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Five themes from HR Tech World Spring 2016, London

HR Tech World Spring 2016 LondonThe 2nd HR Tech World was held in London’s ‘ExCel’ centre – oh the sweet irony, and a pertinent reminder of how far we have come!  Here is my view of some of the themes emerging from the conference.

This was an excellent conference with good speakers, a mix of old and new and enough space for good conversations which is what the event is all about.

But first things first, here are all the presentations from HR Tech Congress in one place which is a fantastic resource to flick through.

Software is Eating HR

John Sumser declared “The end of the HR enterprise software era” at HR Tech in Amsterdam 2013,  we have now automated pretty much all we can.  Software continues to feast on HR, starting with the horrible bits we don’t like and leaving the tasty morsels to our managers and HR people and change superstars – well that’s the theory anyway.

Lots of orgs have moved to the Cloud, so we are accumulating lots of lessons and methods to internalise before embarking on our cloud journey.  There was a whole steam dedicated to user adoption for example with presentations from Rolls Royce and Cushman & Wakefield.  Before moving to the Cloud, give this a read, How to Earn your HR Cloud Tattoo, and maybe share your case-study, and tattoo, at the next HR Tech Congress?

Sierra-Cedar kindly shared their research findings and presentation on their, 2015-2016 HR System Survey.  Some findings caught my eye, including:

 

The ‘Big 2’ tech providers dominate in EMEA with HRMS adoption with 83% of the market. SAP (HCM plus SuccessFactors) make up 52% and Oracle 31%. ADP, Kronos and Workday make up 25%. This might surprise some delegates noting the presence of CoreHR and Workday for example.  The ‘Big 2’ have their legacy customers, the onus is on the challengers to prise them away and build their market share.

The average cost per employee per year for SaaS for large companies (>10,000 employees) is $116 and for smaller companies (<2,500 employees) this cost is $394.

Wearable Technology – 16% of orgs in the survey are using or evaluating. This is an interesting trend to watch which I highlighted in my recent article Quantified Workplace: Trust vs Technology? 55% using wearables believing the benefit to be “increased workforce productivity”.

Rethinking Organisations

Josh Bersin summarised Deloitte’s research “92 percent of companies believe that redesigning the organization is very important or important, making it No. 1 in ranked importance.  Companies are decentralizing authority, moving toward product- and customer-centric organizations, and forming dynamic networks of highly empowered teams that communicate and coordinate activities in unique and powerful ways.”

This is music to my ears! For too long, companies have spent too much time tweaking round the edges of on initiatives such as employee engagement.  This is often a distraction from solving the root cause of business problems and the looking at the big picture.

As we move to new business models and organisational structures, we will need to redesign HR, and the software that supports this.   This will quickly supercede some of the current HR debates around talent, performance management and employee engagement.

The winners will be those that embrace diversity

Diversity was a theme from this conference, including a presentation from Martha Lane Fox, who made a powerful case for UK plc to take a lead on the internet as a cause for good.  But we have some work to do…

Heidi Spirgi from the Marcus Buckingham Company shared research that should tie your stomach in a knot, with her presentation, Women & Technology, the findings speak for themselves :

Currently only 17% of people working in tech in the UK are women

AND

UK is experiencing a digital skills gap that is forecasted to reach 745,000 workers by 2017

60% of college graduates are women in Europe

The first good reason for diversity is fairness, allowing all member of society to flourish.

The second good reason for diversity, is that if your organisation does not pull its ideas from the widest talent pool to solve problems, then you are likely to lose competitively.

The concept of Diversity of Thought and this paper is worth reading.  As Dorothy Dalton has said, “how can we talk about gender as a ‘diversity’ issue when 50% of the population are women, it’s a balance issue.”  Lots more we can do here…

Challenges with People Analytics

There were some presentations showing success in the use of people analytics to solve business challenges such as determining office location, retention, absenteeism and successful recruiting in the Smart Data stream.

This year, the percentage of companies that believe they are fully capable of developing predictive models doubled, from 4 percent in 2015 to 8 percent in 2016.

This is a hot area, but in danger of not fulfilling its massive hype due to structural issues we have in HR such as skills, data, systems and robust frameworks.

Using a house analogy, there is no point investing in smart sensing technology when the plumbing and heating don’t work.  I will be writing more about the barriers to People Analytics in subsequent articles.

Startups disrupting HR?

The start-ups seemed to be even busier than previous conferences with well attended sessions and stands.   The main areas were in employee engagement, recruiting, learning, employee feedback, onboarding & employer branding.

The winner of the competition was Arctic Shores who use science and games to identify high potential millennials.  Here is a useful list of the start-ups from Faye Holland, “#DisruptHR – who will you make a beeline to meet?”

See you in Paris!

This was a guest blog for HRN Blog,"Five themes from HR Tech World Spring 2016, London"

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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. 

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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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HR Robots: Transformers in Disguise?

Transformers-Robots-In-Disguise-San-Diego-Comic-Con-2015-Exclusive-Trailer

At HR Tech Europe last year I was fortunate to meet a very nice robot, called Oscar, who works for Oracle.

In ‘speaking’ to the Robot, I noticed it’s intelligence was limited by the human who was hiding behind the conference stand using a microphone.  It dawned on me that it passed the Turing Test, but in reverse.  As you know, the Turing Test, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human.  So, the reverse Turing Test, is a test of a human’s ability to tell if a robot is really human?

According to McKinsey, the automation of Knowledge Work will have an economic impact of between $5 to $7 trillion dollars by 2020.  (see  “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy”  which is an excellent 176 page PDF report)

In their book, ‘The Second Machine Age  – Work, Progress and Prosperity in a time of Brilliant Technologies’ McAfee & Brynjolfsson, explain that the ‘first machine age’ gave rise to the modern discipline of management; companies hired armies of managers to co-ordinate the workers who operated the machines, and to organise supply chains and distribution systems.  The ‘second machine age’ will reconfigure the discipline: much of the work of bosses, from analysing complex data to recruiting staff and setting bonuses, will be automated.  The impact on society of this and the age of “peak-jobs” is one for the economists, futurists and gulp……..politicians.  (see for example  “Intelligent” robots threaten millions of jobs warns Ed Balls )

However smart machines impact us right now.

Google’s “human-performance analytics group” uses algorithms to decide which interview techniques are best at choosing good employees, and to optimise pay.

Robots in literature and movies have been used to project our greatest fears. Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (1921) – is credited with coining the term “robot”, which in its original Czech, “robota” means forced labour, and is derived from “rab”, meaning “slave.”

In the context of the automation of work, the visceral fear is not having a job or livelihood, but what we are talking about here is not so much CP30, but rather the general adoption of “smart-machines” replacing traditional white-collar work.

So what is the impact of Robots on HR ?

Firstly, the ongoing transformation of the workforce enabled by technology means our HR strategies are looking increasingly out of date.  We can guess that there may be less workers, probably different contracts of employment and definitely different skills required.  So our annual performance reviews and engagement surveys in a workforce full of freelancers, working 24 X 7 across the globe is looking very last century.

Secondly, even more HR transactional work itself has the potential to be automated.

When we talk about Robots in HR, what we really mean is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

What is RPA ?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.

What does RPA really look like?

RPA in practice covers process automation, IT support and management and automated assistants.

An ideal set of circumstances in which to apply RPA are rules-based, repeated and standardised work activities.

So in HR, RPA lends itself well to core HR data administration using a central ERP system, payroll, on-boarding and off-boarding.

I have written about the impact of cloud technology on HR and the need for HR to standardise its processes to utilise new SaaS Technology,  “Will HR in the Cloud kill HR Outsourcing?” and Phil Fersht followed up with his slam dunk article, “HR in the Cloud: It won’t kill HRO, but it may kill what’s left of dysfunctional HR”.

There is a trend of reducing HR work, particularly transactional work, and I see RPA as a continuation of this trend.

When we review a HR function, we look at all HR work activity with different lenses.  So for HR work that is not subsumed by HR in the Cloud, we now look to see whether we can eliminate, automate or outsource – and now RPA can play a key role here in automation.

What are the benefits for HR ?

Howard H Nelson, Founder and Managing Director of Honhr Ltd, writing on the Genfour Blog,  suggests the following :-

“RPA will initially make significant in-roads into the transactional HR activities and eventually become the feeder of business intelligence into the higher-end activities and will impact all processes.  Robotic costs are already massively beneficial when compared to equivalent full-time employees (£2,000-3,000 of robot power can displace £20,000-30,000 of employee costs) the maths of the new proposition have already made a paradigm shift. “

See also my interview with Hayley Lange at Genfour, "Where does RPA sit in the wider HR transformational landscape?"

The term ‘Robot’ is probably not helpful, and may fall by the wayside after a few years.  However RPA will fill a gap in current HR Models until we all move to the promised land of HR in the Cloud with easy to use HR Technology.

The implication for HR and future Operating Models is that we often look at areas of HR which are core and strategic; those that need to be kept in house and those areas which could be outsourced.  Now we have a new string to our bow – which activities can we give to robots?

Maybe robots will turn out to be better guides than your humble consultant, but surely that’s taking it too far !

Get in touch and let me know what you discover @AndySpence and #HRTechWorld, and I will hopefully see you in London or Paris in 2016!

This post was orginally posted on the HR Tech Europe Blog as a guest post.

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