BPaaS Rising HR Outsourcing in the Cloud

BPaaS Rising HRNWhat is the impact of SaaS on HR Outsourcing?  I have written how BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) might provide a “Silver Lining for HR Outsourcing”.

One of the pioneers of BPaaS is OneSource Virtual, who are well known in the US as one of the largest Workday implementation partners.  They recently opened their Derry European Service Centre in Northern Ireland and plan to create 290 jobs by the end of 2017.  This is great news for Derry and also for prospective and current Workday customers in the UK and Europe.    I am delighted to share a conversation I had with Wesley Bryan, President, COO and Co-Founder of OneSource Virtual, who will be at HR Tech World in London next week. 









Wesley Bryan, President, COO and Co-Founder of OneSource Virtual

Tell me a little bit about how One Source Virtual came about and what you do?

OneSource Virtual supports the automated delivery of Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) and supports the delivery of solutions exclusively for Workday. We empower organizations of all sizes by providing Workday deployment, consulting, training and in-application payroll services, benefit administration, finance and accounting outsourcing, and application management services.

It is exciting news about your new Customer Centre in Northern Ireland, why did you choose Derry?

Because we knew the next phase of our business was to launch our UK HRMS and Payroll services, we knew it would be strategically beneficial to have a service centre in that area.  After a long selection process, we finally settled on Derry because of its labour market, stellar talent, and the positive relationship its government has on businesses. The talent and workforce in Derry is absolutely unbelievable. We certainly haven’t regretted our decision.

What services will you be providing in the UK this year?

OSV provides UK AMS Consulting, Workday Deployment, UK Payroll and Tax Services, and will be launching an Employee Service Centre that will assist with Workday Helpdesk, Workforce Administration, Benefits Services, Document Management and Administration Services. In the latter part of 2017, we will also be providing AP Processing in the UK.

HR Outsourcing gets a mixed reception due to some tricky relationships in the last 20 years, is BPaaS less risky for organisations?

Absolutely. When BPaaS is used to outsource, we don’t have to go into a company’s system and takeover the maintenance of the software like a traditional BPO.  Through BPaaS, a company is able to outsource services within their system of record. This makes it less risky to the customer because their system is already in- house.  A customer can decide at any time to bring an outsourced service back in-house and we can make that change without altering their structure.

You have done 870+ Workday projects (initial deployments and add-on engagements). What is the no.1 tip you can give on a successful implementation?

Don’t underestimate the complexity in deploying the software. It is imperative to bring in a partner that can help you design and think through how you will utilize and configure the software.

At what point in the HR software buying/implementation cycle would an organisation consider BPaaS?

Typically and ideally during the buying cycle. The BPaaS delivery model is very different from your traditional BPO service model and if you want a true BPaaS offering, you have to be careful to choose a true multi-tenancy SaaS provider who can deliver a range of services that can be standardized across a variety of customers and ultimately be more cost–effective. If that is important to you, it should be discussed during the buying cycle.

Finally, what do you think is the most exciting trend in HR Tech in the coming years?

What excites me the most is the way systems are being built today.  It isn’t uncommon to see various platforms sharing information in real time. For instance you can log in to one platform by using your Facebook credentials. The possibilities with that type of technology are endless because you’re not limited to the information that is only in your database.

This was a guest blog for HRN Blog, "BPaaS Rising – HR Outsourcing in the Cloud"

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The Quantified Workplace: Technology vs Trust?

Glass Bead Consulting

Jo, an Account Manager is being taken to the office in a BUG, a BeemerUberGoogle driverless car.  She is discussing her day with her automated coaching partner, Sirius.   “I notice that you had less alpha-rhythm sleep last night.   I suggest you have some breakfast, to increase your energy levels. At 11am you have a meeting with the new Client Executive.  She is usually sceptical initially but warms up.  Remember to ask an open question, and smile to help her feel at ease.  I notice that Lee, your Insights Manager, has a different socialising pattern and lower productivity since coming back from sick leave last week – might be worth checking in with him today while in the office?”

This futuristic scenario requires you to suspend your disbelief!

Firstly, it meshes different data sets that we don’t measure at the moment – on performance, location and personal biometric data.

Secondly, it assumes we have a robust framework for the prediction of behaviour, and we are not quite there yet.

And finally, it assumes employees, like Jo, are willing for employers to use their personal data on movement, diet and performance in this way.

All currently outrageous, but could this type of insight be possible in the future?

People Analytics and Social Sensing Technology

In his book “People Analytics”, Ben Waber, President and CEO of Humanyze,  explains how Social Sensing Technology could transform business.

His team use Sociometric badges which they ask employees to wear for workplace experiments.  The badges are like a large ID card stuffed with sensors that can measure movement, face to face speech, vocal intonation, who is talking to whom and for how long.  The experiments all require employee opt-in, and have produced some interesting insights already.

Jos De Blok, CEO of the innovative community care organisation, Buurtzorg, was asked,

“What is the optimal team size?”

His answer was 12. Why? 

“Because we don’t have bigger tables.”

A witty and pragmatic answer, perhaps, but this makes assumptions about office design and team effectiveness.  

Using Sociometry badges, for example, Humanyze assessed whether a redesigned office boosted employee collaboration, or employees were actually using that treadmill in the gym they had lobbied so hard for.   When we have choices on the design and layout of our offices, we can actually use employee movement data, in addition to other communication data, to analyse collaboration patterns of employees.  In Office Design, there are many questions where this kind of approach can help. Do campuses actually yield better interaction patterns than offices with thousands of people on different floors?  When is open seating better than having your own desk?  Should we put long or short tables in our offices?  The use of physical space is underused as a tool for changing patterns of collaboration and behaviour.

Waber gives plenty of other examples of using the Sociometry badges in the workplace. For example, Corporate Epidemiology, when you get a dose of “man-flu” (this is a disease btw) do you tough it out, or stay at home?  Employee tracking can help guide the best workplace policies and practices to reduce employee sickness. 

Thanks to those ‘perennial office guinea-pigs’ working in call-centres, a study on Employee Burnout with Bank America found that strong cohesion was linked to lower stress levels.

Waber also approaches the question, How to encourage Innovation?   Who is more creative, the team behind Bart Simpson or Eric Cartmen?   Both very funny cartoons, but did you know an entire episode of South Park is conceived and animated in 6 days, whereas, an episode of The Simpsons is produced over the course of 6 months using a Korean animation studio?   Waber outlines the very different creative processes and declares South Park the winner based on ratings – Doh!  He studied three R&D teams to understand creativity in general, and found the amount of time spent interacting with team members was positively correlated with creativity.

Swipe right for better data

The workforce data we hold at the moment is often static, out of date and relies on self-report rather than actual behaviour.   Data on our actual behaviour is far better than our self-reported data.  All of us have completed the obligatory annual Employee Engagement survey at least once in our life, by circling 4 out of 5 on every item, without even reading the questions.  And if it wasn’t you, your colleagues have done this.  An example from online dating illustrates the relative value of self-reported data vs actual behaviour. 

“People might list 'money' as an important quality in a partner, but then we see them messaging all the artists and guitar players," Amarnath Thombre, president of Match.com. 

Match.com tries to get around this by basing recommendations on people’s activity and actions rather than solely on their answers to the questionnaires.  (from Bernard Marr’s article, Can Big Data Find Your Next Valentine?)

Using sensor data in combination with other data sets has great potential for learning about employee behaviour and providing insight on organisational and business choices.  A natural next step is to link our employee data with our customer data.

Designing a better Customer AND Employee Experience

Many organisations are experimenting with using sensor data to understand customers’ behaviour.  Amazon have plenty of online data on customers, but this is a challenge for high street retailers.  There is a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behaviour, using video surveillance and signals from their smartphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in a particular aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it. 

Another futuristic scenario from retail…

30% of your shop sales employees agree to wear the sociometry badges.   Over a few months, you gradually test your hypotheses, run experiments and work out how to increase sales, and gather more accurate information on customer preferences which positively influences the next fashion buying cycle.  Your employees start to see the benefits of the approach and more “opt-in”.  The cycle is positively reinforcing over time, prospective employees who are not comfortable don’t apply, you bring in new employees who get up to peak productivity quicker.  You roll-out this model through your 500 shops.  Customers are happier.  You beat the competition. You win.

Designing our customer experience based on insights from actual behaviour and linking to employee behaviours could reap great rewards for some organisations.   Or from an employee perspective, this would mean designing our employee experience based on insights from actual behaviour with customers.

From Quantified Self to Quantified Workplace

Quantified Self is the movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).  It is a big industry, think Fitbit, Apple Watches etc.   BYOW – Bring your own Wearables is an emerging trend, see Putting Wearables to Work form Salesforce.com, which expects nearly 3x growth in wearables across the enterprise in the next two years.

The Quantified Self movement has a strong set of disciples, you are probably close to one.  The reported results are impressive in health, fitness, managing chronic disease, sleep, mood and habits.

My view is that if free wearables are offered on a voluntary basis in certain workplaces, you would get three broad groups, those with absolutely no interest, those interested for a while, and those who love the idea and utilise the tools.

Squaring The Circle

What happens when wearing tracking devices becomes compulsory for employees? 

We are already starting to hear about cases where capturing personal data on location has gone too far for employees.  For example the case of the woman in California fired after disabling here GPS on her work phone.  Another example was the outrage after The Daily Telegraph, in the UK, put sensors under the journalists desks.  Lesson learned – always get permission from employees first, especially when your employees are journalists!

In Dave Eggers novel, “The Circle”, a new employee called Mae joins the World’s most powerful and influential company. Imagine a mega-merger between Google, Facebook and Apple.  The Circle’s goal is to have all aspects of human existence, from voting to love affairs, flow through its portal, the sole portal in the World.  This is the same for all employees, including Mae.  This is where the ‘hairs on your back stand on end’ and we bring in an Orwellian sense of outrage!   The novel brings up some great questions about privacy, transparency and even identity. 

This type of data could be used unscrupulously by employers, “How well it is received by staff will probably entirely depend on the way it is used,” says Bernard Marr, an expert in data and analytics in business.  “If it is used as a disciplinary tool focused on the behaviour of individuals, it is sure to lead to resentment. But when utilised as a way to gain an overview of the company, it will probably generate fewer complaints – and more useful insights.”

So any whiff of dystopia and you lose.  You will not attract or keep employees.

The winning organisations will be those that empower the workforce, are transparent and share the benefits.

The Quantified Workplace will be introduced, but at the speed of employee trust.

Trust Trumps Technology

If we don’t have employee trust, then there will be a backlash on using more extensive personal employee data.

Frederic Laloux describes the future of management in his RSA interview, “How to Become a Soulful Organisation”.  The future of management will definitely not be based on a time and measures study, the focus will be to empower purposeful teams to make the right decisions.

If we don’t have trust or empowered employees, all we will have is Digital Taylorism – a modern version of “scientific management” that threatens to dehumanise the workplace.

This would be a great mistake.   Instead we should provide employees with tools to manage their work, themselves and their machines more effectively.

We need to ditch Industrial Age thinking.  Organisations will thrive if they empower employees to make the right decisions and provide meaningful work.  The idea of the Quantified-Self is about self-improvement.   Whoever gets to the Quantified Workplace with a willing workforce will reap the rewards.  The rewards will be enormous – with greater insight on customer and employee behaviour.

The winners will not be those who enable the technology, but those who construct a new contract with employees, based on trust.

Finally, we catch up with Jo…

“Jo gets taken home from the office in her BUG driverless car and reviews a positive day with Sirius.  She approves an AmazonDrone delivery so her fridge will be topped up before she gets home.  Later on, she puts her feet up, selects an immersive movie, opens a bottle of wine and then the most satisfying task of the day – she reaches for her smartphone and presses the OFF button.”

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The Campaign for Meaningful Work

david graeber pointless jobs tube poster

This week I am thinking about the “why of work” for a few reasons.  Firstly, I am going to the Meaning Conference in Brighton, where I live, a gathering for people who believe business can and must be a force for positive change.  Secondly, the same evening I am seeing one of my favourite  bands, The Fall, who have been going strong since 1977.  As the late John Peel explained, they are “always different, always the same.”  Thirdly, I also have a 20 year reunion with friends I started work with back in 1995. 

If I apply the why of work to each situation, why has the lead singer of The Fall, Mark E Smith, churned out an album nearly every year since 1977?  Why is there still a bond between people who long stopped working or socialising with each other?

Work is clearly more than paying the bills, it fulfils a much bigger human need – to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Through our work, we seek a sense of purpose and a connection with others.  Yet, there is a crisis in the modern workplace, from YouGov research that shows “37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless” to David Graeber’s article, in STRIKE! magazine,  “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”.  Quotes in David’s article were used by activists to plaster the Tube in London with posters. 

The workplace is a fragile balancing act between employee’s needs and employers’ needs. There is a  relentless pressure on employers to get more out of staff, and increasing employee productivity is the holy grail.

Over the last few years, employee engagement has been pushed as the solution with an assumption that increasing employee engagement increases productivity.

Organisations can spend massive amounts of energy and cost on initiatives to increase employee engagement with the belief that (1) it will raise productivity and (2) it is the right thing to do.

However, there are some glaring flaws with this:

We don’t actually know what employee engagement is.

Definitions typically point to many factors – see here for a good example of employee engagement which shows 9 factors.  This makes it far too complex to analyse, and definitely too difficult to convert into actions that make a positive difference.

We don’t know what actually causes employee engagement.

There are lots of studies which show correlations between engaged and productive staff, but it is very difficult to isolate cause and effect relationships. 

There is a correlation between organisations with high employee engagement and better performance.  However this does not mean employee engagement causes higher performance.  For example, we might also find that high employee engagement is correlated with older workers, taller workers, those that live nearer the place of employment etc.  In other words, it is very difficult to say one factor causes higher performance and this is a classic ‘chicken and egg’ debate.  Read Flip Chart Rick’s take on this  “Employee engagement hyperbole” or Professor Rob Briner, “Don’t believe the hype of employee engagement”

So we might spend time and energy on creating a happy, engaged workforce – but this raises another question:

Who needs ‘engaged workers’ doing the ‘wrong’ work?

You might have happy workers but it won’t necessarily help your organisation achieve its goals unless work is linked to the goals of the organisation.  This is much harder to achieve than ‘raising the engagement survey score by 2% every year’.

I believe employee engagement is a fad for a low wage environment – herbal teas and fresh fruit in the office is cheaper than an across-the-board 4% pay rise.  As wages increase I think businesses will focus on measures that will actually increase productivity.

So why are employee engagement initiatives still so popular?  This needs a fuller answer, but my views are:

  1. They are easier to do than root cause analysis and great job design
  2. An industry has been built up around engagement solutions – a massive sales push! #NuffSaid


The Campaign For Meaningful Work

 “He who has a ‘why’ to work can bear with almost any how.”  Nietzsche

Without a strong causal link between engagement and productivity we are simply left with a hunch or intuition.

Well here’s my hunch.

Meaningful work is important for our own personal sanity and well being, and so says Mark E Smith,  Marx, Maslow and my grandmother.  To me, it makes intuitive sense.

So what can we do to increase engagement, work happiness and possibly productivity?

Here are some of my suggestions to help make work more meaningful.

Link the work to something bigger

If you work as a CEO, a carer or a cleaner in a hospital, you are just as important in helping people to recover from illness as the nurses and doctors.

Why do I work? I help make organisations better places to work.  How do I do this? By working with HR teams to improve people management and the workplace.  This purpose gets me out bed in the morning (along with a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea).

By linking every persons’ job to the main goal of your organisation – whether that is to heal the sick, make people feel good, make organisations better etc you help create meaning.

Empower people to organise their own work

Some of our organisations are creaking under industrial age structures that haven’t changed since the 1950s.  The tools we use to collaborate at work are being revolutionised.  We now have an opportunity to reinvent how we work, and to empower teams to have a major say in the design.  I am not suggesting that we can all design our organisations like a start-up, or Zappos or Google – but we can start using some of the principles.  If you have had a say in designing your teams’ work then it should become more meaningful.

Show your organisation’s impact on customers

Medtronic are a specialist in medical devices, and make amongst other things prosthetic limbs.  Many of their employees do not have direct contact with their end customers.  Medtronic shares stories of patients who have benefited from the company’s products with its employees and meet customers at its regular ‘town-hall meetings’.   In the words of a senior executive,

Our people end up feeling personally involved in our company’s mission to restore people to full life.  They can see the end result of their work. Many are profoundly moved by the patients’ stories.

This has a much greater impact on morale than going through the quarterly earnings report.

Keep learning about what motivates us at work

Despite the glib books and 100 page academic reports, this is a complex area.

There are lots of misconceptions about what motivates people at work from financial bonuses, bowls of fruit, Christmas hampers or a pat on the back – take your pick?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn't just about the money, but it's not exactly about the joy either.  It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

Here are two videos worth watching on what motivates us at work.

Dan Ariely, a behavioural economist gives a TED talk – “What makes us feel good about our work?”

But, why have one Dan when you can have two?  Dan Pink, the author, illustrates  “The surprising truth about what motives us” with the help of an RSA Animation.  This has had over 14 million people view this on YouTube, make sure your Reward Manager is one of them!

“Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose” REPEAT “Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose”

Finally, ditch that annual engagement survey!  Unless in your heart you know that improving aggregated self-reported survey responses will really help you design and maintain a great place to work.

Put some of these things in place and watch the results – maybe in the emotional commitment employees have for your organisation, maybe the spring in their step as they travel to work, or just possibly in their productivity.  I will be listening and learning at the Meaning Conference, rocking to “Dead Bead Descendant” by The Fall, and as always irrepressibly tweeting @AndySpence.  It would be great to hear your views on the ‘why of work’ and how you make more work more meaningful.  

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HR Change and Transformation 2014

This has to be the most interesting time to be working at the intersection of HR, organisation development and technology. 
Leading change in 2014 includes responding to growing markets, geographical expansion, mergers & acquisitions and cross-cultural leadership across 5 generations. The importance of effective leadership, talent management and high employee engagement has never been so great.

There is a lot of buzz around technology as a driver for change in areas such as talent identification and development and workforce productivity. Its use can span all areas of HR and management, from working out which candidates are most likely to be our top future sales performers, to providing tools that enable a manager to monitor performance of a global project team. At the same time we have massive changes in our workforce, from the rise of the freelancer economy, to skills shortages and demand for 24 X 7 collaboration.

We can be proud that HR has been a pioneer in adopting many emerging technologies such as Cloud applications like WorkdayOracle Fusion and SuccessFactors. Social Media in HR has in LinkedIn a high profile corporate leader, and the adoption of Mobile is changing the recruitment landscape.   HR also has the advantage of having change management skills to ensure successful implementations.

At the HR Change & Transformation 2014 Conference, we will hear from speakers who will showcase HR innovation happening in their organisations.  Speakers from different industries and sectors will share their insight and expertise in Leadership, Change & Culture, from identifying talent to developing and integrating a new generation of leaders.   Effective change management is a blend of the right change strategy combined with getting the small things right. We will hear examples of how different organisations have achieved this.

We are also at an HR Strategy crossroads, where many of our HR strategies are undergoing radical change. Some of them were developed 50 years ago, when business and society were very different to how they are now. In addition, the set of external drivers which moved us to the HR operating models of the 90s are changing fast, so now is a good time to re-assess.  Many current HR operating models are not fit for the future given the transformational change going on in our economy and workplace.
In some organisations, HR needs  to transform itself first before it can lead change and transform organisations. In our Talent & Transformation stream, we will hear examples of how organisations have transformed HR to delivery business goals.   HR Transformation is not really about HR. Although HR is the focus, the outcome is about improving People Management in organisations. HR is well positioned at the crux of workforce, productivity and human beings.  HR Transformation is really about “Workforce Transformation” with HR making the rallying call.  With new agile HR operating models, we need to think about what skills capabilities HR will need for better performance Management and business integration.
For successful HR Transformation, the trick is for HR to empower managers, in Technology, Tools & Insight. We will hear about the rise of Mobile, Social and Gamification and the benefits of Analytics in HR. Fundamentally, HR does not yet need Big Data; it needs Big Questions. What problems do we need to solve in HR? We will hear from speakers who have solved business problems using analytics and a new set of tools.
Over time, Software-as-a-Service will make us standardise our HR processes – because we will have to use the systems as they are, not configure them to our existing processes.
This is an important time in the  history of people management with the convergence of technology innovation, workforce demographics and  economic restructuring.
In 2014, we are too busy to care about being invited to the top table. We now have an opportunity to create our own table and invite who we want!
This conference will showcase many examples of HR innovation some of which you will adopt in the future. Enjoy the sharing and let us know what examples of HR innovation you will be speaking about in 2015.
I am chairing one of the streams at this event and will also be facilitating a Pre-Conference Workshop “7 Steps to Transform HR” – a pragmatic and practical approach to transformation using strategies that have worked with real HR case studies.   A 10% discount code is available for our HR Transformer Blog readers, CT14AS9.  Be great to see you there! #HRCT14
Andrew Spence
HR Transformation Director
Glass Bead Consulting
June 2014
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Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing ?

Will HR in the Cloud destroy HR Outsourcing ? HR Transformer Blog
Will ‘HR in the Cloud’ kill the HR Outsourcing industry  ?
Or, are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
In Aristrophanes play, ‘The Birds’, written in 414 BC, “Cloud Cuckoo Land” was an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect.
In our 2013 HR play, Ms HR Vendor helps the trusting Ms HR Director erect a perfect HR operating model in the clouds.
For HR Directors, this has the appeal of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
Firstly outsource chunks of your HR services on a standardised platform.  Secondly, hand over responsibility for your HR systems to the same vendor.  
This service has been called BPaaS or ‘HRO in the cloud' and this report from Gartner, is worth reading on the topic –  From ‘BPO to BPaaS: HR Outsourcing calls for the cloud.
Will SaaS melt HR processes ? 
At the recent 2013 HRO Today Forum, in London, Mike Ettling, former CEO of largest global HR Outsourcing company, NGA HRcommented that the demand for HRO will decrease over the next few years.  In Mike’s view this is because  :-
“In the last 2 years we have seen the phenomenal rise of enterprise ready SaaS solutions in the HR industry.  The game changing impact of SaaS is the fact that SaaS is melting Business Processes.
In the past we designed our system around the process, now we have to design our process around the system.  There will be less scope for customisation.”
From this perspective, there will be less HR work in general and less outsourced work.  Not a good signal for the growth of the HRO industry.
For those interested, Matt Charney from Recruiting Blogs covered this panel debate well, in Transaction to Transformation: The Next Generation of Outsourcing  
HR SaaS – Practical Lessons from HR Buyers
In a separate session, Julie Fernandez from analysts ISG, provided some insights from HR Buyers, typically clients with > 10,000 employees. 
Amongst the trends and themes I picked up from Julie, were :-

– HR Buyers are cautious, ‘letting the dust settle’ on SaaS providers as they review their current HR Operating Models and future needs. 

– The rise and rise of Workday has actually breathed life into the HRO market – NGA HR, IBM and AON Hewitt are implementing or have HRO contracts using Workday software.

– HRO Buyers want both SaaS and services together, however are not willing to lose portal, chat, contact centre solutions that have been developed over last 10 years.  Expect HRO providers to develop solutions in this space. 

– There is a 15-20% HRO penetration level for orgs with >10,000 employees and there has been more new buyers in last 8 months than previous 2 or 3 years

– According to ISG, it seems HRO is not dead yet and in fact SaaS will actually stimulate market.

One of the HRO vendors told me that the Workday (SaaS) HRO deals are certainly smaller in size, which does tend to support Mike’s view on the impact of SaaS – it does reduce the HR work required.
Are the claims of the HR Technology industry in ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ ?
It is natural to have some healthy scepticism about the claims of the HR Technology providers on the latest generation of HR systems. (especially if you’ve had as many sleepless nights as me working on Transformation Programmes over the last 20 years!).
Haven’t we heard these promises from the HR Technology industry before ?    The claims are remarkably similar to the promise of ERP systems back in the 1990s.
That the new generation of software will be rolled out to willing managers enabling them to be more productive, more self-sufficient and  will help them manage their teams more efficiently.
Did the technology deliver the promises? Well generally, no.
One of the reasons that HR is no more strategic than back in 1995 is that HR Technology has not delivered the promises.  There are lots of other reasons why, and I refer to them in other posts “How to avoid HR Technology bogeys” and “Is your operating model fit for the future?”.
Part of the problem is that the software ultimately has to be used by those pesky human beings.  So we need good communications, training and support.
Isn’t SaaS or HR in the Cloud, just the ‘next wave’ of HR systems I hear you say?  We expect better functionality and usability in each new release, and HR Directors or managers don’t really care where the servers are located.
What is it about SaaS in particular that will drive such process standardisation compared to just another release of software ?  We still need to persuade employees to work differently. 
One of the great benefits of going with a SaaS solution is we do not have the expensive and time-consuming customisation fudges.
You get what you are given in terms of functionality and then configure for your organisation.  There will be a need to use the system provided for your HR Processes, and so there will still be change management required.  This will reduce the HR Service cycle times and the HR administration support needed – which is all good news as these savings can be spent on more value add activities.
Is SaaS a catalyst for more or less HRO ?
In my opinion, The 'size of the pie' will decrease (not as much as tech firms say) but the HRO slice will increase
In other words, there will be less work overall due to the benefits of implementing standard process, however, the proportion of work outsourced will stay the same or increase.
The drivers for RPO and HR Outsourcing will still be there.  Standard software will make transitions easier with consistent service levels – increasing the appeal of outsourcing.
Over the next couple of years we will see lots of activity with reviews of HR Operating Models, implementation of new HR systems, and more HR Outsourcing contracts. (and hopefully roughly in that order!)
The Workday marketing machine will get to your Board and you will need to have worked out your plan.
So as the 2013 HRO Today Forum ended, the HRO industry could be heard to mutter a collective breath of relief and echo Mark Twain,
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". 
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Why HR Need to Be Technology Champions

This has to be the most interesting time to be working at the intersection of HR, organisation development and technology. 
There is a lot of buzz around technology as a driver for change in areas such as talent identification and development, or workforce productivity.  From working out which candidates are most likely to be our top future sales performers, to providing tools that enable a manager to monitor performance of a global project team.  At the same time we have massive changes in our workforce from the rise of the freelancer economy, to skills shortages and demand for 24 X 7 collaboration.
With this techno buzz comes heightened expectations on HR from shareholders, employees and the Executive.
HR technology solutions and HR strategy are intertwined, so that every HR Director needs to know the opportunities and challenges of new and emerging technology.  In 2010, Professor Ulrich said HR must master 6 competencies, including being a Technology Proponent.  In other words, HR needs to be a Technology Champion in our organisations.
Not necessarily understanding the nuts and bolts of configuration, but ensuring that the solutions will ultimately delivery our business goals and then successfully embed into the organisation.
With this in mind I am excited about attending the HR Technology Europe Conference in Amsterdam next week to see some of the technology solutions we will all be using in the next few years.
Now this may get the HR Technology Sales Teams excited, but not necessarily for HR Directors who do not want to go through the pain, and expense of divorcing their current HR Technology.    What we don’t want is – a lengthy courting process (i.e. sales pitches), where you show your colleagues the new 9 Box Talent Grid, only to realise that your HR Tech spouse is not quite what you signed up for.  For some large global projects, by the time the system is fully operational, the HR Strategy and HR Operating Model required to support it might have changed.  
We increasingly need to be looking at the HR Operating Model required to deliver our HR Strategy now and in the future.  A key part of that future HR Road Map is Technology.   So before you make technological changes, ask yourself – “Is your HR Operating Model fit for the future?”  
There is another very real reason why HR need to be Technology Champions – a staggering 68% of Technology Projects Fail.  However we define that failure, be it over budget, over time or outcomes not delivered, my belief is HR has valuable skills to prevent this failure.  HR has experience in change management, training, communications plus sourcing the right people to Avoid the HR Technology Bogeys  
Any technology that can give us predictable behavioural measures, can be a potentially powerful transformative tool. For example look at How Google Uses Data to Build a Better Worker.  However, for most organisations the reality is we do not have Google’s capabilities.  Research by Josh Bersin shows that only 14% of organisations have done any significant “statistical analysis” of employee data at all.
Let’s face it most of us struggle with the challenge of reconciling headcount data with Finance reporting! 
To make the most of ‘Big Data’, we need ‘Big Hypotheses’ from HR driven by our Business Goals.  Technology should not be about the art of the possible but the art of solving specific workforce problems.
….and talking of art….
For all those who like to combine cutting edge new technology with old Dutch Masters, another good reason for visiting Amsterdam is the reopening of The Rijksmuseum following a 10 year refurbishment programme, yes 10 years!  Hopefully your HR Data & Systems won’t need a ‘10 year refurb’ after this conference!
I will be blogging and tweeting as part of the Blog Squad at #HRTechEurope, so hopefully will see a few of you Amsterdam!   There are tickets still available with a special discounted rate for HR Transformers, so do get in touch for what promises to be an engaging event.
And follow @AndySpence and #HRTechEurope next week.

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Is your HR Operating Model Fit for the Future ?

HR Strategy Glue - Glass Bead Consulting
Current HR Operating Models are not fit for the future.  The implementation of the Ulrich model in the 1990s was driven by changes in technology, the need to demonstrate value for money, development of the HR Services landscape and a focus on more HR Strategy.  Ulrich’s research was built on trends which were transforming the IT and Finance sector at the time; including shared services, outsourcing,  manager self-service, and ERP technology enablement.  The ultimate goal was to spend a higher proportion of HR resources on delivering HR Strategy, and less on HR administration.
The Ulrich model delivered some benefits, but patchy implementation gave mixed results.  So after all the effort, the question remains – why is HR no more strategic now than in 1995?
The HR Business Partner (BP) role was introduced as a strategic partner and account manager for HR Services, however there have been challenges with the timing of the introduction of the role.  Launching BPs before HR Shared Service Centres have started leaves them with an impossible task of balancing transactional workload with the strategic expectations of customers.  In my experience of training BPs, I observed the ‘rule of thirds’ in larger organisations; a third are excellent, a third would be excellent with time and development, and a third will never be ‘strategic’ BPs.     The Business Partner is stuck between a rock and a hard place in a mismatch of expectations. 
In my view the great promise of HR ERP Technology has not delivered. Most organisations do not have one interconnected system for HR records, recruitment, learning, payroll, compensation management, succession planning tools and performance management.  Many multi-million dollar transformation initiatives based on HR Technology, have not delivered their goals, been late or over budget damaging the credibility of HR to transform organisations. 
HR has built a set of specialist functions that work well in silos, for example in Talent, Learning, Reward, Recruitment, Employee Relations, but don’t often work together as a whole to deliver HR Strategy.  There is evidence that we are not spending a higher proportion of our time on delivering HR Strategy as we did in the 1990s, from research carried out by Professor Edward Lawler of the University of Southern California. We have not made progress in improving the productivity of managers through enabling self-service tools. According to Towers Watson, 56% of organisations now require HR to approve transactions, which was certainly not the original vision of the Ulrich model.
The Ulrich model was developed from external drivers relevant in the 1990s but we now have a different set of drivers in place, and should re-evaluate our current structures.  Now is a good time to review our HR Operating Model, with over 50% of organisations with more than 5,000 employees in the process of re-organising their HR department from bringing in a new leadership team to redesigning HR services from the bottom-up. 
Technological innovation has provided big changes in the workforce.  It has also provided more opportunities to deliver better HR Services to a mobile, and more global workforce.  McKinsey estimate that the automation of knowledge work will have an economic impact of $5-7 trillion dollars, displacing workers with technology.  Workforce changes mean we have high youth unemployment in some areas, a jobless recovery, an ageing workforce that will need to work into its 60s and 70s and localised skill shortages, for example in science and engineering.  The demand for Talent is constant.
So where do we locate our businesses in an economy with high unemployment? Do we need a core set of employees on permanent contracts and flexible contractors who provide the right skills at the right time? Which employee services can we deliver through mobile devices?
HR is becoming increasingly fragmented and hived off into HR Services and specialist advice.  There is a growing need for more HR Strategy, yet there is less capability to deliver it.  There is a demand for support to transform organisations, yet HR has struggled with change management, technology deployment and Organisation Design required to transform itself.  The HR Services market is moving every quarter with new entrants, mergers and acquisitions.  New skills are required in analytics, influencing behaviour change, vendor management, and for HR to be workforce technology 'evangelists'.
So what can we do?  We can learn from the experiences of implementing the Ulrich model, but challenge parts of the model that are no longer applicable. 
1. Understand the changes in your workforce now and in the future, and assess the likely impact on your organisation
2. Challenge current and future HR skills you have and will need in the future 
3. Review technology innovations and partner with organisations that have a passion for improving workforce productivity
By focusing on the journey and not the end destination, you can move towards a HR model that will provide the 'HR Strategy Glue' enabling you to adapt and respond to future drivers of change. 
Join in the discussion on HR Transformer Blog or at the Tucana HR Change & Transformation Conference where Andy Spence is delivering his keynote speech on Future Trends in HR Operating Models.
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What will you Stop, Start and Continue in 2013 ?


This is the time of year when the turkey is a recent plump memory, the mince pies are all gone, the Christmas recycling is on an industrial-scale, and the champagne is in the fridge ready to bring in the New Year.  

A question I usually ask myself is What will I Stop, Start and Continue doing the following year?

I find this is a useful exercise to carry out both personally and professionally.

So why not get some of that old Christmas present wrapping paper out, write down those activities and ask yourself the following :

What activities will I Stop doing ?

By this, I don’t mean the post-Christmas detox activities, like drinking horrible tea and running round the block.  In a work context, list the activities and ask yourself – what would happen if you stopped doing this?  

This is your New Year spring clean, clearing out the clutter to free up space to focus on better things.

So once you have done this, and crossed out a chunk of activities, (you will still need to pay people, so payroll stays on the Continue list, nice try!).  Of course, most of what you do is valuable so will stay on the Continue list.

Now the fun bit, you have now created some space and energy, so think about What are the activities that you will Start doing in 2013 ?

Download our Stop, Start, Continue Worksheet below:


Here are some of our HR candidates to consider Stop and Start doing in 2013, we look forward to hearing yours.

HR Candidates to STOP
1.    The Annual Performance review – is this a meaningless paper chain, with low-value conversations with no discernible increase in productivity? If so, then dump it.
2.    Engagement Survey and Action Plan.  Can you really demonstrate that this activity improves productivity, happiness or just improves the survey results every year?  Cause and effect is too difficult to discern, so is time to do something more effective instead?
3.    Doing ‘line-managers work’ with basic employee performance issues. You have rolled out the training, had a ‘hand-holding period’ of 6 months to help less confident managers.  Is now the time to take the hard decision and ask yourselves, if a Line Manager can’t do this now, then do they need to move on?
4.    Creating reports that add no value whatsoever. Unless there is a business reason, stop producing them and see what happens…

HR Candidates to START
1.    Conduct a “meaningful work” review.  Ensure every employee understands how their work fits into the "Why" of your organisation.  Get this right and you will have much more productivity, satisfaction and better results than putting free fresh fruit in the canteen!
2.    Review your HR Strategy to ensure it aligns with the latest Organisation Strategy (which has the habit of changing every quarter)
3.    Conduct a HR Assessment – do you know how much it costs to delivery your HR Services, compared to leading outsourcers or even your competitors?
4.    Check the HR Technology market for Talent Management tools and ditch those awful spreadsheets.
5.    Make more of an effort with Finance and IT…you will always need them, they will always need you…..surprise the CFO and take them out to dinner.
6.    Find out what your Managers really think about HR service – conduct a HR Importance vs Effectiveness Survey to help you hone in on what the priorities should be in 2013.
7.    Ring up your HR Transformation Consultant to help you set-up a successful HR Change Programme in 2013

Whatever you Stop, Start and Continue in 2013, I hope it is a happy and prosperous year for you professionally and personally.


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Top HR Transformation Articles from November 2012

In November we found out who will be the leaders of the United States and China for the next few years.  In the world of HR Transformation, we start with two articles which slay two old HR dragons, Performance Reviews and Employee Engagement.  We highlight the most important HR outsourcing contracts of the last couple of years, and finish with a book recommendation on Negotiation.  A skill we all need to be very good at in HR!



Before we put on the armour and go HR dragon slaying, we have been looking at the best way to share our favourite HR Transformation articles with you, so its worth checking out our new HR Transformation Magazine format below.   All our recent articles are featured here in addition to the HR Transformer Blog.  Bookmark this for your daily scoops on HR Strategy, Recruitment, HR Shared Services, Change Management, Business Transformation, Leadership, Learning, HR Outsourcing, HR Technology and other randomness.

We are now getting towards the end of the year, so it is a good time to look at what we should Stop, Start and Continue in 2013 both personally and professionally.  At the top of our STOP list are the dreaded annual Performance Reviews……
Why Performance Reviews Don't Improve Performance

You know we like to peek at what our Academic siblings are up to, and Ray Williams has written a good article in Psychology Today, Why Performance Reviews Don't Improve Performance. (incidently Ray has also written a novel called Dragon Tamer)
When we hear the phrase "would you mind if I give you some feedback?" what that actually means to most of us is "would you mind if I gave you some negative feedback?" wrapped up in the guise of constructive criticism, whether you want it or not. According to Williams,
“constructive feedback, which is usually critical, rarely helps anyone, and certainly rarely improves employee performance on the job.”
The prevailing theory is that criticism, which invariably is part of the performance review, will improve the employee's performance, and in addition the employee will positively welcome it. Nothing can be further from the truth.
The reality is that the traditional performance appraisal as practiced in the majority of organisations today is often incongruent with our values-based, vision-driven and collaborative work environments,yet Performance reviews have become institutionalised.
Samuel Culbert, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management "this corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities."
If you can look your Executive in the eye and tell them that the annual performance review is worth the effort, then fine.  However, if you have ever wondered whether they really do increase the performance levels in your organisation – then read this article for a different perspective.
Our view is, If your appraisal doesn’t improve performance then do something else with the time and energy this will free up.

The second HR dragon to be slayed this month is the Employee Engagement Survey. This article was written by Jacque Vilet at TLNT.  Most people recognise that engaged and motivated employees are more productive, however are we getting the murky lines between correlation and causation mixed up?
A typical quote from the those selling the merits of Engagement Surveys is :
“high engagement firms have a shareholder return that is 19% higher”
But isn't this a bit like saying :-
“more intelligent firms have a shareholder return that is 19% higher”
“healthier firms have a shareholder return that is 19% higher”
All possibly true, but the question for me is, is the shareholder return higher because of higher engagement or is higher engagement just correlated with higher shareholder returns?
Of course successful organisations have higher engagement levels, profit margin and productivity.  They are possibly healthier and more intelligent too.  In these organisations, The Executive is getting something right on strategy and management.
I do vaguely remember torturous statistics modules at University – and it was drummed into our heads by exasperated Psychology Professors that  Correlation does not imply Causation
Making the assumption that higher employee engagement improves shareholder value is a bit like saying that
"Sleeping with one's shoes on is strongly correlated with waking up with a headache.
Therefore, sleeping with one's shoes on causes headache."

As Vilet explains “Every HR department wants to believe that high employee engagement causes company performance. But that is not true. Many in HR mistake correlation with causality and therefore don’t understand what drives what.”

We just do not know enough about the specific causes of high employee engagement.

Again if the activity conducting Engagement Surveys and associated reporting is only neutral on productivity, then it is not worth doing. You could be doing something better instead – like analysing specific performance issues.
So, why are engagement surveys so fashionable ?  This is another topic for another day, but a quick answer is (1) they are much easier than doing a proper root cause analysis  (2) they are pushed by a powerful sales effort.  Enough said for now.
To some, HR Outsourcing is another dragon that should be slayed, but we think there is still some puff in this dragon for the time being….

Our latest HR Transformer Blog article has a look at the The Most important HR outsourcing contracts from last 2 years.   Although there have not been too many blockbuster deals, there has been plenty of HR Outsourcing activity in smaller deals and single process outsourcing.  Find out which company has created an "HR Ice-Cream Sundae" by mixing up its HR vendors.

The Future of HR & Competencies

The new HR Competencies, have been issued from SHRM and highlighted by Cathy Missildine. You might remember from last year, Professor Ulrich's  What's next for HR? The six competencies HR needs for today's challenges which are:-

Capability Builder, Change Champion, HR Innovator/Integrator, Technology Proponent, Credible Activist and Strategic Positioner. 

We would both be interested to know which set do you prefer and why ?

Some other great articles from November

A Revolutionary Approach to Strategic Change  In this hour long Harvard Business Review webinar, John Kotter, foremost expert on leadership and transformation discusses a new approach to accelerate the achievement of their strategic initiatives in a rapidly changing environment.

BigData in HR: Why it's Here and What it Means

Given the global recession and talent imbalances in the world, companies are focusing on replacing their legacy HR systems to help apply analytics reasoning to HR and talent.  Josh Bersin provides his analysis, and for the visual thinkers provides a useful diagrammatic history in The inevitable Shift to HR and Analytics.

9 Ways HR & Recruiting Technology Will Evolve in Next 4 Years

"Most of the 10 million Millennials entering the job market during the next three years will expect a far better candidate experience than today’s." An interesting article on TLNT, from Heather Huhman.

The Amazonification of Recruiting

Bob Corlett creates a new word AND provides insight into current recruitment trends.

"The Amazonification of recruiting is accelerating. Sites like Yelp and Glassdoor are pulling back the curtain on candidate experience. LinkedIn has found a way to rapidly accelerate the endorsement process, and apparently will start to weigh your endorsements in their search results.  It’s a brave new world of accountability coming. Are your recruiting practices ready for it? "

Negotiate your L&D budget successfully  Why do people buy ? Apparently, there are 'good' reasons vs the 'real' reasons.  If you like what Simon has to say, we recommend his new book,  Negotiation Mastery: Tools for the 21st Century Negotiator. This might make a good Christmas gift for that special HR Business Partner in your life.

And finally, What Colours mean in different Cultures, with thanks to Tom @TomWHaak for this link.

We hope you have enjoyed our latest HR Transformation articles, a big thank you to those who contribute with fresh ideas and suggestions to share with the HR community. Do keep in touch with any of your future articles and suggestions @AndySpence on Twitter.

Subscribe now and get the latest and greatest independent views on HR Transformation direct to your inbox.

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Top HR Transformation Articles from October 2012

The HR Transformer Blog is back – we have been trawling the web to pull out the best HR Transformation related articles from October 2012.
There have been two big HR Technology Conferences either side of the Atlantic this month, filled with talk of ‘big mobile gamification in the data cloud’, or something similar.  After being initially dazzled for a moment, I rubbed my eyes and remembered, “It’s all about the People” and found some great articles on managing change.  I’ve taken a brief look at HR’s past and it’s future, finishing with some useful tips from HR Metrics to running your HR Shared Service centre like a Gordon Ramsay restaurant (but obviously without the expletives!).
Big mobile gamification in the data cloud  – and other disruptions at the HR Technology Conferences
The HR Technology Conferences in Chicago and Amsterdam made a big splash online. The jargon can get a bit confusing, so XpertHR have provided a very helpful guide for those who only dabble in HR Technology. The industry is buoyant after record conference turnouts, the successful Workday IPO and a flurry of takeovers including; SuccessFactors, Taleo and Kenexa. According to the press releases, new services in SaaS, mobile and big data will transform the way we manage people in organisations. The fact is many large scale HR Technology programmes do not always deliver intended goals. At a Technology Conference, funded by the technology companies – this is unlikely to be a theme with the speakers and bloggers.
Which begs the question, where are the unbiased, independent voices to support HR buyers of technology and services?
It is well known, that some analysts work for both the buyers and the vendors. According to an article by analyst, Mark Smith, Industry Exposé: Technology Vendors Skew Analysts and Influencers
“The dirty secret is that some of the largest technology vendors have forced industry analyst firms to contractually agree to the right to review, edit and approve any written research that references their name or products before it is published.”
With nearly two out of every three IT projects failing, I think there should be more focus on good governance, solid requirements and the people elements involved in change. See our article on How to avoid HR Technology Bogeys, inspired by the Ryder Cup.
“Nice interface, it even looks a bit like Facebook! Great, I can view on my phone. But how will this really help my organisation achieve its goals?”
Charlie Judy reminds us that “it ain’t a HR Strategy without technology” in a good post with some useful tips. HR Strategy should determine your HR Tech requirements, not the other way round, so don’t let the Tail wag the Dog.
A development I think will make a big impact is Salesforce’s entry into the market, with Work.com. If this sounds strange, read this excellent article by Appirio The Future of Work : Employees as Customers showing the parallels between HR and Marketing. I will be watching this develop with interest over the coming months.
For the visual thinkers, this caught my eye, HR technology on Pinterest from Deb Maher, spotted on #HRTech hashtag on Twitter.
Talking of Twitter, we have recently updated our lists of HR Transformers on Twitter for you to use, so let us know if we have missed anyone, and connect with me @AndySpence
People first
One of my mantras is that for technology investment to be worthwhile, we need to focus more on the people who will use it, these two articles on Change Management were clear and insightful.  Ten Reasons People Resist Change from a true teacher, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and a golden oldie with some useful lessons, from Harvard Business Review – The Hard Side of Change Management.
HR Operating Models – Ulrich Model 2012
The evolution of HR operating models over the past two decades has been slow in some areas.  In the article, HR's Future Looks Strategic—or Does It?  University of Southern California professor Edward Lawler has tracked the amount of time HR managers spent on working as a strategic partner since 1995. He recently released the results of his latest research, from 2010, and found nothing has changed.

"When we ask them: 'What is their role in developing business strategy for their companies?' we're getting the same answers as we've always gotten," Lawler says.

Why is HR no less strategic than in 1995?

My view is the move to a simpler Ulrich model has generally aligned HR better to organisational goals, focused more on the customer, enabling economies of scale and economies of skill.  However the transition to this model has not always been successful and the interpretation of HR roles such as the Business Partner have not been wholly successful. 

Which leads me to an interesting article Has the Ulrich model narrowed HR career paths?   
My observation is that we have some great HR Specialists in Reward, Pensions, OD, Learning – however we are slowly losing those who have the big picture of the HR Strategy.  This is retained with those with more of a generalist background – currently in leadership positions, but I have concerns about succession when they retire. 
Another question for HR Operating models related to demographics,   in 2020, one third of workers will be over 50, so how will this impact HR?  We ask the question of the Impact of the Ageing Workforce on HR.
Ulrich’s original work on HR Operating Models was influenced by what was going on in other functions such as Finance and IT.  I was interested to read that there are similarities between HR and IT in the challenges the leaders face. (e.g. struggles for the CIO to become a true partner to their business  –  sound familiar?).  Time for the CIO to jump on the wave of change from Outsourcing Magazine.
Some other useful articles for HR Transformers
HR Shared Services: What works well for a restaurant could help HR Shared Services function. Simon Brown, writing in SSON, suggests Restaurant-style Service (Tier-0 and Tier-1) “Tier 0 – to ensure your menu is well laid out, easy to search, navigate and read.” Great article, but be careful with following Gordon Ramsay’s style too closely!
HR Metrics of Note: Revenue Per Employee VS. Profit Per Employee  A good example of using HR Metrics that matter, in this case to the investor community, who use Revenue per Employee to analyse retail giant Amazon. Who else could this come from but the HR Capitalist?
Powerpoint use and abuse – Few pieces of office software have simultaneously been so used and abused even causing ‘death by PowerPoint’. Find out about Cognitive Dissonance, Noise & Overload from Donald Clark.
The Top Social Tools For 21st-Century HR Humans, communication, work etc, makes HR the ideal spot from which to harness changes in work habits for the benefit of the company – good read from FastCompany.
And finally, Live language translation. Now this is a disruptive technology! Remember Babel Fish from Hitch hickers Guide the Galaxy.  I did a Masters in Cognitive Science in the mid-90s and some of these technologies are starting to emerge – very exciting developments indeed! Hat-tip to Graeme Codrington for this link on Twitter.
We hope you enjoy our latest HR Transformation articles, a big thank you to those who contribute with fresh ideas and suggestions to share with the HR community. Do keep in touch with any of your future articles and suggestions @AndySpence on Twitter.

Subscribe now and get the latest and greatest independent views on HR Transformation direct to your inbox.

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