Archives for September 2015

Companies Spending More on HR Technology

Human resources practitioners are opening up their wallets for new technology. But they’re also heavily scrutinizing the new technologies being offered.

A little more than half of HR practitioners say their companies’ spending on HR technology has grown this year compared with the prior year, according to a survey by the Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Management magazine (Figure 1).

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The survey, conducted in March, polled 127 HR professionals from companies of various sizes and industries. About 43 percent of respondents were director level or above, and 85 percent of participating organizations are located in the United States.

Roughly 54 percent of survey participants were from organizations of fewer than 1,000 employees, while 15 percent were from organizations of more than 10,000. Additionally, 40 percent of participating organizations were located in one country and location; 9.2 percent have multiple locations across the globe.

HR practitioners in the survey said they have several different types of technologies at their disposal. With a new and changing market, HR professionals must decide which technologies are worthy of investment.

For example, according to the survey, companies use HR software regarding workforce management, recruiting, learning management, performance management, analytics, compensation management, wellness, succession planning, collaboration, onboarding, workforce planning, talent management and mobile.

The survey shows that 58 percent of HR respondents currently do not have plans to invest in wellness software technology, though 14 percent said they plan to purchase and 27 percent said they already use it.

The second-least popular technology area is succession planning. While more than half of respondents said they do not currently have and have no future plans to invest in succession planning software, about 20 percent already do and 23 percent plan to in the future (Figure 2).

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About 39 percent of companies reported they plan to purchase mobile HR software. Mobile is the area most HR practitioners said they are likely to purchase in the near future, according to the survey. After mobile, 37 percent of respondents said they would purchase talent management suite software, and 31 percent said they plan to use performance management software.

Overall, respondents reported that they found usefulness in most of the technology they use. According to the survey, about half of respondents said HR systems provide data to help them make better talent management decisions.

Many in HR are proficient at using most HR technology. According to the survey, just 23 percent of respondents reported the HR staff at their organization lacks the skills and expertise needed to use these HR technologies effectively, while nearly 77 percent agreed that their staff had the right skills and experience (Figure 3).

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While most HR practitioners surveyed said they weren’t likely to replace, reimplement or upgrade their current core technology system, about a quarter said they were and 13 percent said they were very likely to do so in the next three years (Figure 4).

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Moving forward, many practitioners say their companies are still exploring the idea of implementing more broad-based cloud technology, where data are stored not in a physical server on-site but through an Internet-based system. Benefits include lower costs, easy usage and simple management.

Roughly 28 percent of respondents said they plan to purchase cloud-based software services in the next year, and 30 percent said they were still considering the option.

When asked what the top motivations are for using cloud-based software services, half of respondents said cost savings was their first priority. Priorities were ranked, in descending order, as accessibility, moving on to improved productivity, easier upgrades, data recovery resilience, mobility, scalability, IT security, agility and boosts collaboration.

Overall, HR technology providers are already accomplishing a great deal for their employees. About half of organizations that participated in the survey said they were satisfied with their HR technology providers; just 20 percent said they were not.

Organizations said they consider a variety of factors when looking for an HR technology vendor.

Roughly 43 percent of companies said they value “best fit” as the most important factor in the decision-making process, 17 percent said cost was the most important factor, and 15 percent chose data security as their top priority, according to the survey.

Additionally, 7 percent chose scalability as their top characteristic, and 7 percent said ease of use was their most important deciding factor.

Reprinted from Talent Management magazine

Outcomes-Based Wellness Programs See Little Growth

Despite the buzzworthy label, the use of outcomes-based wellness plans isn’t growing as fast as some may have predicted. Hindered by more pressing matters and dogged by questions about what happens with the data collected, HR directors report waning enthusiasm for these programs, analysts say.

Nearly half (44%) of companies nationwide had outcomes-based wellness programs in 2015, according to a recent survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health. However, this percentage rose only a “statistically  irrelevant” 2% from the year prior, says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health in Washington.

Further, those numbers may decline in the near future, adds Jennifer Patel, director of wellness engagement at Kansas City, Mo.-based wellness company Hallmark Business Connections.

Also see: Connecting the wellness dots

Laws around outcomes-based programs are not crystal clear, Patel says, which is one reason for a potential decline. “The [laws] have evolved with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. … Employers and organizations find themselves in court, [with employees] questioning, ‘Is it legal for employers to ask me to submit to these biometric screenings or health risk tests?,’” she explains.

When organizations see others like them in court, they become “shy — and rightfully so,” Patel adds. “The laws aren’t clear and questions [remain] over HIPAA and how data is managed, stored and passed. … More employers [will] sit back and wait this out.”

Other obstacles to increased popularity for outcomes-based wellness programs include the difficult implementation process and concerns about the type of impact such plans will have on company culture. “You have to be careful, because depending on what your intent is, … people don’t understand what takes place, what happens with the data and info, and that can really affect a company’s culture,” she says. “More and more, employers are starting to sit back and go, ‘I don’t know [if] I want to go down that road.’”

Multiple dimensions

These programs tend to address physical health, which, while important, is just one “component of where the puck is going in the broader view of employee wellbeing,” Heinen says.

“Every employer who is active in this space wants to do something to help employees with physical health, and outcomes-based incentives make a lot of sense to a lot of employers,” she says. “But, they are also spending time and energy thinking about emotional health, financial wellness, job satisfaction, social connections and how all those pieces contribute to wellbeing.”

“The evidence is becoming clearer that physical health is not the main driver of productivity, performance and business outcomes,” Heinen, director of NBGH’s Institute on Innovation in Workforce, adds.

Reprinted from Employee Benefit News

What Happens When Technical Learning Goes Mobile?

Fast-paced organizational growth and competitive environments demand employees to be more productive and better informed to serve customers. To achieve these objectives, the population of mobile workforce is steadily growing in all organizational departments. According to a Gartner and BusinessWire forecast, this number will cross 1.3 billion by end of 2015 and will continue to rise.

Learning leaders can empower this mobile workforce by using digital learning tools with just-in-time access, delivering the knowledge employees need to complete the job at hand, quickly and effectively.

An increase in the number of powerful mobile computing devices plays a key role in empowering employees in the field. Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Google’s Android OS and Windows Mobile and other platforms in conjunction with technologies like augmented reality, proximity sensors, collaborative workflows and analytics make a compelling proposition for effective performance support tools.

With high expectations from the sales workforce to add to the organization’s top line, the demand for a mobile productivity tool is higher than ever before. Many organizations in the United States have started enabling the sales workforce with productivity tools, in turn providing returns for all departments.

Leveraging the authentication details, sales executives log in to the tool using mobile devices or a PC and access product specific details. In many organizations, details such as product features, value proposition, price points, possibility of discounts, tentative order closure details are dynamic in nature. The ability to update these details on a daily basis makes it a useful tool in the field.

Another aspect of the tool that gives its information context is its ability to tag information with location and time of day. With this feature, the mobile device understands the location of the sales executive and facilitates relevant information proactively.

Despite of all these information bytes, sales executives do have queries on products, hence a rapidly growing use of query resolution modules in productivity tools. This started with a simple form — users post a query to an expert or a peer community and receive resolution in asynchronous mode. To get employees speedier access to information, apps integrate instant messages so sales executives can seek clarity from an expert in synchronous mode. These instant messengers enable sales executives to share pictures or video files through instant messengers for faster resolution.

Sales executives with years of experience in the field often understand certain processes much better than others. Such wealth of tacit knowledge can be turned into explicit knowledge using productivity tools, where the experts make videos, store them on a central knowledge management repository and share with peers for replication.

Because sales executives are in the field most of the time, sharing updates on organizational events can be challenging. Productivity tools have started integrating organizational alerts as a feature where new product launches, messages, policy announcements, etc., are shared using a remote backend utility for alerts announcement. The remote backend utility of the performance support tools allows the administrator to push the information for sales executives on their mobile and PC apps.

The backend utility also facilitates analytics on data collected from end user access points. These analytics help the organization to understand the sales executive’s knowledge on products and map them with sales closures data.

Most of the time, these conclusions lead to training programs for sales executives on products or reassignment of field roles. They are also used to reward performance or winners on the field. All these actions help sales organization perform better and improve the top line of the organization.

Amazon: The Greatest Place You Hate to Work

The New York Times’ “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” has created quite a stir among news outlets, current and former employees. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, and former White House Secretary Jay Carney quickly defended the company, saying that Amazon is nothing like what the article presents.

I only know Amazon as a customer and through one of my wife’s relatives who works for them. In fact, I have been chastised for a previous Talent Management blog I wrote on Amazon. While I hesitated to comment on this New York Times article without direct observation of the Amazon workplace, I feel obligated to respond because of the article’s length, other articles on the web that echo a similar story, the management systems used by Amazon and requests for my comments by customers and others.

One thing is for certain: Bezos is a smart man who does a lot of things right. Unfortunately, in my professional opinion, human behavior is not one of them. He seems to have the belief that you have to push people to do great things and that numbers alone tell you who is working hard and who is not, which is far from the case.

Perhaps as part of his damage control, Bezos sent a letter to employees this week, enlisting them to either tell HR or email him directly regarding managers who were behaving like the Times story related. He said, “Our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.” Interestingly, he said the tolerance “needs” to be zero. My recommendation is that it “is” zero.

In many respects, working at Amazon is a glamour job. It is quite profitable, growing at a phenomenal pace, taking on new markets by the day and providing young people with opportunities usually not given to them. So, what’s not to like? In a glamour industry or company, people will put up with bad management to keep working in it. In the space industry, even janitors took pride in being able to tell everyone where they worked.

As with many companies, Amazon’s problems can be found in their human management systems, processes and management behaviors. Anytime you have to push people to produce, innovate or be creative, you have a culture where you have to not only continually keep the pressure on but also eventually push even harder. When you do, you become more negative in using pressure tactics. I think for those who know the science of behavior, it will be clear that Amazon, whether they know it, has a negative reinforcement culture.

The seductive aspects of a culture driven by negative reinforcement are that under certain conditions it does produce results, and people seem to be OK. However, as the poet Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In a negative reinforcement culture, people are reluctant to criticize, especially their bosses. Even though Bezos has given permission for employees to contact him directly when their boss does not comply with the culture he wants for Amazon, I predict that few will do so. Even when he visits Amazon facilities, it is unlikely that he will see or hear what the culture is really like. To get the real story, he will need to go undercover “Undercover Boss” style, but I am not sure how Bezos could be disguised.

Amazon has been successful, for example, in expanding the number and variety of products that a customer can purchase with “one click.” I love it, and I believe that a lot of Amazon employees involved in developing these revenue streams love it, too.

The problem Bezos needs to consider is how can we continue to innovate, expand revenue streams and make it last. History shows that many past giants of industry have fallen by the wayside, and although some failed because they didn’t change along with the changing times, many failed because of the way they treated people.

When there are two views of the culture as different as they can be, the most productive way to benefit from the Times article is to assume that it is a true reflection of the culture that Bezos and other senior managers have created. It is a mistake to write a letter asking people to rat on each other or call out managers and supervisors, as well as proclaim that we are no worse than others in our space.

Top management should instead make changes that will motivate every one of their more than 150,000 employees to want to do their best, rather than to feel that they “have to do it, or else.” It can be done. And if it is done, Amazon will continue to grow at an amazing rate. If not, it will face increasing problems in all aspects of their business.

Micro-Learning: Less About Time, More About Focus

How can you learn anything in 60-seconds?

This is the most commonly asked question about microlearning and its training value in today’s workforce. In a broad sense, microlearning is successful in many of the same ways traditional learning has proven effective. Microlearning does not disregard good learning design principles, but instead determines the tasks related to the goal and delivers content in bite-sized, easily consumable chunks that support the competent performance of those specific tasks. It can be applied to anything from onboarding, short-term training, long-term development, to compliance training and support.

In today’s ever-changing technology landscape, attention-challenged learners are highly distracted with mobile devices and tablets that constantly hum and ding. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of teachers said technology is creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” Alongside the number of distractions that are a part of daily life, a lot of the information out there is unnecessary. Microlearning cuts down the amount of information people take in and focuses on what’s important and immediately applicable. Successful organizations understand the importance of respecting the learner’s cognitive capacity by presenting information that is easy to comprehend, retain and execute.

Based on research by Grovo, in a microlearning best practices list presented by the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, 80 percent of all information learned in a traditional classroom setting is lost within 30 days. However, microlearning allows people to access very specific information at the moment of need.

Unlike traditional learning formats where facts, procedures and best practices are provided in longer sessions, microlearning presents highly-focused units of information that tend to be more actionable by nature.

“It’s less about the time and more about breaking a performance goal into focused steps that are as short as possible, but as extensive as necessary,” said Alex Khurgin, director of learning and creative at Grovo.

Organizations tend to have a natural hesitation to adopting a microlearning approach because instructional information is minimal. A lot of the work itself comes from the learner reflecting on the material, running through scenarios and practicing on the job. While it can be challenging to convince the C-suite to commit, case studies have proven microlearning an effective training method in the digital age.

Given that information and work knowledge is always changing as automated processes take over, the ability to keep up with the pace and nimbly learn multiple things at once requires a microlearning approach, Khurgin explained. It allows organizations to spend less immediate time and money to get better performance results. Microlearning can efficiently provide support at every point in an employee lifecycle whether that is onboarding, support or compliance.

With jobs constantly evolving, microlearning facilitates the on-going learning process not with what you learn in 60-seconds, but what you learn collectively over time.

Reprinted from

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