Posts

Andrew Neel

Employee Burnout: How Leaders Can Help Right Now

I want you to look around at your employees — in person where possible, and on that Zoom call. Then, I want you to think about how they’re doing. 9 times out of 10, they’re at least a little burned out. One of the areas we’ve been focusing on a lot here at TalentCulture is employee wellness. What that means right now is we’re looking at an entire workforce that seems, well, exhausted. Employee burnout is on the rise. And chances are, dear reader, that may not be a surprise to you at all.

There are certainly many external factors playing a role in the growing wave of burned out employees. Those range from a scary economy to social turmoil. And from political upheavals to a terrifying health crisis. There are domestic factors: The disruptions and worries of parenting and caregiving through the pandemic. In addition, there are more pressures facing business and the workplace now than we’ve never seen before. Recently, Eagle Hill Consulting ran a survey of U.S employees. They discovered 45 percent reported suffering from burnout, whether they are essential workers or remote. 25 percent linked their stress to COVID-19 — and that was in April, when we were just weeks in.

By July, a study by FlexJobs and Mental Health America reported that 75% of employees were dealing with burnout at work.

For employees, it’s VUCA time. So what should leaders do?

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and take care of our people. And that doesn’t take grand gestures. We don’t need to invest in new software or major changes. There are simple strategies you can execute right now. Simple. But they may mean a lot:

Commit to Mental Health

The Eagle Hill study shows employees could use more help:

  • 36 percent feel their company is not taking action to combat employee burnout
  • A mere 20 percent feel they’re getting the mental and physical wellness resources they need

And in a July 2020 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of the adults surveyed reported that coronavirus-related stress and worries were eroding their mental health — up from 32 percent in March. 

A few months ago, I had a great conversation with a start up about how they’re supporting employees through COVID-19. Being young and lean, they had to optimize their offerings without rebuilding their entire benefits program. So they looked at their mental health benefits and made a tweak or two. It’s no secret that stress, anxiety and depression can wreak havoc on an employee’s ability to focus and work. So they provided remote employees access to professional counseling through tele-therapy. In short order, among all the benefits available to employees, tele-therapy became one the most utilized and popular programs.

Bringing the need for therapy out into the open took the taboo and the stigma away — at a time when many people need mental health support the most.

Improve What Already Exists

There’s an interesting pushback going on regarding flexibility and remote working. Some employers are still singing the “when we reopen” song. They are using it as a rationale for just letting their workforce get by. Again, I know a lot of companies are feeling the pandemic pinch. They may not have the spend for their wishlist of new HR technology right now. But the reality is we may ever get everyone back to the office — at least not in the same pre-pandemic way. After all, remote working and flexible schedules are enabling people to handle one of the hardest periods of time (barring wars, of course) this country has ever faced.

Given the importance of employee engagement, staving off burnout, and increasing performance and productivity why wouldn’t you maximize the best aspects of working remotely?

Perhaps you can’t invest in a new platform right now because the business environment has thrown off your plans. That’s a reality for many. People are already functioning and working remotely and have been for months. S0 chances are you don’t need more technology to get your people to work together better.

Focus on Weak Spots

So focus on those pesky weak spots. What’s causing friction? Where is trust the weakest? Around deliverables? Around hierarchies? Maybe around teams?

Have you crafted and shared a set of policies and expectations around how your people are supposed to work remotely? If not, do it now. Do some in-house remote training on best practices and etiquette. Be proactive about the problem of sexual harassment or bias showing up in virtual interactions. Write a set of simple policies around parenting and caregiving emergencies. 

Just as important, engineer some lightness into the workdays — because, in general, those days have gotten very long. Allot time for informal get-togethers and casual conversations. Find ways for employees to have a little fun. A giving challenge or a gratitude drive, for example. Or a meet-the-kids (or the pets) event.

Working remotely can’t all be about work all the time. Now that work has come home, let some of home come to work.

Ask People What They Need

Pandemic aside, employee burnout was alive and well in countless work cultures already — and the pandemic just compounded the problem. Blame hyper-tight production cycles, toxic levels of competition among coworkers and teams, and managers too spread thin to spend any time helping teams. The fact is a whole host of other subpar conditions existed before the pandemic hit. What I mean is this: Fundamentally, most organizations want to be great places to work. But things happen. Then came COVID-19, and that’s been a whole new level of “happen.”

The silver lining here is that now there’s no excuse for reaching out to employees to make sure they’re all right. Whether that’s a pulse survey, an informal check-in via text, or even a phone call — reach out. Burnout is often triggered when employees are completely tapped out — mentally, physically, emotionally — and feel like they’re not getting any acknowledgement or support. Extended periods of high stress, overly tight deadlines, disruptive shifts in the workflow — all can lead to the mounting frustration that can result in burnout.

The Best Way to Avoid Employee Burnout

The most important thing you can do to help your workforce avoid burnout? Find out how they are and where they are really struggling. It may be hard to do this individually and in confidence. So instead, solicit anonymous feedback and share the results in a way that doesn’t expose anyone, or anything. Further, share it with a transparent commitment to make things better. Then actually do it.  

None of these three strategies need fancy bells and whistles to get off the ground. All they really require is a heartfelt reality check. One that helps deals with the here and now. One that acknowledges that work during a pandemic — remote or not — is exposing our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. 

A video conference hosted by the Wharton School of Business and U Penn focused on the prospect of getting back to “normal” whether for corporate and knowledge workers or for frontline and essential workers. Given everything, they determined that we’re not going to get there until November 2021. That’s more than a year away. So don’t be the employer remembered for overloading your people when life was already hard enough.

Don’t shelve employee wellness until all this is over. Work to improve your conditions for the present. Prevent the employee burnout happening now.

Photo: Bernard Hermant

Connecting During Crisis: Engaging Your Frontline Workforce

Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of talk about the current situation of forced remote work and its impact on employee collaboration, productivity and engagement. This is a legitimate concern and one that I myself, as a CEO, am tackling. But the discussion has largely been focused on desk-based employees, who typically sit in front of a computer and can perform their jobs from anywhere in the world as long as they have a laptop and WiFi connection.

Frontline workers, however, are in a completely different boat. They don’t sit in front of a computer all day; they often work long shifts (sometimes 12 hours or more); they’re the first and last points of interaction with customers. Most importantly, frontline workers aren’t accustomed to interacting and communicating with their managers and HQ leaders via face-to-face meetings.

With COVID-19 leading to country-wide lockdowns and social distancing rules, the entire world is dependent on frontline workers for essential services, such as stocking groceries, shipping online orders, providing healthcare and transportation. That means longer work shifts, more uncertainties about their roles and more stress for frontline workers. As this happens, staying informed and getting regular feedback will be essential to navigate through these uncertain times.

Subpar Onboarding Experience Can Prompt Early Turnover

According to a recent article on the Muse, companies like Kroger, Unilever, GSK, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Instacart, Deutsche Bank and Asana are still continuing with their hiring plans amidst the current crisis. This is due in large part to the fact that these businesses provide ‘essential’ services and goods. But what happens once these frontline workers are hired? What will their onboarding look like? How prepared are HR teams to digitally adapt their onboarding processes?

When we asked HR professionals to cite their biggest challenge with onboarding remote and distributed employees, the top two responses were ‘making them feel like part of the team’ (17 percent) and ‘providing clarity and context about role expectations and career growth’ (17 percent). Following close behind, 15 percent cited ‘integrating into company culture’ as the biggest challenge, while 13 percent struggle to establish communication norms. If you look at these responses, it’s clear that onboarding plays a major role in employee satisfaction, career development, fulfilment, engagement and retention. But for most employees, being able to physically interact with managers, colleagues and leaders can go a long way in making them feel like part of the team and forge relationships with coworkers. So, if virtual onboarding sessions are too drawn out, dull, uninspired, new hires could end being early leavers.

Turnover is not a new problem for organizations. Early turnover, however, is even more troublesome, with 20 percent of employees leaving with their first 45 days of employment. Our study’s findings indicate that HR teams, who are faced with onboarding thousands of employees virtually, could see an increase in early turnover. And the culprit could very well be HR’s inability to virtually onboard new employees in a way that’s just as informative, interactive and engaging as it would be if it were conducted in-person.

More Direct Feedback Supports Better Job Stability

As our study found, it can be tough to communicate and engage with remote and distributed workforces. For example, a mere 8 percent of the surveyed HR professionals said they keep a regular cadence of one-to-one meetings with remote workers, while only 12 percent commit to a communication charter. On top of this, 15 percent of HR professionals said they struggle to provide regular feedback on performance and career development.

These findings are troubling for a few reasons. First, frontline workers are currently being pushed to the limits. As the pressure mounts, it will be more important than ever to provide a safe space for frontline workers to vent their frustrations, voice their concerns and ask important questions related to their roles and responsibilities. But if their managers and HR teams don’t make themselves available for these one-to-one conversations, you can bet it will manifest itself in lower productivity, less cross-team collaboration and potentially worse performance. So managers need to carve out time in their schedules and virtually meet one-to-one with their teams on the frontline. Even if it’s a 10-minute check-in twice a week, this could help frontline workers feel less stressed and get clarification about their role and tasks. The more clarity they get, the better they’ll perform their jobs, which will lead to better customer satisfaction, loyalty and future sales. While these are positive outcomes for the businesses that employ frontline workers, it will also help frontline workers prove their value and maintain job stability during unstable times.

Digital-First Culture Engages Frontline Workers

According to Stephen Redwood, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “At digital-first organizations, people, processes and structures are all focused on optimizing digital so companies can be more productive.” I agree wholeheartedly. And this is especially true for frontline workers, who rely on mobile devices, communications apps, productivity apps and collaboration apps to stay connected, get relevant updates about the business and their roles, schedule meetings with their managers, among other things.

What does a digital-first culture look like? For one, it’s one that isn’t reliant on face-to-face meetings. For example, companies with a large number of frontline workers should hold virtual all-hands meetings twice a week at least. Reserve one of the two weekly all-hands meetings solely for Q&A with the staff. Let your frontline workers ask any questions they want — be it about how the coronavirus outbreak may impact job stability (i.e. layoffs, furloughs), plans for hiring, or anything else. Don’t make the virtual all-hands meetings excessively long — keep them to 30 minutes maximum so that you can keep your frontline workers engaged, without interrupting their work too much.

Another way to help frontline workers integrate with the company culture (especially in the midst of a crisis) is to have managers share a weekly message of motivation. By posting this type of message into designated Slack channels, teams can start their days with a positive attitude and still feel a sense of connection to their fellow colleagues, teams, managers and leadership.

To make a digital-first culture work, it has to come from the top down. Leadership needs to believe in the value of digital tools for driving employee collaboration and engagement. Beyond that, getting buy-in from the C-suite will require proving how digital tools will help maintain business continuity, increase customer satisfaction (and repeat purchases) and drive revenue growth.

Photo: Hans Peter Gauster

#WorkTrends: Outsourcing HR: Why and How

The global health crisis and its economic repercussions have pushed companies to innovate in new ways — and that includes HR. Meghan M. Biro and Paychex’s Tom Hammond used this episode of #WorkTrends as an opportunity to look at the best strategies for talent management, such as outsourcing. Tom is Paychex’s VP of Corporate Strategy and Management, and he’s on the front lines as far as helping organizations navigate the new business landscape. 

As Tom pointed out, HR professionals are in a unique position “at the epicenter of this crisis,” and they’re getting a whole range of timely questions around workplace legislation, from local to state and national levels. Making sense of the challenging (and quick) decisions that need to be made and keeping up with compliance and regulations now can take a lot of bandwidth, Meghan noted — so it makes sense for HR departments to look for help rather than go it alone. Partnering with Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions not only streamlines the process, it takes the worry out.  

Whatever the scenario, HR experts can help mitigate the gray area — and both Meghan and Tom see a different relationship happening between companies and outside service providers. It’s not a handoff, but an ongoing, one-on-one conversation dedicated to finding the solutions “that drive what matters,” as Tom said. While each company needs something different, what everyone needs is real guidance, not just a generic recommendation. 

Meghan added that this new paradigm embraces outside expertise, service and technology — and that’s going to push us forward during this global transformation. Like every other facet of working now, it’s a fast pivot — and not exactly anticipated. But outsourcing ensures that companies can land on their feet, and better manage and support their people. And that may help everyone be far more ready for what happens next.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrendsTwitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: How can HR help struggling remote workers adjust and be productive? #WorkTrends
Q2: How can outsourcing HR functions effectively help organizations? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help shape sound HR strategies during a pandemic? #WorkTrends

Find Tom Hammond on Twitter

This post is sponsored by Paychex.

Photo: Andy Kelly

#WorkTrends: The AI-Powered Leadership Coach

If there’s a silver lining to this global pandemic, it may be that we’re all getting a lot more familiar with AI, data and AI-driven analysis. When researchers and policy makers explain the forecasting changes based on a constant influx of new data, we get it. We even have our own favorite go-tos: Poynter, NYT, and Muck Rack among them. 

So when Meghan M. Biro and WorkTrends’ guest Kevin Kruse sat down to talk about the future of work and life, they both touched on the universal sense — at least within HR — that our predictions about leaning on digital tools in the near future are coming true in a way we never could have anticipated. Kevin is the founder and CEO of LEADx — which created the digital leadership tool, Coach Amanda. He’s also passionate about how innovation can improve work cultures. 

Discussing how he saw AI’s potential as a coaching tool, he told Meghan, “I’ve been writing some articles just like everybody around — top tips for leading remote teams … the same tips for leading the teams if they were in the office. It’s just more important than ever before, you know, having a cadence of communication, having authentic leadership, caring about your people.” In other words, it may be a machine, but it has to take a human approach.

Meghan asked him whether or not he thought AI coaches could replace humans. In some cases, Kevin noted, they’re providing coaching for organizations that don’t have the resources or the bandwidth to provide human trainers. But in other cases, they’re a tool that works right alongside — adding value to the leadership already happening. What AI-driven digital leadership coaching provides is a whole platform that covers a lot of bases, including starting someone on their own leadership coaching journey. Coach Amanda is virtually human and an “accountability buddy,” added Kruse, giving others access to the tools they need to become natural leaders themselves.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do many organizations struggle with leadership coaching? #WorkTrends
Q2: How can AI tools help develop leaders? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations develop better leadership coaching? #WorkTrends

Find Kevin Kruse on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Ben White

5 Ways to Build a Great Candidate Experience in 2020

Heading into a hiring spree for the new year? Last year, the Talent Board Candidate Experience Research Report found that if a prospective hire has a negative candidate experience, they’re increasingly willing to sever their relationship with that employer. This year? That report’s packed with good information to map to better strategies right now. With 61 million members of Gen Z beginning to join the workforce, companies need to bear it in mind. These digital natives have high expectations for work/life balance, inclusivity, technology and who they want to work for. And first impressions count. 

We know that a great candidate experience can pay off in long-term dividends, leading to a better employee experience, better engagement, and a stronger chance your new hires will be willing to rep you as an employer to their peers. But the most important result is that it leads to an applicant staying with the process through to the final interview, and then if it leads to a hire, they — and you — feel great about the move. To optimize the outcome, focus on these five simple pillars: 

Communicate Better

Quality communication and feedback are key factors in improving candidate experience. According to the Talent Board report, candidates who were able to ask a chatbot questions consistently rated their candidate experience higher than those who weren’t. Additionally, candidates who communicated with a chatbot were 80% more likely to increase their relationship with the employer, and candidates who received mobile text notifications during the research process rated their candidate experience 50% higher than those who did not.  

Be Human

But: no matter what generation, candidates prefer hearing from a live human within the first few steps of their application process. Despite multiple rounds of emails or preliminary video interviews, candidates may get frustrated if there’s no sense of a person on the other end, particularly Gen Z. This generation wants to believe in your company’s mission and find the work meaningful, starting with personal interactions — that’s how they know the prospective employer values them as an individual.  

Reject with Tact

When it comes to rejection, candidates still want to hear the bad news straight from the horse’s mouth — and not from a robot’s. Positive candidate experience ratings jump upwards of 28% when an applicant receives a phone call rather than an automated email rejection. It will also go a long way towards keeping the candidate in your talent pool for future openings. Rejections should be considered and considerate: especially with a young candidate, make sure the criteria and the reasoning is clear, and leave the door open. 

Be Curious

Employers who ask candidates for their feedback on the hiring process increases that candidate’s positive feeling about the organization. According to the Talent Board report, when candidates are asked for screening or interview feedback, there’s a 148% increase in their willingness to increase their relationship with the organization. That simple act of asking for (and listening to) feedback has the potential to create exceptional employee loyalty in advance.  

Be Consistent

Consistently treating candidates well breeds trust and trust is foundational for a true, human sense of engagement. Make sure your message and your process are consistent end to end. If there’s any doubt, map out all the touchpoints your organization has with a candidate. Create a checklist to address how you can treat candidates better, from branding to technology. Is the branding inclusive? Are you offering an application process that offers self-service and is self-populating? Also: make sure your job listings and your job information are consistent everywhere, whether on your career page or job boards. Candidates should feel good about your organization no matter what kind of interaction they’re having. 

We’ve got more sophisticated hiring tools than ever. But here’s a modern irony: it’s imperative that we go back to the basics in terms of how we use them. Respect candidates’ time, energy, and attention spans. Consider their need to feel like they’re valued, like their questions will be heard and answered, and that there are people — not just algorithms and bots — genuinely interested in who they are. Provide plenty of information about the process as well as the position; and about the organization’s values and culture as well as the next forms they need to fill out. Think person, not just process. And no matter the outcome, remain gracious. Might seem old-fashioned, but it’s back in style.

The Top Eleven Recruiting Tech Tools for 2020

What technologies are truly changing our recruiting capabilities for 2020? I’ve had so many great conversations with innovators in the recruiting and technology space about this. All of us agree we’re entering a new phase of evolution as the world of work gets used to a whole new way of hiring. 

It’s time to get comfortable with these tools. Learning how to best harness tech is also a matter of enabling it to do the heavy lifting — and I think the tools below are going to become the norm sooner rather than later. So happy 2020, and here are my top 11 tools in recruiting technology that are going to continue to change the game. Yes, I couldn’t stop at 10:

 

  1. Super-recruiting. Better strategies that combine technology, analytics and people skills to radically improve the candidate experience and make better hires. 
  2. AI-empowered personalization that lets recruiters reach a talent pool full of potential candidates and address them all as individuals — with preferences and behaviors.
  3. Chatbots with human understanding who can answer sophisticated questions, conduct interviews, and assist with scheduling next-level meetings. 
  4. AI-powered skills assessments that measure for potential and fit as well as existing abilities.
  5. Streamlined, self-service applications that enable applicants to run their own show and auto-populate information across multiple forms if necessary.
  6. Bias filters of applicant-facing materials that have evolved way beyond just recognizing words like “bro” and “quarterback.”
  7. Predictive analytics that reveal gaps and issues before they happen.
  8. Tech-driven interviews (run by chatbot or not) that create a clear digital picture of a potential hire.
  9. Virtual tools like virtual walkthroughs and virtual auditions so applicants can try on the job — and employees can see how they fit (and gather data on each applicant as well).
  10. Built-in security tools that don’t intrude into the application process, but do offer robust protection.
  11. Remote technologies that can bridge time and space so we can truly source applicants all over the world — and make hires regardless of geographic location (when it works to do so).
Photo: Alex Knight

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Hiring Process

As artificial intelligence evolves, we’re going to increasingly rely on it for boosting the hiring process. In Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, author Max Tegmark asserts that the “rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology.” So it is, as we already see in hiring. AI is already saving HR teams time and money while attracting the best candidates in these key ways:

Solving the Sourcing Process

A recent study found that 46 percent of companies struggle with finding and attracting the right candidates for their open positions. AI programs can search online resumes and social profiles to find the best candidates for each job based on specific traits. They can also relay personalized messages to promising candidates and do it in scale — something human recruiters could not do alone. 

AI is being taught to overcome human biases during sourcing and screening. The key is teaching the program on data that presents as gender-neutral and training it to ignore other identifying information that might trigger biased decisions. An organization may end up with a pool of applicants far more diverse than if the HR team itself had sourced them.

Enhancing Employee Experience

Once your AI program sources and contacts candidates, AI can lead them through the recruiting funnel quickly and efficiently, ensuring the candidate experience goes smoothly.  Recruiter chatbots can provide real-time answers to candidate questions, offer quick feedback and suggest next steps. They can provide links to promising job descriptions, clarify company hours and location, and schedule interviews. 

Having a good experience during this phrase is a big deal, as is borne out in a study by CareerBuilder: 58 percent of candidates are likely to have a negative opinion of a company if they never get a response to their job application.67 percent are likely to have a favorable view of the company if they get frequent updates after they applied. Instead of dead air, a chatbot fills the space — and furthers the process.

Screening Boosts

AI-powered conversational tools can also give the screening process a boost. Since these tools are always learning, they’re ideal for when going back for a second look at candidates who applied in the past. AI tools can store essential data on all applicants, saving time and effort when you’re ready to reach out to them again. Companies that use AI tools have reduced their cost per screening by 75 percent.

Using technology to screen talent also saves time and effort for candidates. When CVS Health began using the Virtual Job Tryout assessment, it was looking for an automated screening tool to shortlist candidates quickly. The company processes over one million applicants per year: saving time on the hiring process is critical to the recruiting team. 

By offering job simulation inside hiring platforms, CVS enabled  candidates to virtually try out some of the tasks in a potential position. Depending on their performance, they might be invited  go proceed to the next step in the recruiting process. Or they might decide the position wasn’t a good fit, saving themselves and the company time. CVS Health found this tool screened out half a million applicants right away, saving 40 years of hiring manager time.  The tool also brought a measurable improvement in performance, training, new hire retention, and operational outcomes.

Assistance with Interviewing

AI in HR provides a simple way not only to reach out to possible candidates, but also screen, rank, and shortlist their resumes based on the traits most relevant to your company. Then, once you have a list of people you’d like to interview, the chatbot can act as the scheduler.

Certain AI tools can also help you conduct a later-stage virtual interview before inviting a candidate to come in person. Conducting a video interview with preset questions, you can run an AI program to analyze candidates’ facial expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms, and word choice. 

This technology will make it more likely you’ll end up with new employees who fit your company culture, which is why major brands like Google, Facebook, and Apple have been using this technology for years. And now even more companies use it, including Capital One, Allstate, ThredUp, Hilton, and AT&T. 

Onboarding

AI is also improving onboarding procedures — by, for instance, automating repetitive or tedious tasks like conducting background checks, putting together documents about benefits, and creating offer letter templates. AI can also help organize, print, and deliver all onboarding paperwork. 

The same can be said of training documents — another time-consuming step when the HR team has to do it manually. Instead, AI-powered tools can ensure all new employees receive copies of the paperwork that spells out company policies and log-in information.They can track when documents have been read, prompt an electronic signature, and schedule meetings to go over the information further when necessary. 

And all can happen 24/7 from anywhere, which means employees can start training or getting answers to their questions any time and from any device. It also allows the HR department to focus on tasks that cannot be automated or done outside of business hours. 

Why Use AI in HR?

From sourcing and screening candidates to interviewing and onboarding, AI is undeniably changing HR’s capabilities. A report from Deloitte in 2017 notes that 38 percent of survey respondents believed AI would be widely used at their company within three to five years. In 2018, that number rose to 42 percent,. It’s still climbing.  

72 percent of executives believe AI will offer significant business advantages in the coming years, while a LinkedIn study found that 76 percent of hiring managers believe AI will be at least somewhat important in the future. As Eric Sydell, EVP of Innovation at Modern Hire, summed it up, “AI is a perfect way to recruit the best talent that will excel at your company, as it uses huge volumes of data to predict outcomes better than any person can. Not only does AI save HR departments time, but it also gives candidates some insight into whether they even want the job.” 

 

 

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Getting Real About Artificial Intelligence

What’s the most exciting technology on the horizon? Is it self-driving cars? Voice-activated computing? Computer-assisted medicine? While each of these technologies is exciting and has the potential to revolutionize our lives, they’re all based on a single technology: artificial intelligence.

The potential impact of AI is incredible. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this technology. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, AI could deliver $13 trillion in annual global productivity gains by 2030.

Shaker/Montage is a leading entity in the field of AI and its applications for business. I recently had a conversation about the current state and future of AI with Shaker’s Eric Sydell and Isaac Thompson. Sydell is executive vice president of research and innovation, and Thompson is principal data scientist. Here’s some of what we discussed.

What Do We Mean By ‘Artificial Intelligence’?

AI is loosely defined as computers that can learn and adapt to input and feedback. Many applications of AI today are based on the concept of “deep learning.” This technique of using computers to analyze enormous sets of data for patterns and insights is behind everything from computerized chess programs that can defeat the best players in the world to radiology systems that can diagnose cancer earlier and with more accuracy than can be done by humans.

Are There Any Drawbacks to AI?

Just like any other powerful tool, AI can be used in good ways and bad ways. It falls on us to use AI in a way that is fair and equitable, and that leads to good outcomes.

Is There an Inherent Bias in AI

Humans have innate biases, while AI evaluates the data it is given without any built-in biases. If the data we feed an AI system is itself flawed, limited, or biased, then the resulting prediction will mirror those issues. Programmers need to ensure that AI is developed using good data, and must be careful to avoid unintended consequences like bias.

Is AI a One-Size-Fits-All Solution?

Different companies will use AI in different ways. One of the biggest problems with AI today is that many companies are rushing solutions to market without fully understanding how they work, let alone how they’ll perform in the real world. Developing beneficial AI solutions that solve real-world problems requires a great deal of research and revision to get them right.

What Should We Expect in the Future of AI?

Our field and world are in the early stages of exploring the power of AI. We expect the benefits above to be developed over time, and AI to gradually learn to make better decisions than people do. This process requires a lot of data and a lot of research, so it won’t happen overnight. There are also hurdles and pitfalls of which we must be aware.

Artificial Intelligence is one of the most powerful technologies humanity has ever developed. It has the capability to revolutionize our world. And yet, even with the power of this technology in our hands, we must choose how to use it to make our world a better place.

 

#WorkTrends: Recruiting + Retention = True Love

You know who’s perfect for each other? Recruiting and retention.

So what’s been taking them so long?

It’s February and love is in the air, so it’s time to finally get these two together. In this week’s episode we turn to Ankit Somani, co-founder of end-to-end AI HR recruiter AllyO, to find out how technology is helping to get the love affair going. We’re also joined by Jeanne Meister from Future Workplace, who tells us even more about how we can better connect the recruiting experience with the employee experience.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

They’re Perfect for Each Other

The traditional recruiting-and-retention model splits the two into separate functions. Somani says this is ridiculous. “From a candidate perspective, it doesn’t make sense,” he says. Because organizations have siloed the two apart from each other, companies are actually costing themselves money and time, and it’s difficult to carry over the relationships, data and human capital from recruiting to retention, he says.

But it’s easy to have a smooth transition — just don’t have one at all. Somani says the new recruiting function must become “hiring plus retention.” That means having the same person who is in charge of recruiting an employee also be in charge of training, especially in those critical first few days. Not only does this ensure familiarity, it also creates a trust that helps a new hire transition into the organization.

And it creates equity with a new hire too. “People these days want to work for companies that really care about them,” Somani says. A more streamlined recruiting-and-retention process is a big step toward showing that you care about an employee’s development in your organization.

Use Technology to Help Seal the Deal

Of course, it’s 2019. Our matchmakers aren’t always human. Outside the workplace we use Tinder, and in HR we use artificial intelligence.

AllyO has been assisting companies with their AI technology to marry recruiting and retention, and Somani talked about the company’s experience with the restaurant chain Maggiano’s Little Italy. The chain’s recruitment team was severely understaffed, so it turned to AllyO’s system to help with recruiting. “AllyO became the single source for 80 percent of applicants going through the system,” Somani says. This means applicants were chatting with AllyO from the moment they considered the job to the moment they were hired.

However, the chain was also having issues with retention. Using AllyO’s software, it instituted mandatory new-hire check-ins throughout the first 90 days of employment. Maggiano’s was able to use its findings to improve its training practices and its retention rates.

Another benefit of this new kind of matchmaker is that because of their familiarity with AllyO and its processes, employees were comfortable providing feedback. “Employees are responding to AllyO 50 percent more than they would have responded if we had reached out to them cold,” Somani says.

A Tech Reminder

Somani also offered the reminder that no matter how enamored you may be with your shiny new tech tools for HR, remember that a chatbot isn’t the way to convince someone to take a job. “Bots don’t do that, and that’s where recruiters need to bring in that human element,” Somani says. The automated tools at your disposal are just there to ensure a better, more consistent candidate experience. Ultimately it’s on you, the recruiter, to play matchmaker between candidate and company — and to make sure the marriage is one to brag about.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by AllyO.

#WorkTrends: Is AI Ready for Us?

Have you ever found out an employee’s references were completely fabricated?

That’s what happened to the Xref team, and it inspired the creation of Xref, an automated reference-checking platform that is an innovator in the use of AI in HR recruiting. Today the Australia-based company has offices in four countries and product offerings in 12 languages.

So who better than Xref’s chief technical officer, Tim Griffiths, to demystify the world of AI for us? Griffiths joined us from Sydney to talk about how HR recruiters can embrace the world of AI, and he provides some great practical advice to get you started.

We also speak with Sarah Wilson, head of people at SmartRecruiters, about the challenges technology presents for hiring, and what we can expect from the future of HR tech.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

How to Embrace AI

AI is still in its infancy, and Griffiths says it’s fine to sit on the sidelines for now and see how things shake out. But if you do decide to jump in, remember that you’re using technology that’s in its very early stages. Things are not going to work perfectly right away. “You’ve got to take a very careful look at the way it’s implemented,” Griffiths says.

This includes analyzing how your AI tools work for you. Griffiths says you should constantly be considering the effects such tools are having on your effectiveness: “Is it enhancing it? Is it augmenting it? Or is it hindering it?”

But remember that AI is not a replacement for decision making. Companies like Xref provide products and services that are simply new twists on old methods. For example, you’re no doubt being swamped with applications. AI tools give you the ability to sort through high volumes of resumes, work that could take days for a non-automated team. “We handle the heavy lifting for you,” Griffiths says, “allowing you to make really good decisions based on the data in front of you, but also get back to the reason why you’re in HR in the first place.”

Education, Education, Education

HR recruiters have an exciting future ahead of them, but it’s a future that will require new skills. When Griffiths talks about the skills we need, he doesn’t get specific. Instead he recommends something more important: an attitude of embracing education.

“The job of a recruiter, really, is understanding some of the new tech that’s coming through — but also what that means,” he says. “It’s really just keeping on top of [your] industry in the area that you are interested in and the software that sits around.”

With AI and technology becoming more and more prevalent, education will be more important than ever. Griffiths predicts that the AI revolution will also bring us more software and sleeker tools, and we’ll need the knowledge to use them properly — and to be able to we can identify tools we actually need vs. things that are just shiny and new.

Technology Is a 2-Way Street

While we’re all excited about technology, Sarah Wilson wants us to remember that recruiters are not the only people with access to new tools. Candidates now have access to more information than ever before. Job websites pair candidates with potential positions with an efficiency humans could never match.

Sound familiar?

That’s right — your candidates are employing AI to guide them to you. Wilson says candidates are also placing more importance on peer references and research, hoping to find an employer that matches their skills and their values. This means your employer brand is even more important, and your employees — and the references they provide — are the most important part of your brand. “If you don’t have great references out there in the market, it can be really, really challenging to attract the right kind of talent for the roles that you have today,” Wilson says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode is sponsored by Xref.

#WorkTrends: Women Who Tech

This week on #WorkTrends we’re talking to Allyson Kapin, the founder of Women Who Tech. She shares how she’s bringing people together to celebrate the people and technologies addressing big problems in the world, and paving the way for a more diverse tech industry.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

Understanding Our Own Biases Is Key

Kapin points to one really interesting area of HR tech: using technology to address and limit biases in hiring. Women Who Tech hosts an annual Women Startup Challenge, and one of the recent finalists created an app called Blendoor that removes all demographics from applications. “We think this has huge implications for HR,” Kapin says.”You don’t know what race they are, so that helps expand the recruitment process and remove some of the unconscious biases at the beginning. We’re seeing more apps like this developed in major corporations.”

“Companies are the most successful when they’re very intentional about building diverse and inclusive networks into their recruitment process,” she says.

There’s a Lot to Be Hopeful About

Kapin points to women who are using technology to solve problems in the world, at work and beyond. “They’re addressing energy security, food security. They’re not letting challenges stop them from pursuing their dreams and making an impact.”

This year’s Women Startup Challenge winner was 13-year-old Emma Yang. She developed an app, Timeless, inspired by her grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. The app uses facial recognition and machine learning to help people with the disease recognize their loved ones.

“One of the things we’re also very excited about is the traction within our personal network of investors in helping to get these women funded. In the past couple of years, since going through our Women Startup Challenges, our finalists have collectively raised over $20 million. We are so, so proud of that,” she says.

Culture Change Takes Time

But even with all of the exciting tech in the market and the growth of women-led startups, some of the latest numbers about diversity in tech are depressing. Last year, about 1.9% of venture funding went to women founders, and only 0.2% of total invested money went to women of color. When it comes to working in tech, the numbers aren’t much sunnier. Only 28% of software engineers are women, and that number has only gone up 3% over 15 years. So what keeps Kapin moving forward in her work to infuse diversity into the tech industry?

“Culture change takes a very long time. The first thing to recognize is you’re not going to see change happen overnight,” she says. “However, it is essential that we keep talking about these issues, and educating senior leadership and board members about the steps they can be taking to address some of these very serious issues within their companies.”

And diversity isn’t just a problem for women or people of color to tackle. “It’s about all of us being allies,” she says. “White people who are in a huge position of power need to be allies to people of color, uplift them and promote them, and do the work to make sure they’re getting equal pay. That they’re getting the same promotions. That they’re at the major meetings and presentations. That they’re getting board positions. It’s on all of us to do this work together, and that’s how we create culture change.”

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter for our weekly chat (#WorkTrends) on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world to discuss this topic and more.

The Practicality of Purchasing an ATS Part 2

Cost, true value and company culture

(Part two of a three-part series)

In part one of this series, I discussed how to go about conducting a gap analysis to fully understand the current state of your ATS and if shopping around for a new vendor is really what’s needed. Having a good grasp on your current business needs in addition to future needs is one of the first considerations.

Further, I shared some pitfalls to avoid when conducting your business analysis and described some areas where people can misinterpret what resources are needed, and why considering the functionality and options of a new ATS must align with your unique business plans.

How do You Determine True Value?

Current and future value for your business, value for the money paid and value for the end-users should be paramount in the decision-making process.

What to consider as the value will vary from organization to organization. It’s important to ask lots of good questions to understand how the software will mesh with your unique business demands. Ask questions specific to your company’s needs, but general questions about the cost, frequency of software updates, extent of resources needed by your organization to maintain a fully functioning application, how data storage is handled and protected, along with length and terms of the contract should, also, be asked. Additionally, you should know what training is included for the initial rollout, as well as for future updates, product refreshers, new features and training for new users, as well as software changes that address future business objectives. It’s, also, important to understand any configuration or customization you may require, to meet your initial and ongoing business processes, and their associated costs.

No software is of value if the end-users cannot use it in meaningful and productive ways. Technology should enhance the user experience not be an encumbrance, so the human engineering must be in-line with how you need the software to perform. Don’t let the vendor define your needs; it’s okay to compare product feature sets to each other, but it’s most important to compare the product functionality to your requirements to ensure you’re getting the best value for the money. If you analyzed your business at the beginning of the process, you know best as to what your business needs are.

People often over-focus on the appearance of the software. Beneficial functionality and speed are not easy to design but are the backbones of what makes for good, reliable systems. What appears flashy and sparkly in a demo doesn’t always translate into a productive real-world experience for the end-user. Flashy should not be the focus, but consider availability, functionality, and responsiveness as being what’s vital. It’s important that the end-users can use the software, sometimes all day long, without fatigue.

If, at all, possible implement the software you’re considering into production. If you have more than one location, install and use it at one of the sites. If not possible, at least take the time to talk to references – both power users and the managers who do the software purchasing for their business. Questions may vary, but ask the managers if they conducted a business needs analysis at the onset of the process. Ask to know if there were any hidden costs. Knowing how satisfied the end-users are with the software is valuable information. Software review sites such as TrustRadius and Capterra are also great sources of getting crowd-sourced opinions about a product, company, and its people.

It’s, also, important to ask for references from customers that are achieving success. These may be power users who will give you a fair representation of how they use the product, and with that may be able to answer questions relative to your organization.

Company Culture Matters

When evaluating vendors, assess how closely they listen, understand and respond to information about your unique business demands. If the vendor always answers, “yes,” to your questions about functionality, you should be suspicious… no off-the-shelf software will do all you want.

If the vendor is listening and advising on what’s in your company’s best interest, they are taking a customer-centric approach and not just working to meet their own sales goals. Further, ask the vendor to whom they report, is the company privately held or owned and financed by outside investors? Who does management serve, customers or shareholders/investors? What drives their innovation? Customer-driven innovation is, generally, the best because it’s like crowdsourcing. Their responses will alert you to their company structure and indicate where customers fall on the list of priorities and importance. Also, find out what the turnover is on their client roster, as well as turnover with the software vendor’s employees. See what employees are writing about them on sites like Glassdoor.

It goes without saying but understanding how the vendor defines on-going service and support is important. This will help you understand both the advantages, as well as the limitations of their solution – and their customer focus speaks volumes about their own company culture and how well they work with clients.

You need to develop a business partnership with your ATS provider, and any vendor for that matter. A compatible relationship must be built on trust, honest communication, and mutual respect.

Understanding the overall performance and service factors of the potential software system, and its compatibility with your company needs and culture are the keys to successful product selection. Ultimately, the functionality of the vendor’s software should be in-line with your expectations of success for the present and future of your business.

This article is part two in a three-part series. In the next article, I’ll address best practices for implementing your ATS and what’s needed for the care and maintenance of the new software.

HR Technology: Three Routes on the Roadmap to Automation

HR and talent technology is evolving at a breakneck pace. Financial and resource investment in this area is also growing, as technology has created the real opportunity for HR to drive impactful business growth. While HR technology once centered around the applicant tracking system (ATS) and human resource information system (HRIS), we’ve seen it mature to include various innovative solutions that can be implemented to enhance the entire employee journey; making certain each touchpoint has technology intertwined can significantly improve both cost and time efficiencies.

In short, smart use of technology brings with it the opportunity for HR and talent leaders to gain their “seat” at the executive table.

Key Insights from Industry Leaders

This opportunity, however, demands a precise balance between traditional technologies, innovative and disruptive technologies, then relying on your most savvy people to leverage them in a way that inspires greater human interaction (i.e., relationship building, learning, listening and empowering careers) and ultimately business-impacting results. Finding this balance is indeed a challenge, but not an unconquerable one!

To shed light on solutions to the above challenges, at WilsonHCG we have performed extensive research on the area of HR technology, spoke with industry leaders and created a checklist around where to begin − encapsulating these findings in our brand-new technology-focused report, HR and Talent Technology: The Journey to Automation. Highlighting a few key takeaways from the report, we delve into the following:

  1. Cognitive, Smart Technologies. One of the biggest trends that has emerged, and one that could be the most promising for talent acquisition, is cognitive and robotic technologies − such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). In fact, at WilsonHCG we believe cognitive recruiting will soon be the norm within innovative talent strategies. Within the whitepaper, we shed light on how these technologies can enhance your talent strategy, as well as when and where automation may be optimal to integrate.In fact, at one recent industry-leading event (explored within the whitepaper), talent leaders saw that AI might just have asserted its dominance in sourcing available and best-fit candidates.
  2. Talent Analytics (the Why and How).We also discuss talent analytics, as many organizations are currently redesigning their people analytics teams in order to conduct real-time measuring that drives both talent and business outcomes, as well as decision making. In fact, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study 201793 percent of 400+ executives plan to make a design change in their company within the next two years to stay ahead and keep the focus on their workforces. Further, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report71 percent of companies see people analytics as a top priority for their organizations moving forward into 2018.
  3. Technology Cannot Replace Strategy.No technology, no matter how sophisticated it may seem (or actually be), should ever replace talent strategies or processes; rather, they need to supplement your process. Technologies help drive efficiencies, but your people need to be at the forefront of all candidate experience, employee engagement, and workforce planning initiatives. Within the whitepaper, for example, we reveal whether industry leaders believe AI and RPA will create or replace more jobs (you might be surprised by the results).Technology will never recreate or replace your personal efforts around candidate experience; it can aid in the satisfaction of the application process, or assist internally with the efficiency for sourcers/recruiters to complete a task. But candidate experience demands a personal relationship and rapport building between your candidate and recruiters. In the report, we reveal how to seamlessly align the two.

What Steps Can You Take Today?

Of note, we spoke with a noteworthy talent leader at the executive level, paving the way for innovative use of technology within the talent market. According to this leader, improving the candidate experience should be companies’ “No. 1 priority” right now as it pertains to integrating and optimizing the use of technology within front-end talent strategy; the cost efficiencies, not to mention the strategic benefits such as talent quality, are simply too readily achievable to be ignored. This starts with having transparent, challenging conversations.

The Practicality of Purchasing an ATS

How do you know you need a new ATS?

(Part one of a three-part series)

When looking for an applicant tracking system (ATS) your first job is to critically evaluate your motivations as to why you need one, and if you currently have one, why you need to change vendors. Analyzing where and why the current ATS is not performing and why a new ATS is needed should be bona fide business reasons, not driven by subjectivity. Looking objectively and pragmatically at your business and motivation to switch providers or when making an initial purchase are the biggest factors to consider when shopping for a new ATS.

Mind the Gap

Start by conducting a gap analysis of your recruitment business and looking objectively at what you are lacking. Consider your company’s present requirements as well as anticipated future needs. For example, if your business is growing, your software needs to be scalable to suit your anticipated plans, if not, you may face having to re-evaluate ATS systems down the road. Further, prioritizing your needs is critically important to evaluate competing systems, since no off-the-shelf software will likely satisfy all of your requirements.

Before you begin the product evaluation process, look objectively at your talent acquisition processes, your current ATS’s performance for reliability and support along with your future goals. Without this in-depth knowledge, it will be difficult for you to adequately compare ATS products to determine which is best suited for your business goals and talent acquisition practices. I recommend having end-users’ input when determining where your current software is falling short. These individuals can provide the feedback you need to know as part of the due diligence in your analysis.

Also, part of the due diligence in understanding what you need for your business will help you avoid over-purchasing or under-purchasing what is actually needed to sustain your talent acquisition workflow and pressing business needs.

Where it Goes Sideways

Over the past 30 years, I have heard many subjective reasons as to why a company wants to leave their current applicant tracking software provider or make an initial ATS purchase… this case rarely ends well. Reasons that aren’t supported by a solid business case generally means the decision makers bypassed a needs analysis, and what ultimately results are one or more of the following mistakes: Buyers creating a broad list of overly general questions, using a templated RFP, not applicable to the buyer’s organization and sent to a long list of (mostly) unqualified vendors, preemptively choosing a vendor used in the past at a previous employer, or selecting a vendor exclusively on cost versus knowing the true value to the buyer’s organization.

I’ve also experienced interactions with organizations that have assigned the task of evaluating potential ATS providers to a third-party consultant or departments outside of the area where the end-users sit. This can spell disaster for the end-users and job candidates because the decision usually doesn’t serve the end-users and support the business needs of the company. We recommend designating one or more “power users” or internal subject matter experts who can help with the product evaluation process, and later serve as key points of contact to support user adoption and maximize the ongoing cost-effectiveness of the system.

Further, fostering good communications with your current provider and understanding the full complement of what your system has to offer is important for understanding what you really have at your fingertips, and I’ll address more about this is part three.

Keeping in line with good communications, the first place you should take your completed gap analysis is to your existing vendor and discuss the results. Often times your current software provider has the functions you need, but you simply aren’t aware. You should be satisfied that you have reason to explore other options and not just assume the grass is always greener based on the latest marketing hype of a potentially new vendor.

In part two of this series, I’ll discuss how cost versus the true value and why a vendor’s company culture matters in helping you make the right decision for your ATS purchase. In part three of the series, I’ll discuss the implementation and care and feeding of your ATS.

Photo Credit: alberthobbs Flickr via Compfight cc

How to Choose the Best HR Tech for Your Business

Human resource management, by definition, is a people-focused business. But the right human resource management (HRM) software can pick up where people leave off, helping your department streamline operations by automating certain tasks. Whether you work for a large firm or a small business HR tech can help you in many aspects of your job, from employee recruiting and retention to powerful business insights that can help increase productivity and profits.

These exercises will help you choose the best HR software for your company—whatever its size or requirements.

Determine Your HR Technology Needs

Choosing HR software is a little like selecting the right vehicle: A home contractor wouldn’t purchase a luxury minivan to haul lumber, and the mom of tweens doesn’t need a pick-up truck to taxi kids to and from sports.

Likewise, your HRM software should meet your organization’s unique needs. You may be seeking multiple platforms to fulfill all your requirements, but if you can find software that integrates across silos, that could mean reduced costs and streamlined operations. Additionally, if your software systems have the capability to link analytics to business insights and outcomes that have real-world relevance, you’ll be more likely to get a buy-in from the c-suite and enact positive change in your organization based on the data.

How Will You Use HR Technology?

Here are some of the more common tasks HR software can accomplish, freeing up your team to focus on the strategic aspects of HR.

Employee scheduling. Even the smallest of companies will find a benefit to using HR software for employee scheduling.

Identifying qualified candidates. Today’s HR software, including programs sporting recent developments in pattern recognition and AI, can streamline much of the recruiting process. Today’s HRM software uses algorithms to find candidates across geographic borders and sift through resumes to determine which candidates might be the best fit for certain positions.

Collaboration and communication. Robust videoconferencing and unified communications software makes it easy to reach out to team members and candidates across the world.

Measure employee engagement and track performance. HRM software helps organize and analyze statistics so the HR team can see where employee engagement is falling short—and to see how engagement (or lack thereof) is affecting performance.

Capture analytics and business intelligence. It’s one thing to use HR technology to track employee engagement, but HRM software becomes really useful when HR directors use this information to create actionable insights. That’s where business intelligence (BI) software comes in. Once you go beyond embedded analytics and start tracking data across silos, you can determine how employee retention is affecting profits. You can actually put a price—and more importantly—calculate the return on investment of retention techniques.

What to Look for in HRM Software

Your choice in HRM software will be driven by the size of your companies, the number of employees you need to manage, and your budget.

Once you determine your organization’s specific needs, you’ll discover that the best HR software shares some similar characteristics. In most cases you’ll want to look for HR tech that includes:

  • Access from the cloud
  • Training or tutorials and user support
  • Security features, including encryption
  • An intuitive user experience
  • Scalability (does the software accommodate the number of users in your company now, and can it grow if needed?)

Your IT team may be able to help you find software with these specific features. But it’s important that the HR department can use the software independently without relying on the IT staff for day-to-day operations.

Indeed, the right HR software can help your team operate more efficiently. In order to accomplish that, it’s important to choose an intuitive, adaptable platform that HR staff can access from any Internet-enabled device at any time. The options are out there for organizations with any size budget. Once you hone in on your specific needs, making the choice doesn’t have to be difficult.

Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

The Contemporary Recruiter

The HR Technology space is a crowded one, and with that is fundamentally changing how we recruit, the processes, and how we view business. This fundamental change can create an overwhelming situation that leaves many people in a state of uncertainty and confusion.

HR Technology is Your Friend

So, you have multiple positions to fill and precious little time to source and find qualified candidates. Most organizations are now using technology in one form or another, including spreadsheets to power their efforts more effectively and efficiently. But using technology in the best ways requires a change in mindset to purposefully embrace the proliferation of technological improvements in everything from searching for candidates to qualifying and hiring them. This new mindset should look at products like applicant tracking platforms that integrate all the available functions versus a series of independent pieces that don’t work together holistically. The right recruiting technology (ATS) should enable you with the tools to expedite and better qualify people, as well as save recruiting dollars. The benefits of using the right recruiting technology are myriad compared with using a manual, tedious process to manage your hiring. The efficiency here is in being able to conduct all aspects of the sourcing and recruiting with greater speed that incorporates and leverages technology to bring about a better result and not just a quick turnaround. Also, a well-designed ATS platform will enable you to onboard new hires with better capabilities by offering paperless and mobile-based applications that can be completed on the go by both recruiter and candidate. In addition, the best recruiting platforms seamlessly integrate with other best-of-breed vendors you need to use in your recruiting process. For example, the best available services such as background checks and other screening tools should be offered and not because they benefit the ATS provider, but because they best serve the recruiting needs of the client-organization.

Past Recruiting Paradigms are not Acceptable

Some companies are on a carousel of hiring that never stops, while some have the occasional hiring need. The one thing that is a constant in both situations is that neither can sacrifice quality of hire, nor take too long to find the right person for the job. Even with this, recruiting has long-been considered a tactical duty rather than strategic initiative, but much research has uncovered realities as to why recruiting must be strategic in nature versus reactive and tactical. This is where the new mindset must breakout of that outdated thinking.

It’s no surprise that moving away from the reactive mindset is difficult for some recruiters. Change is typically difficult, and with that, some recruiters are hesitant to abandon their reactive habits due to many years of working tactically. However, with greater availability of data and analytics for effective hiring, forward-thinking companies see the value in being proactive and learned versus reactive and imprecise and are open-minded to how technology can pave the way to a better outcome. For example, organizations are placing greater emphasis on finding candidates who align with the organization’s mission and values, most believing that this “attitude” is a major factor in productivity, ambassadorship, allegiance, engagement and retention. What this means for recruiting is that marking off a checklist of skills and keywords is no longer the deciding factor in someone’s candidacy. Additional measures must be taken to determine what motivation candidates have and if they will fit into the culture of your business. The organizations that have expanded their mindsets recognize the value and advantages technology and data bring to their recruiting process, and how necessary these tools are for achieving greater levels of success.

What to Consider

When hiring-managers need people to fill vacancies, they usually need them “last week.” However, the evolved recruiter has adopted a mindset of knowing that good communication and previous experience with that hiring manager will serve as a guide to hiring success. Without effective communications between hiring managers and recruiters, compounded by a lack of recorded data identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) of those employees who stand out as desirable, make it nearly impossible to fully understand what qualities and attributes will integrate nicely into that hiring manager’s team. This knowledge will, also, serve to create a more proactive approach… recruiters can and should develop a pipeline of candidates for varying positions before the immediate need arises. Simply, proactive attempts at forecasting, networking internally (think ERPs and brand ambassadors) corporate alumni programs, and external networking are all excellent ways to keep a healthy pipeline of candidates thriving and engaged, especially in today’s socially astute world. Quality, quantity, cost and speed are always going to be balls to juggle, but balancing the right combination of these is also essential to successfully deliver quality candidates.

Keeping a Grip

Finding the happy medium for recruiting in your organization is a must. It’s great to see what other organizations are doing and what technology is emerging or being used effectively by other organizations, but the caveat here is to first evaluate if their practices in recruiting are doable within your organization. Too often, people want to emulate the success of other organizations before determining if what that other company is doing makes sense for them. You must first evaluate your culture and determine if your organization can manage what works for others. This determination includes which recruiting technology is being used, what compensation and benefits are being offered, and potentially eliminating unnecessary steps used to successfully vet candidates. It’s important to understand your own processes inside and out and determine where the bottlenecks are and evaluate those glitches. Using data to analyze where you were and where you need to be can open the door to some interesting findings in your current processes. These findings, in turn, may help you develop a mind-set that belies the use of anecdotal experiences and replaces them with the use of empirical data in your qualifying and selection processes.

Additionally, if your recruiting strategy is homogenous, consider exploring other avenues. For example, if your employee referral percentage is low, give thought to how this can be improved. Also, if you are not looking to affinity groups within your organization and diversity groups outside the organization, you are missing out on opportunities to incorporate diverse experiences, skills and people who may very well align with your company’s mission and values.

All-in-all, recruiting in today’s world is an interesting place to be. As technological options expand, data and predictive analytics take a prominent place in the process, job seekers and candidates become savvier and more aware of companies as they consider culture a determining factor in their selections, and with transparency via social media bringing information to the forefront faster than ever before, the modern-day recruiter is being called upon to perform her duties with the speed and effectiveness of a well-oiled machine. These changes, however, should not deter you, as it’s just evolution taking place in your profession and raising the bar of expectations, and with that comes a wide-variety of technologies and tools that can advance you to greater levels of success within your profession.

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Google’s Jump in the ATS Market—What Does It Mean for Recruiting?

The HR world has its collective eyes riveted on Google as the Internet giant moves closer to launching a new recruiting platform called Google Hire. This much-anticipated entry in the HR technology space is expected to include a job board and an applicant tracking system (ATS), among other HR recruiting features.

So far, not much is known about the launch of Google Hire. Google itself has not provided many details, other than a splash page that essentially shows that a new recruiting tool is on its way with an invitation to “stay in the loop” by signing up for the Google Hire email list. Those in the know indicate the Google HR technology launch is an offshoot of the company’s 2015 acquisition of enterprise app developer Bebop and the bolstering of the company’s cloud services division.

Early Predictions

Since a formal launch has yet to occur, there’s no way to gauge what the impact of Google Hire will be. However, some experts are already predicting that Google Hire has the potential to seriously disrupt the existing ATS market, where players like Indeed, LinkedIn, Jobvite, Greenhouse, and Oracle’s Taleo currently dominate.

Such disruption has the potential for having both positive and negative effects on existing recruiting sites and job search boards. If Google Hire succeeds, some existing players are likely to lose market share, and marginal players who don’t have the talent or resources to adapt to a changing market may fall by the wayside. On the other hand, some see Google’s move into online recruiting as indicative of the industry’s growth and outlook for a robust future.

“Google jumping into HR tech legitimizes the ideas we’ve all been trying to champion, and it shines a big spotlight on the opportunity for brands,” says Scott Fowle, Chief Sales Officer at SmashFly Technologies, writing on the company’s blog.

Fowle makes a valid point. If Google didn’t see a bright future for the online talent acquisition industry, they would not be making a major investment into the space. That’s the same reason other industry behemoths—specifically, Facebook, with the launch of its job board, and Microsoft, with its acquisition of LinkedIn—have entered the space. As Fowle observes, the inclusion of such brands signals healthy maturation for the HR tech industry and also enhances the industry’s credibility.

Potential for Innovation

The tech giants like Google coming into this space will have the financial resources to push the envelope of innovation. Existing companies in the space will have to step up their game in order to compete. Against bigger competitors with deep pockets, “business as usual” simply is not going to work.

Instead, existing players will have to show a willingness to adapt. Those companies that leverage the dual advantages of their HR tech experience and their deep pool of talent should be able to keep pace. The impetus of added competition just might be the creative spark they need to become proactive in advancing their existing technologies and strengthening their positions vis-à-vis the expanded players in the market.

Recent innovations in the ATS market have centered around greater speed, mobile access, and the advancement of cloud-based technology. There’s good reason to believe that innovations in these three areas will accelerate with the addition of major players in the market.

No Guarantee

At this point, there’s no guarantee that Google’s launch into the HR tech space will succeed. Writing on behalf of Talent Economy, Michelle Rafter recounts that several previous efforts to disrupt the established market have fallen short. Nonetheless, the fact that huge brands like Google and Facebook are pursuing this space shows its desirability. As Rafter observes, “What better indicators that HR tech is having a moment than two of the country’s biggest tech firms jumping into the market?”

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Caveat Emptor

When it comes to the world of business, there is much that goes on behind the scenes that would scare consumers. As someone who has seen firsthand what goes on in a restaurant’s kitchen, I can tell you, it’s not a place people would find particularly appetizing. This is an example of how sometimes keeping the buying public in the dark is in the best interest of everyone. By contrast, this doesn’t work for all buying decisions, and it’s not uncommon for people to be victims of backroom deals that often turn into situations where consumers are convinced to buy products that benefit the vendor more than the consumer. For example, when you bring your car in for a simple fix, but are, instead, sold a new transmission.

When it comes to HR Technology, especially considering current market conditions, every potential customer should vet service providers thoroughly.  Asking, “Can I trust you to do what is in the best interest of my company?” is a start, but you need to dig deeper. It’s important to understand what business model the prospective service provider follows and whether this model serves customers and users or investors and shareholders.

The best companies integrate with other brands to form partnerships which provide a fuller array of products and services to their customers that make the purchased product more comprehensive and of greater benefit. In an ideal world, product manufacturers should select product integrations or alliances based on functionality, price and service… the things that benefit their consumer directly. It’s important to note, there’s a distinguishable difference between companies that offer integrations with third-party products without a financial relationship versus those companies that benefit financially from their recommendations.  Unfortunately, there’ll be always be vendors that succumb to the pressure of predatory venture capitalists and/or shareholders to maximize short-term cashflow as their number one priority. This can result in the organization only referring vendors that pay them the highest referral fees versus vendors that serve the best needs of the customer with functional products that are backed with good service and fair pricing. Given this, it’s always fair to ask these two questions, “Do you have outside financiers or shareholders?” and “Do you benefit financially by referring third-party products to me?” The best vendors will always consider the customer their primary business partner and work exclusively on their behalf. For consumers, understanding what is and is not good, honest customer service can be a tough thing to decipher at times, but you should have peace of mind in knowing you can trust your supplier to serve your best interests.

And You Need This, Too

As an example, imagine purchasing a large ticket item such as a company-wide HR technology upgrade. After purchase, you’re presented with an array of complementary third-party solutions that are integrated with your supplier’s product.  Once presented, the benefit is obvious, such as job postings or background checking… but do you know why your vendor is recommending this product? If you find that your vendor is pushing a lot of third-party products, and you later discover they’re getting paid to refer these third-party vendors, this should raise an eyebrow and a doubt about whether this vendor’s business model can deliver good customer service.

When It Goes Sideways

As an example, Facebook started as an innovative social media product designed to bring people together into communities of friends, relatives and like-minded enthusiasts. Unfortunately, due to pressure from predatory shareholders demanding more immediate cashflow, Facebook changed their business model from providing a valuable social product into a marketing platform where they make money by selling your information, browsing proclivities and preferences off to the highest bidder, and diverged from the original business model which indelibly changed the customer experience for the worse.

Summary

Keep in mind, there are legitimate and valuable reasons why someone should purchase products from a supplier’s list of vendor integrations. Understanding the motivation and underlying relationship between the supplier/company and its vendors is important, as this may give you valuable clues you can expect to experience over the years.

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3-2-1, Switch: How to Roll Out New HR Tech Without Disruption

Choosing the best HR technology is vital to your company’s efficiency and effectiveness. Just as important as the HR tech itself is how well you roll out the technology within your organization. Your adoption of new HR technology should be happening often enough to keep pace with advancements in the HR marketplace—which means you’re probably working hard at mastering the transition from one technology to the next.

Advance planning is essential to ensuring a successful HR tech rollout and limiting the amount of disruption to your staff. A truly seamless tech transition will take your employees from the old system to the new one with no downtime or loss in productivity. The exception to this is training time, which should be carefully scheduled to mesh with your employees’ work patterns.

One of the most important guidelines you can follow when making an HR tech transition is not to rush it. Give yourself plenty of lead time to ensure you haven’t overlooked any aspect of the new technology implementation. Statistics indicate that 70 percent of all tech rollouts end in failure. Don’t fall victim to the mistake that many companies make, which is to introduce technology too quickly and without giving enough attention to how the transition will affect your employees.

Keys to Successful Rollouts

How do you ensure you are among that 30 percent who roll out new technology successfully or switch platforms without a significant disruption to the workplace? Take these best practices into consideration:

  • Anticipate and address concerns from employees. The best way to deal with employee concerns is to talk to them. Solicit feedback directly from your team, and encourage them to tell you what they need or want. Without this feedback, you are likely to miss the mark of what your technology should actually accomplish.
  • Provide the necessary training and support. You have to do more than just give lip service regarding training—you need to make it a top priority. Set aside the requisite time for your staff to learn how to use the new software and make ongoing support available until everyone is comfortable with the system.
  • Focus on the “people side” of technology. Those who are using your new HR technology are the determining factor in its success. Don’t let them get lost in the shuffle in your attempt to be the most tech-savvy HR department out there. Instead, listen to human concerns and explore the best ways to integrate HR technology updates with your employees’ everyday duties. Having a clear plan of how the technology will be used based on their input will make for a more successful implementation.
  • Buy technology strategically. Bringing cutting-edge technology into your company only makes sense if you can use it. I always stress that HR tech is a tool. As I wrote in a recent blog post for TalentCulture, you need to know how to use this tool in order to take maximum advantage of it and put yourself in the best strategic position.
  • Make “user-friendly” more than a buzzword. The technology has to be easy to use, or employees won’t use it to the full extent of its capabilities. As Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for Matawan, N.J.-based talent acquisition software provider iCIMS, stated, “If it isn’t easy, HR professionals won’t want to use it, hiring managers will be slow to adopt, candidates will be less engaged, and you won’t see the full benefits of your investment.”

Develop a strategy for your HR tech rollout and make sure everyone understands it and can follow it. Don’t have a plan in place? Follow these suggestions for devising a strategy that will work for you.

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A version of this was first posted on converge.xyz

How Collaboration Tech is Changing Everything about the Business of HR

It’s no secret technology has changed the HR industry. HR tech trends for 2017, in fact, include people data collection turning more to predictive analytics, and the line between marketing and HR blurring when it comes to prioritizing the employee experience—and that’s just for starters. One key shift changing everything about the business of HR is the rise of collaboration tech. Let’s examine the benefits of collaboration tech and why these solutions are replacing outdated HR practices in modern organizations.

The Rise of Collaboration Tech

Use of collaboration tools has skyrocketed in this age of mobility and connectedness. It seems like every business and entity—from the World Economic Forum to our own remote-based team—has turned to collaboration tech to boost efficiency, solve communication gaps, and bring team members closer via technology.

Why is collaboration, as Harvard Business Review (HBR) put it, “taking over the workplace?” Just ask Google’s Director of People Analytics, Abeer Dubey who conducted interviews on satisfaction and diversity in the workplace and honed in on the value of truly collaborative work environments. Named as one of the five leaders who are disrupting diversity by the Society for Human Rights Resource Management, Dubey concluded the following:

“The individuals who make up a team matter far less than the ways they interact with, and view, their collaborators and the overall project. People do their best work when they feel they have strong goals, can rely on each other and believe their work makes a difference.”

That’s one valuable perspective on the reason behind the rise of collaboration tech in the business world. Now, let’s look at the specific benefits of such collaboration tech to HR.

Benefits of Collaboration Tech in HR

  • Increasing opportunity for mentoring and coaching.Many modern employees favor mentoring and coaching over traditional evaluation methods like performance reviews. Collaboration tech allows for easy communication among managers and employees without the bulkiness of email—a benefit any HR leader can get behind.
  • Improving recruiting and onboarding.Employee recruiting and onboarding can be time-consuming and costly processes. Collaboration software has the potential to streamline communication between HR and new hires while making resources—such as training videos, forms, etc.—easy to find.
  • Providing ongoing training.Many collaboration tech platforms allow for training videos and other types of collateral to be easily updated and highly accessible. Not only that, they also can come with “community” built in, leaving new employees feeling supported and empowered as they navigate the sometimes-overwhelming training process.
  • Satisfying remote work preferences.Forbes reports the 37 percent of U.S. employees who work remotely at least occasionally are happier, feel more valued, are more productive, and get daily detailed contact with managers. Collaboration tech is a cornerstone of catering to those who log in remotely, and HR professionals can leverage that option to find the best talent to fit a position and a culture, not just the closest.
  • Connecting employees with similar likes.Thanks to the social-esque threads included in many collaboration tech platforms, employees can forge connections on topics outside of work. Golfers, triathletes, gardeners, community enthusiasts, etc. can learn more about one another and find common ground without sacrificing productivity. This connection is especially important as the employee experience becomes increasingly prioritized in the workplace.
  • Harnessing the power of social internally. CIO reports enterprise social collaboration platforms—or other types of tech-driven internal social initiatives—can build custom experiences for team members and, in turn, enhance the culture of a workplace. Furthermore, the messaging and video capabilities of many collaboration platforms facilitate a connection among workers not geographically near one another, such as field personnel or work-at-home team members.
  • Helping employees get the most out of their work-life balance.Computer Weekly reports employees waste substantial time going to and from meetings, sorting through seas of emails, and even just trying to determine whom in their organizations would be best suited to field inquiries or comments. In short—the logistics of work prevents many people from, well, doing more of it. Collaboration tech moves to replace and enhance the functionality of email platforms, removing those logistical concerns and replacing them with highly-functional, user-friendly, uber-accessible tools that give employees better control over one priceless player in the fight for work-life balance: Their time.

What’s Next?

It’s clear the rise of collaboration tech is set to foster a shift in HR, affecting everything from the hiring process to employee experience and everything in between. Does your organization use collaboration tech for HR purposes? If so, what has been your experience? If not, are you expecting to invest in 2017? Tell me in the comments.

A version of this is first posted on fowmedia.com

Seven Powerful Ways to Use Tech to Overcome Recruiting Bias

Sometimes bias creeps into hiring processes without anyone even realizing it. When you favor a white male candidate over a non-white or female candidate, is it really because he or she is the best person for the job—or is there a subconscious bias at work?

HR technology tools are available to help recruiters weed out bias. But, do these recruiting tools really work? The answer is a qualified yes—if the companies that use them are serious about achieving diversity. Here are seven ways you can use tech to overcome recruiting bias.

  1. Eliminate subconscious bias. Organizations that want to overcome bias might find it inadvertently slipping into their recruitment processes. In a recent TED talk, Yassmin Abdel-Magied cites the example of the Boston Symphony using blind auditions in the 1950s to boost the number of women in the orchestra. Even with blind auditions, gender bias still occurred based on the sound of the women’s heels as they entered the room. It was only after musicians were asked to remove their shoes that women’s representation in the orchestra climbed to a non-gender-biased percentage of about 50 percent.

At their best, tech tools eliminate bias by evaluating raw talent—the ability to play music, to write software code, to do math-related tasks—without letting subconscious prejudices enter the picture.

  1. Use testing to boost objectivity. While managers rank unstructured interviews as the best way to evaluate candidates, an article in Harvard Business Review points out that these face-to-face interactions are far less reliable than measurable assessment tools like mental ability tests and aptitude tests. Rather than trying to replicate ourselves in our hiring practices (a common pitfall that stymies diversity), tech boosts objectivity with dispassionate and non-personality-driven metrics.
  2. Write better job descriptions. Be aware that unintentional bias can seep into descriptions for job openings. Does the language you use have inadvertent masculine or feminine connotations, perhaps reflecting an expectation about which gender should fill the job? For instance, words like “ninja” or “rock star” might sound masculine, while words like “support” or “pleasant” might register as feminine.

Your HR team can turn to anti-bias tools like Textio and Gender Decoder to find more gender-neutral language when listing job openings.

  1. Avoid bias in resume perusal. Many HR veterans likely recall an eye-opening field experiment by the University of Chicago and M.I.T., in which fictitious resumes sent in response to job openings received a 50 percent higher callback rate for interviews if the names were “white-sounding” (Emily and Greg) versus ethnic-sounding (Lakisha and Jamal).

With the objective of avoiding such bias, the tech company GapJumpers uses a “blind audition” approach that evaluates applicants by skills and work performance rather than by names and keywords on resumes. Results have been encouraging. Instead of just one-fifth of minority and female applicants making it to first-round interviews, GapJumpers reports that its approach boosts that rate to 60 percent.

  1. Prioritize ability over cultural fit. Many recruiters talk about the importance of hiring people who are a good “cultural fit” for their companies, but can this inadvertently lead to homogenous organizations where diversity and competency are secondary considerations? There are ways to bring qualified minority and female job candidates to the attention of potential employers even in white, male-dominated industries.

Quartz Media LLC cites the example of CodeFights, whose gamified coding platform helps tech companies find talented programmers based on pure talent. Gender and ethnic bias don’t enter the picture—and neither does an arbitrary assessment of “cultural fit,” which often depends upon how the interviewer judges the job applicant’s personality as meshing with his own.

  1. Don’t stereotype by gender. Of course, everyone wants the best candidate for a job, but the sad reality is that misconceptions about innate gender abilities can cloud a manager’s judgment. Such bias came to light in a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, wherein managers chose male candidates over female candidates by a two-to-one margin for a job that required simple mathematical skills. Managers (both men and women) more frequently chose the male candidate, even when testing revealed the female candidate to have equivalent or better skills.

Using results of the test alone would have eradicated the gender bias, and the company would have benefited by hiring the better employee.

  1. Assess your diversity efforts. Using HR analytics allows you to determine whether your recruitment efforts are as diverse as they should be. The online magazine Rework cites the value of using big data for HR—including predictive analytics, talent analytics, HR analytics, and human capital analytics—as a means for reducing discrimination and bias. Analysis of the raw data provides insights into the effectiveness of current recruitment efforts and allows companies to make adjustments if practices to improve diversity are falling short.

Trends toward workplace diversity will ultimately improve corporate productivity. According to research by McKinsey & Company, financial performance is significantly better for those businesses that have achieved greater racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. So, recruiting for diversity makes sense—and using the tips I’ve mentioned with recruiting tech to eradicate subconscious bias is an excellent way to help achieve it.

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8 Ways HR Teams Can Use Tech to Encourage Productivity

Human resource professionals play a crucial role in a business’s success. From designing effective training programs and ensuring a fair hiring process to strategic roles, quality HR is a key aspect of a smooth-running business.

One of the most important roles of an HR professional in 2017 is implementation of new technology within an existing organization and structure. Specifically, in addition to using technology to improve the role of HR itself, HR can incorporate technology to encourage companywide productivity.

Here are eight ways HR teams can use tech to encourage productivity in business.

  1. Streamlined Recruiting Process

Recruiting software can help streamline the hiring process for a business.

From one portal, HR can sort and accept applications, post job ads, manage prospective hires and communicate with upper management on prospective hires. This can save enormous time, compared to tracking hundreds of job applications manually. There are a wide variety of recruiting software options, catered to both small and big businesses alike.

  1. Easier Payroll Processing

Without technology, payroll processing can seem like a nightmare. A single mistake could cost the company significantly. Perhaps more than any HR aspect, technology and software is essential for more efficient and accurate payroll processing.

In addition to making human mathematical errors obsolete, an online payroll service can keep track of deductions, paid time off, paychecks and various aspects of payroll. It also makes filing taxes at the end of each year much easier, since all information is available digitally and is easily sortable.

  1. More Honest Feedback

Company culture is a big part of its success, with research showing that a positive culture boosts performance. A big part of striving toward a great company culture, as well as maintaining it, is transparency and honesty regarding any issues. Employees who are concerned about sharing feedback in fear of repercussions may be holding back vital information that can improve the company.

As a result, HR can use technology to allow for anonymous feedback from employees. Software like TINYpulse enables HR to gather anonymous feedback to gauge employee happiness, while using actionable data to help build a healthy culture. It’s a great tool for fostering a positive company culture, which is a huge part of a successful HR team.

  1. Easier Collaboration

HR departments that incorporate content management software and informatively acquaint employees with it can attain more streamlined collaborative practices.

Content management software allows most employees, or certain selected employees, to gauge the status of a project or task. They can see precisely where they are in regard to the project and what tasks they have left to complete. This can save on time and back-and-forth emails of clarification.

  1. Increased Access to Meaningful Data

With certain tech, HR professionals can give other employees access to meaningful or informative data that can make them better at their jobs. In fact, 80 percent of all data in any organization is unstructured, which is a wasted opportunity for informational efficiency.

Technology like Sapho enables HR to provide access to a variety of data, while still keeping access secure so only those permitted can see it.

  1. Less-Cluttered Employee Onboarding

New employees are obligated to fill out a variety of papers, such as W-4 and I-9 forms. This can create clutter, especially if there’s a wave of new employees.

To increase productivity of HR and new employees alike, using employee onboarding software can help the workers complete paperwork before their first day in the office. This way, they can focus on being welcomed and training on the first day instead of doing annoying paperwork.

  1. Automated Time and Labor Management

There’s no need for traditional clocking in with today’s software. HR can implement automated time and labor management software to make attendance more efficient, while also making it essentially impossible for someone else to check in for an absent co-worker.

The same software can be used to adjust schedules on the fly, preventing scheduling and time mishaps, which improves productivity in the process.

  1. Benefits Management

Full-time employees have a number of benefits that both they and HR must keep track of. Technology can aid in educating employees on their benefits, especially in regard to cumbersome processes like enrollment periods and carrier systems.

Benefits administration software helps both the employee and HR ensure all paperwork for certain benefits are filed, while also informing and educating on what these benefits provide.

These are eight areas that can be streamlined and made more productive by a savvy HR team that recognizes the vast potential and benefits of tech.

Which would you implement first?

 

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The Real Partner Is Your Customer

Venture Capitalism. Vulture Capitalism. When I hear those words, I immediately envision business owners whose top priorities are their investors exit plans, and subsequently are serving their investors rather than their customers. I’ve been a business owner long enough to see the effects of vulture capitalism within my industry. The landscape is littered with our competitors’ corpses and lingering bad business practices. And what’s left to show for it? Customers picking up the broken pieces of a defunct service agreement. It’s sad and very recognizable to see customer service go by the wayside… and even more disheartening to see how the customer becomes the ultimate victim of it all.

What’s the Real Cost of Doing Business?

I won’t deny that making money is a good thing… actually it’s a great thing. However, with the acquisition of new customers comes a reality beyond the money. The company and consumer should fully understand the benefits of partnering and look forward to a long relationship. You both have, in a sense, invested your time, money and energy into each other so making the most of your partnership should be the goal. There’s a responsibility to onboard customers truthfully, realistically and with respect. Desired client acquisitions should be viewed as relationships that are forged for the long haul, not a one and done that satisfies the immediate need to look profitable for your investors’ exit plans.

All this said, there are times when investment money can be a savior to your business. Necessary and ongoing software development, sales and marketing, and operations can be what is desperately needed to help your business not only survive, but also endure. In these situations, investigate your options thoroughly and don’t leap before you know the extent of your potential partners’ involvement and understanding of your industry, competition, business and long-term goals. The more aligned you are with the investors, the more likely you’ll find a harmonious and successful working relationship.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Research tools are available for consumers to investigate a product or service prior to purchasing, but many people fail to use these to their advantage. It’s important to dig deep to uncover any hype or misrepresentation. As human nature goes, people will be dazzled by the shiny object. The perception being that what appears to be a duck and presumably quacks like a duck must be a duck, even if we’re not totally sure what it is. This mentality can easily happen in the minds of consumers, because they believe what is large, expensive looking, flashy, and presumably the next best thing, must be what they should have.

Peeling back the layers and looking deeper into our perceptions often reveals the truth and accuracy of what we believe to be real, and with that a clearer picture of what is actually in front of us, is revealed. Consumers don’t want to be misled and certainly don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on a bill of goods, but when companies invest large amounts of money on marketing that causes misdirection, consumers can be made to believe in brands that will not or cannot deliver on their claims.

It’s important to vet out all brands and fully investigate their worth. Look beyond the pretty pictures. Ask tough questions. Dig for the truth and do not settle for being misdirected. It’s easy to settle, but ultimately when you do that, you have conceded control of your money and fate, along with opening yourself up to the disappointment of poor service, payment for an over-rated product and years of frustration trying to divest yourself of the albatross around your neck.

Reputation Management

In today’s world where nothing and no one can hide, apathetic interests are quickly identified and exposed. Companies that continue to practice a narcissistic philosophy, are myopic at best. To live today without worry of tomorrow is tantamount to extinction. This form of self-centered thinking holds customers in low regard with businesses believing buyers are not the reason the doors stay open and lights remain on… after all, they have millions from their investors for that purpose.

Areas that should never be overlooked or neglected are customer referrals and authenticated product reviews. Both of these speak fathoms about your business’s reputation and matter to any organization that is consumer-oriented. Further, they’re likely a critical part of the customer pipeline. When consumers review sites such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, TrustRadius and Capterra they should be looking for feedback from other people’s experience to guide their decision making.

And most importantly, take time to think about the type of pipeline you’re developing. Attempting to bring on new clients by whatever means necessary, especially when done to satisfy investors, is a house of cards that will eventually collapse with calamitous results for the customer.  If you’re paying your customers to refer business to you or to write unsubstantiated reviews, you’re building a pipeline of business under false pretenses; this is a dishonest practice and a conflict of interest, and it will backfire with negative results. Having brand ambassadors who have a vested interest in the success of your organization because they realize the mutual benefit of using your product or service is more valuable to you, in the long run, than false reviews or paid referrals for new customers.

Take a Lesson

There are a lot of great business leaders in this country. Some of which conduct business with the highest of moral standards. They see the value in a win-win situation and recognize the long-term benefits of ensuring everyone with a seat at the table is well served.

Ben and Jerry’s is a fine example of this. The core mission of their business aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to their business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbors alike. They know that when these stakeholders win, they win too. This philosophy creates enduring and satisfying results for everyone involved. Partnerships that are structured in this manner make doing business with each other a joy, and less likely to dissolve due to unfair or deceitful business practices.

When it comes time to consider your potential partners’ business philosophies, consider their history of doing business with other companies. Do they have a reputation to churn and burn? Yes, this partnership may infuse money into your business, but keep this in mind, their exit plan is the end goal and always top of mind in a churn and burn situation.

At the End of the Day

I like to believe that “good guys” can finish first in business. Good business people are those who are not self-serving, but are people who understand who it is that they serve, and they serve them well. This understanding is important because it puts motivation into context and gets priorities straight. Everybody wins in this situation. Companies make money. Customers get what they want and hopefully, return to buy more. Companies that conduct business with their customers in mind, will in turn, be top-of-mind to their customers.

I don’t profess to tell other companies how to conduct business, however for my company inviting in capital investors has never been an option. I choose to work with people who believe in the mission, vision and values we’ve set forth as a company. Capital investors are more concerned with how their exit plan will manifest and are not focused on the endurance and critical needs of the organization as a customer satisfaction machine. This should not be where your attention is focused. Your customer is the true partner.

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Artificial Intelligence and HR: The New Wave of Technology

It’s no secret that I love technology. From the domination of mobile to the latest in recruitment tools and gamification, and how video and live streaming is having an impact on hiring and training—changes are afoot that many of us couldn’t have imagined 15 or so years ago. And I love it all.

The reason this “tech meets HR” marriage is so exciting is how quickly the technology evolution has disrupted HR and enhanced the way HR professionals get things done. Now there’s another big disrupter on the horizon, one that you would be wise to keep your eyes on: Artificial intelligence.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

In layman’s terms, artificial intelligence (or, AI as it’s commonly referred to), is an area of computer science where computers are “developed” to behave much the way humans do. There are three levels when it comes to AI, depending on how advanced the computers get, and the measuring stick is “human reasoning.”

Strong AI genuinely simulates human reasoning. These systems not only think, but can also “explain” how humans think and reason.

Weak AI includes systems that can “think” (computers playing chess against human chess masters, for example), but don’t tell us anything about how humans think, and the systems don’t really think themselves.

In-between AI includes systems that are informed by, or inspired by human reasoning. Examples include Google’s Deep Learning (driven by big data) and IBM’s Watson, a system that can answer questions by analyzing thousands of pieces of text, discerning patterns, and weighing evidence, a sort of “layered learning,” much like the way our brains learn. This in-between area is where most AI work is being done today.

Artificial Intelligence Meets HR

The biggest driver of AI’s impact in the HR industry is the massive growth of big data. Until now, we haven’t had access to simple software systems with which to track and analyze internal employee data (think sick days, vacation requests, hiring trends, workflow, etc.). Today, most businesses have undergone some degree of digital transformation, and rely on this type of technology. HR professionals are recognizing that this valuable data and the insights teased from it play a major role in reducing riskand driving decision-making, when it comes to talent management and organizational performance.

Here are four ways AI has the potential to have an enormous impact on HR.

  1. Personalization: It’s not news that people have very different styles of learning, and, with the many generations now filling the workforce, embracing modern training practices has never been more important. AI is helping to personalize corporate learning, by capturing meaningful employee data relating to a wide range of learning experiences and behaviors. The same machine learning computer algorithms that “learn and recommend” by analyzing your choices of where to shop or what to eat, will “learn and recommend” when it comes to employee training. In fact, these systems will continue to parse and analyze as more and more employee interactions occur, and be able to tweak training programs accordingly, making training more efficient, and training outcomes more effective.
  1. Workflow Automation: Scheduling, scheduling, and rescheduling. The bane of many of our existences, yes? Well, AI is poised to be a game-changer when it comes to workflow problems. According to a recent com article, the next few years should see software that automates hiring processes like “…interview scheduling, employee performance reviews, employee onboarding, and even the answering of basic HR questions.” I, for one, can’t wait.
  1. Improved Recruitment: HR is, by its very name, one of the most human-centric industries out there. But human beings are complicated, and it’s very difficult to get base-level data on individual people—enough to run an analysis on—especially when hiring. Enter predictive analytics using natural language. Still, in its (relative) infancy, the software driving natural language processes and predictive language analysis will help speed up recruitment by allowing you to weed people out faster, and with fewer mistakes.
  1. Better prediction models: AI will get to know your company almost better than you do. Whether it’s predicting future turnover rates, reduced (or increased) employee engagement levels, concerns about internal employee communications, project completion problems, and any other unexpected hidden issues that would usually take years to surface, artificial intelligence will (most likely) be one step ahead of you. And when it comes to cost savings and overall organizational efficiencies, that’s a very good thing.

The pace of technological change in our work worlds is happening so quickly that a recent World Economic “Future of Jobs” report estimated “…some 65 percent of children entering primary schools today will likely work in (jobs) that don’t currently exist.” And many of those jobs will probably be related to computer learning and predictive analytics. Human resources professionals need to start embracing big data today, so they can be prepared to embrace the incredible advancements in artificial intelligence of tomorrow.

A version of this was first posted on Converge.

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Shine Your HR Tech Talent Torch Even Brighter

Lately there has been a lot of noise about the rapid rise of technology in HR, and its impact on the traditionally very human face of recruitment. Conjectures fill the webisphere on whether or not HR Tech will ever completely replace human-driven hiring and recruiting altogether, some are drawing such parallels between the relationship of HR to new tech as akin to that of the traditional job search to the emergence of the ole Internet itself.

But tech’s scope and speed should be no-brainers by now. Tools like automated outreach turn recruiting into a constant, global two-way street. The oft-cited LinkedIn and similar networking sites have mastered this kind of passive recruiting, enhancing a company’s visibility at the same time as they uncover possibly ideal candidates: company and brand X, meet candidate Y; candidate Y, meet company and brand X. It’s becoming enough of a norm in our world that we’ve stopped seeing this as a novel innovation, but about five minutes ago, it was.

Now, smartified candidate-tailored active recruiting is close on its heels, with new talent outreach and on boarding systems being developed that can locate prospects based on far more than a checklist of education and experience criteria. These methods are designed to be stratified and fluid, create a kind of built in “decision tree” that dovetails outreach, analytics and data with human input and decision making.

The point is: whether or not tech will ever take over HR entirely is, well, beside the point. Tech is a medium; a tool; and savvy companies need to take advantage of it to gain strategic position. A 2014 survey on HR Service Delivery and Technology. found that a third of companies plan to increase their investment in HR tech this year, which means that two-thirds of the companies surveyed may wind up in the dark.

Among the hottest areas of investment were:

  • Talent Management Services
  • Mobile Access Services
  • Cloud-based software-as-a-service systems

About That Survey

Another area of investment growth the Towers Watson study notes is in HR data and workforce analytics. With the far greater scope and reach of HR tech-generated campaigns, Old Hat has a new bang. Among the various data sources HR organizations are now mining, according to the study, are employee engagement surveys. Their effectiveness now upped exponentially with a dose of tech, those same little sleepy surveys that floated onto employees’ desk (and were tackled, unenthusiastically, during 4 pm lulls) are now powerful treasure troves of usable data.

Employee engagement surveys now provide invaluable insights that play a key role in corporate planning, according to half of the companies who surveyed their employees at least every two years. One third of respondents reported that the results of employee engagement surveys will have a substantial role in their organization’s direction and strategy. Tech has made the old new.

Dive In

There’s an endless race for talent going on in the world of work. And clearly, technology’s presence in HR and talent acquisition is not a question of when, or even if. Tech is here to facilitate HR, as we ask it to: We’d best be involved on the ground floor and making sure it facilitates our needs and goals.

HR’s role in tech, from the initial search to recruitment, from training to bringing new recruits up to speed, is what will turn the vast potential of a technology into a competitive advantage. Its effectiveness, in terms of functionality that supports an organization, is a matter of tailoring and customization. That means getting in the pool. To help shape tech to your best advantage, recruitment needs to make sure it’s involved in the process from the start.

Scott Klososky, founding partner of Future Point of View, a tech consulting firm in Edmond, Oklahoma, recently underscored this, saying that HR professionals should become more educated on technology to stay relevant and competitive. From upper management workshops on how to link up leadership and technology to frequent consults with IT and business and marketing analysts, the more closely HR can be involved, the better.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.