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    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 193 - Humanizing Data

    HR Happy Hour 193 - Humanizing Data

    Recorded Thursday October 23, 2014

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Paul Hebert

    This time on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and Trish welcomed long time show friend and expert on influence and recognition, Paul Hebert back to the HR Happy Hour Show.

    Paul is the Vice President of Solution Design at Symbolist, one of the first to create a blog for the incentive and reward industry – called “Incentive Intelligence” – now hosted here at Symbolist. In addition, Paul writes for one of the top Human Resources blogs – Fistful of Talent, is a founding member of the Editorial Advisory Board at the HRExaminer.

    On the show. Paul, Trish, and Steve talked about the importance of the human element in things like employee engagement, recognition, and motivation strategies in organizations. While we are talking A LOT in HR about data these days, it is really critical that we don't lose sight of the human element in our organizations.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour'. 

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    This was a really fun show and many thanks to Paul for joining us and to Symbolist for sponsoring the upcoming HRevolution event. 


    From HR Executive - On being a better HR Tech consumer

    Some readers might know that in addition to being the Program Co-Chair of the HR Technology Conference that additionally I write a monthly column for Human Resource Executive (magazine and online), titled Inside HR Tech. The latest Inside HR Tech piece 'Being a Better Consumer' posted earlier this week, and I wanted to share a little bit of the piece here (since I liked the piece and I think it relevant to many of the blog readers here).

    From Human Resource Executive - 'Being a Better Consumer'

    Recently I had the opportunity to talk with executives and product leaders from a small group of HR technology start-up solution providers. The conversations were primarily focused on these start-ups’ product offerings, their positions in the market and their various approaches to development, software user experience and deployment. It was really interesting stuff for a HR tech columnist for sure!

    But some of the most interesting and engaging elements of the conversations with these providers was hearing from them about their challenges dealing with prospects and customers in the sales, contract negotiation, implementation and post-live support processes.

    They shared some of the specific obstacles they've come across when educating, trying to sell to, and lastly, finalizing contract agreements with HR leaders and organizations. I thought it would make sense to share what they shared and offer some tips for HR leaders to be better customers.

    Though the start-ups, themselves, are small, many of their customers are quite large, even global organizations.

    And while some of what they had to say was certainly flavored by their relative small size and inexperience, I know for sure from having worked for very large HR-tech providers (and customers), that many of these buying process issues are common no matter what the HR-tech vendor’s and the customer’s current size may be. Big company or small, these kinds of challenges arise all the time. So here, without further delay and presented in no specific order, are my tips for being a better HR-tech customer:

    Define and share your decision process/timeline.

    Once the initial contact is made between your HR organization and the HR-technology provider, you -- as a customer -- can significantly assist the overall process by sharing with the tech vendor the motivations behind your inquiry, the specific business needs or problems you are hoping to address, and -- most importantly -- details about your internal decision making process and desired timelines for the technology decision to be made will

    Many of the start-up vendors shared their frustration with long and winding product education/demonstration cycles with customers that seemed to have no end in sight.

    Even if that “end” is a decision not to purchase, the vendors are often better off getting that information sooner in order to shift their time and resources to other prospects.

    And if your decision process, (for whatever reason), is long, that is fine too, just be up front with the vendor early on so they can align their resources and expectations.

    Explain your purchase approval and payment process.

    As a customer.....

    (catch the rest of the piece at Human Resource Executive online 

    I invite blog readers interested in these longer form HR tech pieces to subscribe to get every Inside HR Tech column in convenient email form. I would also invite suggestions and ideas for future Inside HR Tech columns.

    Have a great weekend!


    Your HR Tech Vendor Should Tell You 'No'

    Having an interesting day at the HR Tech Tank event in Toronto meeting with and talking to a talented group of HR Technology Startups that are (mostly, I think anyway), based in Canada.

    One of the recurring themes that has come up during the day is the importance of listening to customers/prospects in the design and development process. As a couple of the startup veterans in the group have pointed out, if you run too far down a development path and have not done enough research, prototyping, and received enough detailed feedback from the most likely users of the product, then you place yourself at serious risk of building something that no one (except maybe you) actually wants.

    But at the same time, if you do too much listening to customers and prospects and focus on attempting to incorporate all of their feedback, enhancements, and feature requests into an existing product, (and more importantly, into a product that is meant to be fairly tight in scope), then you end up with a more complex product than you had intended, might miss important delivery commitments, and risk not staying true to your initial vision for the product. Probably the very same vision that sold your first employees, investors, and even customers on initially.

    It is definitely a fine line to walk for an HR Tech Startup founder and their team, and likely also for more established HR tech providers. It really comes down to having a pretty deep understanding of your product, your team's capability, the completeness of your vision and product, and lastly your philosophy about working with customers.

    There are no specific of set rules or answers for sure. Which is why creating and delivering product is really, really hard.

    But for customers or prospects it feels or seems much easier, right? Just look for and agree to continue working with only those vendors that continually say 'Yes' to all of your enhancement and new feature requests. After all, you are the customer and the customer is always right. And if your vendor doesn't react as completely as you like, and according to your timeframes then you can simply find some other one that will.

    Except for the fact that unless you are the startup's very first customer, then that means that there are others, maybe even thousands of other customers making similar requests of your vendor. And guess what? All of those other customers think their enhancement requests are just as important as yours.

    And if the vendor keeps saying 'Yes' to all of, or even most of your (and everyone else's) requests, they will end up with a product that is more a set of collected features and less of an elegant solution to a problem. A solution and vision that was what originally so compelling that you had to have it.

    The vendor, especially the startup vendor, HAS to say 'No' sometimes, maybe most of the time.

    The challenge for you, the customer, is to learn that 'No' is sometimes, maybe most of the time, the right answer. For both of you.


    Some final thoughts and thanks from #HRTechConf 2014

    Last Friday we wrapped up the 17th Annual HR Technology Conference, what I believe was an extremely successful event and for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, press, analysts, bloggers, and everyone else in the large HR Technology community, a professionally and personally valuable experience.

    For me, who spent the bulk of my time in 2014 planning, preparing, organizing, promoting, and then for lack of a better term, hosting the Conference, it will still probably take a few more days/weeks for everything to settle in and to take the feedback and observations from the last week and incorporate that into next year's planning process. But I did take the weekend to kind of decompress, tried to stay (mostly) offline and catch up on my sleep, and to think about my initial thoughts about the Conference that I would like to share, and more importantly, to publicly thank at least a few people that played an important part in the event this year.

    First - three quick general thoughts about the event 

    1. I thought there was great energy and enthusiasm at the event - in the Expo, at the General Sessions and Awesome New Tech demonstrations, during the parts of concurrent sessions that I was able to see, and of course at the receptions and dinners that I attended.  Even by last Friday, Day 4 of the event, we had a lively and engaged audience for the Awesome New Startups demo that started EARLY at 8AM, and then for Ray Wang's closing keynote. Excitement or engagement is a really hard thing to measure, but so many folks stopped me to tell me that they just felt a better vibe around the show this year, that I wanted to mention that. I want HR Tech to be energizing and fun, and I hope we succeeded in that.

    2. After a certain point, size becomes a real challenge. This year the Conference had a record number of speakers, sessions, and even keynotes that made for the 'biggest' HR Tech Conference to date. And while we are really proud of that, we also have to acknowledge that with the increase in size and scope, that it has become just about impossible to see everything and meet everyone that you would like to at the event. I did think that the physical layout of the show was such that the long, long walks of prior years were lessened, but there were still times where I know that I personally could not make it to where I wanted to be in time. I will try to find ways to manage this going forward, but if I was not able to talk or meet with you at the event, I do want to apologize for that.

    3. Some folks come a long, long way to attend HR Tech. I noticed this the most on Friday morning, before and after Ray's closing keynote. Since the event was just about complete, and I was almost out of things to worry about and do, I had a fair bit of time to just chat with attendees. And that morning in the space about about 15 minutes I met (and took photos with), attendees from China, India, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. That was really fun, and kind of cool. And also serves to me as a great reminder that attendees make a huge investment of time and resources to attend HR Tech, and we need to continue to work hard to deliver a great and valuable Conference and experience.

    Second - Keep, drop, and make new

    The big challenge with taking over a long-standing and successful event is figuring out how much to change, what to leave as-is, and what/where/how to try and move the event into a new direction. And that process of evaluation for an event like HR Tech is an ongoing, and sometimes inexact one at that. As for some of the new elements we introduced to the show this year, (expanded opening day/night, a more 'Technical' track, and an overall increase in sessions/speakers), I think for the most part they went over well. So I would expect all of that to continue on into future events. We also tried to stay true to what has been traditionally been a strength of the event - detailed case study type presentations from HR leaders at many of the world's leading organizations.

    Finally, early reports seem to suggest that an increased focus on HR Tech startup technologies, in the Expo Hall as part of our first-ever startup pavilion, and with our inaugural 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session, were both well-received. Of course, I welcome your comments and feedback going forward on what to more of, what to do less of, and what new things we should bring to the show.

    Third - Some folks I have to thank, (and I apologize in advance to not be able to list or mention everyone that I should, just like the Conference has grown to make it almost impossible to talk with everyone that I would like, I can't possibly name everyone here that I should thank), for their incredible contribution to the Conference this year. But I am going to try anyway... (these are presented in no particular order, just streaming them out as they come to me)

    Kris Dunn - KD stepped in at the 11th hour to take on a pretty big spot in the Agenda that came open due to a very late speaker cancellation. There are not many people who would have been willing and able to step in like that especially considering he already was leading a session later in the day. Huge thanks to the Capitalist for taking that on.

    Laurie Zaucha, Sara Hill, Coretha Rushing, and Ashley Goldsmith - These four HR leaders were the participants in the 'Modern CHRO' panel that I co-hosted along with Trish McFarlane. This was a great group of HR executives, were easy to work with, and reminded us all what true leadership looks and sounds like. I want HR Tech to be a place where we see and hear from the absolute best of the best in HR, and these panelists exemplify that completely.

    Trish McFarlane - In addition to Co-hosting the Modern CHRO Panel mentioned above, Trish also led an Expert Discussion session on HR Technology implementations about which I heard fantastic reports. But beyond that, she was a great sounding board and source of excellent advice throughout the event planning process. And she co-hosts my favorite podcast the HR Happy Hour Show!

    Jason Seiden - Jason launched his new startup BrandAmper at the Conference, as one of the participants in the first-ever 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session. This was not without risk, pressure, and probably some lost sleep. But Jason and Lisa Cervenka did an amazing job (like all of our startups), and I hope to see them back next year on the Big Stage!

    John Sumser - John led one of our sessions in the new Ideas and Innovations track, his on Computational HR, and while I was not able to sit in on the session, it probably was the one that I feel the worst about missing. He is also a remarkably nice and generous person that has contributed much to the event and to me as well.

    Michael Krupa - Mike did a tremendous job not only personally serving on a two-hour long panel in our 'Tech' track, but also serving to help create and coordinate several other elements at the show. Plus, he is one of the very few people I will allow to hug me in public.

    Naomi Bloom - Naomi did a tremendous amount of work in the run-up to the show, coordinating and helping to program what was a very successful Tech track at the event. Sadly, she was unable to actually participate live at the event due to a medical issue. But she had prepped her panel so well that they were able to carry on, and she stayed engaged with the event on Twitter throughout. Get well soon, Naomi!

    Mike Psenka - Mike runs the Workforce Analytics team at Equifax Workforce Solutions and not only did he present a great session with Whole Foods, he also allowed Trish and myself to crash his team dinner once again. Mike and the Equifax team are a super nice bunch of people that I enjoy spending time with at HR Tech each year.

    Ed Chase, Dave Shadovitz, Vicky Dennehy and the rest of the LRP team - It goes without saying that probably 95% of what happens to deliver an excellent experience to the HR Tech community goes on behind the scenes, and out of sight of most. But the LRP team does such a fantastic and professional job getting the thousands of elements aligned to present a great show for everyone. Trust me, you don't have any idea what goes on out of view, and you probably don't want to know, but the LRP team takes it all in stride. Many thanks to all of my colleagues for everything you do.

    All of our attendees, speakers, exhibitors, analysts, sponsors, and friends - We have such an engaged, vibrant, and enthusiastic community around HR Tech that in many ways that makes my job easy. So thanks to everyone who was at the event last week. There are literally thousands of you who contribute to the event, each in your own way, and that adds up to a remarkable and valuable community of people that make what I get to do really fun and amazing.

    Thanks again and please do mark your calendars now for the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference - October 18 -21, 2015 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

    Have a great week! 


    SLIDES: Big Trends in HR Technology for 2014 and Beyond

    I wanted to share the presentation slides from a Human Resource Executive Magazine webinar that I co-presented yesterday along with Trish McFarlane, VP of HR Practice, Principal Analyst from Brandon Hall Group.

    The title of the presentation is Big Trends in HR Technology 2014 and Beyond, and while often these kinds of 'trends' talks (including many that I have done the last year or two), tend to focus on 'trends' that are really just far-future kinds of speculation or are simply repeats of ideas that have been talked about for some time, Trish and I tried to keep the talk grounded more in research and the actual experiences of many of the leading organizations that will be part of the upcoming HR Technology Conference in October.

    You can check out the slides below, (here is the direct link in case the embedded slideshow does not render for you), and I will try and sum up at least a few of our key points below the deck.


    What were the high points, or keys that we shared on the webinar that we hoped would resonate with attendees? I will give you the Top 5.

    1. There are 3 dimensions for potential impact of HR tech - organizational, managerial, and individual - and the most successful HR tech projects resonate and add value at all 3 levels 

    2. The key organizational decision drivers for the replacement of HR technology vary depending on the type of HR tech. For Core HR systems, better integration is the primary driver. For talent management however, User Experience tops the list.

    3. Selecting the 'right' HR technology solution involves an analysis and balance of 5 factors: Cost/ROI, Technological fit, Cultural fit, system capability/roadmap, and complexity/UX.

    4. For both Core HR and for Talent Management tech, an increased demand for better integration across the HR systems footprint, as well as with other corporate systems is driving investment and the attention of corporate leaders. 

    5. We are not really talking as much about 'mobile' or 'social' as discrete concepts, but rather a more comprehensive idea of 'User Experience', at its many levels, will increasingly influence systems development, purchase decisions, and user adoption rates, (and therefore, ROI).

    There was plenty more to talk about, both in the slides and on the webinar, but I hope the 'Top 5' above gave you a little bit of a feel for what we discussed.

    Thanks to Human Resource Executive and to webinar sponsor Castlight Health for having Trish and I on the webinar.

    Happy Thursday!