Category Archives: HR technology

So You Want to Be a Blogger?

Among the many firsts at this year’s HR Technology® Conference is the first-ever Blogger Insight panel.

For those toying with the idea of launching their own blog, the five bloggers comprising the panel – Bryon Abramowitz, Mike Krupa, Trish McFarlane, Laurie Ruettimann and Kris Dunn (who served as the moderator) – offered attendees some practical advice.

The panelists seemed to agree on a number of fronts, including the need to find your own voice. “All five of us have very different approaches,” Dunn said.

Not everyone agreed, however, on what limits, if any, should be set on that voice.

“Be reasonable, do what makes sense,” said Abramowitz, a blogger who is HR technology practice leader at Baker Tilly. “Don’t put things out there that reflect badly on the company.”

Posting something inappropriate not only reflects badly on your company, he said, but could hurt your personal brand as well.

Ruettimann, however, had a somewhat different take.

“Some of us in the room are human and screw up on a daily basis,” said Ruettimann, president of New Media Services and the creator of the Punk Rock HR blog. “If you can’t use Facebook to post [certain] pictures, where is the joy in life? Sure, your blog is an extension of your human brand and is an extension of your human resources department, but you’re also human.”

Even though a record number of bloggers attended HR Technology® Conference in 2010, I suppose the conference should brace for even more in 2011. When Dunn asked how many attendees in the room were considering doing a blog, roughly one-third of those in the room raised their hand.

Data Predicts Uptick in Spending

Nice to see encouraging news coming from CedarCrestone’s HR Systems Survey, which was officially released at this year’s HR Technology® Conference.

According to CedarCrestone, there should be a nice uptick in HR technology spending in the next few years, with  respondents forecasting 100-percent growth in talent management, social media and analytics/planning applications.

The study, sprearheaded by Director of Research Lexy Martin, also found Software as a Service is continuing to gain momentum, with much stronger growth than what was forecasted in 2009.

(At the same time, the study found companies that utilized talent analytics, on a whole, outperformed those that didn’t.)

Of course, none of this comes as a huge surprise, considering the strong attendance at this year’s event (around 2,500) and the positive mood that seems to permeate the sessions and show floor. But it’s still good to see meaningful data that suggests many companies are either spending on HR technology again or soon will be.

Erickson Opens Conference with a Call to Embrace the Times

As the opening keynote speaker for the 13th annual, and largest-ever, HR Technology Conference® and Exposition in Chicago, Tamara Erickson — collaboration and innovation expert, blogger and author of numerous books on generational evolutions in the workplace — got things rolling with an inspiring look at where technology’s taken us from the beginning of man to where it’s now taking American businesses.

That is, if they’re savvy and open enough to evolve.

Starting with the caveman’s need to share ideas  in order to make the very first tools and taking us through the 20th century corporate organizational model where “we had to make enough stuff at good-enough quality and low-enough costs to sustain the company and help it prosper,” she said,  “now, this century, if you can’t figure out how to tap into the knowledge and ideas of customers and employees … and do [the latter] on a more horizontal org. chart,” she said, you won’t make it.

Challenging listeners to adopt an entire new approach to employment; that is, away from expecting employees to perform because you pay them and into a model where you need to entice them to expend “discretionary effort,” she said, Erickson listed off numerous companies that are starting to adapt: Best Buy, Deloitte, Rypple, Kraft Food, the list went on.

But most companies, she said, are still stuck in the old way. “They’re not providing the technologies and investing in the tools so employees will choose to innovate,” she said.

“You have to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of to invest in their discretionary effort,” Erickson said. “Now is the time for the combination of technology and HR. This time is ripe. HR holds the key to the next step change in our organizational technologies.”

Taleo Acquires Learn.com

In a fragmented market — that often leaves large corporations depending on providers who were “essentially small companies,” this acquisition will accelerate market consolidation and expand the size of the learning management systems market, according to a blogpost by Josh Bersin, an LMS expert.

 The acquisition, for about $125 million in cash, will also help integrate learning management with the entire talent-management system, Bersin writes, noting that:

 “While all the integration between Learn.com and Taleo has yet to be done, Taleo has a track record of doing what it says it will do – and over time Taleo will likely deliver a seamless solution which integrates recruiting, performance management, succession, development planning, and learning management.”

And the Mergers (Uh, Make that ‘Acquisitions’) Continue …

… with today’s announcement that Kenexa will acquire Salary.com.

HR technology expert Bill Kutik, who writes a monthly column for HREOnline as well as co-chairs our annual — and upcoming HR Technology® Conference — has the following reaction:

“Kenexa has long sought a Compensation Management solution to round out its suite of Talent Management applications. Even though Salary.com started life selling compensation surveys to corporations (and radically, even to individual applicants!), it has developed a strong market reputation for Compensation Management software and subscriptions for it have represented a substantial part of its revenue.

 “Recently Salary.com tried to widen its footprint, as outlined in February, and clearly some of those were mistakes, including its acquisition and then sale of Genesys, one of our mainframe HRMS providers. The CEO and founder left between those two events.

“The largest question remaining is how quickly Kenexa can integrate Salary’s software onto its new 2x platform, which is already used for Kenexa BrassRing for recruiting and its existing large-company Performance.

 “On the Wall Street conference call Wednesday morning (both Salary and Kenexa are public companies), CEO Rudy Karsan said that could “take years.” But maybe sooner.”

News on the M&A Front

Two items of note for HR leaders on the M&A front today: ADP completes its acquisition of Workscape, while one of the legal restrictions possibly hampering the merger of Aon and Hewitt disappears. [Duh: I wrote Workday earlier by mistake.]

 As for ADP/Workscape: Carlos Rodriguez, president of ADP National Account Services and Employer Services International, says the “strategic and cultural fit between ADP and Workscape is compelling, and will be extremely complementary in terms of services.”

 He notes that “an integral part of ADP’s growth strategy is expanding our benefits and talent-management portfolio and the strategic acquisition of a well-established player such as Workscape represents a significant step in that effort.”

 In the Hewitt/Aon merger, the organizations announced that the anti-trust waiting period had expired. The deal is still pending approval by stockholders and foreign regulatory officials. We previously wrote about the merger here.

 UPDATE: Make that three items of note … as Monster completes its acquisition of Yahoo! HotJobs and enters into a three-year agreement to provide career and job content to the Yahoo! home page. 

 

A Goliath Gets Even Bigger

ADP’s recently announced acquisition of Workscape, a provider of compensation-planning tools, will be “hugely disruptive” to the talent management marketplace, says Josh Bersin, CEO of Bersin Associates, who was briefed on the deal by ADP earlier today.

The acquisition will enable ADP, the $9 billion provider of HR, payroll and ben. admin. services to 570,000 clients throughout the U.S. and the world, to offer Workscape’s world-class compensation planning tools to the thousands upon thousands of small-to-medium-sized companies that already use ADP for payroll processing.

ADP already distributes Cornerstone OnDemand’s suite of performance management and succession planning tools. The Workscape acquisition (ADP did not disclose the terms of the deal) will enable the Roseland, N.J.-based behemoth to gobble up an even bigger share of the TM marketplace by reaching out to the vast number of mid-sized firms that are just starting to focus on talent management, he says.

“The compensation-management platform from Workscape is the most sophisticated of its kind out there,” says Bersin. “If ADP is already providing payroll services, not to mention performance management [through Cornerstone] to these companies, and now they can sell comp planning as well, they’re going to have a huge leg up on other TM vendors. ”

ADP may also be able to differentiate itself from other software vendors through its  pricing, says Bersin.

“They get paid by their clients via a monthly charge, on a per-employee, per-check basis,” he says. “My guess is, they’ll embed the Workscape services into that monthly charge, just adding to it slightly, which will enable them to price it in a way that a typical software company could never price it. This will help them gain a lot of market share.”

“The big question is how aggressive ADP will get with it–how well will they train their salesforce and how heavily they’ll promote it,” says Bersin.

“I like to think of ADP as the General Electric of the software industry–they don’t think of it as tools, but as a business,” he adds. “When they buy a company, they look at how rapidly they can integrate it into their sales organization and sell it. I think they’re going to get a lot of traction, and other vendors–especially in the mid-sized market that ADP sells into–they’re going to have to deal with ADP.”

Healthcare Reform via Video

Charleston, S.C.-based Benefitfocus just announced at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 conference a pretty straight and simple way for employees to understand how healthcare reform will affect them — without bugging their HR executives.

It’s called the Healthcare Reform Certification Program, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s more about education than certification — though visitors to the site can actually become “certified” by passing certain quizzes to test the knowledge they just acquired.

In a nutshell, the new offering is a simple collection of bare-bones information and a series of videos, professionally created in the company’s high-definition studio in Charleston, to guide everyone — including those under 30, who are still trying to get their arms around the benefits morass — through HDHCs, HMOs, PPOs, HSAs, FSAs, you name it.

The videos are designed to transform complex concepts into short, easy-to-understand sound bites. Each segment communicates a different provision of the law, using chalkboard animation to bring the legislation to life. Visitors can view the videos as many times as needed.

The Benefitfocus platform is a Software-as-a-Service model, available for a monthly fee to companies; the certification program is free, with no codes or customization work needed. “We’re calling this video-as-a-service,” says Jim Kelly, vice president of employer sales. “It basically answers the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question — ‘What does healthcare reform mean for me?’ We think it changes the game dramatically.”

What if Your Star Talent Came Knocking Today?

Gerry Crispin raised a provocative mind-bender at his Monday session at the SHRM conference in San Diego. “If an exact duplicate of your very best employee was applying right now, what would happen?” said Crispin, principal of CareerXroads and recognized recruiting expert.

“More importantly,” he said, “can you afford not to know?”

The purpose of the session, “Mystery Job Shopping: What Happens When You Apply Online to your Own Firm,” was to get HR professionals thinking — or, rather, rethinking — about how they brand — or rather, fail to brand — their organizations through their recruiting processes.

For instance, he pointed out, most companies won’t accept the risk of following up with candidates who weren’t hired, detailing the reasons they weren’t; in other words, the skills they don’t have yet need for the job. The message this could send about how your company cares, and the propsects it could reap down the road in return candidates would far outmeasure the potential liability of providing that kind of information, he told listeners.

“I guarantee you,” Crispin said, “when those people come back to apply at the point they do qualify, they will turn out to be the best employees you could ever hope to have in that position … because you provided the information they needed.” Getting such a practice past your corporate attorneys, he added, means “building the case that this kind of follow-through will be worth the risk.”

Not only was Crispin touting the merits of becoming far more transparent for online candidates who come knocking at your Web site, he was also promoting “mystery shopping,” or applying through your own recruiting process and those of your competitors.’ How’s your time to apply? Are you asking so many questions that you’re losing top talent because their time is too precious to be “writing a dissertation, answering hundreds of questions” the first time they visit simply to poke around? And how about technology and social networking? Have you embraced that? “Can your competitors’ candidates set up a mobile connection with your recruiters and yours can’t?” he asked.

Crispin also spoke in favor of picturing recruiters and providing simple instructions for constant access to them. “How available is your recruiter?” he said. “You need to think about what you’re doing and how transparent you’re being. You gotta figure smart candidates know how to find your recruiters anyway, through LinkedIn and other modes. If you’re refusing that kind of accessibility, that says something about you, and it isn’t good.”

Your company brand, your commitment to sustainability, your value proposition as to how people should be treated … it’s all in how you present yourself through your online recruiting, Crispin said.

One recruiter in the audience admitted she went through her own system anonymously just to see what experience her department  was providing. “How was it? Crispin asked.

“It was awful,” she said.

Crispin: “I rest my case.”

Disputing the Value of Social Media

Tim Bevins on nGenera’s Wikinomics blog disagrees with Peter Cappelli’s recent HREOnline™ column on the Promises and Limitations of Social Media, in which Cappelli concludes that social media will eventually be used mostly by the recruiting and sales functions, where networking is most important.

Bevins ofters some good counter-arguments to each of Cappelli’s points — which is probably not too surprising since nGenera Insight is headed by Don Tapscott, who told an enthusiastic audience at the HR Technology® Conference last year that social media is the new operating systems of corporations.

But I don’t see this disconnect ending any time soon. Evangelists for social media will continue to praise it, use it and profit from it, while many — and maybe even most — business leaders will remain wary.

It takes time to explore the opportunities of social media, to learn it and leverage it. And with time at a premium, there are only so many senior-level executives who are going to make that effort — or allow their workforce to do so when the risks of doing so remain a valid concern.

They may stick their toe in the water here and there, but until the next generation takes control (a generation that grew up using it), I think such use will remain mostly a curiosity instead of a crucial part of corporate strategy.