundreds of vendors.  Thousands of attendees. Tens of thousands in bar tabs.  Huge event.  Great event.  Important event.

    But, after the show is all over, after the groggy conference goers make their way home, the question for 'regular' HR remains - HR Technology- Do You Care?

    Check out one of the best moments from the 'Cheap Seats' series below - email subscribers click through: