Category Archives: HR technology

A Badge for a Brave New World

This morning’s Washington Post profiles a Boston-based company called Humanyze that has developed a high-tech employee badge that records the employee’s every conversation, monitors their movement in the workplace and delivers this information to management to help them evaluate performance. Some people may see this as a brilliant innovation, while many others will probably view it as a terrifyingly Orwellian invasion of privacy (although it should be noted that the badge will not record activities in bathroom locations, so there’s that).

Actually, the badges don’t record the actual conversations of employees, just “how they say it.” They deliver the information to bosses in aggregate form, so they don’t get to look at individuals’ personal data, according to Humanyze. And, employees can choose whether or not to wear the badges, Humanyze CEO Ben Waber told the Post. “If you don’t give people choice, if you don’t aggregate instead of showing individual data, any benefit would be dwarfed by the negative reaction people will have of you coming in with this very sophisticated sensor,” he said.

Each badge (the latest versions of which are slightly larger than a credit card) hangs around the wearer’s neck like a lanyard and is equipped with two microphones for real-time voice analysis and sensors that track where you are in the office. The information collected by the devices can be invaluable in helping companies determine which of their locations are the most and least-productive, and why, said Waber.

The process is based on research that shows that the success, or failure, of a certain location is often based on the amount and quality of interaction between employees at the location and the facility’s physical layout.

He provided the Post with the following example:

A bank has hundreds of retail locations. Some perform really well. Some don’t perform as well. The executives want to understand what the high-performing branches do differently. It turns out that in one company, the high-performing branches were very cohesive. The people who work in that branch talk a lot to each other. The people in the lowest-performing branches almost never talk to each other. The company used Humanyze technology to identify that issue and also change how they pay people and how they organize the branches’ management process. Top line sales grew 11 percent.”

Humanyze has sold thousands of the badges to Fortune 2000 companies around the world, Waber said. The company doesn’t make money on the badges themselves; instead, it makes money on the data it produces, he said.

“Within three or four years, every single ID badge is going to have these sensors,” he said. “We are only scratching the surface right now.”

 

Tweet This!

5 New Upcoming Roles for HR

I just came across this interesting piece on Forbes site in which contributor/digital nomad Kavi Guppta shares what he thinks will be the five most interesting new roles HR will play in the coming years.

While some of the titles, (manager of employee engagement, director of learning and diversity officer) seem pretty safe, the last two titles are worth a deeper look here:

Mindset coach:

An overworked workforce is an unhappy workforce. Wellness programs or policies inside companies are a powerful resource to keep employees happy, healthy, and focused. A Mindset Coach will institute important programs that ensure individuals create good habits in their day-to-day work experience. These good habits go beyond the realm of regular exercise and healthy eating.

A proper wellness program will include work-life balance processes, stress management and therapy programs, and facilitating an open dialogue around mental health and illness to remove much of the stigma that plagues the conversation and ailments. Again, the Mindset Coach will work closely with an Employee Engagement Manager and devise interactive ways to encourage participation and openness across the workforce. He or she will also collaborate with the Director of Learning on educational programs.

Talent & repertoire manager:

Sports franchises and the entertainment industry have long benefitted from internal scouts with an eye for great people. Companies should enjoy the same. The corporate world is full of recruitment firms that can pass along talented individuals, but who is looking out for the organization from the inside?

While talent recruitment may fall on a hiring manager or executive, a fully dedicated Talent & Repertoire Manager can be the eyes and ears on the ground for specific industries. He or she will have great relationships with top recruitment firms, and should also be known for having a good relationship with incubators, ecosystems or industry communities. He or she will also be responsible for navigating transformative trends in the talent marketplace–salary expectations, hot skillsets, and prospect track records–that will be crucial to the competitive offers an organization may submit to potential prospects.

According to Guppta, companies that utilize a specialized approach to HR will remove much of the “nanny-like” perception the department has famously faced inside organizations:

HR will no longer be known as the stuffy and stiff department that keeps everyone in line. Instead, it’ll be a vehicle for progress that will facilitate positive corporate culture transformation where employees and leadership have a stake in that change.

While there’s no guarantee these five job titles will prove to be the difference between success and failure in the future, it is nice to look ahead at the novel ways HR might bring more value to an organization.

 

Tweet This!

How Microsoft’s LinkedIn Deal Could Change HR

The HR tech world just got a big new player. Really big.

Once Microsoft closes its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn late this year, the software giant will own a service that has become increasingly important to HR departments around the world. With Microsoft’s resources behind it, LinkedIn could become a massive force not only in recruiting, but in the larger world of HR, experts say.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said as much in an email to his staff on Monday announcing the deal.

Among the business opportunities for Microsoft, he noted, is “expanding beyond recruiting and learning and development to create value for any part of an organization involved with hiring, managing, motivating or leading employees. This human capital area is a massive business opportunity and an entirely new one for Microsoft.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean a Microsoft-backed LinkedIn will be moving into payroll, benefits administration and other bread-and-butter HR applications, though.  Many experts see the company integrating LinkedIn data into Microsoft Office tools, but not moving wholesale into new lines of business.

Under Microsoft, “LinkedIn could become a network for learning and collaboration,” providing HR departments a tool for connecting employees, says George LaRocque, a well-known HR technology consultant. “I think that’s the direction.”

LinkedIn already is a force to be reckoned with. Though far smaller than social-media titans like Facebook, it virtually owns the world of professional connections, with over 100 million active users and four times as many profiles. It’s increasingly necessary for an active business person to have a presence on the site, which has made it a critical resource in many businesses — particularly sales and HR.

The company posted $2.9 billion in revenue last year. About $1.9 billion of that was in its “talent solutions” business, the company says. Most of that came from recruitment services, which include premium search functions, targeted job postings, a referral tool for current employees and company branding. Through its April 2015 acquisition of the online tutorial site Lynda.com, LinkedIn also has a solid presence in training.

Though revenue was up 41 percent from 2014, in other ways LinkedIn has lost momentum, which is what helped make it an acquisition target. After disappointing earnings, the share price had dropped by 50 percent — from over $260 in February 2015.

Many experts say the marriage with Microsoft makes sense because the two companies don’t overlap in services, yet cater to the same audience — business professionals. That opens up the potential for connections between Microsoft productivity tools and LinkedIn’s vast people database.  The immediate opportunities may be in customer relationship management — an area where Microsoft already has a presence with its Microsoft Dynamics software.

The reality, though, is that no one knows what Microsoft plans to do with LinkedIn — likely including Microsoft itself, notes LaRocque, principal analyst and founder of New Providence, N.J.-based #hrwins.

“I think we’re all going to be reading tea leaves for a little bit on this one,” he says. “The opportunities are endless.”

But most experts say Microsoft is most likely to build on its strengths as a provider of tools that business professionals use every day. LaRocque sees the company connecting LinkedIn’s Lynda tutorial videos to Excel, for example, so that users can get immediate help.

He and others don’t see this as a beginning of a move to take over HR technology — or even just recruiting.

“I have a hard time thinking Microsoft is excited about getting into talent acquisition,” though LinkedIn may well stay in that business, LaRocque says. On the other hand, LinkedIn’s networking and communication functions could become another “pillar” of the company’s Office 365 platform. “They’re impacting HR technology in a huge way,” he says. “But they’re not the classic HR player.”

Kyle Lagunas of the IT market research firm International Data Corp. has a similar view. He sees three key opportunities for Microsoft in the acquisition: LinkedIn’s in endorsements, recommendations and posts.

If properly leveraged by Microsoft, LinkedIn endorsements — in which users rate each other for various skills — could be used internally “to map influence across various subject matters, skills and capabilities,” he notes in an email.

Recommendations shared among LinkedIn users could provide a powerful tool for recruiters, he says. And companies could track posts on LinkedIn’s Pulse service to help workers develop — and demonstrate — expertise.

Another HR tech expert agrees that the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal will lead to new tools for HR departments, but not fundamentally change the landscape.

Kathryn Minshew, CEO of a career site called The Muse, notes that the two companies both target established white-collar professionals. She doesn’t see that changing with Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn — leaving plenty of room for businesses like hers.

“I think this acquisition is a great thing  for the industry — it validates the core role that HR has,” Minshew says. ” Companies are starting to realize that products and platforms in the human-capital space have a much broader impact.”

Muse, with 50 million site visitors annually, serves a diverse population of workers with an average age of 29, and 60 percent female. Those people, she says, may keep their resume on LinkedIn, but The Muse “is where their heart is.”

“I don’t know that the human-capital space is ever meant to have a single winner-take-all,” Minshew says. “There’s a lot of room for those who want to take a different approach.”

Tweet This!

Scam Artists’ Latest Target: HR!

A story appearing earlier this week on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website—about a series of phishing incidents that targeted and successfully scammed corporate HR departments into sharing confidential personnel information—recently caught my attention.ThinkstockPhotos-487606535

It serves as a  reminder, in the event one is required, that HR departments need to be much more vigilant in their efforts to protect against such attacks—which continue to become more frequent and sophisticated—or suffer the consequences.

As the MJS story explains, the scam, involving fake emails purportedly sent by top company officials, convinced HR staffers to “send out W-2 tax forms that are ideal for identity theft.” Among the employers featured in the story falling victim: disk-drive-maker Seagate Technology and messaging-service Snapchat.

On March 1, the Internal Revenue issued an alert to payroll and HR professionals to beware of an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees.

“The IRS has learned this scheme—part of the surge in phishing emails seen this year—already has claimed several victims as payroll and human resources offices mistakenly email payroll data including Forms W-2 that contain Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information to cybercriminals posing as company executives,” the alert said.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen noted that …

“This is a new twist on an old scheme using the cover of the tax season and W-2 filings to try tricking people into sharing personal data. Now the criminals are focusing their schemes on company payroll departments. If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond. Everyone has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

The IRS alert explained that this “phishing variation is known as a ‘spoofing’ email. It will contain, for example, the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this variation, the ‘CEO’ sends an email to a company payroll-office employee and requests a list of employees and information including SSNs.”

The MJS article reports that both Snapchat and Seagate have “notified federal authorities” about the incidents and are offering affected workers two years of free credit monitoring.

Risa Boerner, a partner in Fisher & Phillips’ Radnor, Pa., office and the chair of its Data Security and Workplace Privacy Practice Group, told me yesterday that scam artists are becoming much more sophisticated in their efforts.

Today, she explained, they can clone a CEO’s email account and make it look like it’s coming from him or her, as was the case here. While that was possible 10 years ago, she added, it wasn’t very common for the messages to look as polished and believable as they often do today.

She noted that these incidents speak to the need for employers to not only thoroughly train their employees, but also update their training regularly to keep up with changing tactics. “What was current two years ago may not be current now,” she said.

Prudent advice, I’d say, considering the level of sophistication of the perpetrators. I’m sure no one reading this would like to see his or her company join the ranks of those falling victim to such a ploy—and then having to deal with the aftermath.

Tweet This!

Study: Core HR is Moving to the Cloud

In the early days of the Cloud, some predicted that while certain HR functions — talent acquisition, for example — would be well-suited for the medium, security concerns and the desire for customization (especially among large companies) meant that core HR functions would continue to reside in on-premise solutions. That’s turned out not to be the case, as evidenced by PwC’s latest Annual HR Technology Survey, which finds that 44 percent of organizatiCloud illustrationons have moved their core HR functions to the Cloud (aka Software as a Service) and an additional 30 percent plan to do so within the next one to three years.

“Moving HR to the Cloud is a question of when, not if,” says Dan Staley, a PwC principal who leads the HR technology practice.

For many organizations, however, the move has included some turbulence: More than half of the 650 companies surveyed say their organization’s “lack of readiness to give up customization and embrace the SaaS mindset” was a major stumbling block during implementation.

“Letting go of customization causes some angst for companies — they think they can do everything that they could do with their old, customized on-premise software but then find out they can’t,” says Staley.

The comparatively rapid pace of SaaS updates — patches that are released every month, new releases every six months — also takes some getting used to for organizations accustomed to on-premise updates that took place every three to four years, he says.

The study also finds that although transitioning to the Cloud makes it easier organizations to deploy mobile solutions — primarily because many Cloud vendors offer robust mobile apps to go along with their products, says Staley — many companies are failing to realize mobile’s full HR potential. For example, although 59 percent of respondents say it would be beneficial for managers and employees to use their mobile devices for performance feedback, only 18 percent of companies actually use mobile for their performance-management processes.

“Mobile is being more widely used, but organizations have got to take a ‘why not mobile’ approach to most of what they do — the capabilities are there, but they have to deploy it,” says Staley. “It hasn’t happened as quickly as it needs to.”

HR departments have moved relatively quickly in embracing mobile, he says. Two years ago, only 30 percent of survey respondents said they utilized mobile for HR-related tasks; this year’s survey finds that 70 percent do. Still, says Staley, much of that includes transactional work such as workflow and timesheet approval.

Companies have also failed to devote the necessary resources for taking full advantage of data analytics — even though they consistently say it’s very important to them, says Staley.

“I’m a little surprised — organizations prioritize analytics, but we found that 52 percent don’t have a dedicated HR analytics team and 44 percent don’t have an HR analytics strategy,” he says. “They desperately want the insights from predictive analytics but aren’t doing what they need to do to get there.”

Tweet This!

What Caused the Shake-Up at Zenefits?

The news broke earlier this morning that Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad has exited the web-based benefits and payroll provider, and COO David Sacks is taking over his role. Conrad is also stepping down as a director of the company, according to a news release by the company.

(The company also named three new directors to its board this morning: Valor Equity Partners managing partner Antonio Gracias; TPG managing partner Bill McGlashan; and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.)

Compliance issues that have plagued the company apparently contributed to Conrad’s exit. Zenefits has also hit significant snags, including missing revenue targets and also in its dealings with regulators, according to numerous reports.

One of the most-often quoted lines of the day came directly from a memo by Sacks that was sent to all Zenefits employees, explaining the reasons for the change in leadership:

The fact is that many of our internal processes, controls, and actions around compliance have been inadequate, and some decisions have just been plain wrong. As a result, Parker has resigned.

The company has been on HRE‘s radar for a few years now, starting with our HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik, who first wrote about Zenefits back in November 2014, and included this interesting quote from the now-sacked Conrad:

[Conrad] Parker started Zenefits with one purpose in mind: “solving all the little headaches and annoyances that sucked up time for me at my last start-up; I get a perverse pleasure from stamping out each of these problems, one by one, for the next guy.”

Another HRE columnist, Steve Boese, wrote a short profile of the company and included Zenefits in the “Awesome New Technology”  session at the  2014 HR Technology®  Conference and Exposition:

Zenefits has the potential, in many ways, to significantly alter the way in which enterprise HR software is purchased and implemented.

Only time will tell whether today’s shake-up will help Zenefits unlock that potential that many industry experts — including ours — saw in them when they first launched.

Tweet This!

What’s Digital Media Doing For Your Workforce?

I’m going to go far out on a limb and say that digital media has drastically changed the way we work.

The ways in which technology has transformed and benefitted the workforce are too many to mention here, and are fairly self-evident anyway.

Participants in a recent Willis Towers Watson and World Economic Forum study acknowledge as much.

In Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society, the organizations polled more than 5,000 employers and individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. Overall, 56 percent of these respondents said that digital media has indeed altered the way they work.

At least to me, the only somewhat surprising thing about that figure is that it’s not higher. Really, whose job hasn’t been affected in some way by digital media?

In my mind, the more interesting finding from this study was how individuals’ view of digital media’s impact on their jobs varied greatly based on where they live.

For example, roughly two-thirds of respondents in Brazil and China said they think digital media has improved the quality of their professional lives. Just over half of the participants from South Africa (52 percent) felt the same way, while just 24 percent of those from Germany and 23 percent of respondents from the United States reported feeling that digital media has enriched them in a professional sense.

(About 1,000 digital media users from each of these five markets were polled, according to the report.)

A Willis Towers Watson summary of the findings doesn’t delve into why these U.S. and German respondents may feel this way. But Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director of the organization’s talent management practice and co-author of the study, offers some insight into how technology may actually be limiting some workers’ opportunities, particularly those in low-skill positions.

“Despite the productivity gains and opportunities of digital media to actually bridge economic gaps and reduce inequality, potential downsides still exist,” says Jesuthasan.

For example, he says, digital media and related technology may drive near-term inequality as innovations such as talent platforms “increase the productivity and rewards of highly skilled workers while simultaneously cutting the cost of low-skilled work.”

In addition, digital media “has the potential to diminish work effectiveness and productivity,” continues Jesuthasan.

The multiple platforms and vast qualities of information and content at employees’ disposal “may distract workers and disrupt work,” he says. “In addition, as more people work remotely, valuable face-to-face time is reduced, which can weaken understanding and collaboration, and potentially hinder innovation.”

Considering that digital media’s role in the workplace is only going to expand—seven out of 10 respondents agree on this point—Jesuthasan urges employers to consider initiatives using technology to “more accurately match an individual’s skills to a specific business need.”

Rather than thinking solely in terms of “traditional jobs,” he says, companies should take a “more nuanced approach to how work should be conducted; using social media tools to build communication and engagement within the organization; sourcing and building digital skills; and developing digital leadership.”

Tweet This!

Dusting Off the HR Tech Crystal Ball

It’s the beginning of a new year—and you know what that means. It’s time for folks to come out of the woodwork offering up their predictions for 2016.

ThinkstockPhotos-57451523Yesterday, Josh Bersin, principal at Bersin by Deloitte, joined the club with his report titled “Predictions for 2016: A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology Ahead.” As you might expect, it included a pretty strong bent toward technology.

I suggest you take a few minutes to read Bersin by Deloitte’s nicely crafted report. But before you do, I’d like to take a moment to share a brief conversation I had with the author earlier this week about his vision of the future.

Specifically, I asked him what he thought was the boldest prediction among the group.

In response, he was quick to point to the first item on his list: “Digital HR arrives!” In certain ways, he explained, digital HR runs through each of his nine other predictions.

“If you look at the evidence of what’s going on in the spheres of HR and talent management,  the challenges include engagement, culture, employment brand, dealing with millennials [and] skills development,” he said. “ If you add these up and throw them into a bucket, you would have to say everything in HR has to happen faster … . But the reality is it can’t. HR isn’t going to be twice as big and it’s not going to become twice as productive in solving these problems. So how [does it happen]. Well, the answer is that just as businesses are becoming more disruptive, HR is [starting to] disrupt itself through digital technologies.”

Today, he explained, everything is now being done through digital technology—“people learn, they’re recruited, they get information, they manage their time, they schedule their vacations”—and that is only going to continue to grow. “Unlike the computer, the phone knows where you are, it might even know your heart rate, and it interacts with you in a much more dynamic way than email or a form on a computer.”

Bersin pointed to the concept “design thinking”—an approach that’s used in other parts of the organization and is beginning to creep into HR. In solving a talent, recruiting or learning problem, he explained, you no longer just buy a solution, but you think about the user and change his or her experience.

He cited a recent trip he took to India, where he visited a company that was doing all of its recruiting through mobile phones. “People took a photograph of their citizenship documentation and emailed it into the recruiting process … .”

It represents just one of many examples of how HR is disrupting itself, he said.

As for the other nine predictions, here’s a quick, edited summary from the  press release …

  • The stampede to replace dated HR systems will accelerate. As HR organizations strive to build true ‘”systems of engagement” (versus systems of record), look for ease of use, integrated data and analytics to drive a massive transformational shift—away from traditional licensed HR software to a new breed of integrated HR and talent tools in the cloud.

  • New models of talent management breed a new generation of talent management systems. For example, the redesign of performance management to an often rating-less model is driving the need for talent management software built around feedback-centric systems.

  • The rush to replace and re-engineer performance management will accelerate globally. Many organizations around the world are moving away from top-down annual performance processes.

  • Engagement, retention, and culture will remain top priorities as new feedback tools come to market. As the competition for talent remains fierce, we expect the topics of culture and engagement will remain high on the list of concerns. Look for new tools, techniques and analytics methods to encourage and collect employee feedback and help leaders understand where culture and management should change.

  • Global leadership development, coupled with career and talent mobility, will take on a fresh new focus. Mentoring and coaching will grow rapidly. Our high-impact talent management research shows that coaching and mentoring are the most valuable talent practices to develop in an organization. These activities should be built into an organization’s culture, rewarded and include the use of technology tools to bring in external coaches.

  • The revolution in corporate learning will continue as a new model evolves. Our research … shows the most effective learning involves education (formal training), experiences (developmental assignments and projects), environment (a culture and work environment that facilitates learning), and exposure (connections and relationships with great people).

  • Diversity and inclusion will move beyond compliance and become a strategic part of business and talent management. Organizations that align diversity and inclusion practices to business objectives are more likely to perform well on financial outcomes.

  • People analytics likely will evolve to become a mainstream program in the HR function. Using new data streams coming from mobile, engagement, and feedback applications and network analysis, organizations are building valuable databases about what people are doing, their history, experiences at work and career progress.

  • The HR profession leaps forward as a new breed of HR leaders emerges. Companies are investing heavily in innovation and analytics, organizations are sharing creative solutions more openly and HR’s alignment with business is improving dramatically. Look for 2016 to be a year of positive changes in multiple areas of HR and for a new breed of innovative and strategic HR and L&D leaders to come to the forefront.

Twelve months from now we can revisit Josh Bersin’s list of predictions to see how many have come to pass. But at least for now, we might want to consider which of these deserve further consideration in our own organizations.

Here’s my prediction: It probably includes more than a few.

Tweet This!

HR Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

“Nobody comes here anymore, it’s too crowded” is one of dozens of quotes from the former New York Yankees all-star catcher Yogi Berra who passed away earlier this year at age 90. The shelf-life and trendiness of many Yogi-isms will sustain due to their classically oxymoronic and clever nature.

ThinkstockPhotos-176693623Unlike Yogi’s quotes, which adorn many a wall and office desk, the factors that influence the appeal, stickiness, impact and longevity of industry trends are a bit more complicated to hypothesize about. In the HR technology domain, for example, some trends take longer to get adopted and explode than others, even when the expected business impact is comparable. Case-in-point: Contrast the take-up of mobile HR technology with that of predictive HCM or people analytics. Both of these trends get much attention, but degree of deployment and usage across organizations varies considerably.

Various operational dependencies can drive which trends take off or not. These include competencies on-hand—e.g., the ability to properly interpret and analyze data and build related frameworks in the case of people analytics adoption; and ability to expertly market a “case for change” if an HR transformation effort is in order. These seem straightforward, but trend adoption dynamics also extend to how the trend is being promoted, and by whom. A grass roots promotion by HR customers and professionals who are positively impacted by a certain trend, combined with effective marketing campaigns by vendors, is a surefire way of giving a trend legs that are both quick and sustainable.

Below are two trends I’ve excerpted from a new White Paper I co-authored entitled “HR Technology Trends to Watch in 2016.” The paper contains nine such trends that are poised to pick up considerable steam.

Technology-Enabled Talent-Management Science. Sierra Cedar recently found that 39 percent of organizations were now involved in some form of talent-management analytics. Great news, but not a panacea, as the lack of analytics-related competencies (e.g., to define the frameworks, interpret data, identify predictive relationships, etc.) persists in most HR departments. That dynamic aside, we should expect to soon see HCM systems guide users as to where to look for relationships across their data ecosystem.  Case in point: An increase in employee turnover might have the system highlight factors that have contributed to higher turnover in the past; e.g., a change in compensation or benefits, cutting back on management training, retirement or even restructuring activities that should perhaps not be counted as regular turnover, using less effective sourcing channels or more aggressive time-to-fill target metrics, etc.

Personalized Engagement and Retention Plans. With three generations working side-by-side for the first time, it is more critical than ever to personalize how employees are managed and through what rewards and recognition levers, basically to the extent of having personalized engagement and retention plans for all key employees. What each employee values in their work experience and career journey over time, in addition to personality tests and team culture or compatibility indicators, might soon become staples within enterprise HCM solutions going forward. Letting a high-potential employee be exposed to different parts of the business might cost almost zero, but, in the end, could be a more effective engagement driver and retention hook than a larger bonus for many.

Steve Goldberg, a principal within Ramco’s HCM practice, has been a global head of HR systems, vice president of HCM product strategy, change-management firm co-founder, industry analyst and HR tech advisor.

Tweet This!

The Hiring Games: Recruiters vs. Computers

When sizing up job candidates, should hiring managers go with their guts, or put their trust in technology?

A team of researchers sought to answer that question in a recent study, in which they proposed a test for assessing whether companies should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions.

For fans of the human element in hiring, the outcome was not good.

“[The study] definitely suggests that more decision-making powers should be given to the machine relative to the humans,” University of Toronto professor and report co-author Mitchell Hoffman told the Washington Post.

Hoffman and colleagues obtained a dataset consisting of 300,000 hires at 15 companies that use job tests for low-skilled positions such as call-center workers and standardized test graders, according to the Post. The authors measured how hires were initially assessed, whether a hiring manager overruled a low test score in order to bring someone aboard, and how workers performed later in their jobs. Testing not only improved job tenure by 15 percent, but introducing human intervention to the hiring process was also associated with “significantly worse results,” the Post noted.

And, while workers chosen for their performance on the computer test didn’t wind up being much more productive than those brought in by a hiring manager, they weren’t less productive either. This finding suggests that “recruiters weren’t even making a worthwhile trade-off between a worker’s effectiveness and longevity in the job,” the Post’s Lydia DePillis writes.

Computer-based tests that help foretell a would-be employee’s performance are certainly not a new phenomenon, and, as DePillis points out, such assessments are “getting better and better at being able to predict someone’s suitability for a given job.”

Given this reality, she asks, “Why do HR people still think they know better?”

DePillis asked that question of Julie Moreland, senior vice president of strategy and people science at PeopleMatter, a Charleston, S.C.-based workforce management software provider.

In Moreland’s estimation, “about a third” of hiring managers don’t put enough emphasis on the results of this type of assessment.

Part of what PeopleMatter does, of course, is develop job tests and offer software designed to “make it easy to see who your best-fit hires are,” according to the company’s website. So you could argue that Moreland is supposed to say that HR departments should be leaning more on technology to make good hires.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s off-base. And she also offered up an explanation for what may be happening when hiring managers’ instincts steer them wrong.

“From a human perspective, we like people who are like us,” Moreland told the Post. “They’re not thinking about the job, they’re thinking ‘I can work with this person, I relate to them.’ It skews their logic. Anybody that says they do not have bias in their interview is not being real.”

There’s some truth in that statement. And, while there’s still plenty of room in the hiring process for old-fashioned intuition, it’s certainly fair to say that fancy algorithms and sophisticated computer machines can help make the job easier.

“What true [HR professionals] realize is they’ve taken something and made [hiring] more efficient,” said Moreland, “and therefore they can spend more of their time on strategy rather than interviewing.”

 

 

 

Tweet This!