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HR Tech Trends The Future is Here

Special Advertisement: Industry leaders discuss technologies that bring the cutting edge to HR and training.

October 17, 2001
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T echnology is changing training, benefits administration, and many other HR functions. Workforce asked industry leaders to explain key technologies that HR can use to achieve bottom-line results.

Jeff Koven
Vice President, Marketing -
Cyborg Systems, Inc.
As VP of marketing, Jeff Koven is responsible for corporate marketing communications, customer relations, product management, and sales support. He focuses on identifying changes within the business world, and their impact on today's HR and payroll requirements. He directs Cyborg's product development and management accordingly.
 Dennis McCabe
VP, Business Development -
Wavecrest Computing
Dennis McCabe has held this position since 1996. He and partner Chris Howard developed Cyfin®, Wavecrest's Internet use reporter. Previously, McCabe held IT-related engineering and management positions with Harris Corporation and Engineering and Technical Services, Inc.
 Linda G. Natansohn
Senior Vice President -
MonsterLearning is a new business unit of Monster®.com, dedicated to connecting career oportunists with the learning opportunities they need to thrive. MonsterLearning (launching in Summer 2001) is a unique online resource that provides individuals and corporations with a variety of learning tools, opportunities, and information.
 Doug Reed
Vice President -
SAP America, Inc. Human Capital Management (HCM) Organization
Doug Reed has responsibility for the overall management of the HCM organization as well as for the strategic direction and vision of the mySAP Human Resources solution. His role encompasses sales, consulting, and product management.
 Jim E. Spoor
President/CEO -
Prior to forming SPECTRUM in 1984, Spoor had a very successful 25-year human resource career, including a broad range of human resources experience with executive-level responsibility for global HR operations.
 Bill Warren
President and CEO -
Warren spent more than 22 years in recruiting and human resource management with Rockwell International and General Foods Corporation before founding the first Internet employment site, Online Career Center (OCC).
 Curt Witte
President and CEO -
Witte is a veteran high-tech operations executive with a wealth of management experience: sales, marketing, product management, HR, and business development. HJis background includes nine years at SBC Communications as SVP for a $3 billion communications segment, launching 20+ new Internet and communications software products, patenting six.
Web-based training/e-learning is the new buzz in the HR and training world. If a company is looking to take advantage of these technology offerings, what are the features to look for when searching for the right vendor?

Linda Natansohn: First, make sure you have clearly assessed the learning needs within your organization. It is easy to get overwhelmed with choice, as e-learning tends to be far more affordable than classroom learning. Being focused will save time. Next, consider whether an instructor is needed to effectively teach the material. Not all e-learning is the same: some courses are self-paced with tutors available, some are instructor-led in real time, and some allow for student interaction.

Doug Reed: We see value in a comprehensive learning management solution, of which e-learning or Web-based training is one portion of the complete solution. Your learning management solution should provide you with the ability to:

  • Provide personalized learning that can be tailored to individual requirements.

  • Create and deliver content that complies with general learning standards.

  • Create content just once, and then use it over and over again.

  • Easily integrate new learning methods as well as a back-end training management system.

  • Manage various curriculum options.

Curt Witte: The two most important issues to research before going forward:

  1. What types of courses will you offer electronically? Understand which courses lend themselves to electronic teaching media and which are best handled in the classroom.

  2. Can your IT infrastructure support e-learning? Bandwidth issues and other systems issues must be researched.

Please note the differentiation between an "e-learning software solution" and "training management software solution." Is there a value of one vs. the other?

Doug Reed: The two solutions have different purposes, and a blended solution that combines both is the most valuable. For example, mySAP HR Training Management is the administrative backbone that gives you everything you need to plan and perform the activities associated with training through seminars, workshops, courses, and conferences. Our SAP Learning Management solution takes training to the next level by allowing you to deliver personalized educational content via learning paths tailored to your employees' knowledge needs and personal learning styles.

Linda Natansohn: The terms used in the industry can vary dramatically, as this is still a nascent sector. An "e-learning software solution" is the technology and content vehicle that enables a learning event to be delivered electronically. "Training management software" allows for the assessing, planning, and tracking of training for employees across a workforce -- whether the learning is happening in classrooms, online, or in some blended environment. It is focused on developing skills to fill gaps, increasing productivity, and providing true ROI.

Do the access and availability of online 360-degree feedback and employee surveys improve the recruiting and retention process? If so, how?

Dennis McCabe: We certainly think so. Feedback and surveys give line managers and HR professionals a more accurate picture of employees' mind-set and attitudes, helping management implement better policies and procedures of all kinds. For example, feedback and surveys are an excellent way of ensuring that acceptable use policies governing use of the Internet are optimized from both workforce and management perspectives. This inevitably leads to better morale and improved retention.

Linda Natansohn: They can. But the real question is whether management values and utilizes them. The fact that they are available online may spur more employee response because they are easily accessed, but it does not guarantee their effectiveness as tools. Management must ensure that the questions are viable, applicable, and unbiased. Then, they must put the feedback to use and communicate the outcomes of those tools to impact change.

ASPs are continuing to attract attention from business and HR. Please highlight the value and differences of an ASP solution vs. a traditional one.

Jeff Koven: Traditional HRMS typically means that companies a) purchase and run/maintain the system themselves; b) outsource it entirely with minimal local functionality; or c) have a service provider dial in and do some remote processing or maintenance. An ASP, on the other hand, typically delivers all functions through the Internet, allowing organizations to rent the software on a monthly basis. It should also include a payroll-processing option, like the one offered by Cyborg Systems. The value of this model is measured not necessarily by cost savings, but in cost predictability.

Linda Natansohn: Unlike client/ server and other traditional solutions, ASPs do not require installation and integration as part of the process. (This can be a big plus, because it can be purchased often as a business solution without having to involve the tech department, which may or may not have the resources to devote to you.) At Monster, we offer an ASP recruiting desktop called MonsterMomentum and will be introducing an ASP Learning Management system that enables companies to manage employee training.

Jim Spoor: Let's recognize that using the term ASP is like saying ice cream. It is extremely generic and comes in many different flavors. When someone else provides the infrastructure and related services, you don't have the headaches, expense, or worry about staffing. Plus, if you select the right provider, you can get a better solution to meet your needs at a more affordable price. In addition, outsourcing can be attractive if you don't have the infrastructure in place.

Bill Warren: The main value of using an ASP is the ability to access the system from any Internet-ready PC. This allows recruiters to be productive even when they are not in the office. Implementation of an ASP is minimal; you will spend more time identifying your internal processes to make the system more effective. Finally, a company will not experience a large capital expenditure for hardware and development trying to use a more traditional model.

Curt Witte: The ASP model benefits the customer because it:

  1. Lowers the total cost of ownership. The application is maintained by the ASP rather than the customer's IT group. Typically, ASP customers pay monthly usage fees, as opposed to software license fees, so the total cost of ownership is spread over a longer time frame.

  2. Mitigates the risk of application development or ownership. ASP delivery reduces the risk of a failed project because the ASP does not receive "usage fees" until the application is working for the customer.

When a company is looking at employee self-service products, what are the key initiatives you would recommend that HR put in place to ensure the success and use of the online self-service options by their employees (i.e., benefits enrollment, employee surveys, payroll changes, training, etc.)?

Jim Spoor: There is almost no limit to how far you can go in this area. Benefits self-service is the current "program du jour," and there are dozens of providers all masquerading as "HR" solutions. However, benefits are a small portion of self-service. True self-service enables a wide variety of people -- employees, managers, vendors, consultants, applicants, pensioners, customers, and others -- to have a two-way communication tool, an information accessibility tool, and a personal career-management tool.

Dennis McCabe: We recommend promotional campaigns of all kinds, including e-mail, paycheck stuffers, bulletin boards, orientation sessions, meetings, etc. We also recommend that one of the "self-service products" be the organization's acceptable use policy governing Internet access. This should be accompanied by a full explanation of how compliance will be monitored and enforced. One of the best services you can offer is to inform employees of the "do's and don'ts" with regard to surfing the Web and using e-mail.

Jeff Koven: Technology is merely an enabler. Although it can offer huge efficiency improvements, the real issue is an organization's culture. ESS (employee self-service) products offer advantages to both the organization and its employees, such as the ability to easily access and change personal information, perform open enrollments online, etc. However, it means that HR no longer owns that action and employees must take that responsibility themselves. The key initiative, then, is educating the employee population regarding ownership.

Doug Reed: We've seen success when the HR organization has support and involvement from the entire organization early on, from executive sponsorship of the project to ongoing, collaborative communication with employees. This is your opportunity to be a thought leader for your company by introducing an environment for employees to be more productive. However, you won't be successful in a vacuum. Ongoing, informative, two-way communication and education will keep everyone involved and ready to embrace self-service.

The number of employees can sometimes limit the products and services available to a company. Through your Internet solutions, how has your company opened its doors to smaller organizations?

Bill Warren: From our inception, WOWemployers has taken the business approach to be all things to all people/companies. Our software has been designed to meet the needs of both a one-person recruiting firm and a large company with diverse recruiting needs and processes. This flexibility has been built into the software to limit the amount of customization required during implementation. We have also adopted a membership pricing model that is suitable for companies of any size.

Jim Spoor: One of the many advantages of Web-hosted systems is that even small organizations can now have affordable access to systems that previously were economically out of their reach. Using our subscription model, it costs only pennies per day per employee for even small companies to have full use of a top-notch HR system to provide the reporting, analytical, planning, and decision support capabilities they need.

Jeff Koven: Hosting an application in an ASP model significantly reduces the reliance on IT resources for any organization considering an HRMS product. The ASP model eliminates database, network, and systems software maintenance for an organization. The result is that sophisticated HRMS systems become more accessible to mid-sized and smaller organizations.

What key tech trends do you see on the horizon in regard to your HR services? What should our readers be aware of? What should they look for?

Dennis McCabe: We see improved methods for monitoring and managing employees' use of the Internet on the horizon. Most significantly, a few highly accurate and comprehensive reporting tools like Cyfin® are already emerging-that is, tools that can give management a clearer and more precise picture of the workforce's use of expensive network resources. More versatile than simple site-blocking programs, these tools -- if accurate -- can help management improve productivity, reduce legal liabilities, and control IT costs.

Bill Warren: A key trend in our industry is the search for a solution that will provide recruiters and hiring managers with Internet-based desktop tools that allow inter-organizational collaboration, process automation, and analysis. This includes moving Internet recruiting from its current "media" model into a "career" network model, which provides a complete solution for attracting, recruiting and hiring candidates, automating, managing and monitoring the process, and also providing a link to external service providers.

Jeff Koven: As technology continues its evolution, the trend is to move toward standardization. In the Web world, XML offers standardization for Web-based applications, enabling them to be truly collaborative. These applications will take internal processes and share them with services outside the enterprise, seamlessly using Web-based/XML technology.

Curt Witte:

  1. Consolidation. There are hundreds of HR point solution vendors in the market today targeted at the HR professional. So, providers of point solutions are teaming up to provide enterprises with more comprehensive offerings. The point-solution providers will be shaken out of the market.

  2. Companies that have growth, profitability, and margins (vs. just growth) are gaining traction. Growth-only companies are going out of business. Vendors that are able to show growth and profit margins are "punching through" to profitability today.

Hiring-management systems have become more of a complete solution for the recruitment and hiring process. In your opinion, what top three elements of a hiring-management system should HR look for when researching these solutions?

Curt Witte:

  1. Financial stability of the vendor: Web technology makes it easy to develop applications quickly with fewer resources. Many fly-by-night vendors with bright ideas but little cash backing have come and gone.

  2. Years of ASP delivery: Only long-term players have the experience to deliver stable and reliable software applications.

  3. Flexible implementation: Recruitment can be a competitive advantage for organizations, hence there is considerable variation in how organizations set up a recruitment-management system. To accommodate these variations, the system must be flexible.

In your experience, what set of metrics can HR use and set in place to help measure or quantify its return on investment for different forms of HR technology?

Doug Reed: There are a number of metrics that allow HR to quantify the value of their investment in HR technology, such as time and costs saved by eliminating administrative activities and streamlining processes. However, the real value is in aligning HR strategy with corporate objectives and using HR data to evaluate and analyze your company's performance with external best practice benchmarks. Any gap between your performance and best practices is an opportunity to realize a cost savings and therefore, a higher return on your investment.

Dennis McCabe: There are many forms of HR technology, all with only indirect influence on workforce results. Consequently, I don't believe there is any one set of suitable metrics. However, the ultimate measure of any investment's success is its effect on productivity. In today's wired world, productivity trends can be reliably estimated with an accurate and comprehensive Web-access reporting tool. The same tool can provide management with data for continuously improving assignments, training, policies, and processes.

Jim Spoor: Cost justification for investment in technology has a number of dimensions. Eliminating administrivia, paper processes, and redundancy are all obvious factors. Benchmarking of historical performance trends and patterns along with traditional management and control of turnover, cost per hire, and time to hire are the basics. The real value from the exploitation of technology is going to be delivered by working with operating management and financial management to establish relevant measures of productivity and operational effectiveness.

Bill Warren: While HR is not a profit center, it can prove to be a center of excellence and have a significant positive impact on your company's bottom line. There are numerous resources that make up the recruiting process, and the right human capital management system will allow you to measure both your internal and external resources. Efficiency through the technology used should be measured by the ability to understand, attract, retain, and make the most of their most important asset -- human capital.

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