Best Ideas in HR Technology

The editors of HRE announce their top picks for ideas launched this past year that helped strengthen productivity, boost morale and engagement, and put a well-deserved spotlight on the creative powers within HR.

These are the best ideas chosen in the HR technology area:

Monday, March 2, 2009
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Web 2.0 Technology Enhancement

Capital One, Richmond, Va. 

Given the potential that Web 2.0 has to increase collaboration and knowledge-sharing, financial-services firm Capital One wanted to use it to increase engagement and innovation. The company's learning team surveyed and interviewed employees to understand what they needed to be successful.

It researched the latest Web 2.0 tools to develop in-house configurations and worked with employees to ensure tools would be intuitive and easy to use. The result was a series of upgrades and new capabilities at One Place, the firm's intranet portal, that include a "Capital One Wiki," which lets employees share information on best practices and business examples of everything from brand management to data analysis.

Other new features include blogs from corporate leaders and employees, online communities of practice, a network that lets employees add personal content to their online directories, and a feature that lets employees rate and comment on specific articles.

In terms of results, Capital One says engagement levels in its U.S. Card division rose from 59 percent at the start of 2008 to 75 percent last November. The division's leaders say the increase is partly due to new connections forged through blogs and networking.

Considering that many Web 2.0 tools are low-cost or free, we think Capital One serves as a good example for other HR leaders who are looking for cost-effective ways to encourage greater collaboration and innovation.

Make the Difference Online

University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

When it comes to finding ways to do things better, the best ideas often come from employees, not high-paid consultants. That's why we're pleased that the University of Kentucky went the extra mile in building a state-of-the-art employee-suggestion program.

For almost four years, the university has encouraged its employees to submit their ideas for enhancing revenue, seeking efficiencies and improving the organization via a program called Make the Difference. But there were a few problems: The process was paper-driven and unwieldy, and there wasn't enough staff to handle the volume of submissions and provide timely feedback to employees or let them know the status of their submissions.

The university decided a change was needed.

Last year saw the debut of Make the Difference Online, a Web-based program jointly developed by the HR and IT departments, and designed to let employees get quicker feedback on their ideas and suggestions. Employees submit their proposals online and are then able to view their status via a virtual dashboard.

The program's coordinators then screen each idea and designate an evaluator from an online network to analyze the idea in greater detail. Since the launch of Make the Difference Online, the response time to proposals has been cut in half, while employees receive quicker and more effective feedback via the online platform.

Cognitive Assessment Program

Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati

Like many companies, Procter & Gamble is moving its recruiting efforts online. But in an effort to improve the way it assesses candidates and cut costs in the process, the consumer-goods giant recently launched a program that takes online assessment to a new level. P&G has a long history of conducting cognitive ability testing.

But last July, working closely with Development Dimensions International of Bridgeville, Pa., it moved cognitive assessments online so candidates could take them unsupervised.

"This was something we wanted to do for some time, but the technology simply wasn't there," says Robert E. Gibby, senior manager of employee and organization research and sensing at P&G. "It allows us to do cognitive testing in a way that's fair, legally defensible and easily accessible ... ."

On the back end of the process, P&G verifies the data with a 40-item, paper-and-pencil cognitive test. But by moving the front end of the process to the Web, the company has been able to reassign assessment professionals to more meaningful work and expects to realize an estimated savings of $1 million during its first year. In the reasoning screen, 15 questions are presented to applicants from a database of more than 400.

The tests begin with "easy" questions and move up and down the continuum of cognitive ability based on whether candidates provide a correct answer or not. P&G uses the tests to fill management administrative and technical positions in 80 countries around the world. An estimated 500,000 hires are expected to take the tests in 2009.


iQor Inc., New York

It's not news that call centers suffer some of the highest turnover rates of any industry. That's why we think the approach taken by iQor Inc., a business-process outsourcing firm with a global workforce of 9,000 employees, warrants a serious look from HR leaders at other firms dealing with this problem.

The company decided that a good place to start reducing turnover rates that often exceeded 100 percent was to make sure it was hiring the right people in the first place. So, in 2008, it began rolling out "eApt," an internally developed online test designed to gauge candidates' emotional, intellectual and conversational skills, as well as the likelihood they'll stay at the company. eApt then converts those factors into each candidate's probability of success at iQor.

The test, developed with the assistance of a labor economist from Columbia University as well as a psychiatrist and a lie-detection expert, is designed to measure qualities such as empathy and ambition, as well as conversational capability. It also differentiates the likelihood of success by the type of work candidates are applying for -- in other words, their likelihood of success in customer service may be different from their likelihood of success in collections. All candidates must receive a minimum score on eApt in order to be considered for hire.

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Since iQor implemented the test, it says it's saved costs by eliminating the need for interviews. It also says the quality of hire has gone up, with new agents 10 percent to 25 percent more productive than those hired before the test, while attrition rates at the locations that have implemented the test are half the industry standard. 

Video Hub

Nokia, Helsinki, Finland

Nokia has found a creative way to use its own products to engage employees. In Jan. 2008, the telecommunications giant launched its Video Hub, where any Nokia employee can post a self-produced video. Since then, nearly 1,500 videos have been uploaded.

The site lets Nokia employees tell their stories, says Ian Gee, head of organization development in Nokia's London office. "It represents one more way for us to engage our employees."

In 2001, Nokia began to pursue a Web 2.0 strategy (before Web 2.0 was a term) called Nokia Way Cafés, where employees were able to openly raise issues and hold discussions. "The cafés demonstrated a wish at Nokia to be open and engage employees in two-way communication," says Matthew Hanwell, senior manager of new Web experiences in Nokia's Helsinki, Finland, headquarters. Later, other components were added, including News Hub, where employees could post stories and also comment on and rate items already posted; and a Blog Hub.

The Video Hub was a natural extension of this strategy, since many Nokia employees already have video-capable Nokia cell phones. But those behind the initiative also realized that the site's success hinged on having employees skilled at producing quality videos. Early on, the company identified 200 "reporters" from around the globe and, using a London-based vendor, trained them on "how to tell their story" using Nokia devices, says Gee.

As part of a "Values Makes a Difference" campaign, the reporters were asked to produce two 90-second videos on that topic once the training was finished. The program was voluntary, and roughly 100 videos ended up being posted on the hub. Like the News Hub, employees can also post their comments and rate the videos. Many companies are either pursuing or considering a Web 2.0 strategy in HR.

But as the Video Hub shows, Nokia is among the handful of companies that is leading the way in this area. What's next for Nokia? Analyzing the films being posted to identify "signals of what's going on in the Nokia World," says Hanwell.

Read the Best HR Ideas main story and our winners for Benefits, for HR Technology, for Talent Management and for Training & Development.

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