This week I’m at the 2012 HR Technology Conference (Twitter: #HRTechConf) where the scene is more than cool – it is hip. In the past several years technology for human resources – now more often called human capital management – has transformed from administrative software to applications anyone in the workforce can use to access information about their company, job, goals, performance, pay, benefits and even what they can do to advance in the organization. HR technology is embracing the six most important current technology trends, namely big data, business analytics, business collaboration, cloud computing, mobile technology and social media. At this year’s conference, the focus on business collaboration called social collaboration and mobile was front and center.
Over the last decade, employee and manager self-service applications have become available for rent via cloud computing and software as a service, letting companies pay only for what they actually use and not what they plan to use. This week’s conference saw an onslaught of new announcements about unified talent management and easier-to-use applications. New technologies for social collaboration and mobile computing provide new methods for workers, managers and the entire workforce to collaborate at any time. That follows the findings of our latest benchmark on the next generation of workforce management, where collaboration was the top technology trend in 70 percent of organizations, and practices such as broadcasting a la Twitter (30%) and wall-posting as with Facebook will be two of the top five adopted methods for collaboration in 2013.
At the HR Technology Conference I saw dozens of new HCM applications that use collaboration technology that is referred to as social collaboration. Globoforce is using social collaboration in its employee recognition software to help organization ensure the proper level of thanks to their workers. Peoplefluent was showing its latest and upcoming integration of acquired Socialtext as part of talent management processes and its social HCM suite. Saba was showing its People Cloud, which used social collaboration technology to support the range of learning and talent management processes which I have used and is more functional than any others in the industry. SuccessFactors, now part of SAP, was showing its Jam enterprise social collaboration technology. There were many other vendors that are embracing social collaborative capabilities and the largest challenge is whether it is available in software today and if it can be evaluated without sales intervention which many software vendors are beginning to provide.
Mobile technology is also becoming a big factor for HCM. Our benchmark research finds organizations will be deploying more tablets; 17 percent of organizations currently use them, and 30 percent have plans to deploy them. Smartphones are even more common; two-thirds (67%) of organizations use them today. At the conference vendors introduced a slew of new applications and capabilities to take advantage of the mobile revolution. Kronos previewed its latest tablet applications for worker management and workforce analytics. Kenexa demonstrated its latest tablet applications for hiring hourly workers its Kenexa Hot Lava Mobile makes it easy for employees to get the training they need on smartphones. Oracle showed its latest tablet application, Oracle Fusion Tap for HCM. Peoplefluent unveiled its latest in mobile talent management suite for the iPad. Saba also demonstrated its latest release that was announced that has native support for Apple and Android technologies which our research shows as the most popular devices in use for organizations. SumTotal Systems announced and showed its latest HTML5 for supporting mobile workforce management that does not require a native application environment. Workday showed how its human capital management applications operate across smartphones and tablets to ensure anytime access to employee information and what has come out in its last releases of Workday 16 and Workday 17. There were many more examples of using mobile technology and organizations should ensure they can try them directly on their own smartphone and tablets to determine if they meet the usability and manageability needs of business without significant IT intervention.
At the conference I spoke with HR professionals about the business case for investment and the difficulty in justifying new investments. Today HR budgets are very limited, and investing in technology advancements requires larger budgets that must be approved by the CFO and heads of business units. Getting such approvals requires presenting facts on the value of investments in increasing productivity and getting more value from the workforce. The value must exceed the value of software for just managing hiring, performance, learning and compensation and accessing employee information. HR must demonstrate the new applications’ value for line-of-business departments to increase revenue, provide better customer service, take actions on issues and improve their ability to achieve goals and reach milestones. A smart business case shows the benefits of investments and comparisons to existing approaches, and illustrates how time saved does not just reduce costs but can be used to pursue new business and drive alignment to monthly, weekly and even daily targets.
Mobile and social technology is changing the way we engage and retain our workforce. Our research agenda in human capital management has empowering a mobile and social workforce as one of the three key technology trends that organizations must assess and act upon to maintain a work environment that keeps talent in the organization. This technology is not just about HR anymore; it is about people and the workforce. A future of social collaboration and mobility is where the industry is going, and vendors are moving quickly to support this new demand in their products.
All HR organizations should plan to use social and mobile technology to improve employee satisfaction and engagement. It is becoming a business necessity to recruit, engage and retain talent in a workforce. They should provide tools that workers and managers can use to interact and gain satisfaction from getting their jobs done efficiently. Don’t be left behind; start by exploring the free trials and demonstrations that available from vendor websites or in mobile technology application stores such as Apple’s App Store.
CEO & Chief Research Officer