HR technology applications are in high demand. Prized programs allow employers to connect, acquire, analyze, manage, and mine—all by the click of a mouse or swipe of a screen. It’s no secret that technology is the driving force behind many Human Resource departments. In this program, host Shelly Kramer and her business partner at Broadsuite Media Group, Eric Vidal, cover the types of applications trending in HR this year. These applications manage a wide array of functions ranging from onboarding and training all the way to tracking employee health and wellness and mining communications for sentiment analysis. One major benefit of turning to technology is that these applications simplify and/or eliminate the repetitive and often tedious tasks that bog down HR personnel and makes things exponentially more efficient for staffers as well.

HR Technology, There’s an App for That

Future of Work Talk Show Notes

In today’s business world, automation is everything. And when it comes to the world of Human Resources, applications that automate the recruiting process are in high demand. Much like we’ve seen with Marketing Technology, HR Technology is a field that’s blown up, and there’s no end in sight to that. Tools for data mining and analysis, candidate screening, along with online recruiting tools and others help talent recruitment pros find and identify talent (whether active or passive). Job seekers are also using recruiting platforms in conjunction with social media marketing tools to separate themselves from the competition, all within a virtual space.

Other applications, like collaboration platforms, help to simplify on boarding and acclimate new hires to their new work environment by managing paperwork and training. Other employees benefit from advances in HR technology as new programs allow them to check vacation and sick leave balances, insurance information, and manage their retirement funds online or from their phones without having to track down human personnel for answers. Predictive people applications, like online survey tools, gather employee opinions. These tools help HR departments determine the success of programs, rate employee satisfaction, and understand how employees feel about benefits.

Businesses also use technology to identify security issues to prevent breaches of customer data. Some of these applications possess capabilities for monitoring employee communications, looking for security vulnerability factors. These same applications analyze employee activity and productivity. They help managers evaluate performance and weed out unmotivated staffers–even those members working remotely. These apps help identify productivity gaps in order to balance workloads, but also scale for changes in volume.

HR departments administer health insurance enrollment, benefits, and information, and promote healthy lifestyles. New applications track steps and log food, and many times reward employees for improving their health.

Technology applications are helping HR departments around the world reduce time spent on repetitive tasks and mundane management. These new tools give businesses ways to manage people, simplify workflows, and track productivity, and even increase profitability, for as the old adage says, “What gets measured gets managed.”

Watch or listen to this episode of Future of Work Talk now to find out more about the way HR departments use technology in business, or read the transcript below. Don’t miss a single episode by subscribing to the podcast.


Shelly Kramer: Well hello there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Future of Work Talk. I am joined today by my colleague and partner in crime Eric Vidal, and we are going to tackle the topic of HR Tech Trends in 2017. Eric, welcome! It’s great to have you.

Eric Vidal: Thanks Shelly. I appreciate it.

Shelly Kramer: It’s always my pleasure. So, let’s just dive right in. Technology is driving HR and it’s changing everything about the landscape of the HR industry. We work with clients all the time who have these kinds of tools, platforms and products. What is at the top of your list in terms of technology that is impacting the world of HR?

Eric Vidal: Well, we were texting before this and you stole a couple of mine so I will try to let you give those. But one of the ones that I noticed is recruiting automation. It’s on the rise. And data. Big data’s out there and so the HR folks are using it and they are using it for their benefit and they are becoming more efficient because of it. That’s one that I’d like to call out. How about you? What’s next on your list Shelly?

Shelly Kramer: I think maybe talk just a little bit about these tools with regards to talent acquisitions. So, these tools help candidates brand themselves and people are very savvy, you know, a young generation of talent are pretty savvy about branding themselves and making a name for themselves and knowing how to create an impression, and using technology like video and things like that to create an impression. Years ago, when I worked for an ad agency I had a friend who’s dream it was to work for Gray Advertising in San Francisco. He was a copywriter and a really creative guy. And he loved his Chuck Taylors. What he did was take one of his favorite pairs of his Chuck Taylors and he took 1 shoe and he packed it up in a box. Of course, it was beautifully done and he included a letter, saying, these are my favorite pair of shoes in the universe. I wear them every single day. The only thing that I want more than this shoe back someday is I want to come to Gray in San Francisco because you have hired me. It was really a compelling letter and of course, I didn’t do it justice. But what he was doing is he was marketing himself and he was using his creativity to find a job. Today, because of technology, the internet, all of the different social media channels, I think it’s really cool for people to be able to do that in innovative ways. And by the way, he got that job.

Eric Vidal: Advertising agencies probably spun the most creative connections and requests out there. So yes, good point.

Shelly Kramer: Okay, so talent acquisitions. Technology is changing everything about the business of talent acquisition, both on the part of candidates who are seeking jobs and on recruiters who are acquiring talent, so there are all kinds of analytics and things they can use to help identify the right talent. Then, once you have hired talent, what’s happening is we are seeing an automation of HR with technology tools that make not only the onboarding process for new employees a much easier process and something that we are not inventing the wheel on, over and over again, and also working to make that onboarding process more enjoyable for new hires as well. But we’re also seeing, in terms of technology trends, the process that employees come to the HR Department for. Such as questions about vacation, or sick leave policies, or when you have people that may be thinking about retiring. So, I think that there are all kinds of tools that take a lot of these somewhat mundane, repeatable, people management processes and information management that are so critical to retaining and pleasing your internal customers and I think that we are seeing some reliance on some really cool tools. I don’t know if you happen to know of any tools that you can give an example of that do that. I don’t have one right off the top of my head but I know that there are some really innovative things that are happening with regard to automating HR.

Eric Vidal: Kind of on that line, and one of the trends that I called out was predictive people analytics for HR. Some of the basic tools are some of these online survey tools that companies are implementing, and it’s not like surveys, I can think back to a company I worked for three years ago where it was awful. It was every 6 months and the executive team wouldn’t do anything with it. I don’t always take that information and do something with it right away with my team, but Smart Survey and Get Feedback are a couple that come to mind. But being able to predict your staff’s behaviors, their thoughts, their desires, and be one step ahead is powerful and I think some basic tools like survey tools can help with that. There are some other ones that are a little more sophisticated that can help but predictive people analytics is something you are going to see a lot more of in 2017 and 2018.

Shelly Kramer: We were talking about this before we started recording this show and I think that there are some exciting people analytics that can really help in terms of culture and job performance and all different kinds of things and there are also some kind of creepy things that are definitely out there that I don’t think people think about a lot. There are analytics tools that can be used, that are being used, to analyze email conversations and other communications that happen to identify potential security issues. Which, by the way, in today’s world when it comes to security breaches, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen to your company, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen. Whether it be an email phishing scam or something else. Companies of every nature in every industry are sitting on troves of customer data and as we have seen in the last few years, breaches happen at an alarming rate. That’s not going to go backwards at all. So, when you think about security and using people analytics to measure things like trust, you know there’s also tools that you can use again, to look at employee communications and work practices and help evaluate time management. There used to be a time when you had people who worked for your company and sometimes they could hide. Or maybe you had a job that you really hated and you were looking for another job and you thought, I’m just going to lay low and fly under the radar and maybe they just won’t remember that I’m here until I get another job. But the reality of it is we are in a time where it is becoming more and more difficult to be under the radar. And so, our technology and tools that are being applied in the workforce can and will be used to measure lots of things, including our productivity. Internally our team uses time tracking and we look at real time reports so we can tell, okay, here’s one person working on a project and here’s another person working on a project and we can compare how much time they spend. That allows us to evaluate employee performance in a way that helps us scale our business operations in the most efficient way possible. We can see, so if this employee takes twice as long to do this task as this employee, and we only want to spend this much on the task, then we know that we have to move this responsibility away from this person and that doesn’t mean that that person gets fired, it just means that technology allows us to evaluate performance in ways that allow us to shape our internal processes in a way that we can get the best ROI out of all of the people assets on our team.

Eric Vidal: Just to add to that, that is important, that app that you bring up and the ability we have to track all that. Last year, 2016, there were 4 major initiatives that we had to launch and put in place. One of them took a lot of time, and it wasn’t just with 1 employee, there were 3 or 4 employees that took a lot of time and the needle didn’t really move and the revenue didn’t really increase and grow like we expected. Remember? So, we were able to realize this, it would have been nice if it was sooner rather than later, but after a few months we were able to realize this and make some major changes and adjustments. So, that’s a great example Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: Okay, so we’ve talked about performance management. No, we haven’t talked about performance management. We’ve talked about automating HR. We have talked about people analytics. Have we talked about performance management that allows us use tools that make goals transparent, to dynamically manage teams as they are working on different projects? You mentioned this, to do online assessments and surveys about where we are on this project and things like that. And again, performance management was what we were both talking to and being able to look at different skill sets within the organization. So, performance management tools, automated HR, people analytics. One of your favorite things is learning management.

Eric Vidal: By the way, it’s one of my favorites but also learning management systems can be a dirty word and sometimes I look at it as a dirty word, but I’m thinking of the old learning management systems from 10-15 years ago. Those are changed and being able to have this learning environment, this very flexible collaborative learning environment, is a trend. A lot of these platform providers out there have some very cost effective, efficient, flexible learning environments and I think yeah, that is a trend and I’m a big fan of it. We have kind of a mix, a hodge-podge of things that have kind of come together here at our organization and we do it for a very low price. And part of that is video, right? It seems like every conversation we have Shelly, over the last 12 months, is video, video and more video. So, that’s a big growing trend as well. I think that video inside of HR is growing and we talked about this a few weeks back. Everything from the interview process, the evaluation process, to just team collaboration is part of that. Here’s one I want to bring up and it’s one I saw awhile back where preventive health and HR, it wasn’t really driven by HR it was driven by the healthcare companies, but the HR teams were the ones who were passing this on and I think that it’s really along the lines of health and wellness apps. I think that’s going to be a trend you will see with HR and HR promoting and encouraging those, right? The whole work-life balance and employee activity and you can do that now with tech and apps and wearables and what have you. You have been doing it for quite some time obviously, but I think others are going to follow suit and it’s going to be driven by HR.

Shelly Kramer: I think that wellness apps have already really infiltrated companies and HR. It ties to so many other things. Internally we have done fitness competitions where we bring our team together and split up into teams and we compete against each other in terms of a certain number of work outs. We reward them so we kind of gamify the fitness process. Eric never participates in those challenges by the way, because he is afraid.

Eric Vidal: Not true.

Shelly Kramer: Let me give you an example too of my daughter. My oldest daughter works for a large insurance company and since day 1 it was communicated to her the opportunity to use a Fitbit and the Fitbit that she uses is integrated into an account where she earns points based on her activity. Oh, by the way, her 7-year-old son wears a Fitbit and his activity goes to her account and she wins all kinds of things. She gets decreased premiums on her health insurance and she’s a single mom, so it’s just the two of them, but you could do your whole family if you had a bigger family. Her health insurance premium is lower based on both of their activities. She gets to earn things like discounts on movie tickets, or she reached this milestone and so she gets this for free, or she gets to pick out this from the company store. Companies win for this because it helps them control wellness within the organization. It helps them keep their insurance policies lower. It helps them keep their employees moving. It helps with the work-life balance thing. I think we are going to see more and more of wellness apps and a culture of making fitness and wellness fun, like even we do in our small company. I think we are seeing that, and we definitely have wellness apps. What was the other one? Oh, the remote workforce and how we use technology to manage this, not only a contingent workforce but a remote workforce. You might have a contingent workforce where you have busy seasons where you have to add people and you need to manage those people. We have talked about it before, our entire workforce is virtual. So being able to use technology to connect and collaborate with our team, who is all over the United States, spanning different time zones and things like that. I think we are seeing lots of technology that has be employed to manage this growing remote workforce and a mobile workforce as well.

Eric Vidal: Yeah, some of those apps are very powerful. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times you have tried to get ahold of my while I’m eating dinner and I don’t answer your IM and you get frustrated and end up calling me. But, yeah.

Shelly Kramer: Okay, I will give you an example. This morning, 2 members of our team wanted to schedule a call with me and I was out of the office in a meeting and so one of them messaged me and said can you talk now? I said sure. She said okay, give me 5 minutes. So, I’m driving in my car and I’m 20 minutes away from the office and the next thing I see is I got a ping from our Cisco Spark platform which we use for internal collaboration. So, I thought, okay, this is our team and she has reached out to me once by email, once by IM, and now she is setting up this group call within our Cisco Spark platform. My first thought was – oh crap! I have got to message her and tell her I’m in my car. I’ve got to send her a text message and tell her I’m in my car. Then I thought, no I don’t. Here, let me hit the Spark button and then we are collaborating. And by the way, when I got back to my office, I walked into my office, went to my laptop and changed out of being involved in the conference on my phone to participating on my laptop. It was a completely seamless project and that was important because I wanted to be able to see both of them on video and they were sharing some documents within the collaboration platform so I wanted to be able to see that. So, you see how technology is driving this, whether you are across town or across the country, it doesn’t matter. I’m here. You are in my hand and I’m able to see you on video. I’m able to collaborate. I thought that was a really cool example of how technology is changing everything about the workforce, you know?

Eric Vidal: A lot different than a fax machine, huh?

Shelly Kramer: Lots different than a fax machine. I’m sure there are other trends that we haven’t hit on, but can you think of anything else you think is going to play a big role here?

Eric Vidal: Well there are lot of things. I think some of the things we brought up are some of the top ones. Those are the ones I am going to hang my hat on, I will tell you that. I mentioned video already. I think that is one is big across the enterprise in general but in HR I think it’s going to be big this year.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. All right, so to wrap up, some of the biggest HR tech trends are performance management tools, wellness apps, automated HR, talent acquisition tools, learning management, people analytics, and team management tools. We didn’t talk about that very much but I think that that’s probably also going to play a role. So, I think that those are the key trends that we see and I think that many of these things are already here, they are already being adopted in companies of all different sizes. If you aren’t exploring how you can be using some of these tools and how you need to be using some of these tools to transform your organization you should probably consider it because all of these things have an impact on profitability, your ability to be innovative, your ability to create and maintain great corporate culture and to foster and facilitate collaboration. And then to also take things that are mundane and repeatable, like on boarding, or like things that people historically have relied on HR teams for, those daily things like health insurance and vacation. All of those mundane and repeatable things when you can use technology to create processes and systems to make those easier, I think you will have a happier and more productive HR team and happier and more productive employees and probably a better culture as well. In closing, these are the trends that we see happening now and that are definitely on the horizon. Thank you so much to you, Eric, for joining me today and sharing your thoughts on this topic. I will invite you dear listeners and watchers, if there are key trends that you are experiencing, experimenting with, thinking about using or integrating, we’d love to hear from you. You will see this in blog form and we’d love to hear from you. You can also find us on Twitter. I’m @ShellyKramer and Eric is @EricVMarketing, is that right?

Eric Vidal: Yeah, perfect.

Shelly Kramer: As you think about this or are experimenting with different trends we might have missed, we would love to hear from you. In closing, thanks again so much to you Eric, and thanks for hanging out with us today on the Future of Work Talk and we will see you next time.

Photo Credit: Mobiloitte Flickr via Compfight cc

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