Category Archives: HR Technology Conference

Finding the Right HR Tech Vendor

It’s a decision fraught with consequences: Which vendor will be providing your human capital management software? Choose wisely and you’ll look like a hero. Make the wrong choice and your CEO will be angry and you could be out of a job.

At the HR Tech Conference, George LaRocque, principal analyst at the Starr Conspiracy, moderated a panel of three HR professionals — two from large and complex companies and one from a smaller firm — who discussed the processes they undergo in choosing their HR technology vendors.

At Coca-Cola Corp. and PricewaterhouseCoopers, both companies generally require an extensive request-for-proposal process involving lengthy reviews and security evaluations before choosing a vendor for a large project.

“We’re a compliance-driven company and if we make a mistake there are big ramifications, so we do security reviews of vendors, whittle the list down and then test, test and test,” said Martin Burns, PwC’s direct sourcing and technology channel lead. The company’s RFP process can take weeks of preparation and involves input from IT, legal and procurement. None of the panelists said their companies used analyst firms in helping them choose vendors, with PwC and Coca-Cola involving procurement early on in the process.

Getting a hands-on feel for a product is crucial, said Kristin McDonald, Coca-Cola’s global manager for employee engagement. “We also have an extensive RFP process, but I really love to pilot new tools, test them out and see what they can do.”

At JW Player, a video technology company founded several years ago, the process is less formal. “I am the RFP!” joked Jillian Moulton, the company’s HR director.

Although Burns and McDonald both agreed that they often had an idea of which vendor their company would end up choosing even before preparing an RFP, surprises still can occur.

“The RFP can help you determine whether there are some things a vendor just can’t do,” said Burns.

Ease-of-use is a primary concern in evaluating software options, the panelists said, as is the quality of a vendor’s customer-support team.

“The salespeople from the vendor I ended up choosing brought along their customer-support people for me to meet, and that really appealed to me,” said Moulton, who said scalability was also important to her firm because it is growing quickly.

“There have been instances in the past when I’ve been promised something by salespeople that the vendor ended up not being able to deliver,” said McDonald. “So it’s important to talk to the customer-support people early on, as well as customers, and to play with the product itself.”

It’s important to keep in mind that in many cases, you’re not just buying software — you’re also buying a relationship with the vendor and its employees, said Burns. If the vendor is staffed by unhappy, disengaged people, that’s a warning sign, he said. “If your experience with the vendor doesn’t start off well, it isn’t going to get any better.”

It’s why on-site visits to the vendor are important, said Burns. “Trust and culture matters — go and meet the product-development people, see whether there’s high turnover or not, if it’s a good place to work. If turnover is low, that’s a good sign.”

HCSC Drives Change with Relationship Data

Social diagramming and relationship analytics at Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC) was on a pretty fascinating display Tuesday at the HR Tech Conference.

HCSC Social-179275875Speaking on behalf of the Chicago-based, 14.7-million-member organization handling Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in five states, Steve Betts, HCSC’s chief information officer, told a very different kind of social-transformation story at his session, titled Why HCSC Thinks Relationship Analytics Are the Next Big Thing in Talent Management.

Looking to make hefty changes after he came on board about a year ago, he sought the help of Syndio — also Chicago-based — to, first, solidify his case for change and, second, determine his best drivers for that change through all the social-graphing relationship data Syndio could offer.

Key changes in the company’s scope, considered most crucial due to the fast-paced changes in the healthcare industry overall, were its needs to go from siloed teams to a highly matrixed organization, to go from a more traditional hierarchical structure to one with many points of interaction and to go from an organization with limited innovation to one that would be extremely focused on driving innovation with business partners.

“Essentially,” said Betts, “HCSC needed to change and technology was right in the middle of all of that.”

But not just any technology, mind you. What Syndio brought to the process was a robust and well-populated social-diagramming and graphing process based on employees’ answers to specific, academically validated questions that would then plant them on that diagram in terms of their strength of connectivity to everyone else in the company.

As Syndio’s senior vice president of customer success, Andee Harris, described it, “we combined the HR data and [our] relationship data to tell the full story of how work gets done at HCSC.”

Included in that “story” were pockets throughout the organization where departments were maybe siloed and autonomous, “and essentially not effective,” Betts said. The data also told him how people interacted, who they collaborated with, who had more meetings than necessary with no real leaders, who the “bridgers” were and who — all through crowdsourcing data — people went to for what.

Additionally, included in what the Syndio tool captured were several characterizations about each individual, as well as where they fell on the social-networking map — such as if they were collaborators, change agents, innovators, leaders and/or listeners.

Sentiment data combined with relationship data also helped pinpoint people and departments within the organization where support for the transformation would likely come and where more focused communication would be needed. “These aspects and characterizations could truly identify change agents who could help drive [this] transformational change,” said Betts.

The data, analyzed in Syndio’s cloud base, alerted Betts to key connectors in the company who might not have the skills necessary to drive the change he was looking for, but who could potentially bring the organization to its knees because of his or her social-connectivity strength.

“We were able to work with those people” for the good of the company and its goals, he said, “rather than let them go, which could have been devastating,” as opposed to highly successful in helping exact and promote the desired changes.

“We wouldn’t have known this without this data,” Betts said. “It really has helped me see who talks to whom, and how we interact — and how we should interact — across the states.

“It’s very addictive,” he added. “Very action-oriented.”

Leveraging Video at Delta Air Lines

220px-DeltaAirLinesHQAtlantaGAGetting from a pool of 800,000 job candidates seeking flight-attendant positions down to 10,000 is no easy feat.

But it certainly doesn’t hurt that cause having the right technologies in place. Just ask Chris Collins, vice president of global HR services for Delta Air Lines.

In a session titled “Delta’s Digital Transformation: Modernizing Recruiting to Align with Business Strategy” at the HR Tech Conference yesterday, Collins (speaking along with Mark Newman, president and CEO of HireVue) shared how Delta was able to use video-screening technology to trim its flight-attendant candidate pool down to 10,000 individuals.

Collins told attendees that Delta looks for five key attributes in the people it hires: honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance and servant leadership. “Every airline can replicate routes, can replicate airplanes … can replicate price,” he said. “But what they can’t replicate is people … and culture.”

At every stage of Delta’s hiring process, Collins said, job candidates are able to view (through their mobile devices) nicely produced videos showing what the flight attendant’s job entails. The objective, he explains, is to make the job real clear to those expressing interest in it and encourage some of them to take leave of the process.

Delta was able to further reduce the number of candidates through its use of HireVue’s video-based screening platform. Eventually, the very best candidates left in the pool were brought in for onsite interviews.

“It’s not a 30-minute ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ interview,” Collins said. “It’s a half-day experience. We do that because we want to know how you’re going to interact on a daily basis with those you’re going to have to serve.”

In all, Delta’s multi-step process serves as one more example of the power of video and the prominent role it can play to pare down a huge pool of candidate to something much more manageable (but still huge) and ensure that the very best candidates are the ones who ultimately receive job offers.

Debunking the Myths About Millennials

Nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to attend an HR conference that doesn’t have at least one session focusing on the subject of millennials—and this year’s HR Tech Conference is no exception.

In her remarks during a session titled “Engaging and Retaining a New Generation of Workers at LivingSocial,” LivingSocial Senior Vice President of HR Colleen Wood (who co-presented with Adam Rogers, chief technology officer at Ultimate Software, the firm’s HR software vendor) debunked three “millennial myths.”

Myth #1, Wood said, is that millennials won’t do grunt work. Millennials at LivingSocial, she explained, are ready to prove themselves in any way possible by volunteering for pilot groups and becoming part of “tiger teams,” though many still want to be reassured that their efforts are going to a greater good.

Myth #2, she said, is they want the job on day one. LivingSocial’s millennials, she said, want to hit the ground running on day one and they use learning tools, such as LivingSocialU, on a daily basis to grow their skills in all areas—including those outside of their own professional job description.

Myth #3, she continued, is they want managers to do the work for them. LivingSocial’s open floor plan, she explained, allows millennials to collaborate with their manager at any time. “We try to make it easy for managers and employees to get together and collaborate with one another,” she said.

Wood noted that 28 percent of LivingSocial employees work remotely. “That means we have to give employees tools to keep them connected,” she said, adding that the company provides “virtual watercoolers” so remote workers can keep up-to-date on developments.

She pointed out that LivingSocial has also modified its recruiting strategy, including the way it crafts job ads, to attract the right kind of talent to the company. “We try to use words that capture the kind of culture that we have … and help people understand the kind of environment they’re going to be working in,” she said, citing words and phrases such as “attention to detail, competitive, energetic, competitive, taking smart risks and compassionate” as examples.

Wood also listed three key attributes that are at the heart of LivingSocial’s HR technology strategy and went into the firm’s selection of Ultimate Software: accessibility, usability and functionality.

At the end of the day, she said, HR technologies need to allow employees to focus on being successful at their jobs—and not get in the way.

Learning How to Listen at Sony

Sony Pictures and Modern Survey teamed up Monday in an HR Tech Conference session designed to “tell the story” of real ThinkstockPhotos-104011583engagement and better ways to listen to employees, as Modern Survey’s president and co-founder, Don MacPherson, described it.

Sony’s global talent analytics and insights manager, Antonio Aranda, also mapped out “the story” for the audience. Sony, he said, was like many companies before deciding to turn its engagement-surveying approach completely around by partnering with MacPherson’s company.

Although the Culver City, Calif.-based movie and entertainment conglomerate  was doing things slightly differently, just based on its creative approach to doing business in the picture industry, it was still operating in old-school mode, Aranda said, similar to organizations that still today survey employees maybe once every two years by asking way too many questions and then securing and sending out data that’s bloated, fuzzy, very low in its level of insights, and so unfocused and confusing that “employees don’t even know why they’re taking it; in fact, end up feeling like the survey is a mere exercise just to prove the company surveys its employees.”

As Aranda told it in the session, Sony Pictures: From Analytics to Insights, “we knew is was absolutely imperative that we work in harmony more by listening to our employees, but with 6,500 employees across 30 locations in multiple countries, we knew launching a widespread, more ongoing listening survey would come with many challenges.”

Modern Survey was up for them, though — with its “continuous listening strategy” that includes surveys throughout the life cycle of employees, from entrance to onboarding, all the way to exit surveys.

The approach, said MacPherson, promotes trusting relationships, not just between managers and employees, but between employees and their organizations.

“Anybody telling you engagement is all about the manager is forgetting what surveys are telling us about how important employee trust in the organization is,” he said.

Together, the two partners pruned Sony’s more monolithic list of questions — which could really only be blasted out once a year at most — down to something much simpler and leaner, with about five major and much more focused areas of concern.

“We wanted shorter time, greater focus,” said Aranda.

Customizing it to Sony’s needs, the survey went after net promoter scores — as in, “Would you recommend this company to a friend? — instead of engagement scores. The two also agreed feedback from the surveys would be immediate, and communication with employees about solutions and strategies for fixing any problems or concerns that were raised would be more in-depth and robust.

Top leaders and stakeholders also needed to be on the receiving end of better communication, said Aranda, “so they knew the story of our listening survey.”

To date, engagement and retention scores have increased and Sony employees are getting the message that “they’re being listened to,” he said.

 

A Sampling of What to Expect at HR Tech

In case you didn’t notice, this year’s full HR Technology Conference and Exposition® agenda was posted online about a week or so ago and was officially announced yesterday by HRE, via a press release. 200213603-001As you’ll see, the program continues to build on many of the general and concurrent sessions that have resonated with HR and HR IT leaders and professionals at past events. It also features a number of new and exciting additions. Here are just a few of the highlights mentioned in the release …

  • The return of the “Awesome New Startups” session, showcasing  HR technology innovators that are pushing the envelope.
  • Live demonstrations of “Awesome New Technologies for HR,” featuring new solutions from industry leaders.
  • Recognition of HRE’s “Top HR Products of 2015.”
  • HR Tech’s first-ever Hackathon, providing attendees with an exclusive peek into how today’s technology vendors develop solutions that address real-world HR and business challenges.
  • HR transformation and employee-driven organizational-culture shifts at companies such as Cisco, Delta Air Lines and MGM Resorts International.
  • The latest developments in mobile HR technology, as told through the experiences of companies such as Ovation Brands, PwC, Texas Mutual Insurance Co. and Marriott International.
  • Examples of successful HR technology strategies and implementations that have gotten it right in areas such as HCM, talent acquisition, employee engagement and change management.
  • Results from the 18th Annual Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey.
  • A closing general session featuring some of the most innovative thinkers in HR, who will share cutting-edge ideas about HR, technology and the workplace in a fast-moving “Ignite”-style format.

There also will be keynotes by two industry luminaries, Marcus Buckingham and James Whitehurst. New York Times best-selling author Buckingham will discuss a radically new approach to equipping team leaders with the tools they need to enhance employee engagement and improve performance management. Red Hat President and CEO Whitehurst, meanwhile, will share how unleashing the power of openness within an organization can transform corporate culture and drive higher levels of engagement and business performance.

And, of course, HR Tech will again feature the world’s largest expo of HR technology products and services.

Be sure to check out the full program at the conference’s website, linked above, if you haven’t already. Hope to see you there.

Transforming the Future of Work

As expected, Ray Wang gave attendees at HR Tech’s closing session, “Transforming the Future of Work,” a lot to think about last Friday.

In his usual highly energetic way, Wang, founder and principal analyst of Constellation Research, explored how technology is altering work as we know it—and what HR and IT leaders need to do to prepare for the new business models that are emerging.

145926450Early on in his remarks, he touched on the parts mobile, social, the cloud and Big Data are playing—and are going to play—in shaping the digital landscape of tomorrow.

“Mobile is not about the device,” Wang told the packed room. “When you mobile-enable something, it means you can do it in motion … ” in 30 seconds or less.

Social, meanwhile, is not about the networks, but about creating brand-new verbs such as  “share, like and publish,” and about engaging people.

The cloud? It’s an option that allows you to say, “ ‘Hey, I don’t need to worry about technology [and] can spend more time improving the process and improving the experience.” And Big Data isn’t about information, but about the insights that can be generated and about making better decisions.

At the end of the day, Wang said, the goal is for businesses to take all of this data and create new experiences and outcomes. Today, he said, companies are in the “outcomes business” and building relationships, not selling products and services.

In turn, Wang said, this is inevitably going to impact the kinds of people they are hiring, the skill sets they need and the ways they are structured.

In the digital world, what’s the best way to hire away your competitor’s talent? he asked. “Monitor LinkedIn,” he said. “If you see 48 changes at the same company, you know something’s going down. The signals are all there.”

Wang told attendees that companies are going to need to continually look to the data to generate meaningful insights and thereby make better bias-free decisions.

In line with that, he predicted that more companies are going to be appointing chief digital officers who are dedicated to thinking about and operationalizing the organization’s digital strategy—and he suggested that all leaders are going to need to be digitally enabled.

Going forward, Wang said, HR and IT are going to have to work more closely together.

“If you’re on the HR side,” he said, “you want it simple, no manuals. You also want the ability to have it scalable [so you don’t] need to call IT to make a change. You want it sexy”—so people will want to use it.

In contrast, he said, IT wants it safe. “You don’t want to take the system out. You want to make sure that the system is not going to be insecure, [since] you don’t want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. And you want to make sure it’s a sustainable platform … .”

Change, he said, isn’t going to happen in a silo.

Screening in a Peer-to-Peer World

Does background screening have a role to play in shaping the future of peer-to-peer marketplaces?  HireRight certainly thinks so.

At this week’s HR Tech, the Irvine, Calif., company announced a new practice that aims to address the needs of “sharing” businesses.

Lyft_Pink_MustacheIn recent years, peer-to-peer marketplaces have been gaining traction, with big bets being made on enterprises like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. But in order for these organizations to thrive, HireRight CEO John Fennelly believes participants are going to want to know that those they’re entering into a business relationship with are trustworthy.

Through its technology platform, HireRight is looking to provide those individuals with some level of comfort.

In some cases, HireRight’s press release says, a marketplace might mandate screening to help ensure consumer safety and mitigate risk, such as for drivers belong to a ride-sharing service. In other cases, it might offer screening as an option so providers can differentiate themselves, such as for clerical or personal-assistant services.

In the world of background screening, Fennelly says, self-verification is pretty much nonexistent today. But if it begins to catch on in the peer-to-peer world, he says, the approach could eventually transition into more traditional workplace settings.

It should be interesting to see if this indeed turns out to be the case.

Recruiting Beyond Traditional Social Networks

An interesting little recruiting story came out of a late-afternoon session at the HR Technology® Conference in Las Vegas Thursday. 178915467--social mediaSlugged “How Red Hat Approaches Hiring Beyond Traditional Social Networks,” the session featured Brad Warga, senior vice president of customer and employee success for Gild Inc., a San Francisco-based technology-talent search firm, and Don Farr, director of global-talent acquisition for Red Hat, a global open-source provider.

“We found [traditional candidate sources such as] LinkedIn just weren’t providing the recruiting results we needed,” Farr told conference attendees. Long story short, he knew Warga, but not much about Gild, so decided to try him out with an assignment: Find him 200 top technology developers in a city abroad where Red Hat does business. Warga turned it around in record time “and more than half of the developers on his list were already employees of Red Hat,” said Farr.

Pretty convincing. So Farr decided to use Gild’s sourcing and reporting tool, based on far-more specific tech-developer social-media data — including code information and technical questions and answers, indicating levels of focus and expertise — to complement the recruiting system he already had in place.

Not only has it enriched Red Hat’s recruiting, with vastly improved and far enhanced returns on the right kinds of candidates for the growing company, it’s even provided some surprises.

Key among them was proof it needed to enhance its employee-referral service as well. Using Gild’s tools and services, Red Hat was able to determine that 70 percent of its developers who came in outside the referral program were actually connected in some way to current employees through social media.

“In other words,” said Farr, “we could have hired them ourselves if we had just sourced them through more social [streams]. The connections were out there.”

Long story short, Farr convinced his CEO to invest more in employee referrals and the savings are already being realized.

“We now have an employee-referral portal tracked through our applicant-tracking system,” Farr said. “We’ve effectively built a process where referrals aren’t going into a black box anymore.”

Lesson learned here? “Take advantage of the opportunity to embrace social media in multiple ways,” particularly when you’re looking for something as specific and hard to find as tech developers, he said.

“This is really the story of the old guard and the new guard,” Farr added. “You have to adapt or die.”

HR Tech: Out With the Outmoded!

“If talent is the most important part of every business, then why do we manage it so badly?”

This question, posed near the beginning of Jason Averbook’s presentation at HR Tech 2014, titled “What the End of the ‘Job’ Means for the Future of Work and Talent Management,” was one of the major themes of his talk. Averbook, chief innovation officer at technology consulting firm Appirio and author of the new book HR: From Now to Next, repeatedly made the point that as the nature of work undergoes drastic change, the talent-management practices still used by a majority of companies today also need to be transformed, or perhaps jettisoned altogether.

“Many of the talent processes still in use today come from a time when our economy was manufacturing-based,” he said. “So today, most of our talent practices are broken down old pieces of crap — we manage people like they were machines, with annual performance reviews, timekeeping, performance ratings.”

Talent is the most important part of any business and, unlike machinery, can’t be easily replaced, said Averbook. So why, he asked, do HR departments continue to subject this precious resource to outmoded processes that no one — not even HR itself — believes actually work?

“How many of you here believe that your performance-management process actually helps improve performance?” he challenged the audience.  When only one person raised his hand, Averbook asked “So why, then, do you continue to use it?”

“For compliance,” one person replied. “Because HR makes us,” said another.

These outmoded processes include how most organizations go about measuring employee engagement, said Averbook,

“If engagement is so important, how come you’re only measuring it once or twice a year?” he said. “Do you look at your Facebook page just once a year, to see if anyone ‘liked’ your stuff? Engagement should be something you look at every day.”

Twitter can be an excellent way to determine employee engagement because it can reflect current engagement levels, rather than what they were six months ago, said Averbook. HR is a business function, not a support function, he said, and as such, its technology for supporting talent should incorporate the following five principles:

  1. It should be real time
  2. It should be looking now and forward, not backward
  3. It should be based on killing silos within the organization
  4. Its processes should be for the good of the business, not HR
  5. It should be easy.

As the nature of work and jobs continues to change, with many organizations moving toward an independent-contractor model, talent processes can no longer be cyclical and the technology supporting them can’t be user-unfriendly, said Averbook.

“You’ve heard of business-to-business — well, now we live in a business-to-employee world, and if a process isn’t simple, employes won’t do it,” he said.

And if your technology vendors can’t provide tools that are simple and intuitive and that meet your specific needs, then build your own, said Averbook.

“If your vendor can’t come through, then build an app yourself,” he said. “It’s not hard. My 10-year-old builds apps.”