Carnival of HR

Wagepoint Chief Marketing Officer Leena Thampan shares her forecast for 2014: What will 2014 bring for HR Technology? The simple answer – User-friendly HR applications!

There’s no denying that HR technology is rapidly evolving and changing into systems that involve the entire companies vs. just the HR department. In fact, most companies with 10+ employees use some kind of HR software. And it isn’t just any kind of HR software – there’s a huge focus on user-friendliness. This trend is shaping how HR technology is becoming less boring, more usable, better looking and significantly more intuitive and easy to use.

You can see this user-friendliness in a slew of new HR apps across all key HR functions – payroll, recruitment, employee engagement, performance management, etc. It is because of this trend that we are also seeing how HR apps are being adopted company-wide instead of being something that is managed by the HR department solely.

This trend got me thinking about the characteristics of user-friendly HR applications, because the description in itself is a bit intangible. What should HR professionals keep an eye out for when adopting this new breed of HR tech products?

1. Easy sign up – Signup vs. Implementation
This is the first interaction that a user is going to have with the app; in order to limit the friction in signing up to use the app, the process needs to be simple.

Technological advances are helping businesses get work done at breakneck speeds and gone are the days where it is acceptable to take weeks to get set up.

Larger companies, due to sheer size, might still have to deal with these challenges for setting up quickly, but apps targeting SMBs get over this hump quite easily.

The sign up form has to be straightforward – asking for just enough information to get started. Depending on the type of app it is, you can even get away with just asking for an email address. In our payroll app, we decided that we wanted more qualified sign ups, so we ask for the basics: name, email address, company name and a password.

2. Intuitive – Self-setup vs. Training
There are two conditions an app has to meet in order to be considered intuitive. As long as an app meets any one of these conditions, the user will find the app easy-to-use.

#1: As soon as the user logs in to the app, they know everything they need to know in order to use the app.

#2: The app is designed in such a way to help the user understand how to use the app.

To meet condition #1, the app needs to take into account things like navigation and process flow within the app. For instance, the forms can be set up in a way that asks for information in a step-by-step format e.g. for a payroll product it could be something like – here’s the company tab, enter your company address, CRA payroll number, etc.

To meet condition #2, you can use design elements to help the user along the process. In the case of our employee engagement app, we used design cues and a tool that let us identify the main steps / tabs a user needs to know in order to use the app successfully.

3. Effective navigation
Most apps use either a left or top hand navigation, which essentially means that the main tabs are lined up to the left or along the top.

Both navigation styles have their benefits; left simply opens up the form to the right of the navigation and top simply opens up the form to the bottom. However, in the left hand navigation you can give users a better sense of what comes after each step. Top hand navigation is better at giving users the full picture of what to expect in the app.

Another thing that navigation has to account for is the ability for users to find and enter information quickly and easily within the app. So, it is important that the app uses the right titles to describe tabs, provides helpful text cues to complete forms, error warnings if something is entered incorrectly, etc.

4. Designed for experience
Design is critical to awesome user experience. The right color, the font type, font and button size – it all matters to a user’s perception of the app.

HR applications have always had a bad rep for being boring and sometimes, just plain ugly. However, newer apps are really amp’ing up on style, right across the board – big colorful icons to provide cues, beautiful rounded fonts, cheeky or thoughtful text, and bright buttons to drive action.

5. Third party integrations
HR as a department is responsible for a number of different functions – compensation, recruitment, training, employee collaboration, etc. As HR SaaS products continue to emerge, it is natural that businesses will adopt more than one product to deal with these separate functions.

This is why third-party integrations are critical to the success of any app’s adoption within a company. For instance, payroll apps are expected to integrate with accounting software, time keeping software and even HR information management systems. The larger the ecosystem of third party app integrations, the easier it is for an application to be considered user-friendly.

So, there you go – we anticipate that 2014 is going to see more startups and existing companies innovate their HR offerings to be user-focused and ultimately, friendlier for everybody involved. Happy New Year folks!

Hector Barrera of Kapta Systems advises readers to make sure their HR dashboards are delivering value in 2014 by being laser-focused. Here’s five reasons why that we can all embrace:

As the CEO of a cutting-edge marketing firm, Joshua took pride in having the latest technological advances at his fingertips. He had the newest phone and the most powerful tablet, and all of his devices were seamlessly networked together. Joshua also had a state-of-the-art dashboard that delivered a staggering variety of data to his desktop. The thing was so complex that it looked like it had been ripped out of the cockpit of a Boeing 747 jet airliner.

But in this digital paradise there was big trouble. In reality, Joshua was woefully uninformed. Given his access to huge amounts of information, how was this possible? He was floundering in the dark because he spent too much time poring over irrelevant data and endless reams of information that just didn’t matter. The result was that he was not up to speed on the important issues. His decision making was indecisive. His vision was fuzzy. And as a result his company suffered.

Luckily, Joshua hired a consultant who redesigned his dashboard and removed much of the clutter. As a result, Joshua was able to spend his valuable time with a laser-like focus on what really mattered to his company’s bottom line. He was more productive and the company came out if its slump.

Here are the top five best practices for keeping your dashboard focused and relevant.

1. Select the Right Dashboard
Not all dashboards are created equal. The three common types of dashboards are operational, strategic/executive, and analytical. Operational dashboards monitor the nerve centers of your organization, and generally require real-time or near real-time data. Strategic/executive dashboards will typically provide the key performance indicators (KPIs) that a company’s executive team tracks on a periodic basis, with an overview of the state of the business together with the challenges the business faces. An analytical dashboard might display selected operational or strategic data and allow the user to drill down and get deeper insights.

2. Make Sure It’s Designed for You
While your dashboard may be networked to a system serving fifty other people, not everyone needs to know the same information. Think about what’s important to you and your individual and team goals. The most effective dashboards target a single type of user and display only information specific to that user. Upfront validation of the dashboard design by a usability specialist can be useful to iron out any problem areas.

3. Make It Easy to Scan
The whole point of a dashboard is to save you time. A well designed dashboard will ensure that data is displayed in logical groups, often by department or functional area. Don’t clutter your dashboard. Be sure to present only the most important metrics. Choose the graphical interfaces that work for you, such as bar charts, time series line graphs, or scatter plots. Sometimes merely rendering information as simple tables is the most effective.

4. Refresh at the Right Intervals
Do you need data that’s current in real time, or are hourly updates more appropriate? Ensuring that your dashboard data is being refreshed at the right intervals can save time and expense during development and will optimize performance once the dashboard is live.

5. Benchmark Key Performance Indicators with Industry Standards
It’s good to know how the company is performing relative to your strategic plan. It’s even better to know how the company is performing relative to your competitors. An ongoing gap assessment with industry benchmarks can align you with industry best practices.

With the flood of raw data surging all around us, the competitive advantage shifts to those with relevant, ordered, and actionable information. It’s not just a matter of knowing “what” and “when,” but also “why” and “how” that separates the leaders from the also-rans.

Two of our contributors are keeping a watchful eye on robots in 2014. In the first entry, HR Executive Ian Welsh tells us that in 2014 and beyond, the machines might rule.

Increasingly, the machines we program and adapt to our specific work needs will perform more functions and make further reductions in staff possible. The machines may be harsh or benevolent as the control they exert, on behalf of those in charge, will be consistent with the desired corporate culture.  For many it could be a more pleasant environment than today, with proper breaks, receiving good advice and training on work issues and being equitably rewarded.

The fact that the organization will set the “culture” and have a means to ensure it is followed, is very significant.  There will be no need to match the style of job applicants to the workplace culture as the basic culture will fit all, and the machine will have the capability to adapt to any specific needs that may exist.

What would be the advantages?  Certainly, it would drastically reduce the number of supervisors and managers and simplify the recruiting process.  There would be a central registry available to all employers with pre-qualified and verified candidates.  The company would submit a requisition and the employees would arrive, receive dominantly machine provided training and orientation and should be productive in the assigned job with the minimum of delay.

Will HR be made redundant by the machines?  It is possible that HR (particularly Employee Relations) will be even busier than before.  A lot of employee interaction will be with the machines, but there will still be a significant number of personal interactions necessary, both employee and company initiated.  There would still be senior functional managers to respond to employee issues more relevant to the function, but the main day-to-day contact would be with HR. HR representatives would be onsite and constantly be dealing with interactive issues either personally initiated or resulting from machine alerts signaled to HR on many employee subjects including performance related.

In this future scenario, there would be no performance management program as at present. Performance tracking would be primarily by the machines and relate to performance of the job and results rather than attempting to measure competencies.  The competencies we currently try to measure through our HR performance management program would still be important, but will be used more in training and coaching employees, another important role that HR would maintain.

Does this make sense?  I see the change as evolving (already under way) and people should feel increasingly more comfortable as the new business style (machine controlled) is also reflective of our day-to-day lives.

The big complication is likely to be between business and government.  The machines provide a better way to control employees, but machine interaction similarly would provide government with a means of better controlling business.   I am sure this would be strongly protested by fiercely independent businesses that, except when to their benefit, would fight to keep the government out.

1914 was the year World War 1 started and resulted in the sacrifice of millions of lives in battles that were often battles of attrition by brute force rather than strategic.  I have an uneasy feeling that 2014 could also be significant as we move towards the international battle to control (or safeguard) the information flow that fuels our machines. To what extent should control be international, national or by corporations?  Very complicated, but that is another subject!

Laurie Ruettimann is also peering into a 2014 crystal ball that features HR robots – in fact, Laurie says the future has already arrived in her post: The HR Robots are Coming!

My friends in human resources make fun of me when I write about how human resources will be automated. Many of them don’t believe they will be replaced by robots.

It turns out, the robots are already here.

It may take a little while to automate your local HR generalist who also assigns the spaces in your company parking lot, but the trend is here. And I am interested in how an increasingly automated society leaves more and more great people out of work.

Let’s take HR people. What do we do with that talented human resources professional who can’t find work? What do we do with a cadre of recruiters who no longer have to recruit?

Turns out, we don’t do much with those guys. They join an increasingly angry and conservative populous in America who ask questions that have already been answered by the robots.
• Where are the jobs? With robots.
• Where are the opportunities? They are few and far between in a consumer-based economy where a minority of people hold a majority of the wealth.
• What happens to me? You hustle. You make do until you die. Try not to have any kids.

Some people say that robots and automation provide an opportunity for humans to create art. Turns out that robots do that, too.

When opportunity is scarce, people get angry and look for easy answers instead of addressing bigger societal issues. And as Tyler Cowen points out in the aforementioned article on how the robots are coming, anger is often misplaced. Envy and blame are local. The people who decided to automate your job will never be held accountable, but you will be angry at your neighbor who gets a promotion while you continue to look for a job.

So I just want you to start thinking about what part you play in the greater game of work and power. If you work in human resources, are you paying attention to automation? Are you thinking about how it might impact your role? Do you feel good about the way you’ve been asked to help define the future workforce of America?

Although the robots are here, we aren’t powerless. We don’t have to abdicate our freedom to people who make choices that benefit a small percentage of the population.

And we can reclaim the conversation on work. I think HR can be a powerful force in this discussion.

Envy might be local, but you can start to change things by thinking bigger about work, money, power, and politics. And robots.

The HR marketing experts at The Devon Group have offered their thoughts in a roundup of what to watch for in 2014.

Now Trending: The 2014 Outlook
Without a doubt, 2013 was a busy year. The world officially went mobile.  Big data became a big deal. Yahoo! sent shockwaves round the world by eliminating the option to telecommute. Sheryl Sandberg instructed women to Lean In. The Godfather of HR Tech decided to move on to a life of leisure. Facebook and Twitter went public. So as this year winds down, here’s a look at the trends that we see carrying over into 2014:

Wearables – Despite a nebulous release date that’s somewhere over the horizon, wearable technology like Google Glass is already becoming a household idea. From interviewing to onboarding, wearable technology has the power to revolutionize HR technology and the way it functions. Rumor has it that Google recently reopened Explorer program in case you’re eager to be the first on the block to wear Glass.

Gamification – Poised to making even the most mundane tasks more fun, gamification is one of those ideas that’s been kicking around for a bit, but we think that 2014 is going to be the year that gamification takes flight. From recruiting to learning and development, engaging the workforce with games can increase productivity, encourage sales and improve corporate culture. The key to successful gamification, however, is making it addictive (see: Candy Crush).

Visual Marketing – Smartphones and mobile devices can make anyone a photographer. And since 2013 worked to solidify Pinterest and Instagram as B2C marketing tools, we see visual marketing becoming a big theme next year, because who doesn’t love a pretty picture? But remember folks, the key word is pretty. Related reading:  How to Get More Likes on Instagram.

Social Responsibility – Corporate social responsibility is growing. Fresh off the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this month marks the second annual #GivingTuesday, a White House initiative that promotes giving back. In today’s global workplace, it is increasingly important to provide support to those in need. What’s more, a 10-year-survey conducted by the Corporation for Community and National Service found that job seekers who volunteer are more likely to find employment, while organizations with extensive giving and volunteering programs can increase employee engagement and retention.

So there you have it –Team Devon’s officially unofficial 2014 outlook.

Our host for this Carnival of HR, Steven Z. Ehrlich, asks HR professionals to reconsider their job descriptions in 2014 in his post: Are Your Job Descriptions Working Hard Enough?

Traditional job descriptions have long been a mainstay of the talent acquisition process. But could your descriptions be working harder to help you attract the talent you need?

Let’s say you want to see a movie. It’s likely that you would Google the movie title to see where it’s playing near you. The search results that are returned to you not only display theaters close to you where the movie is playing, but also include show times, movie trailers, user reviews, and a link to purchase tickets. Now compare the breadth of those movie search results to what a candidate gets when he or she does a search for a job at your company. Will they have a user experience commensurate with the excellent consumer experiences that companies are now providing and that we’ve all come to expect?

Job descriptions deliver vital information, but they don’t typically spark excitement or offer candidates the details they say matter most. Both passive and active candidates want the inside scoop on a company, its values, how the open role fits into the bigger business imperative and the people they’ll be working with should they join the organization.

Access to this information is rapidly becoming a baseline expectation among jobseekers – and sharing it is a way for employers to differentiate themselves from competitors. With cultural fit now a huge contributor to engagement and talent retention, conveying these details at the outset can make sure your organization is attracting – and keeping – the right talent.
How can your job descriptions help candidates “look under the hood?”

Develop a content strategy – No matter what platform or device candidates are using to look for job opportunities, they’re hungry for information. You need to marry relevant content to the jobs. Give candidates everything they need to make an educated decision about the job. For most organizations, the quantity of candidates isn’t the issue…it’s all about quality approach allows organizations to source better quality because candidates gain a better understanding of the actual roles and self-select in (or out) of consideration.

To develop a content strategy, start by thinking about your target audience and what it is you want them to do. Do you want them to apply for a job? Join your talent community? Engage their network in your company’s opportunities? Your strategy for content must resonate with your audience and move them toward your intended goal. Pro tip: Your content strategy is like the narrative outline of a novel, with candidates as characters – figure out what you want the characters to do, then fill in the details to get them down that path.

Make sure your jobs are findable – Most job seekers start their search on the major search engines. So your job descriptions must be detailed, appropriately tagged, and properly optimized. Think about the terms a candidate might use in a search that you would want to generate links to job opportunities at your company. Be sure to include geography and job function keywords. Sharing jobs on social networks is also critical because search engines index that content too. Pro tip: Emotional, human-scale narrative draws people in, but most candidates still search for opportunities using industry-specific or skill-specific keywords. Keyword research is critical. Don’t assume that you know what terms your candidates are using when searching. Are there synonyms that also describe the role you are seeking to fill that attract more searches? Use those terms in your headlines (which search engines weight more heavily), and let the storytelling take place in your body copy.

Don’t count on bringing people to where you are posting jobs – In a world where people are constantly bombarded with information you need to identify where the target audience is active – whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, or a proprietary community. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to join the conversation by sharing interesting and relevant information about your organization and available opportunities. Pro tip: You know the guest who shows up at a cocktail party and stands around at the edge of every conversation, never really saying anything? Don’t be that person! If you’re joining a community, dive in and participate with useful information.

Optimize every interaction – Use video, pictures, “charticles“ and other visual stimuli to engage candidates and evoke an emotional attachment to your opportunities. For example, the UPSJobs Facebook page includes photos and videos of drivers sharing their experiences of working peak season to encourage candidates to apply for seasonal hours. Rather than telling candidates what the job is like, they’re showing them using video and real associate experiences. Pro tip: Depending on the job, you may be tempted to use stock images. Don’t. They stick out and won’t seem authentic to potential candidates.

Engage the workforce – It’s one thing to say you’re a great place to work, but it’s even more powerful when employees share brand stories. Employee endorsements lend credibility to a company’s messages and can show the types of people behind the organization’s success. Empower employees to share relevant pictures, videos, and status updates and assign thematic hashtags to brand the content and make it searchable. Pro tip: Celebrate and recognize employees who participate in these programs – research shows that such recognition is more powerful than financial incentives.

Job descriptions are still an important component of the recruiting process, but candidates come to you in many ways – not just through the front door. Think about how candidates are acquiring information as well as how you can deliver a positive candidate experience that differentiates your organization from your competitors.

We hope your interest has been piqued by these contributions from our Carnival of HR thought leaders. The TMP Worldwide team is looking forward to an outstanding 2014 and wishing you and your organization the very best in everything HR in the New Year!

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Steven Ehrlich
Written by Steven Ehrlich

Fueled by an addiction (and brand loyalty) to Diet Coke, Steven has spent the past 18 years as a complete "tech geek." As an early adopter of everything from the Apple Newton and the Compact Disc to Satellite Radio and the iPhone, Steven has focused on the use of emerging tools and technologies to enhance both brand articulation and recruitment for a multitude of organizations including Yale University, Exelon, Walmart, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Steven is constantly on the move, both in the office and out, working with TMPers and clients alike to explore, develop, and implement strategic initiatives leveraging social media, new technology, and innovative employer brand delivery channels. He is one of the agency's thought leaders and is often found in front of a crowd - large or small - yakking away about some new thing-a-ma-jig or a socially-enabled whos-a-what-sis. At TMP Worldwide, Steven has met some of the brightest, hardest working, and talented people with whom he has ever had the pleasure to work. He is an advocate and brand evangelist for the agency and loves coming to work every day.

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