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    Entries in Technology (373)


    Nowhere to hide from technology

    Two weeks ago while driving through the countryside of Central Pennsylvania, USA  I happened to pull off the highway for a dinner stop in a sort of run-of-the-mill little town, the kind of little town that anyone that drives the major interstate highways in the US has seen hundreds of times.

    A gas station, a couple of fast food restaurants, and a hint that if I carried on just a bit further down the access road maybe some small houses or trailers, and beyond that I'd bet farms and the sort of vast nothingness typical of large sections of middle America. 

    Definitely the kind of place to stop, refuel, maybe grab a bite to eat, and put in the rearview and instantly forget.

    When I walked in to the McDonald's for the mandatory road tip junk food dinner, I ran smack into this:


    The only way for job seekers to apply for a job in this little McDonalds in the middle of nowhere was via this online kiosk system. Now it could be that this particular McDonalds has the pulse of the local candidate pool, and is well aware that their target applicant is tech savvy, and will have no problems navigating the online process so moving to an online method is an intelligent strategy.

    Or more likely the regional or corporate office has decided that an online process is more efficient, less expensive, and results in more actionable intelligence for those in McDonalds management.

    But to the job seeker who walks into that McDonalds in hopes of landing a job, the motivations behind the decision to go to an automated process don't really matter.  They are forced to accept this, and either comply with the process if they want to be considered, or head on down the road to the Arby's and try their luck there. 

    And for (mostly) part-time jobs filled by teenagers and students this is probably perfectly acceptable. The staff on duty when I walked in did not have much to say about the online application kiosk, I am sure they thought is was strange that someone was even asking about it.

    To me the lesson that I take from the online job application kiosk for a tiny McDonalds in a tiny town in Nowhereville, USA is this one:

    You can't hide anymore from technology if you want to particpate in the modern economy.  This has many levels:

    The job seeker in this McDonalds had better know how to type on a keyboard, and follow basic computer commands.

    The college grad trying to break in to finance, marketing, IT, or HR had better have a solid LinkedIn profile, familiarity and skills searching for jobs online, and the ability to demonstrate technical acumen once they join the workforce.

    The HR professional trying to find ways to reduce costs and improve administrative processes better be very familiar with the capabilities of their HRIS (if they have one) or with the latest developments in the HR Technology marketplace (if they don't).

    The recruiter that needs to find, engage, and ultimately hire the best talent for their positions better know how to source, and engage potential candidates with increasingly sophisticated multi-media tools, better be on social networks and adept on how to best leverage them to meet their recruiting objectives.

    And the HR leader in the position of having to continually justify expenditure and prove return on HR programs had better have access to and understand analytical tools to effectively measure the business outcomes of their efforts.

    These are just a few examples, I am sure there are many more, but the key point is, no matter where you find yourself on the scale, from entry level job-seeker in rural Pennsylvania, to VP of HR at a Fortune 500 firm, you can't get away from the technology.

    Heck, even your Mom is on Facebook.



    Be innovative (but only with the tools we give you)

    I am sort of but not really an IT person, so I understand why most corporate IT departments like to enforce consistent standards for the workforce's computers.  Security, compliance with vendor licensing, reduced maintenance cost etc. are the typical reasons why an organization will issue a company computer with an 'official' configuration and a set of applications pre-installed.  The exact mix of applications could vary depending on the user's role, but essentially, the employee is expected to perform their job duties using the 'delivered' configuration.

    And in many organizations this standard pc configuration is coupled with an aggressive internet filtering system that blocks access to unauthorized sites from the company's network.  Originally these filters were put in place to block pornography and gambling sites.  Then as now it does seem like employees whiling away the hours surfing porn and playing online poker would be a drain on productivity. But don't employees already know that?  Do you really need to actively marshal IT resources (that theoretically have more strategic, value add activities to work on) to make sure your staff isn't abusing the internet?

    Do we really need to put up a sign in the breakroom that says 'Committing a felony is against company policy?'

    I digress. 

    The main issue is how these risks and issues get quantified.  It is pretty easy for the IT folks to calculate how PC support costs are kept 'in-line' by enforcing a strict set of standards.  It is also fairly simple to determine the costs to the company if a malicious computer virus infected the network and rendered all the computers inoperable for a period of time.

    What is much harder, if not impossible to quantify is the 'cost' of employees not being able to download a free application or program to experiment with that may help them become more productive.  If a key piece of information or training course is available via YouTube, but the company blocks the site, who knows how long it will take the employee to find the needed information from an 'allowed' source. These costs are real, even if they can't be precisely measured.  And what else is real is the frustration level for employees who know that there is a better, and more efficient way to do things but have their hands tied by company IT policies.

    And don't even get me started on companies blocking access to social networking sites.

    In today's downsized, pressure-packed, do more with less world, we are asking our employees to be more productive and innovative, but in many cases not equipping them with the freedom to use all the tools in the workbench. Rolling out 'company-issue' PC after PC and clamping down on worker's online resources might have made sense 10 years ago, but that time is long gone.

    Note - This post is dedicated to Lisa Rosendahl of HR Thoughts, who was not able to watch a live stream of a SHRM 2009 panel during which the panelists specifically mentioned her blog as a great example for HR blogging in the public sector.


    Defending Technology

    For one reason or another, I have noticed a bit of a backlash lately against technology, specifically some bashing on the over emphasis on social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn for job seekers and recruiters, and of course some re-hashing of the old standard, 'It's not about the technology', when discussing business problems and the relative importance technology should play in forming strategy and making decisions.

    Just this week the the Clue Wagon blog ran a post that stated 'Getting a job on Twitter is 'complete crap', and it was pretty well received with many comments in agreement with the main idea of the post, that the technology is always secondary to the 'human' element.  In these arguments the technology is always positioned in a subservient, almost unimportant role. This ignores the clear fact that certain technologies (like Twitter) enable 'human' connections in powerful and new ways, and on a scale previously possible for only the traditional 'mainstream' media or the mega-celebrity. And at least one commenter clearly stated that indeed, he did 'get' a job on Twitter.

    But I don't really care to write a post defending Twitter. 

    Mainly, I want to defend technology, or more accurately the understanding of technology particularly for the HR professional. In the corporate HR function, technology is deeply woven into the very fabric of the day-to-day processes.  Think about what might happen in your organization if the HRIS was down for a day or two.  If the time and attendance package suddenly seized up, and employees could not clock in their time. If the online portal that employees access to look at their paystubs, paid time off balances, or benefits information was dark.

    Those are admittedly obvious examples of the critical nature of HR Technology in the organization.

    But there are less obvious examples where the lack of understanding of available technology solutions causes many HR departments to continue with inefficient processes, collaborate with each other and the rest of the organization primarily via e-mail, and get stuck waiting for corporate IT to come to their assistance time and time again.  And we all know where most HR project requests get prioritized on the IT project list.

    In my classes and in discussions with HR professionals from both large and small organizations I get questioned all the time about basic technology and tools that certainly would be of benefit to many, many HR departments. Basic solutions, like Twitter, Yammer, Wikis, Rypple, and SurveyMonkey.  I am absolutely convinced that if more HR professionals had at least a passing understanding of these tools, many problems could be solved, processes improved, and overall make many HR jobs both more fun and more valuable to the organization. Countless times, when I have explained tools like these, I am met with comments like' Wow, I did not know about that.  I can use a tool like that to do XYZ process'. The awareness of the technology really does drive the solution, not the other way around.

    I try, from my small platform in class, and in this blog to share as much as I can about Technology to the HR community, but it really will take the next generation of HR professionals to take their understanding of technology along with them as they assume their place in HR leadership.

    Sometimes, it really is about the technology.






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