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    Entries in HR Tech (249)


    HR Technology as a Training Ground

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show in between some bombs being dropped (certain HR types being described as 'secretaries' or 'blue-hairs') one really interesting technology related point was made. 

    Specifically, experience working in one of the leading HR Technology vendors, perhaps one that focuses on Talent Management technology like a Halogen or SuccessFactors, provides an excellent knowledge base for future success in an HR organization, and that an HR leader in search of talent should consider HR Technology companies as a great source. 

    Traditionally software companies have looked to recruit from customer organizations (I was recruited by Oracle many years ago in this way). It was an interesting, and I think correct observation. The best technology implementers possess the following attributes, all of which would benefit the internal HR organization.

    Problem Solving

    No two HR technology projects are ever the same.  Even if the consultant has spent a few years implementing the same solution, each project haFlickr- raptortheangels a unique set of requirements, demands, personalities, and pressures to make each one unique.  Solving new problems is a critical component for success, and one that the best consultants can master. In particular, being adaptable to varying levels of support from clients, and knowing when to take decisions and when to get help are skills that come easier to experiences tech consultants than to some others.

    Results focus

    Lots of technology vendors hold their consultants to extremely challenging target for utilization, revenue and profitability.  It can be, at some companies, a high-stress, high-reward type environment. To be a successful technology implementer you have to be able to deliver under pressure, managing multiple and sometimes conflicting demands and expectation.  A good, experienced tech consultant will be cool under pressure and probably be able to teach the rest of the HR staff a thing or two about successful project delivery.

    Customer driven

    Delivering successful technology projects requires relentless customer focus.  Tech consultants certainly operate under parameters and constraints, but the best ones know how to navigate these and maintain focus on the best possible customer outcomes.  During an engagement, a good consultant learns the customer's motivations, concerns, and weaknesses and incorporates this knowledge into the overall solution delivery. A mindset that continually places customer success first will benefit any internal or traditional 'support' organization.

    Breadth of experience

    Most technology consultants will have worked on a wide range of projects, across different industries, regions, and market sizes.  The number and variety of these experiences typically affords a good consultant a great range of direct experiences as well as a large network of contacts from which to draw from.  It may have been competency modeling for an accounting firm, performance management at a University, or compensation planning at a professional services firm, a good consultant carries all the learning from these engagements to your HR department.

    Technology skills

    Certainly if you recruit a new resource from a technology company you'd expect a high level of technical knowledge.  But this knowledge is exactly the kind most HR departments lack, specific ability to assess technology and apply it to help solve HR and business issues.  This is the hardest tech skill for most HR groups to acquire, and it will become more and more important in the future.  If you think your HR shop has enough tech skills today, you are probably wrong, since technology moves so fast, and has become so critical, beefing up your strength in this area is a necessity.

    What do you think? Should you source your next key spot in the HR department from one of the HR Technology vendors?  Or am I way too biased as to the importance of Tech in HR?



    New Class, New Ideas

    The latest installment of my HR Technology class (I think this is number 5) is set to begin in about two weeks time.  Since I am now a veteran of developing and delivering this class, there is the temptation to to think I have it all figured out, and I can simply roll out the last term's content, assignments, readings, etc. and the class will more or less take care of itself.

    But I think to do that would be a disservice to both the students and to myself to some extent. 

    The market for HR Technology is constantly changing. Great and new content is being published every day.  Heck, even the legend Naomi Bloom is now blogging, a new development since I last taught the class.

    And my perspective is changing as well. Since the last class I have attended a half dozen events, read stacks of papers and blog posts, done ten or so HR Happy Hour Shows and met some incredibly smart and talented people.

    So for the new class, I am determined to keep the content and the delivery fresh, relevant, and here is the key I think - forward thinking.  More emphasis on what is 'next' I believe is of more short and long-term value to my students than spending too much time on the past.

    Finally, another goal I have for this session is to have even more community involvement in the class and more external expert interaction with the students.  In the past I have done virtual guest speakers, an HR blogger/student guest post project, and some online discussion forum moderation by outside experts.

    These activities were all interesting, reasonably successful, and to some extent fun.  But I want to do more, push the 'community' aspect even further and try to ensure that once the students have completed the course they have established a real connection to the broader community of HR and Technology stars that have done so much to further my own knowledge.

    If you are an HR pro, HR Technology expert, vendor, or blogger and want to get involved in the HR Technology class, leave me a comment, or send me an e-mail - steveboese@gmail.com.

    If you have some suggestions or recommendations as to what technologies, strategies, and skills I should emphasize I'd love to hear those suggestions as well.

    And as always, thanks for your support.


    Next Generation HR Technology

    Last week on the HR Happy Hour show we welcomed the Fistful of Talent crew to talk 'Next Generation HR'.

    Where are the next wave of HR leaders coming from, what do they need to know, and how will they drive change and superior business performance.  Heady stuff.

    Most of the guests on the show advocated for change; change in approach, change in education and training, and perhaps some re-assessment of the traditional role of HR.

    And just like the HR professional is faced with change, so are the technologies that are used to support Human Resources,  Talent Management, and workforce collaboration. Some of these changes are already in motion in full force, some are just beginning, and some are speculative, but at least to me, reasonably likely.

    What's Begun

    The move from enterprise systems being installed on company premises to being installed, maintained, and upgraded by the software vendor via the Software as a Service model (SaaS), is already firmly underway.

    The trend started with ATS, progressed to Talent Management, has started in ERP, and was always in place for collaboration platforms. And many mid-sized to large organizations that are stuck with aging, expensive, and difficult to manage premises installed ERP systems will begin in earnest to evaluate SaaS-based alternatives that by design are more flexible, cheaper, and typically much more user friendly.

    For the HR pro, this means less reliance on the IT organization than ever before.  When HR applications are deployed via SaaS, only a fast internet connection is needed. Also, since SaaS licences are usually priced on a per-user monthly subscription, they are not Capital Expenditures, but rather funded out of Operating Expenses, and therefore typically much easier to fund from internal HR budgets.

    What's Beginning

    Increasingly Human Resources enterprise systems will connect with and in some cases integrate with external or consumer oriented networks or platforms. Whether it is a company like Sage Software entering into a strategic partnership with consumer portal tool Netvibes, SumTotalSystems integrating Learning and Development applications with Facebook, ATS vendors like JobVite connecting with LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. or SAP building ties with the Jive Software platform for to integrate business intelligence data with wikis, the trend of the enterprise connecting with the external environments has started.

    For the HR pro this presents a number of challenges.  First, if your organization is one the actively block access to external social networks and platforms, soon you will really need to re-assess that position. Look, I won't repeat the same old arguments about loss of productivity, risk of company secrets being leaked, or employees posting inappropriate content on social networks.

    Let's face it, employees are already losing productivity, leaking secrets, and acting inappropriately.

    Either you, as an HR professional either believe this will be important for future organizational success or you don't.  If you do, you probably need to do more than whine and complain about it, and develop and present a cogent business case where loosening of restrictions and application or integration of social tools can derive positive business outcomes. More and more of the leading HR Technology solutions will embrace this trend, and you can either get out in front, or watch it roll by and maybe, if you are lucky jump on later.

    What's to Come

    Speculating on the future is dicey at best, but what the heck let's give it a shot.

    Social emedded into process

    Enterprise systems will continue to add and emphasize 'social' features, further blurring the lines between business process support, external social networks, and collaboration and expertise locator technologies.  More solutions will focus on how end users in HR and employees in the enterprise actually interact with the application and that interaction will more strongly influence functionality and design. Examples might be a performance management process with dynamic ability to connect with subject matter experts on a particular competency or a workforce planning application integrated with external demographic data and content.

    Mass Personalization

    Just like many consumer sites 'remember' you and present content and functions according to your demonstrated prior interactions or stated preferences, more HR Technology solutions will move to simple and flexible personalization.  Why do services like Amazon and Twitter have such tremendous uptake and growth? Part of the reason is that the experience to some extent is user-determined.  Amazon can present recommendations based on your prior activity, and the activity of other users with similar behavior patterns.  Twitter allows a user total control of the experience. In enterprise systems we will see much more extensive, simple, and adaptive personalization so that the systems fit individual desired interaction methods and preferred uses.


    HR Technology will go more and more mobile. Access to information, notifications, the ability to progress workflows for recruiting, performance, or training and development will become the norm. Need to connect with a colleague, post a quick status update to the team, seek out the company's top expert on a particular topic, access some learning content, perhaps a podcast or video?  All of these will be increasingly performed on smart phones and other mobile devices.  Interaction with enterprise systems will be more flexible, available from a multitude of sources, and optimized for each. Systems that are flexible enough to be easily adapted to a variety of mobile platforms will have a tremendous competitive advantage.


    What do you think?  Where is HR Technology going? What will be the true 'Next Gen' solution?



    HRevolution Sponsor Spotlight - Nobscot Corporation

    There is significant energy and momentum in the Human Resources Technology marketplace towards integration. Traditional core HRIS and ERP vendors are trying to strengthen their offerings in areas like Talent Management and Business Intelligence.  Established talent management vendors are expanding their application footprints to encompass more and more functionality be it applicant tracking or learning management.

    In many ways the trend towards integration can benefit customers, as it typically eliminates (or at least dramatically reduces) the need for complex, and often custom built integrations to pass HR information around the various systems.

    But even as the big ERP providers get bigger, and the Talent Management vendors expand, there remain areas of the HR and talent landscape that neither will likely ever consume. Important technology supported functions like background checks, candidate assessments, or complex workforce scheduling.

    These 'edge' products and the processes that they support are often vitally important to the success of an organization and can go a long way towards making the day-to-day lives of HR professionals much easier.

    HRevolution sponsor Nobscot Corporation thrives on the edge. Their flagship product WebExit, that supports the process of Exit Interviews was created to address a gap and fulfill a need that the traditional HR Technology companies could not support.  Efficient capture, and subsequent analysis of exit interview data is to many organizations a key source of strategic information that can directly impact ongoing operations, planning, and overall profitability of the enterprise. If you really believe as an organization that human capital is the source of your competitive advantage, then understanding the flow of this capital from beginning (recruiting) to end (exit interview) is vital to your long term survival.

    In addition to its market leading product for exit interviews, Nobscot also offers Mentor Scout, the only real enterprise solution for managing internal mentoring programs. Mentor Scout helps to manage all aspects of a corporate mentoring initiative, from matching mentors with mentees, to providing a secure environment for communication, to tracking the progress and success of the program.  For many employees in the organization making connections with experienced and respected colleagues is a necessary and even critical activity. Mentoring programs have been shown to be a powerful driver of increased engagement and forge important bonds in the make up of the company.

    Being on the "edge," allows companies like Nobscot to respond quickly to HR's needs.  For example, based on feedback from clients Nobscot expanded its WebExit platform to handle new hire surveys and quality of hire metrics. The resulting program, called FirstDays helps organizations accurately measure the success of recruiting, onboarding, orientation and new hire socialization initiatives.  On the Mentor Scout side of the house, Nobscot expanded Mentor Scout with their Talent Networking Edition which adds peer-to-peer corporate social networking components to solve some common HR challenges such as knowledge sharing, breakdown of silos, recognition, and managing remote employees. 

    I encourage you to check out Nobscot Corporation, they are a company committed to the long-term success of their customers, and passionate about improving organizational effectiveness and advancing the discipline of Human Resources.

    Thanks very much to Nobscot, especially CEO Beth N. Carvin for their generous support of the HRevolution.


    Note : This post is part of the HRevolution Sponsor Spotlight series, the event organiizer's way of saying thanks to the fantastic sponsors of HRevolution, without their generous support the event would not be possible.



    Facebook and Talent Management Technology

    Recently Talent and Learning Management vendor SumTotal Systems announced a set of new integrations meant  to present information from the system, "where employees live most, applications like Microsoft Outlook and Facebook". In Facebook, for example, and employee could see updates and alerts from the SumTotal system, and connect with their internal colleagues without leaving the Facebook site.

    While most would not argue that corporate workers spend ridiculous amounts of time in Outlook, the idea that enterprise Talent Management systems should be connected with Facebook and LinkedIn is certainly an interesting and new development.

    Heck, pretty much every day I see a new article or study on organizations that block access to Facebook and LinkedIn. But that is not really the 'core' issue as I see it.

    I think the important message is not really about social networks and their use in the workplace, but rather a signal that the 'enterprise' platform as a required destination for employees and managers will erode in importance. More and more the 'official' home page or portals are going to be supplanted by interactions with the 'enterprise' information and processes via external networks (LinkedIn, Facebook), other internal enterprise tools (Outlook, intranets), and mobile (iPhone, Blackberry). If employees and line managers only have to visit a tool or system to accomplish one specific task, and that task is not somehow incorporated into their 'normal' workflow, the likelihood of adoption and effective utilization is far lower. 

    You may have a fantastic system, full of incredible content, but if no one goes there to leverage that content then it may as well be not there at all.

    Additionally, as the definitions of work shift, and the relationships that talent maintains with organizations become more fluid, much more versatile and agile tools for talent management will be needed.  Certainly part of the versatility will derive from embedded integration with Facebook and LinkedIn, but the larger work that remains is to convince organizations and vendors that their fancy home pages and dashboards, while interesting and exciting to look at, might not matter one bit to the employee and manager that never wants to visit them. 

    For some time it has been fashionable in marketing circles to declare that the corporate web site is 'dead' and that no one really cares what is on there, I wonder if one day enterprise systems home pages will 'die' as well and be replaced with a collection of widgets, add-ons, browser toolbars, and mobile applications.