Future

Dear HR Vendors, are you thinking about Personal Data Stores?

keysWe have all seen the headlines regarding the amount of new data we create every year – it’s in excess of Two Quadrillion Megabytes (that’s 2 with 21 trailing zero’s) – by any standards that is a huge number and it continues to grow, spurred on by growing continuous connectivity to the internet, mobile access and tonnes of free storage space . In this process of creating data, we are also breading a new culture of data ownership – one of personal empowerment, which is giving rise to the Personal Data Store (PDS).
When you think about it, organizations have gathered, stored and managed personal data to serve their own benefits, and allowed employees and managers to access the data on a “right-to-see” basis  – they have had to carry the cost of creating and managing this data too, typically through ERP and cloud based HR/Talent systems. Much of the data organizations want from the workforce is now being created and managed by employees in cloud based tools and applications.
Over the next few years these Personal Data Stores will mature and help individuals to gather, store, access, update, use and share their data in a sophisticated and powerful way. In particular these tools will allow individuals to choose what information they wish to share, with who and for what purpose the data can be used, including the creation and sharing of new data based on the initially shared data. Personal Data Stores won’t just contain employee related data, but will help individuals manage vast amounts of data relevant to different business and personal relationships they create. These could include Health records, Scholastic and Education records, Business transactions, Employee transactions, Identity data, Life events, Government records to name a few.
While this may not initially trigger off too many alarm bells, the more you think about it, the more you’ll realize the implications on your relationships with employees created by the shift in power of data ownership from the organization to the employee. The Personal Data Store will become a new epi-center for business opportunity. Personal Data Stores are destined to become the “electricity supplier” of the 21st Century.
What will this mean for future HR systems as data ownership and management become person-centric ? Here are some of my thoughts:
  • HR systems will need to cater for an individual type API – the ability to interface with multiple cloud based Personal Data Stores or to buy into a PDSaaS (Personal-Data-Store as-a-Service) platform;
  • HR systems will need to export new and updated data back to the individual Personal Data Store;
  • Organizations will need to accept an employees “Terms & Conditions” to use shared data;
  • The ability to pay the employee for use of some data or pay for data used to generate business value or continued use of historic data after the employee has left the employ will become necessary;
  • HR systems or other systems will need to accept disparate data elements that could assist the organization eg. a list of Face book contacts that have access to possible job candidates;
  • Sophisticated OCR, facial,voice and other recognition tools to “read” non-text based shared material;
  • The Personal Data Store will in effect become an ESS tool – updating the PDS will update the HR system; and
  • HR systems will need to accept new types of verification that is attached to the shared data eg. a qualification may come with an integrated verification flag provided by the learning institution.
While I’m sure this is a but “far-out” for many readers, there are  some obvious advantages that this new data ownership model could have:
  • The quality and accuracy of HR data is improved;
  • The richness and completeness of employee HR data can be improved;
  • Reduced cost and effort for HR functions to maintain HR systems;
  • Improved reporting and opportunity to leverage new information for the company benefit;
  • Reduced duplication of data;
  • Richer and easier on boarding for employees and contractors; and
  • Lower data privacy risks
We have a way to go before this becomes main-stream, but it is already starting with some social tools such as LinkedIn. Personal Data Stores are more sophisticated than the current social tools, but if our history of the Internet and technology growth is anything to go by it won’t be too long before this becomes a reality. Lets hope the HR Vendors are leading the charge.

The HR Talent Software Bubble

The Year of Change – 2013

bubbleIf 2013 was anything to go by then we are in for another interesting HR software year in 2014. Last year was very much one of excitement and perceived opportunity around SaaS, cloud, mobile and the resurgence of the talent management offerings (Recruitment, On-boarding, Performance Management, Compensation Management, Workforce planning, Career Planning and  Succession Planning)  – the latter being of significant importance from a revenue perspective for vendors. Prior to 2012 most of the large vendors made most of their money from selling core HR and payroll solutions, but were forced to change selling tactics to support the major and expensive acquisitions or new talent focused developments that occurred during 2012. While SAP, Oracle and Workday were popular news items, many other vendors were investing heavily to move their product to SaaS models and support end users with smart phone and tablet access and tools.

HR Technology is a Mirror 

Vendors spent 2013 pushing licence sales at all cost (heavy discounting, license swap deals and low ball implementation fees) for their cloud Talent products, some touting evidence that organizations would have fairly immediate and positive bottom line impacts, with some vendors going so far as to give % improvement probabilities in ROI and growth in stock values depending on how many modules were bought and implemented.

I wonder how many organizations have reaped the benefits they were sold?  – or were they suckered into believing that a software implementation would improve HR services? While I would love to be proven wrong on this, I suspect the improvements are mostly superfluous and if you scratch beneath the surface you will find feats in process compliance from the new software, but not in long terms business and people sustainability. Too many decision makers still misunderstand the importance of having effective HR services, delivery and environments in place prior to investing in new HR technology – HR technology will simply reflect your good or bad HR environment.

The HR Talent Software Bubble

All the vendors realized that tying a client into a 3-year (or more) annuity license agreement was paramount to their survival – so they all went to battle for the limited resource (clients $) and made offers that were hard to refuse – they drove sales through $$ incentive rather than future value. Cloud solutions fundamentally changed the face and structure of HR system implementations. In particular, the time to implement new HR technology is typically significantly reduced with SaaS products and while this is good for many reasons, it’s also one of the reasons for increased risk around achieving people and business sustainability.

I should probably not paint every sale or organisation with the same brush, but what I can say is that there will be far more companies not achieving the proclaimed benefits in 2014 than there are that do – as time progresses these clients will look for something to blame and there is a good change the software will be in the firing line. 2014-2016 is a period of heightened client relationship risk and poses all sorts of challenges for vendors and implementation partners. For most clients I suspect it will be their own period of disillusionment when they realize the software has not been their saving grace. When this bubble bursts, it will be messy and destructive to HR technology vendors, partners and the HR profession.

Light at the end of the Tunnel

There is hope though (there always is), as well as time to fix this. It will come in the form of improved skills, understanding and appreciation in HR & business sustainability from the Vendors and Implementation partners. This must include greater advisory capability in helping to create the right HR environment for the technology to be fully leveraged. The one advantage of true cloud and SaaS solutions is the lower dependency on technology understanding to implement the solutions. The more we can replace the technical implementer with a combo HR professional/tech appreciator who understands what makes HR successful, the more we can mitigate the future blame risk that is bubbling under. HR Vendors and partners need to think long-term and be prepared to invest in HR environmental support, not just technical support, they need to drop the profit motive as the sole approach to measuring  success and be bold enough to include societal value into their success equation. I suspect we will see a host of new partnerships and acquisitions between traditional IT consultancies and specialist HR consultants (ones with deep HR and business understanding).

As a final note on this topic, I had two experiences in 2013 where the vendor led the pitch/ implementation of their cloud HR Talent tool with a Change (Project) Manager (Social Sciences type) rather than a traditional cost/time project manager- These vendors realized the importance of changing the HR environment and the people in order to fully leverage their new HR technology journeys – its paying dividends for those clients and these vendors will reap the long term benefits too.

The Clash of the (Social) Titans is Near

2012 ushered in a new era for HR software solutions. It will be a year that we saw some really big deals going down as the big boys of the ERP world manoeuvred themselves into  strategic positions within the cloud ecosystem. The writing was on the wall and vendors that didn’t have a cloud based solution and strategy (or at least claim they had one) were likely to  face some difficult times financially and competitively over the next three years.

With the advent of HR cloud based tool, we also saw the introduction of social and gamifcation layers being added directly into these new products. Not just as optional extra’s, but often forming the epi-centre of the product driver. Particularly in areas such as Performance Management, where communication and discussion needs between employee and manager were ripe for something new to spur what was typically a dismal failure in most organisations.

As society was settling down to the acceptance of social media as a legitimate means of sharing knowledge, ideas generation and general chin-wags in the work environment, the HR vendors saw the gap to add this functionality into their solutions to drive out better HR and Talent management. And the good thing is it works ~ you have to be prepared to adapt your work environment, leadership styles and accept that the control that was prevalent in hierarchical organisations may not work in a social environment, but if you get that right, there is a lot of good stuff that HR can do. That’s not the problem!

Who owns the social layer?

While the HR vendors were thinking about how to leverage social layers within their products, the Enterprise social guru’s were making strong headway into major organisations. Tools like Yammer have moved many organisations into a new ‘Knowledge Management” and information sharing era – building stronger communities and starting to see good paybacks on tacit knowledge lying wasted around in their staff’s grey matter.This is good too!

So what happens when Mr HR Director goes ahead and purchases a subscription to a new cloud based HR solution that also uses a proprietary social layer tool?  The reality is that many of these tools rely on the end-user using the solutions social layer, not a third party tool. OK, well having more than one social tool is not a big deal, I hear you say, we have more than one in our private lives like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, so things should work out.

This is where I think the proverbial paw-paw hits the fan and it’s going to get worse. If I look at the emergence of other cloud tools in the Finance, Rostering & Scheduling, Procurement and other business areas~ many of these tools are integrating proprietary social layers into their products just like the HR vendors, and they all have an expectation that you need to use the SM layer.

If I’m a user of the Finance tool and use its social layer, I might find that I’m having to repeat my knowledge post, great idea, message of recognition or piece of gossip on the HR tool – that’s of course if I remember to do that when I next use the HR tool. Not to mention the owners of the Enterprise Social layer who will be putting pressure on all employees to share and discuss on the corporate system. Then of course there is the confusion of whether I said something via email or on a social layer, or was it perhaps a text message.

Who will win the battle?

Maybe someone will come up with a clever technology layer that can plug into all these new emerging social tools embedded within discreet products to help manage the data flow and curb the likely confusion and risks. Until then I can see a number of battles taking place, with someone loosing and someone winning. The looser unfortunately may also see value disappear  from their beloved cloud solution. What we should acknowledge is that custodianship of the social tools is not an HR right!

I think we will be seeing a bit of fur flying in 2013 – a good thing in my view. Its the only way we will see the need for something new to help us manage our changing work places.

Let me know your views.

The Future of HR with Gamification

When one first encounters the term ‘Gamification’, the impressions and images created in ones mind tend to focus around the word “game” – Images of your 14 year old son spending hours in front of his game console protecting the planet from a group of renegade creatures with fire power that would impress any military leader. It’s these images that for many HR people is a trigger to dismiss the notion that the principles of gaming have no place in the realm of HR or HR Technology.

If I cast my mind back, HR has actually used gaming principles in much of its work, particularly in areas like learning. Think back to some of the training courses you have attended, where you had to work in groups to create an output that was compared to the other groups, or your team output may have been ranked or voted as ‘best’ , your facilitator may also have used a visual display of how teams were tracking overall against each other. You may have attended an assessment centre where you were ‘playing out’ the role of a manager or at the end of a training session you received an award for being the ‘best participant’. Outside of the learning space, gaming principles have been applied to recruitment and performance management, and typically result in a form of recognition.

Gamification is really talking to the natural human needs and desires to achieve, compete,be recognised, have some control over the outcome and be entertained. The advent of technology has allowed these human needs to be expressed through computer based games – its a highly successful industry, to the extent that it has over taken video and DVD as the number one form of entertainment in the UK.

So the question is, can these computer based gaming methods and approaches that satisfy human nature and instincts, be transposed into the broader HR technology environment? The answer is absolutely yes, but not necessarily in all parts ~ and it should be focussed on peoples behaviour, not the HR system per se. I asked my colleague Andrew Butow, who has great experience in gamification to identify some of the critical success factors for gamification in HR technology. He suggested the following:

  • people interact with the tool frequently
  • people have a variety of interaction points
  • there exists a community that people care about recognition in
  • interaction points are easily quantified
  • adoption is a high priority
  • frequent feedback is important

These are valuable guidelines and should prevent organisations trying to add gaming principles that wont have any value. As an example, if you were thinking about adding gaming principles to your HR ESS system, it probably wont achieve its objectives as ESS is not a frequently accessed tool in most companies, nor does it add any value to place me in position “1” on the leaderboard for changing my home address. However if you had a knowledge management tool, or were using tools like Yammer, gamification could be a very clever way of building a culture of knowledge sharing. Saba has recently announced a product that does just that (see article). I can also see gaming being applied in the areas of recruitment (eg. Referral schemes, or agency effectiveness), Performance Management ( recognising excellent behaviour, sales achievements, accolades received from peers), Learning ( turning e-learning into a business simulation game, your contributions to knowledge sharing and mentoring).

What HR does not want to do is use gamification as a form of control or mechanism to get staff to comply to HR administrative needs – gone are the days of being the ‘People Police’ – if used in this way, it is likely to backfire and create negative perceptions of the HR function. I also think that gamification needs to be integrated into a company culture – for people over 35, the gaming principles wont be new, but the application through technology will be. The younger generation will easily accept and play along (excuse the pun), but older employees will need encouragement and assistance over time (remember to move from an in-box on your desk to email days).

Let the games begin !

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The Future of HR Shared Service Centres

The rationale behind creating HR Shared Services was predominantly cost and efficiency. Over the years we also realised that it could not be the dumping ground for the ‘Sick, Lame and Lazy’ , but rather required highly focused people, who not only understood HR but appreciated the concept of customer service. Things have been looking good for these centres and employees are getting the service they deserve, but along comes a game changer….. Social Media .


Whilst HR SSC’s have been the hub of accurate data management and information sharing , the rise in SM tool are demanding a new approach to how SSC operate in order to stay effective. Perhaps a more appropriate name moving forward is  HR Shared Services Community .
Introducing SM into your SSC offering is not simply adding another communication channel – far from that, the nature of SM tools change the dynamics of how a group of ‘voluntary’ participants discuss, share knowledge and draw conclusions. Whilst the SSC may participate in a discussion on ‘Leave Policy’, they can’t control the debate or views shared amounts the participants. It’s no longer a one-on-one interaction over a short period of time.

So being part of a Shared Community is going to require some changes to maintain effective operations and services. SSC staff will need some new skills such as Facilitation techniques, Moderating and innovation.

The opportunity to improve HR services can be harnessed by promoting SM interactions between employees, managers, SME’s, ex-employees, job applicants and others rather than trying to ‘control the answer ‘ – the organisations that understand this will be the ones to surge ahead.

Looking forward to seeing the Evolution !

Is your HR System geared for Work 3.0

I’m not normally one to jump on the acronym band-wagon, but ‘Work 3.0’ is definitely emerging as a real issue for many organisations ~ especially from an HR strategy and systems perspective. One of the messages from Work 3.0 is the notion that the workforce will be made up of lots of people providing specific skills to resolve specific outcomes, based on an on-demand working model.

The growth in crowd sourcing on-line businesses that essentially allow prospective employees to bid for a piece of work,  is a good indicator of this trend, although I would hasten to say that the growth of these businesses are not an indicator that organisations are shedding full time employees to be replaced by on-demand services. I think there will be a far more gradual shift to a on-demand workforce through natural attrition and opportunity. Practically the type of work suited to crowd sourcing is fairly limited and is currently best suited to outputs that are clear-cut and easily definable, and where the risk is low. As we see technology improving in terms of speed, collaboration capability and the ability to create a sense ‘closeness’ and ‘trust’, we will see the opportunity for jobs outside of the low risk category growing.

Let me cut to the main point of this blog – your HR system and its capability to manage an on-demand, and physically dislocated  workforce. There are a number of challenges that immediately spring to mind:

Hiring: Hiring someone to do a piece of on-demand work is simple – A line manager can go on-line, place a work requirement, wait for responses, select the resource you like and away you go. Of course this is reminiscent of ‘cowboy’ recruitment we have seen in the past and has a wide range of risks. So how will HR departments manage the hiring of these types of resources ?

If your organisation doesn’t have a sound practice to hire and manage contractors currently- this is a signal that you are going to have problems in Work 3.0 environments too. HR systems need to assist in managing the  process, provide tools to validate employee/organisation fit, manage post work assessment (performance management) to name a few. In my view I haven’t seen any HR or Talent tools stepping up into this space. We should also not assume that current system  functionality in Hiring, Assessment and Performance management can simply be extended to this new category of employee – it has very different requirements.

Classification of the employee: One of the basic HR functions is to know how many people work in your organisation – in many organisations this only means people paid through the payroll system. In my view this is a misrepresentation of the total workforce and its associated cost. The reason provided by HR is often indicated as a lack of system capability to track contractors who are paid through invoicing to finance. Work 3.0 will further exacerbation this issue, and HR organisations need to quickly get on top of this so that the workforce count if properly represented.

Data sharing: Crowd sourced employees will want to share information with organisations and want their employer to feed them information back – this data could be stored in commercial social networking tools such as Linked-in, Facebook, the crowd sourcing platform or their own personal database. The ability to share information between a corporate HR system and external and individual social / cloud tools is a new concept for HR vendors, but will become a prominent need in the next few years.

Payment: How you pay a crowd-sourced employee or on-demand employee can be challenging, particularly if they are in another country where you don’t have a physical presence. Its not so much the movement of money that’s the issue, but rather compliance to local tax regimes.The recording of time against a task will also be an important area for development and integration.

Hyper specialization: Crowd sourcing or on-demand working will give rise to the concept of hyper-specialization. Activities will be broken into a multitude of tasks in order to take advantage of an on-demand workforce. For a line manager, this brings in new dynamics to manage a team of people collaborating on a common output – Line managers will need new tools to help co-ordinate work across tasks and teams of physical and dislocated employees. Some HR systems do a decent job in supporting project environments, but its not the norm, and in future they need to provide better end-user management tools outside of the ‘Project Manager’ type tool mindset – tools that will facilitate teamwork, team management, performance management, completion tracking and communication.

Strategic Workforce planning and Talent Management: The on-demand workforce will provide new opportunities to manage the ‘supply’ side of long term talent management needs, which could ease the fears around the ‘war on Talent’ – however most workforce management tools are geared towards the traditional employment model. Workforce planning tools are emerging as an important components of an effective HR environment, particularly in the area of predictive modelling techniques. The crowd sourced employee adds an unknown layer into this equation that will need to be understood in order for WFM tools to be put to best use.

We are heading for an exciting time in execution of work in our workplaces, but we do need HR systems to start providing tools to better manage this future environment. What are your views.