Category Archives: HR technology

Solve a Puzzle, Get a Tech Job

British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover announced yesterday that it would be recruiting 5,000 people this year, including 1,000 electronics and software engineers.

While that announcement alone may not seem worthy of inclusion in the esteemed pages of the New York Times, how the upscale carmaker is conducting this recruitment process certainly is: The paper reports the carmaker “wants potential employees to download an app with a series of puzzles that it says will test for the engineering skills it hopes to bring in.”

While traditional applicants will still be considered, people who successfully complete the app’s puzzles will “fast-track their way into employment,” said Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors of India. Applicants are invited to explore a garage belonging to the band Gorillaz and assemble a Jaguar sports car. Once they complete that stage, they are confronted with a series of code-breaking puzzles.

The Times notes that the carmaker’s recruitment effort is “unusual but far from unique,” adding that increasing numbers of employers are using alternative methods to hire workers. The story goes on to cite Marriott hotel and a British communications agency as other examples of organizations changing their recruitment techniques to keep up with the pace of change in today’s marketplace.

“The nature of jobs is changing, and what we should be looking for is changing,” Barbara Marder, senior partner at Mercer, a consultancy that specializes in human resources and has a stake in Pymetrics, a company that makes games for recruitment purposes, told the Times. She added that such games had not been in use long enough to provide ample data on their effectiveness. Still, she said, they could be more useful than traditional tests and interviews.

Games offer additional benefits, she said, explaining: “They’re very attractive in attracting candidates and keeping the short attention span of millennials. That’s not an insignificant challenge.”

 

Biometrics and New Privacy Concerns

A recently filed class action suit in Illinois could be the signpost for “a new employment law frontier,” according to at least one law firm.

As recently reported by Holland & Knight, a class action suit pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois centers around the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, which was passed in 2008 to prohibit the gathering and keeping of individuals’ biometric information without his or her prior notification and written permission.

In Baron v. Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc., et al., the plaintiff alleges that the supermarket chain violated BIPA by failing to meet the legal requirements to obtain and retain employee fingerprints the company used for timekeeping purposes.

Holland & Knight attorneys called biometrics an “emerging area” of employment law, as more employers begin to use the technology to log employees’ hours. Damages available under laws such as BIPA make this fertile ground for class actions as well. For each violation of BIPA, a prevailing party may recover the greater of actual damages or $1,000 for negligent violations of the Act, the attorneys note, adding that plaintiffs may recover the greater of actual damages or $5,000 for “reckless or intentional violations.”

With legislation comparable to BIPA already on the books in Texas, and states including Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire and Washington considering similar bills, employers would be wise to tread carefully when and if they introduce biometrics to their places of business.

“Laws like BIPA will become more relevant to employers and of increasing interest to the plaintiffs’ bar as the use of biometric data, such as the use of fingerprints or thumbprints for timekeeping purposes, becomes more prevalent in the workplace,” according to Holland & Knight.

“With the increasing awareness of such laws by the plaintiffs’ bar, it is important that employers using or considering the use of biometric data in the workplace ensure compliance with any state or local laws governing the use, retention and destruction of that data.”

Report: HR is ‘Behind the Curve’

New research from the Hackett Group finds that many HR departments are lagging when it comes to helping their organizations deal with talent shortages in key areas, and — due to a lack of resources — sufficient progress likely won’t be made anytime soon.

The report, The CHRO Agenda: An Urgent Need to Close Large Gaps in Talent and Technology Capabilities (registration required), is based on survey results from executives at 180 large U.S. and foreign companies, most with annual revenue of $1 billion or more. It finds that HR at many organizations lacks the ability to fully support key enterprise goals such as adapting talent-management strategies and processes to deal with changing business needs, address talent shortages in critical areas, manage change more effectively and develop agile executives fully capable of leading in a volatile business environment.

HR leaders at these companies don’t suffer from a lack of ambition: The report finds that they’re planning to address issues such as talent-related change and strengthening their organizations’ HR tech and information capabilities and organizational structure and processes. However, their departments are held back by limited resources, with the number of full-time equivalent HR employees expected to decline by 1.4 percent this year on top of a decline of 1.3 percent last year and budgets that are projected to decrease by an average of 1.6 percent, compared to a reduction of 0.3 percent in 2016.

“The consistent finding here is that most HR organizations are simply too busy fighting fires to get out in front on strategic issues,” says Harry Osle, Hackett’s global HR advisory leader. “In many cases, they are in reactive mode, with too much on their plates and an inability to say no to work that does not allow HR to become more strategic.”

HR must change this mindset if it’s ever going to deliver strategic value, he says. “To build a true leadership position within the organization, it is essential that HR find ways to more effectively manage and prioritize its service portfolio, adopt proactive demand management techniques from IT and make headway on transformation and improvement in key talent areas.”

Hackett finds that HR organizations are planning to “dramatically increase” their mainstream adoption efforts in several digital technology areas, including cloud applications and Software-as-a-Service, social media and collaboration technologies and advanced analytics.

Getting Under Employees’ Skin

No, this story isn’t about a new and unpopular workplace policy sweeping through the nation’s workplaces.

At least not yet.

The Associated Press is reporting today on a Swedish company that turns its willing employees into “cyborgs” by inserting microchips into them:

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

Epicenter’s co-founder and CEO Patrick Mesterton told the AP the move will bring a heightened sense of ease for workers:

“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” he said. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”

According to the AP, the small implants use Near Field Communication technology, the same as in contactless credit cards or mobile payments: “When activated by a reader a few centimeters (inches) away, a small amount of data flows between the two devices via electromagnetic waves. The implants are ‘passive,’ meaning they contain information that other devices can read, but cannot read information themselves.”

The technology is not new, of course, but it has never been used to tag employees on a broad scale before, and the AP says Epicenter and a handful of other companies “are the first to make chip implants broadly available.”
Way back in 2006, however, colleague Mark McGraw tackled the topic of tagging workers:

Cincinnati-based private video-surveillance company CityWatcher.com recently embedded silicon chips in four of its employees, as the company tested the technology in an effort to control access to a room where it holds security video footage for government agencies and police.

The dime-sized chips, manufactured by Delray Beach, Fla.-based VeriChip Corp., were implanted into the employees’ arms, says Sean Darks, CityWatcher CEO, after the company explored various types of biometric applications such as fingerprint and handprint identification systems. CityWatcher turned to radio-frequency identification chips, a less costly alternative to typical biometric systems, to “make security improvements,” he says, and eliminate the possibility of employees losing or misplacing proximity cards or other forms of identification.

RFID chips are inexpensive radio transmitters that emit a unique identifying signal. The chips are commonly used for tracking merchandise in transit, but they can also be implanted in pets to identify them in the event they’re separated from their owners and can be used in humans for medical purposes — to link patients to their medical records in emergency situations, for instance.

However, CityWatcher’s implementation of RFID is the first known case in which U.S. workers have been “tagged” electronically as a way of identifying them, and is likely to add to a growing controversy surrounding RFID , predicted as one of the next big growth industries.

Not everyone McGraw talked to for the piece was excited at the prospect of having more workers walking around with chips inserted under their skin.

“Whether or not implanting  … chips in humans becomes a common workplace security measure remains to be seen,” said Liz McIntyre, a critic of the technology and the communications director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a nonprofit group focused on consumer privacy issues.  “This is just the beginning,” says McIntyre.
Eleven years later, though, that trend is apparently still in its beginning stages, as the only progress seems to be in the chip’s size shrinking from a dime to a grain of rice, not in expanding the number of companies using such technology.

 

Adapting in the Digital Age

A recent Deloitte survey finds nearly 90 percent of business leaders saying that building the organization of the future is their top priority.

That’s good.

Less encouraging is the number of companies—11 percent—reporting they are ready for this undertaking, which will require them to “completely reconsider their organizational structure, talent and HR strategies to keep pace with digital disruption,” according to Deloitte.

In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, the New York-based provider of audit, consulting, tax and advisory services polled more than 10,000 HR and other business leaders. Many of them feel that the human resource function is indeed struggling to keep up with technological progress, with just 38 percent of HR professionals rating their department’s digital capabilities as “good” or “excellent.”

I recently asked Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, how HR might have fallen behind in this department.

“What I think happened is that, especially over the last three to five years, the way people get work done has radically changed,” says Bersin. “Yet the way we write job descriptions, the way we functionally set up the organization and so on is a throwback to the 1950s or ’60s.”

HR functions that hope to keep pace in 2017 and beyond must “operate in a digital way, and be more innovative and creative,” says Bersin. “[HR must] deliver solutions that are focused on productivity, not just programs.”

There are signs within the Deloitte report, however, that suggest a growing number of companies—and their HR functions—are adapting to the digital age.

For example, the survey finds that 56 percent of firms are redesigning their HR programs to rely more on digital and mobile tools, with 33 percent saying they already use some form of artificial intelligence applications to help create a more technologically advanced work environment.

“HR and other business leaders tell us that they are being asked to create a digital workplace in order to become an ‘organization of the future,’ ” says Erica Volini, principal at Deloitte Consulting and national managing director of the firm’s U.S. human capital practice, in a statement.

“To rewrite the rules on a broad scale, HR should play a leading role in helping the company redesign the organization,” says Volini, “by bringing digital technologies to both the workforce and to the HR organization itself.”

One way CHROs can achieve this goal is to “start redefining HR as a ‘productivity enhancement department,’ ” adds Bersin.

“Culture is important, and it’s important to have a solid employment brand, and it’s important to recruit the best talent. But the bigger problem most CEOs and CHROS have is getting their organizations to function and operate in a more networked world. And when HR rolls out programs that [employees] don’t feel enhance their productivity, workers don’t use them.

“There are certain things—regulatory training, compliance, for instance—that HR has to do,” continues Bersin. “But outside of those things, if an HR program or initiative isn’t something that helps employees add value to their jobs, you have to rethink whether it’s the right thing to do.”

HR Automation is on the Way

We might never see the human touch completely leave the HR suite—it is the human resource department, after all—but new research suggests that automation is still going to significantly touch the function in the years to come.

The pace of automation in HR might be a bit slower than in other departments, though. In a survey of 719 HR managers and recruiters, CareerBuilder finds that, while more companies are turning to technology to address time-consuming and labor-intensive talent acquisition and management tasks that are susceptible to human error, a “significant proportion” of firms still rely on manual processes. For example, 34 percent of respondents said their companies don’t use technology automation to recruit candidates, while 44 percent don’t automate onboarding and 60 percent said they don’t automate human capital management activities for employees.

So, what is being automated within HR? According to the CareerBuilder study, most automation is centered around messaging, benefits and compensation, “but there is room to increase efficiencies across a variety of basic functions.” Among employers reporting that they automate at least one part of talent acquisition and management, 57 percent said they are automating employee messaging, with 53 percent and 47 percent saying the same about setting up employee benefits and payroll, respectively. In addition, 47 percent indicated that their organizations have automated background screening and drug testing.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority (93 percent) of those whose companies have automated part of their talent acquisition and management processes say they’ve saved time and increased efficiency by doing so. Another 71 percent feel their organizations have improved the candidate experience by automating some processes, with 69 percent saying they’ve reduced errors and 67 percent reporting they’ve saved money and resources.

As organizations expand and add employees, “there’s a certain tipping point where things can no longer be managed efficiently and accurately by hand,” says Rosemary Haefner, CHRO at CareerBuilder, in a statement.

In order to successfully turn certain HR-specific tasks over to technology, “automation needs to be incorporated,” says Haefner, “so the HR team is free to focus on strategies versus tasks, and focus on building relationships with employees and candidates.”

As certain functions on teams become more automated, she says, “we’ll see those workers’ roles evolve and concentrate on the strategic, social and motivational components of HR that technology cannot address.”

 

 

The Zenefits Saga Continues

It appears Zenefits woes are continuing—and if the predictions of one consultant are correct, they aren’t likely to end anytime soon.

Yesterday, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler ordered Zenefits to “cease free distribution of its employee benefits software, noting the tactic violates Washington state insurance law against inducements,” his office’s statement reads.zenefitslogo

Washington is said to be the first state to take action against the company for violating inducement laws. Under an agreement with Kreidler, Zenefits can challenge the order within 90 days.

The state took issue with the fact that Zenefits required clients to designate it as its broker of record and then collected insurance commissions from the products it sold in order for them to access its free software.

“The inducement law in Washington is clear,” Kreidler said. “Everyone has to play by the same rules.”

Following the announcement, Zenefits’ General Counsel Josh Stein posted the following on the company’s website

“Today, Zenefits has reached a compromise agreement with the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) on how Zenefits will price its services in Washington State.  Beginning January 1, at the order of OIC, Zenefits may no longer provide free software services in Washington. As a result, Zenefits will charge all Washington state customers $5 per employee per month for our core HR product.”

Stein went on to say …

“The Washington viewpoint is a decidedly minority view. Since its founding, Zenefits has had conversations with regulators about our business model, which includes some free HR apps. Many states have looked into the issue and concluded that free software from Zenefits is not a problem; in fact, it’s in the interest of consumers. Only one state other than Washington has disagreed.  Utah’s department of insurance tried to force Zenefits to raise prices for consumers, and Utah’s state legislature and governor quickly took action, passing a bill to clarify that its rebating statute should not be interpreted to prohibit innovative new business models that deliver value to consumers.”

Earlier today, I spoke with Rhonda Marcucci, partner and consultant in Gruppo Marcucci, a Chicago-based HR and benefits technology consulting firm.

Zenefits has created its own regulatory scrutiny reputation for the rest of its life, Marcucci told me. In this case, she said, “I don’t think it is driven so much by the brokers but by the insurance departments who are extremely angry about the licensing piece—so that now invites more scrutiny in other places. Brokers may have brought it to [the attention of insurance regulators], but the way I look at this, Zenefits is a regulatory penalty box—and they will be, I think, forever.”

Marcucci noted that every state, except for California, has some kind of no rebating or inducement laws for transactions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every employer is following the law.

At the end of day, she said, states typically base their decision on enforcing these laws by “who screams the loudest.”

As far as Zenefits is concerned, Marcucci said, it’s realistic to expect that other states might follow Washington’s lead, especially those states with difficult regulatory insurance environments such as New York.

Undervaluing the Human Element

If you’ve heard it from one CHRO, you’ve heard it from a hundred: Our people are our greatest asset.

A new Korn Ferry Institute study suggests that most CEOs also appreciate the hard-working employees within the organizations they lead—just maybe not quite as much as they value technology.

More specifically, the recent survey saw 63 percent of 800 business leaders from multimillion-dollar global organizations saying that technology will be their greatest source of competitive advantage in five years. In addition, 67 percent said they believe technology will create greater future value than human capital will within their firms, and 44 percent said the prevalence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence figure to make people “largely irrelevant in the future of work.”

As if that wasn’t hard enough for employees to hear, consider that people didn’t crack the top five in terms of assets that CEOs predict will be most critical half a decade from now. Technology ranked No. 1, followed by research and development, products/services, brand and real estate (offices, factories and land, for example.)

“CEOs have a significant blind spot in the way they perceive people,” according to the Korn Ferry Institute study, “tending to undervalue human capital.”

These “distorted perceptions” demonstrate the extent to which the individual is being pushed to the periphery of tomorrow’s workplace—and the danger in failing to recognize the potential of employees to generate value, the report continues.

In placing a greater emphasis on technology and tangible assets, chief executives “may be demonstrating, in a big way, what experts call tangibility bias. Facing uncertainty, they are putting a priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible—what they can see, touch and measure.”

In the report, Korn Ferry Search Vice Chairman, CEO and Board Services Alan Guarino cautions against taking that approach while overlooking human capital.

“Leaders are placing a high emphasis on technical skills, technological prowess and the ability to drive innovation in their new senior recruits—elements critical for modern organizations,” says Guarino. “However, the financial reality proven by this study—that the value of people outstrips that of machines by a considerable distance—must give CEOs pause for thought.”

The ability to lead and manage culture—”so-called ‘soft skills,’ ” says Guarino—will become “critical factors of success for companies in the future of work, as they seek to maximize their value through their people.”

Who knows the organization’s people better than the HR executive? And, if what Guarino says is true, one could look at this study’s findings as a tremendous opportunity for the HR leader to help the CEO see the tremendous worth of human capital, and to help make the organization’s workers an irreplaceable, invaluable part of tomorrow’s workforce.

Thriving in a Data-Driven World

It’s impossible to have a conversation about recruiting these days without talking about the role of data.

Magnifying glass and documents with analytics data lying on tablSo, I suppose it’s no surprise then to hear John Sullivan, author and professor at San Francisco State University, focus his opening keynote presentation at Recruiting Trends 2016, at the Hilton in Austin, Texas, on the role of data in the hiring decision-making process. (Recruiting Trends, which was acquired by LRP Conferences last November, is being held this week in conjunction with the Talent Acquisition Tech Conference.)

During his keynote titled “Forget the Hype: Data-Based Recruiting Reveals What Actually Works,” Sullivan told attendees that employers need to be much more data-driven.

If you ask CEOs what the biggest challenge is that they’re facing, human capital turns out to be No. 1, Sullivan said. “What’s not so good is that we’ve been a challenge for four straight years,” he continued. “And if you’ve been a challenge for four straight years, it means something needs to change.”

These same CEOs also said they believe recruiting the right talent has a huge impact on business success, Sullivan added.

So, if the impact is that significant, he said, that begs the question, “How come [recruiters] have no money?”

“I would argue it’s because we don’t make a very good business case,” Sullivan said. “We say we hired 20 people, but we don’t say those people brought in $20 million.”

In a fast-changing world, he explained, data tells you what works and what doesn’t work. But you need to be looking at the right data, he added. Google at one time looked at a candidate’s GPA, but the research found that grades made no difference in the quality of talent it hired—so it stopped paying attention to that metric.

“Stop having opinions about what’s the best source for hiring people,” he said. “Sure, you can have opinions, but if you want to influence hiring managers, you’re going to want to have facts that back your recommendations up.”

Sullivan also pointed out that CEOs care about quality of hire, and you should, too.

Most employers pay close attention to metrics such as the cost of hire, he said, but they should be focusing their attention instead on measuring the impact of their hiring decisions.

When you hire Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Lebron James, what you should be measuring is the impact he’s going to be having on your organization over the next 10 years, he said.

In other words, employers need to be thinking about the big picture.

Sullivan also pointed out that most companies don’t measure the failure rates of the people they hire, but should. He used the example of birth control, where there’s a 9-percent failure rate. If birth control doesn’t work, he joked, you might end up with 20 years of misery. Well, the same could be said of hiring. If you get it wrong, that bad hire could be in your organization forever.

Transforming Talent Acquisition

As a talent-acquisition leader, it’s your job to take care of three constituencies: your organization’s hiring managers, the job candidates and, last but not least, the people who work within the TA function.

That was the recurring theme from two TA leaders who spoke about their roles in transforming the talent-acquisition function during two  separate sessions earlier this week at the ERE Conference in New Orleans: Tracie Montgomery, director of talent acquisition and diversity at firm Sedgwick, the nation’s largest third-party administrator; and Steve Knox, General Electric’s head of global talent acquisition, strategy and operations.

At GE, the Boston-based conglomerate’s efforts to recast its image from that of a stodgy industrial firm to a hotbed of digital innovation has, by necessity, included its talent acquisition function as it seeks to attract the software engineers and computer science majors who might otherwise never consider the company as a place to build a career.

“We’re closely partnering with our marketing department on our employee-value proposition,” said Knox.

GE has also has hired an “employee experience leader” to transform its recruiting experience into “a candidate-centric one,” said Knox. “We got some pushback from hiring managers on this, but we reminded them that it’s about the candidates.”

Candidate care is also a priority at Memphis-based Sedgwick, said Montgomery. “I tell my team: ‘Advocate for your candidate. Prep them to let them know who’ll they’ll be interviewing with, explain the career path for that position — it’s TA’s job to get that person ready.’ ”

Knox and his team have also been paying close attention to candidates after they’re hired to see how they’re performing, which marks a change from before, he said.

“We’re now holding TA accountable to how well the people we hired are doing,” he said, adding that determining quality of hire isn’t quite so straightforward now that GE has discontinued its performance ratings. The team relies on regular feedback from managers instead, said Knox.

GE has also replaced its 15-year old applicant-tracking system, which had been “customized by us to the point that it was no longer useful” with a new, mobile-enabled system; using tools such as LinkedIn Elevate to send out tailored content to candidates on a daily basis; using Tableau software to monitor metrics and putting in place GE’s first-ever dedicated sourcing team, said Knox.

Line managers at GE are also helping the company enliven its job descriptions with short videos in which they explain what they’re looking for in candidates, said Knox. This is helpful in attracting diverse candidates, which is a major priority for GE, he said.

“When female and minority candidates see someone who looks like them talking about GE, they tend to say ‘Hey, people like me can work there,'” said Knox.

After Montgomery joined Sedgwick in 2014, she created an internal “talent acquisition college” for Sedgwick’s recruiters to help them become talent advisors, not just recruiters .

“Recruiting is recruiting, but talent acquisition is consulting,” she said. “I had to get my team’s mindset from recruiting to talent acquisition.”

Montgomery put in place a team of three managers to ensure the TA function is hitting its goals in areas such as time-to-hire and regularly surveys hiring managers on their satisfaction with the TA function. Talent acquisition professionals on her team are expected to be able to forge and maintain strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers, she said. “Getting those relationships established is absolutely key.”

GE’s Knox is also focusing on helping his TA team enhance its skills. “It keeps me up at night, wondering how we keep our TA team motivated and developed,” he said. GE has established competencies for the TA team and is using assessments to determine where gaps lie, said Knox. Members of the TA team can also do self-assessments to find their own gaps and are provided with resources to fill them, he said.

“Our goal is to build a world-class TA function,” said Knox.