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    Entries in Technology (364)

    Monday
    Nov282016

    Onboarding the algorithms

    During the Ideas and Innovators session at the HR Technology Conference last month, my pal Michael Krupa gave an outstanding talk about automation and advanced 'learning' kinds of technology, and some of the implications for HR and organizational leaders who are choosing to incorporate these technologies into their people and talent management programs.

    In the talk, (and once I get the video of this, I will be sure to update the post with the link), Michael used a great expression to illustrate the deliberate and measured approach HR should take to adoption of these 'smart' tools. He called it 'Onboarding the algorithms'; a way of comparing the introduction and deployment of these technologies to the structured and immersive process that most organizations follow when onboarding new employees. The larger point - HR and business leaders need to carefully evaluate, understand, assess, and introduce algorithms and other advanced, intelligent, (and often predictive), tools carefully, and insert them into the HR and talent processes intelligently and intentionally - just like we do when hiring and welcoming new employees.

    I think Michael's analogy was a great one as it serves as a kind a warning to HR and business leaders eager to adopt these kinds of advanced and predictive tools for functions like evaluating a slate of job candidates, making decisions about which employees should be considered 'high potential', and thus granted more development and growth opportunities, scheduling the 'optimal' mix of employees for a given day or shift, or to provide intelligence and decision support to managers making decisions about the allocation of salary and bonus pools.

    I have no doubt that organizations and HR leaders will seek to adopt these kinds of tools more and more in 2017, but at the same time I think it also we be important, to use Michael's phrase, to 'onboard' these tools and algorithms effectively, in order to ensure we not only utilize the tools to their potential, but we also understand how these tools are actually designed and how they are performing. Kind of like how we know the background of every new employee that comes onboard the organization and how we like to keep track of their assimilation and performance - usually in a pretty structured 30-60-90-180 day kind of manner.

    This is a pretty important and complex idea for sure. One that can't be completely explained in one blog post. But I think one good place for HR and business leaders to start is to have really open and honest conversations with their HR technology providers of these smart tools and algorithms to gain a better understanding of how they are designed, how they work, (or are meant to work), and how transparent are the machine's thought processes they end up in a decision, (or at least a recommendation, i.e. 'Hire this person, and not that person.').

    A great starting point for HR leaders who need to know what questions to ask of your HR tech providers is the Principles for Accountable Algorithms statement from the  Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning organization. They break down the five key guiding principles for algorithm design, (responsibility, explainability, accuracy, audibility, and fairness), that HR leaders can look for, (and seek answers about), from their technology providers. Of course there is plenty more for HR leaders to consider when evaluating and deploying these tools, but the FAT/ML document provides a good starting point. You can learn more about that organization and what they do here

    Just like every good HR pro knows that we just can't toss new employees blindly into the fire and expect that they will produce desired outcomes, (and be happy), we can't expect that we can simply insert new technologies, no matter how 'intelligent', and think we will get optimal outcomes. If these tools are meant to become a fundamental element of you and your leader's talent and people management playbook, then you need to understand them as well as you need to understand all the members of your team.

    And you need to be able to tell when the algorithm is wrong too.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Nov232016

    HRE Column: On Recruitment Marketing

    Here is my semi-frequent reminder and pointer for blog readers that I also write a monthly column at Human Resource Executive Online called Inside HR Tech that can be found here.

    This month, in the aftermath of the recent Talent Acquisition Technology Conference and thinking about all the innovative and potentially disruptive HR and talent acquisition technology solutions that continue to appear in the market, I thought about how much I have heard and seen lately about the concept or category of 'recruitment marketing.'

    Both at Talent Tech and at the recent Smashfly Transform event, the strategies, tactics, and technologies that HR and talent acquisition leaders are employing to define and communicate their unique employer brand and value proposition, as well as find, engage, and convert their targeted candidate communities were on full display. This field or category of recruitment marketing has seemingly emerged from the combination or confluence of a tight labor market, powerful and purpose-built technologies, and HR and talent acquisition strategies that are leaning heavily on consumer marketing precepts and concepts. 

    It is a really exciting, interesting, and fast-moving time in this new recruitment marketing space, and I thought it would be fun and hopefully valuable to share with HR Executive readers my thoughts about this new and emerging space. I came up with a few observations for my latest HR Executive column.

    From the HRE piece:

    One of the highlights of the recently concluded Talent Acquisition Technology Conference was the emphasis on recruitment marketing as an emerging new recruiting discipline. The definition of recruitment marketing is pretty straightforward: "the strategies and tactics an organization uses to find, attract, engage and nurture [sought-after people] before they apply for a job, called the pre-applicant phase of talent acquisition." (As an aside, you know a new concept has "arrived" when it has a Wikipedia page for its definition.)

    In some ways, recruitment marketing is just the natural extension of the widely discussed "HR should act more like marketing and/or sales" argument that has become popular in recent years. While that argument has indeed proven durable, it may not always be appropriate in all cases, as George LaRocque from HRWINS, one of the conference speakers, pointed out. LaRocque correctly showed that, while most consumer marketers serve only their ultimate external customers, recruiting leaders and recruiters often serve several kinds of customers: candidates, hiring managers, and even HR and organizational leaders.

    But even if there is not a perfect analogy between recruiting and sales/marketing, many progressive organizations and talent-acquisition leaders are successfully using consumer-marketing strategies, tactics and approaches to more effectively "market" their organizations and employment opportunities to potential candidates. This discipline of recruitment marketing has indeed emerged and grown more prominent in just the last few years and since not all HR leaders might be completely familiar with the concept and approach, I'd like to explore at least a few important points and share some thoughts on how HR and organizational leaders can begin to incorporate these ideas into their talent acquisition strategies.

    Why is recruitment marketing different than just posting job ads?

    In her closing keynote at the conference, Stacy Zapar presented a comprehensive review of the many strategies organizations can and perhaps should employ to more effectively define, communicate and market their unique employer brand and employee value proposition to the candidate marketplace. While posting specific job ads on the company careers page and ensuring these ads are distributed to additional outlets such as Indeed or LinkedIn are certainly part of most organization's candidate-attraction strategies, Zapar correctly emphasized that these efforts are only a small part of the optimal overall recruitment-marketing strategy.

    Read the rest at HR Executive online...

    Good stuff, right? Humor me...

    If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and rake your leaves car or clean out your gutters or even help you re-purpose the Thanksgiving leftovers. 

    Have a great, long Thanksgiving weekend!

    Monday
    Nov142016

    Basketball, media, and robots coming for our jobs

    With the events of last week's election pretty much consuming and subsuming national attention last week you probably missed this really interesting story on the intersection of sports, media, and technology, one that raises some interesting questions about the future or automation and work.

    First a little background on the story from last week, then some thoughts on why it is interesting beyond the narrow, 'sports' focus.

    Last week Mark Cuban, famous rich guy and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks suddenly revoked the media credentials at Dallas' arena for two Dallas based ESPN basketball writers, Mark Stien and Tim MacMahon. From the first reports that came out, Cuban made the decision to revoke the ESPN pair's credentials because he was disappointed that MacMahon would not be covering every Mavericks game, a change from prior years; and Stein, as a national NBA reporter was thought to only want to cover Mavs games to gain access to players and coaches from the Mavs opponents as they came through Dallas. It was reported that Cuban was particularly miffed by the fact that no ESPN media attended and reported on the Mavs opening night game.

    If this story was just about a team owner trying to play strong arm a major media outlet into providing more coverage for his team, it would not be all that interesting, and I would not have decided to write about it here.

    But a day or two after the initial media credential ban was announced, the story became more nuanced, and well - interesting. 

    What Cuban was also protesting, in addition to the reduced coverage of Mavs games in general by ESPN, was what he feels like is going to be the inevitable replacement for at least some human media game coverage - automated game summaries and stories generated by machine learning and algorithms.

    Here's some additional detail from an email Cuban sent to the web site Deadspin, who had been reporting on the Mavs-ESPN kerfluffle: (Note: I edited this some for brevity and clarity, the full email is at the link above)

    Two things triggered this whole thing. First was when I found out they (ESPN) had cut back or had always offered reduced coverage for 19 nba teams I had no idea this was going on

    The second was when espn didn’t cover our opening night and the resultant coverage on their website was a tweet, One highlight and a wire service story

    It made me realize that I had expected to be covered by all media, but it no longer was a given

    Even though espn was covering the same number of games, if they didn’t think it was a big deal to miss opening night. I had a problem. Not necessarily an espn problem , but a coverage problem

    And if it’s 30 games now for 19 teams. What would keep it from being 60 games for 25 teams ?

    What was their long term thinking ?

    When you realize that the hottest area in technology, and it’s not even close , is machine and deep learning , then it’s an easy step to see where this was going

    I told espn this was my concern. They didn’t say they were taking this path. They didn’t say they weren’t. But I voiced these concerns to them

    They said they would run their business . I can run mine

    So the next question is where would it leave Mavs fans who wanted game results coverage of nothing changed and espn didn’t send a reporter for 30 games ?

    It meant for 30 games and inevitably more in the future they wouldn't have a good experience with espn

    It meant it was likely that in the near term when they went to espn Dallas they find a couple videos, tweets and a wire service story

    How is that positive for any nba team or their fans when 30 games have second rate coverage ?

    And what happens and what message is sent to fans when those games are covered by an algorithm in the future ?

    Short term this is a Mavs issue. Long term it’s a certainty that our games will be covered algorithmically. Thats a problem across the board for us and the NBA

    IMO that devalues our brand . It devalues the fans experience. I feel strongly that now is the time to partner with those who commit to the Mavs and to sending real people to cover the games for Mavs fans

    It may seem like we are picking on espn or telling them how to run their business. We aren't. We are trying to protect ourselves and our fans and our future by partnering with those in the written media who commit to us

    I know the whole automation thing may not make sense to some. But to me this is no different than saying that streaming would change media in 1995. Or social media would change coverage of sports , etc

    Machine and deep learning and algorithmic coverage of sports events is going to happen.

    This isn’t about replacing writers. The best writers will always have a place

    This comes down to how do we value reporting on a game . Right now I value it more than espn and others and want to partner with the DMN FWST (media outlets), and use our own writers as our focus

    Really interesting takes coming from a guy who got rich back in the day, selling a technology company, (Broadcast.com) for millions to Yahoo. Cuban is no Luddite or technophobe.

    But at least in 2016, he (probably rightly), feels that despite advances in machine learning and automation that NBA game coverage is still best produced by actual human reporters and not the algorithms. And if you think that the entire idea of an algorithm replacing a human reporter to write sports event coverage think again - it is already happening mostly via technology created by a firm called Automated Insights. You can learn more about what they are doing with automated reporting of minor league baseball games here.

    Let's go back on one line of Cuban's email above - "Long term it’s a certainty that our games will be covered algorithmically. Thats a problem across the board for us and the NBA."

    In the same message where Cuban admits to using some tough negotiating tactics to push ESPN to continue to provide quality, human coverage of Mavs games, he admits that the algorithmic coverage of these games are a certainty. Today while technology like the one provided by Automated Insights is inferior to human reported coverage, over time it seems apparent to Cuban that the difference in quality will matter less to the media company than the sheer cost savings and efficiency gains that could be realized by replacing human reporters with a computer program.

    And Cuban has a problem with that, as it is in his best interests to have top-notch coverage of Mavs games in the media, as he sees that as an extension of his team and of the Mavs brand.

    I know this post has gotten pretty long, especially for a busy Monday, but I thought it important enough to try and lay out the context before hitting what I think is the main takeaway which is this:

    Just because something can be automated away or a job be done by a robot or a machine instead of a human doesn't mean that it necessarily should. Your customers will decide and balance the tradeoffs between costs, convenience, and quality about the products and services you are offering. 

    You might think, or your CEO might insist, that automation is always the way to go, but until the robot or the algorithm can do the job almost as good as the human it is replacing, then don't be too quick to agree.

    Think I am wrong?

    Take a look at the 'self-service' checkouts sometime at a busy grocery store or big box home improvement retailer?

    Anyone using those? Do they provide a great experience?

    Or would you rather wait an extra few minutes and check out with a human cashier?

    Have a great week all!

    Wednesday
    Nov092016

    PODCAST - HR Market Watch 2 - What Great HR Technology Looks Like

    NOTE: Really excited to share the second episode of HR Market Watch, on the HR Happy Hour Podcast Network family of shows.  Check out the details below and be sure to subscribe to HR Market Watch and all the HR Happy Hour Network shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the major podcast player apps. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    HR Market Watch 2 - What Great HR Technology Looks Like

    Host: George LaRocque

    Guest: Roger Philby, CEO, The Chemistry Group

    Listen to the show HERE

    HR Market Watch puts a special lens on new and innovative HR technology from emerging and established technology companies. Join host George LaRocque, Principal Analyst and Founder of the #HRWINS, as in this episode he is joined by CEO Roger Philby of The Chemistry Group, one of the Top 3 audience selections at the HR Technology Conference in the "The Next Great HR Technology Company" competition. George and Roger talk about some of the key elements in hiring, assessments, culture and more, and how technology is helping organizations make better talent decisions.

    Also, find out what the latest #HRWins research points to as one of areas most ripe for disruption in talent acquisition process and technology!

    You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers click through)

    This is a fun and interesting conversation with one of the most exciting and innovative HR technology companies in the market.

    Remember to subscribe to HR Market Watch, and all the HR Happy Hour Podcast Network shows on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the major podcast player apps. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.

    Friday
    Nov042016

    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 266 - iCIMS and the Talent Acquisition Technology Suite

    HR Happy Hour 266 - iCIMS and the Talent Acquisition Technology Suite

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest host: Madeline Laurano

    Guests: Colin Day, Chairman and CEO, iCIMS; Susan Vitale, CMO, iCIMS

    Listen to the show HERE

    This week on the show, Steve Boese and special guest host Madeline Laurano are joined by leading talent acquisition technology provider iCIMS Chairman and CEO Colin Day, and iCIMS CMO Susan Vitale to talk about the current state of the talent acquisition technology market, and the importance of dedicated, purpose-built technology to support organizations in their recruiting efforts.

    Additionally, we talked about the need for organizations to better integrate their different talent acquisition technology solutions with their 'core' systems, and how iCIMS is approaching that challenge and providing a platform to enable organizations to build integrated solutions.

    We talked a little about 'big data'.(don't cringe), and how iCIMS is leveraging the information and insights that come from having millions of applicants and job postings from their thousands of customers pass through their platform. One of the promises of SaaS HR technology was that each customer would be able to learn from and take advantage of aggregated information and intelligence that can be developed from the massive amounts of data and transactions that happen across the entire customer base, and Colin and Susan shared how iCIMS is taking steps to make this kind of 'big data' intelligence a reality for their customers.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or by using the widget player below, (Email and RSS subscribers need to click through)

    This was a fun show, thanks to iCIMS for hosting the HR Happy Hour!

    Reminder, subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and all the podcast player apps, just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to subscribe and never miss a show.