Category Archives: HR technology

In HR Tech, All that Glitters is not Gold

After a week of bold pronouncements about things to come, one respected observer wrapped up this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition with a sober warning: New software isn’t always the answer.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and veteran thought leader in human resources, urged executives to think critically about the practical benefits of shiny new HR technology.

The multibillion-dollar industry offers dazzling possibilities through applications of cutting-edge techniques such as artificial intelligence. But that doesn’t mean new software will always produce results worth the cost and effort, Cappelli warned.

“All kinds of things are possible,” he said in a closing keynote address in Chicago on Friday. “That doesn’t mean they’ll take over.”

Many in the business world believe the pace of technological change is faster than ever, and accelerating. That makes buzzword-laden vendor sales pitches tempting because they offer a chance to catch the edge of the next big wave. But Cappelli believes we overestimate the pace of real change.

To illustrate the point, he noted that offices are not much different today than they were a half-century ago. Word processing, for example, has been in offices since the 1980s. A visitor from that decade to a modern office “wouldn’t be surprised by that much,” Cappelli said.

He said experts in the subject generally agree that the pace of technological change in recent decades is slower than in the 1960s – with transistors, for example, and sweeping advances in chemistry. The pace was even quicker in the 1910s, with telephones, radios and automobiles transforming business in fundamental ways. “Now that was dramatic technological change,” he said. The social-media revolution of recent years, by contrast, “didn’t change the way people live.”

Many innovations fail to catch on because they turn out to be too expensive or too hard to use. One example: VCRs. Once they were expected to eliminate TV commercials because viewers would skip over commercials. But most consumers could never figure out how to program their machines, Cappelli noted.

That’s not to say that software hasn’t transformed business, of course. Certain innovations have been particularly important to HR: file-sharing technologies that allow outsourcing, for example. Others include job boards and their successors, enterprise resource planning programs and LinkedIn as a tool to find candidates.

But Cappelli urged caution in adopting platforms that promise dramatic results from “big data,” “machine learning”or “predictive analytics.” Those techniques have value in some settings, Cappelli said. But deriving valuable insights from a complex analysis of HR data often will cost too much and take too long. In the end “you might find something – you might not.”

Cappelli’s prescription is for HR leaders to focus first on what problem they are trying to solve, and get the data needed for a straightforward solution. Instead of focusing on employee engagement under the assumption that engagement improves performance, for example, employers might be better advised to just study what characterizes high-performing workers, he said.

Solutions that allow organizations to standardize, organize and simplify their data often make sense, Cappelli said. One example: Switching from a rating-based performance management system to one based on frequent manager check-ins cries out for technology to properly organize records of those conversations.

Cappelli also thinks dashboards are valuable – digital tools to measure what is happening with a workforce in real time. They can give HR leaders early warning of trouble or important trends.

In the end, Cappelli says, employers need to take a back-to-basics approach before splurging on advanced analytic capacities with uncertain potential.

“If you want to spend some money, you want to spend it first figuring out your own data, figuring out who is a good employee,” he said. “If you don’t have that, ‘machine learning’ isn’t going to do anything for you.”


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Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow

ThinkstockPhotos-494940180Diane Gherson, CHRO at IBM Corp., laughs when she recalls the role technology played in improving the employee experience when she first joined the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant 14 years ago.

At that time, she says, managers received emails notifying them when team members’ birthdays were coming up, for example.

“And that was really exciting,” Gherson told the audience at this morning’s opening session at the HR Technology Conference at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Now, she says, managers receive frequent messages with much more information on their employees. For instance, managers get notes telling them that a given employee hasn’t received recognition for his or her role in, say, a special project.

Gherson’s example was just one illustration of how technology has changed the way managers and employees do their jobs at IBM. As part of this morning’s “Engaging and Retaining the Talent of Tomorrow” panel discussion, moderated by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist and Starfish Media Group CEO Soledad O’Brien, Gherson was one of four HR executives sharing the stage, and sharing insights into how the employee experience continues to change, and how HR is using technology to meet changing employee expectations.

Along with Dermot O’Brien, CHRO at ADP, Scott Pitasky, executive vice president and chief partner resources officer at Starbucks, and Francine Katsoudas, chief people officer at Cisco Systems, the assembled HR leaders also examined recent research findings that illuminate just how much those expectations are changing.

ADP’s recent Evolution of Work study found, for example, that 58 percent of workers saying they believe that traditional hierarchical structures in the workplace will soon be a thing of the past. The survey also found 95 percent of employees saying they believe they will soon be able to work from anywhere.

The number of workers who anticipate working where and when they choose presents opportunities as well as challenges, says Katsoudas.

At Cisco, “we believe in a concept that everything good happens in teams,” Katsoudas told the audience.

That said, teams can still thrive while working in disparate locations, she adds. Katsoudas and the Cisco HR team has focused on helping managers “really connect with their team members, and really connect them with the strengths of their individual team members.”

For example, managers rely on the company’s talent management platform to check in to see how their team members are progressing on a given project or task, and tweak their roles if need be. Managers can also send brief surveys to their direct reports, to get a feel for the level of engagement throughout their teams, and solicit suggestions on how to improve the employee experience.

As how, when and where employees work continues to change, “technology can actually reconnect us to the workforce,” says ADP’s O’Brien.

And, “it provides us with enough data,” adds Gherson, “to help us find ways to make the employee experience better.”

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Citi’s Search for Innovation

There are plenty of tried and true ways to identify hot new HR technologies for your organization. Of course, you can attend events thinkstockphotos-489083454such as the HR Technology Conference and Expo, where this year more than 400 companies are demonstrating and sharing their solutions. Or you can read HRE, which regularly covers innovative new human resource tools, including its annual Top HR Products Awards.

But as attendees at an HR Tech Conference session titled “The Smarter Worklife Challenge: Transforming Software Selection to Drive Innovation” learned yesterday, HR leaders can also take a less traditional path.

Last fall, New York-based Citi, with the help of PwC, launched its first-ever Smarter Worklife Challenge, a competition aimed at uncovering innovative digital HR solutions, particularly those being developed by smaller entities that might not be on Citi’s radar.

As PwC Global Head of HR Disruptive Technology Bryon Abramowitz explained, Citi cast as wide a net as possible with the goal of identifying eight innovative solutions in eight different HR categories: recruitment, onboarding, real-time feedback and career development, training and mobility, connecting/social, predictive analytics, executive management and undetermined (essentially, anything else that didn’t fall in the other categories).

A total of 231 companies entered the competition by sending in a short three-to-five-minute video that explained the benefits and value of their solution. Judges reviewed the entries and selected 19 they felt deserved to go to the next step, which was to demo their solution at a one-day event held on Feb. 11 in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. All of them were assigned a coach, who helped them prepare their pitch.

“Many of the participants were small vendors,” Jeff Bienstock, global head of HR technology at Citi, pointed out. “But they were very innovative and creative.”

The competition gave these companies the rare opportunity to make their pitch in front of a company the size of Citi. Teams that made the final cut shared a cash award of up to $50,000, but as Abramowitz noted, the real prize was a contract with Citi, along with the feedback and experience they received as a result of going through the process.

To arrive at the final eight, Citi live-streamed the demos to potential users, who, along with those present in the room, rated them in real time.

Each winning vendor was also given an internal executive sponsor to help ensure funding and provide direction.

According to a press release issued by Citi, the Smarter Worklife Challenge award recipients included: Rocketrip (an employee-rewards solution), Infolio (a digital-workplace solution), Cooleaf (an employee-connectivity solution), Agolo (a business-intelligence solution), Butterfly (an employee-feedback solution), Yandiki (a people-management solution), HRIZONS (a career-information-management solution), GamEffective (an employee-gamification solution) and Starmind (an employee-choice award).

Of the final eight, Bienstock said, two decided not to move forward, two are currently in contract and the remainder are at other stages of the process.

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Dropbox Refines Its Employer Brand

If, to paraphrase Jeff Bezos, your employer brand “is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” then you need to “weaponize” an all-too-underutilized resource (your employees) to help ensure those conversations will be positive, The Muse CEO Kathryn Minshew told attendees at the HR Technology Conference on Wednesday afternoon.

A positive employer brand can help HR cut through the misperceptions about a company that might be holding people back from applying for jobs there, said Minshew. Getting employees to share positive stories and sentiments about working at your company is key–but those “testimonials” won’t be effective if they come across as canned, generic and similar to what everyone else is doing, she said.

“Posting a video that shows a bunch of guys talking about the company’s ‘commitment to excellence’ isn’t going to do anything other than show that you know how to use buzzwords,” said Minshew, whose co-presenter for the session on employer branding was Christy Childers, global employer brand manager for cloud storage firm Dropbox.

Childers explained how Dropbox was able to correct the misperception within the talent marketplace that it was a only business-to-consumer company through the shrewd use of its strong employer brand. Correcting this misperception was important, because Dropbox was going after the business-to-business market and needed salespeople experienced in selling to large enterprises in order to succeed, said Childers.

“We had to supplement our employer brand in order to let these people know we weren’t just B2C,” she said. This strategy was also necessary because Dropbox is a mid-sized company with only 2,000 employees–it did not have the recruiting staff available to spend 20 minutes on the phone with each potential candidate explaining Dropbox’s B2B strategy.

Working with The Muse, Childers and the HR team sent videographers to interview Dropbox employees for video testimonials explaining the type of work they did and why they enjoyed their jobs.

Engaging the video subjects by asking them the right questions is a must, said Childers. “In the past, we’d had videos in which employees said things like ‘My favorite part of working at Dropbox is the great people,’ which is so humdrum. You need to ask them specific questions geared to the work they’re doing, that align with the interests of the candidates you want to attract.”

Rather than “What do you like best about working at Dropbox?” the employees were asked things like “How is your team innovating? How are you using this programming language to get those results?” These sorts of questions are more likely to get employees to open up about the type of work they do, resulting in content that would be of much greater interest to candidates than simple platitudes would be, said Childers.

Video testimonials are critical because “at the end of the day, people trust other people,” said Minshew. Passive candidates in particular are more receptive to watching a short video testimonial from employees than to traditional outreach methods, she said.

Getting great content was only half the battle, said Childers. The content must be seen by the people you’re targeting, she said, which requires a distribution strategy via social media, content platforms, SEO optimization, and encouraging existing employees to share the videos to their own networks, she said. Dropbox was ultimately able to greatly increase the volume of applications it received from experienced candidates for the positions it was seeking to fill, she added.

Dropbox’s employer brand strategy extends to its job descriptions, which now include more information on why candidates should consider working for the company, said Childers.  “You can get higher quality candidates by explaining why they should consider your company–I think this is an underutilized part of the content conversation.”

Companies employing a strategy similar to Dropbox should carefully track which messages garner the most interest among the candidates they’re seeking to attract–and they should also exercise patience, said Childers.

“Don’t get discouraged by early results, this takes time to build,” she said. “But when content works, it really works.”

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Prepare for Technology Disruptions

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

HR tech guru Josh Bersin may not have quoted Bette Davis, but that was his message to a large crowd in Chicago on Tuesday for the opening of the 2016 HR Tech Conference and Expo. The conference brings vendors, HR executives, industry experts and others together once a year to josh_bersin_rassess the state of digital innovation for human resources.

Bersin, principal and founder of the Bersin by Deloitte consultancy, set the stage for the conference by describing a chaotic environment for employers and software vendors. Technology is allowing companies to do more things than ever before with data, but many have yet to reap the rewards in productivity, he said.

“We have more disruption and change … than ever before,” Bersin said. But “despite the best efforts of our technology providers, technology is not making our lives better.”

Bersin noted that the digital revolution has produced relatively modest gains in productivity, compared to other major technological advances of history. “All the research we do … seems to show we are not adapting to technology very well,” Bersin said. In some cases, “it’s actually making our work harder.”

One illustration he cited is the recent decline in vacation usage by U.S. workers. People are working more hours, but aren’t necessarily producing more.

Making companies more productive and workers happier will require a rethinking of the way organizations operate, Bersin said. Few any more are strict hierarchies. Rather, in practical terms, they are interlinked networks of teams. HR leaders must choose digital tools that help workers connect with each other, he said.

That means orchestrating digital tools in a way that serves and motivates employees. “We have to bring this together into a seamless employee experience,” he said.

Bersin described the evolution of HR technology as a series of leaps. Starting with a focus on benefits administration and compensation at the turn of the millennium, the industry has advanced through tools for hiring, e-learning, performance management, and newer tools in the last year such as corporate-culture assessment and real-time engagement monitoring.

He sees that progression continuing over the next decade into software that reinvents performance management, video-based learning, social recognition for employees, wellness and more expansive tools for managing work that perhaps are no longer truly HR applications.

Bersin urged HR executives to move thoughtfully in adopting new technology. “We have to be the curators of technology,” he said. “We can’t just get more stuff and bring it into our companies.”

Increasingly, HR technology will develop through a process called design thinking, Bersin said. Rather than labor for years to produce an application that then must be taught to employees, companies increasingly will roll out small tools that are refined in response to how employees use them.

“This is the future of how you have to deliver HR solutions,” he said.

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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.”


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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.


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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, 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.”

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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.

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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.”

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