HR Tech Day 2: New, Newer, Newest

The product announcements come fast and furious at the HR Tech Conference. The annual conference taking place in Las Vegas this week is pound for pound the event with the most action when it comes to new HR systems and products. But not all news is “new” news.

There’s “new” technologies and products that are not really new in the strictest sense. Some are updates or improvements to an existing system, such as simplified sign-on system or a reorganization of existing services into a single platform or for a new market.

Then there’s the “newer;” products that have added new features or services, such as a new video interview plug-in for an ATS or a mobile platform to access the HRMS.

The “newest” include products and services that are truly new on the marketplace. Last year, I wrote about RoundPegg, a software platform to manage culture. SmartRecruiters is a good example from this  year. As founder and CEO Jerome Ternynck explained, there are plenty of recruiting products out there from job boards to networks to applicant tracking systems and pre-hire assessment tools. His aim isn’t to create a new recruiting product. Rather, it’s to build a marketplace for recruiting services.

A veteran recruiter who started his own agency at age 22 and most recently sold his recruitment software company Mr Ted to Lumesse in 2010, Ternynck started SmartRecruiters in September 2010 to address the problems he said are breakdowns in traditional sourcing tools, frustration with applicant management systems and shortcomings in tools to make hiring decisions.

His aim for SmartRecruiters is make it a bit like Apple’s iTunes. Signing up is free. Once you’re in, you can browse for specific services or discover new products or services. Just as when you buy a song in iTunes, revenue is generated by transactions that take place, such as when you post to a job board or buy a candidate assessment tool.

While the “newests” tend to grab our attention, there’s plenty of new and newer stuff that is equally intriguing. And to some, downright exciting.

For Don McLaughlin, who heads Cisco’s global business services and employee experience division, it’s HR services.

You heard it right, HR services are sexy. McLaughlin made the case to a hundred or so people on Oct. 7 in an afternoon session titled “A Major Company Has Finally Done It! Cisco Splits HR Into Two: Transactions and Strategy.”

From an employee standpoint, what’s important isn’t where an individual worker sits within the hierarchy or making sure they understand the HR process. What’s important is their need. McLaughlin said the most common mistake made in HR shared services is taking a bad talent process and shoving it out as a self-service tool. That makes no sense for anyone.

McLaughlin’s focus at Cisco – and the root of his advice for attendees – is to “engineer” employee experiences around a common set of situations. Don’t force employees to open cases within a clunky HR system when they experience a problem.

According to McLaughlin, Cisco improved satisfaction and delivered 12 percent savings by simplifying the employee experience, focusing on saving people time and limiting the choices they have to make. Segment services and identify moments that matter such as hiring or common help and support situations and design positive and efficient interactions there.

Many (myself included) like to relegate the nuts and bolts of HR – like getting people enrolled in heath care and retirement, assigning desks, computers and resources, or signing up for required compliance training – to a benighted place called “The Tactical.”

Contrast that with the exciting place known as “The Strategic.” There, we’re led to believe, is a land of boundless opportunity and growth, where there’s lots of executive tables and we’re invited to have a seat at each and every one.

McLaughlin’s point is there is incredible business value that can be generated by focusing on getting the tactical parts of HR right. And he’s right. He’s excited about it, and so should you be.

It may not be the “newest” stuff around, but there’s plenty of “new” and “newer” work that can be done to improve employee experience.