For those who rely on technology to conduct HR business, 2013 was a good year. HR technology vendors’ long-promised improvements in the user experience, workforce analytics tools and mobile capabilities became a reality.
Here’s a look at the major HR technology developments of 2013 and trends to watch in 2014.
With more company career sites becoming optimized for mobile devices, experts expect the next step, in 2014, to center on the mobile application process. Candidates increasingly conduct jobs searches from tablets and smartphones, and top talent now expect to be able to complete the application process with little or no need for desktops and laptops.
Although 2013 studies like the Corporate Mobile Readiness Report, from research and consulting firm iMomentus, which gauged the mobile recruiting practices of Fortune 500 companies, found only a small percentage that offer “mobile apply” (the ability to apply for jobs from a mobile device), recruiting experts expect that number to steadily increase.
“If there were just a few things I could tell companies to focus on in 2014, it would be on mobile apply as well as seamless credential applying,” said Elaine Orler, president of Talent Function, a recruiting technology consulting company in San Diego. The latter concept refers to enabling mobile candidates to apply in more user-friendly ways by using social footprints like LinkedIn profiles.
“The ability to extract data elements from those profiles means about 40 percent of application forms will already be finished,” she said.
The challenge with mobile apply will remain in areas like prehire assessment tests, Orler noted. “That’s the part of the process often holding companies back, not the application form itself, since the other steps often require use of a bigger screen and more candidate time.”
According to a report released by Simply Hired in October 2013, by 2015 mobile is predicted to surpass desktop and laptop computers as the primary way people access the Web. Also impressive: The number of workers searching for jobs via mobile devices has skyrocketed from 2.3 million in 2012 to 9.3 million in 2013.
Simply Hired, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based technology company operating job-search engines, found that 30 percent of its traffic came from mobile devices. It expects this number to climb to 50 percent by the end of 2015.
Orler said providers of video-interviewing technologies, which have made a big splash in recent years, will continue to affect the market with new offerings. “I see them moving more into the area of video-based skill assessment and scoring. I also think they’ll start tackling the scheduling piece required to make all the events happen during candidate interviews.”
Mobile and Social
Mobile and social applications continued to make inroads in 2013. According to the 2013-2014 CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey, which includes results from 1,266 organizations representing 20 million employees worldwide, mobile-enabled HR process adoption jumped 67 percent since 2012, with the biggest uses coming in payroll, recruiting, performance management, and learning and development processes.
The study also found that average adoption of mobile-enabled processes will almost double in 2014, as more managers and employees embrace the ability to conduct HR transactions via smartphone and tablet. Another driver of the mobile trend is industry vendors, who’ve embedded mobile capabilities in their core human capital management (HCM) and talent management systems, rather than offering them as separate applications.
B/E Aerospace Inc., an aircraft industry supplier in Wellington, Fla., is among the companies moving aggressively to mobile-enabled HR processes. Employees now use mobile applications for recruiting, goal management, compensation, succession planning and more processes, said Jonathan Turner, director of global talent management at B/E Aerospace.
“One of the biggest impacts has been in recruiting,” Turner said. “Managers can now approve requisitions, review resumes, enter interview ratings and more with their mobile devices. It speeds up the entire process and helps reduce time-to-fill considerably.”
On the social media front, the CedarCrestone study found that in 2013 the most social-enabled HR processes were in recruiting, learning and development, and goal management/performance management. The biggest growth was seen in the use of social work collaboration tools (such as SharePoint), increasing from 15 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2013.
When respondents were asked what they viewed as the biggest perceived value of social tools, the ability to get better job candidates, improve employee engagement and improve workforce collaboration were at the top of the list.
After years of talk but little action, there were important breakthroughs on the workforce analytics front last year, experts noted. Lisa Rowan, research vice president of HR and talent management services at research firm IDC, said some analytics software has taken important steps, citing a product from one major vendor that helps predict defection of top talent.
“It’s an empirical and data-based approach to determining employees’ flight risks,” Rowan explained. “What organizations have been doing for years is simply asking managers to check a box about who they think are flight risks. This is a far more objective way of determining that.”
More HR vendors are also compiling benchmarking data from the mountains of customer information they manage, according to Rowan. “They can deliver back information that employers can examine and bump their own data up against.”
On the recruiting side, Orler has seen improvements in predictive analytics software. “I’ve been talking about it for five years, and this past year is the first I’ve seen products that can truly tackle it,” she said.
For example, if a recruiter plans to hire for tough-to-fill jobs in a certain geography, these analytics tools can identify competitors that’ve listed similar jobs in the past six months, how long those jobs were published, how many job seekers exist in the community network and more. “So the tool might come back with a projection like, it’ll take you four months to fill the position and you’ll have 40 people to consider locally,” Orler said. “You can leverage that intelligence to help set your recruiting strategy.”
Not only multinationals and midsize businesses are benefiting from innovations in HR technology. Small organizations, such as The Starter League in Chicago, a school that teaches Web-design skills, are using new software tools to better manage HR data and to automate time-consuming tasks. The Starter League uses software from Chicago-based vendor Kin for timekeeping, onboarding and consolidating employee records in a more secure fashion.
“We had been using spreadsheets to manage employee time off, but now Kin automates it and does all the calculations for us,” said Vincent Cabansag, director of operations at The Starter League.
“The software gives me a high-level overview of the days off of everyone on our team, how much time they have left and more. It’s saved a tremendous amount of time.”
The “consumerization” of HR technology, a movement designed to give employees more user-friendly experiences with corporate systems, has also extended to benefits communication. At NVIDIA, a visual-computing company in Santa Clara, Calif., Luke Morgan, senior manager of internal compensation, wanted to create a one-stop-shop benefits communication portal to get employees more engaged and informed about their benefits packages. He turned to cloud-based software from vendor Thomsons Online Benefits.
“We call it the Benefits Box, where employees can easily get all of their information in one place through single sign on,” said Morgan. “The employee experience was really fragmented prior to it. People had to contact HR if they wanted one thing, managers if they wanted another, and external advisors or brokers if they needed certain benefits information. We also wanted employees to have an improved benefits-enrollment experience and a better understanding of what they’re paying for benefits versus the company contribution.”
Early results have been strong, Morgan said, with 50 percent of NVIDIA employees signing in to the Benefits Box the day it launched and 70 percent of nonparticipating employees enrolling in the company’s retirement program as part of the initiative.
Dave Zielinski is a business journalist in Minneapolis.
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