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The editors of Human Resource Executive® announce their selections for the top HR and training products of 2007. We feel confident these 13 products deliver what they promise.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
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After hundreds of hours of demos and research, the editors of Human Resource Executive┬« have once again selected their picks of the best HR and training products of 2007. This year's list consists of 10 HR products and three training products.

To be considered, entries needed to be released between July 2006 and July 2007. They were judged on innovation, user-friendliness and the value they add to the HR profession.

As was the case in 2006, this year's selections address a broad spectrum of HR disciplines -- from HR management systems and compensation planning to talent management and knowledge sharing.

What's more, many have taken advantage of technologies such as Software-as-a-Service and Flash for the first time. Of the entries we received this year, we feel confident these 13 products will deliver what they promise. But we'd like to again remind our readers of the importance of conducting their own due diligence before making a purchase.

Top HR Products

Workday Human Capital Management

Workday, Walnut Creek, Calif.

What It Is: Workday Human Capital Management is the HR module of Workday's enterprise suite, which also includes modules for financials, resource management and revenue management.

Components include Workday Organization Management, designed to help users perform tasks related to head-count management and HR data management; Lifecycle Management, including applicant tracking, on-boarding and off-boarding, staffing and job postings; Compensation Management; and Workforce Development, allowing users to create development plans, track and administer learning activities, manage performance and oversee succession planning.

Features include a "conceptual search" engine designed to help users find relevant data. Workday HCM is, along with the other modules, available exclusively as an on-demand/Software-as-a-Service application.

Pricing for HCM is based on the number of users and functionality and starts at roughly $100,000.

Why We Like It: Workday is the latest creation of PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield. Duffield's goal was to create an alternative to the big enterprise-resource planning systems with an application that's easy to implement and administer.

Workday does this by taking advantage of new technologies such as Software-as-a-Service and Service-Oriented Architecture, which are intended to eliminate the need for ongoing maintenance and upgrades common to conventional ERP systems. Time will tell whether this approach truly is the future of ERPs or merely an interesting diversion.

Based on its own merits, however, Workday HCM has a look and feel that closely resembles consumer Web sites such as Google and Amazon. Its functionality makes it easy for clients to configure the software to their own organizational needs rather than going through extensive customization. Thanks to its SaaS functionality, upgrades are automatically delivered to all customers.

What's more, the product is structured in a way that allows users to easily reorganize an entire operation without eliminating and creating new positions, as is often the case with other systems. Features like these make Workday a serious contender for anyone seeking the next generation of HRMS.

Overture Version 4.0

Employee Continuum (formerly eContinuum), Minneapolis

What It Is: Delivered via Software-as-a-Service, Overture Version 4.0 combines job branding and assessment methods to attract and identify top-performing sales representatives.

A fully transformed version of Employee Continuum's recruiting software, it strives to provide job candidates with quality experiences through branding videos and interactive qualification methods such as job simulations and question-and-answer segments, in order to compel top candidates to complete the application process and weed out the non-fits.

It also offers recruiters a dashboard for reviewing candidates and their responses, in optional degrees of detail.

Pricing is based on the volume of candidates per year: For example, the cost for up to 500 candidates would be a $7,500 one-time fee plus $3,000 per month; for up to 2,500 candidates, the one-time fee could range from $7,500 to $15,000, with a per-month fee of $7,000. 

Why We Like It: We have yet to see another recruiting product that combines job branding and job marketing with candidate assessment quite this well. What's more, the video segments are direct, straightforward and entertaining, talking to (mostly) young millennials on their level without dumbing down or over-hyping the sales positions in question.

By asking questions geared more toward job seekers' interests as opposed to skills and experience, Overture caters nicely to the desire in today's young candidates to be interested in the work they do. Neat features include questions that only the keenest of sales professionals would know are aimed at measuring sales-specific competencies, and the fact that questions are scrambled with each use so friends can't coach friends.

The dashboard for recruiters is user-friendly, running the gamut -- in real-time -- from quick overviews of candidates to complete responses for each candidate along with instantaneous candidate comparisons. We doubt there's anything that does as good a job in representing the employer, while respecting both the user and the candidate at the same time.

SkillSurvey Pre-Hire 360

SkillSurvey, Hawley, Pa.

What It Is: SkillSurvey Pre-Hire 360 is an online solution that uses the 360-degree approach to request information from job candidates' professional references.

Using e-mail contact information entered by the candidate, the reference providers receive a form that allows them to confirm data provided by the candidate, such as title, relationship and dates worked together, as well as submit answers -- using a scale of 1 to 5 -- about the candidate's skills, behaviors and competencies. The information is then compiled and scored, based on aggregated results.

The software also offers more than 50 survey questionnaires, based on type and level of the position being filled, but customized surveys are easily added. The solution also integrates with applicant-tracking systems.

Pricing is subscription-based, ranging from $59 for one-time use to around $20 for quantity use.

Why We Like It: Using e-mail instead of the telephone for references is not unheard of, but this product truly automates and simplifies this process. It promises faster turnaround time and increased responses while significantly reducing the amount of time recruiters have to spend on the process.

Reference requests are sent via e-mails in the name of the job candidate, thus prompting greater attention to the request. In addition, by offering references confidentiality and aggregated responses up-front, companies are also able to take advantage of more candid comments.

The Web-based system is intuitive and easy to use, based as it is on the widely known 360-degree appraisal process. One side benefit of the solution is that the name, title and contact information of references can be kept and used for passive candidate sourcing.

Simulation on Demand

Employment Technologies Corp., Winter Park, Fla.

What It Is: Simulation on Demand offers skills testing for remote applicants via the Internet, with the goal of helping hiring managers predict future job performance.

By using EASy Simulations, applicants are able to get a real-life look at specific job responsibilities in a number of industries, including bank tellers, collection agents, customer call centers, and workplace competencies such as keyboard navigation and written composition.

The solution comes with telephone or Web-based training, consultation by testing specialists, legal documentation and toll-free customer support.

Simulation on Demand has an initial set-up and implementation fee of $250 and a processing test fee with quantity discounts starting at $40 per test.

Why We Like It: Hiring managers are likely to appreciate the flexibility, ease of use and thoroughness of Simulation on Demand. The solution eliminates the need to schedule tests, allowing candidates to take them remotely at a convenient time.

The real-life scenarios and easy-to-follow tests give users a "test drive" feel for the job. Still, ease of use doesn't mean the tests are a cake walk, as applicants can be challenged by angry callers with hard-to-spell last names who have forgotten their account numbers.

Simulation on Demand's individual success profiles, produced and e-mailed to hiring managers within an hour of completing the test, offer a wealth of feedback on important skill sets such as sales orientation.

The reports provide a good picture of an applicant's strengths and weaknesses, identifying group training needs and outlining developmental activities.

eSuccession

Halogen Software, Ottawa, Canada

What It Is: eSuccession, the succession-planning module of Halogen's Employee Performance and Talent Management Suite 8.0, is designed to help companies address long-term succession-planning needs.

eSuccession is configured to gather succession-planning information in tandem with the employee-appraisal process, so that ratings and assessments are filtered directly from Halogen's performance-management module (called eAppraisal) into eSuccession.

eSuccession is built on the "talent pool" model. Talent pools are designed to let organizations define groups of employees by their skills and competencies, and rate and compare their suitability for promotion into new positions. Users can move employees into and out of talent pools based on the results of their latest assessments, and can compare those results with prior assessments.

They can also indicate whether employees are at risk of leaving the company based on input from manager-employee discussions. It's delivered as a Software-as-a-Service.

For 200 seats of Halogen's eAppraisal with eSuccession, the one-time licensing fee would start at around $9,700.

Why We Like It: Although it's not intended as a stand-alone application, eSuccession makes up for that with its ease of use and graphically appealing user interface.

Halogen has established a good reputation for creating user-friendly HR applications, and eSuccession is no exception. These days, succession planning is no longer a question of deciding who's ready to step into the executive suite -- it's about ensuring that every sector of the organization has a strong bench of players ready to step into new roles.

This task is now made a lot easier thanks to well-designed tools such as eSuccession.

PeopleClick Contact Management

PeopleClick, Raleigh, N.C.

What It Is: PeopleClick Contact Management is a stand-alone talent acquisition tool that enables organizations to build a flexible talent bank of contacts and convert them into potential candidates.

Users can capture contact information and give candidates the ability to opt in or out of communications directly from a career site, as well as add, edit and record interactions. Alerts and notifications can also be scheduled. A campaign feature allows users to develop marketing campaigns and invite contacts to specific events, notify individuals of upcoming positions and schedule recurring communications to selected groups or individuals.

The product includes a diary function that permits users to record interactions with contacts, thereby creating an audit trail that can be shared with other recruiters through a pooling function. PeopleClick Contact Management can be used as an integrated solution with its Recruitment Management System.

Pricing is tiered based on the number of users and ranges from $60 to $100 per user per month. Volume discounts are also available.

Why We Like It: PeopleClick isn't the first vendor to release a contact-management solution aimed at recruiting, but this product is as clean, intuitive and comprehensive as any we've seen. The solution ably addresses the ongoing and formidable problems of tracking prospective candidates and keeping them engaged.

In building the product, PeopleClick has clearly paid close attention to the more significant points of pain for recruiters. We especially like the movable "dashlets" that allow users to prioritize their tasks, along with the ease with which users can manage various marketing campaigns.

In an environment where building brand recognition and strengthening relationships with job candidates is more crucial than ever, PeopleClick has built a feature-rich and easy-to- navigate system.

Green Total Compensation Suite

Green Total Compensation Inc., Antioch, Ill.

What It Is: Green Total Compensation Suite is a total compensation solution that combines employee compensation -- including merit, variable incentive and performance-based awards -- and transaction-based sales compensation (also known as enterprise incentive management) on a single platform.

By merging the two, Green provides users with a single solution for planning salaries; establishing and administering variable pay, bonuses and performance-based stock awards; creating sales incentives plans and calculating payments; and performing "what-if" analyses.

Features include configurable, role-based dashboards that merge sales-comp and employee-comp data into a single view.

Prices range from $100,000 for companies with roughly 500 employees to $1 million for companies with 200,000 employees.

Why We Like It: Employee compensation and sales compensation have historically been treated as two separate issues requiring two separate solutions -- -or, at best, two different solutions that have been integrated.

By combining the two on a single platform, Green lets users view employee and sales compensation in a single location, thereby eliminating the need for "shadow" applications. Besides opening the door for HR departments to play a more prominent role in the sales compensation process, this single-platform approach should ultimately result in lower IT costs and total cost of ownership.

To be sure, building an employee compensation and sales compensation solution from the ground up on a single platform is a bold move by Green, and is likely to present some marketing challenges. But in an era when "line of sight" is more important than ever, this is well worth considering.

Mentor Scout Talent Networking Edition

Nobscot Corp., Kailua, Hawaii

What It Is: Mentor Scout Talent Networking Edition uses personal profiles and interactive information exchange as a way to facilitate employee communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing and recognition. Mentor Scout is a new spin on social-networking solutions such as MySpace and Facebook.

It allows employees to create personal profiles, a la those sites, related to their professional and personal lives and connect with other employees and potential mentors.

The online system is divided into tabbed sections that allow for the exchange of specific types of information, such as current or future work projects; recognition from colleagues or supervisors; the dissemination of questions throughout the organization; and the arranging of meetings and social gatherings. Mentor Scout is designed to encourage accelerated knowledge transfer among all employees.

It's available via subscription, with prices ranging from $8 to $50 per user, depending on the total number of participants in the program.

Why We Like It: Kudos to Mentor Scout for building a solution that engages all workers, but especially millennials, in collaboration and knowledge-sharing processes. All the features that attract Web users to Facebook contribute to making Mentor Scout an innovative tool for talent management, training and retention.

Mentor Scout Talent Networking Edition, complete with tabbed special sections that make it easy to navigate, offers access to people in the organization who can provide input, advice or direction. It's especially appealing to those seeking feedback in real-time from a variety of sources.

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Inquisite Insight Management Solution

Inquisite Inc., Austin, Texas

What It Is: Inquisite's Human Insight Management solution is an enterprise-wide, Web-native survey software application combined with a year-round performance management/appraisal system. It can be installed and managed from the customer location or delivered via a hosted platform on Inquisite's servers.

HIM uses shared survey questions that are linked to employee appraisals and reported in progress journals for each manager and customer-facing employee.

Prices start at $10,000 annually for companies with fewer than 500 employees, and scales up (at a discount) from there. For example, a company with 50,000 employees would pay an annual fee of $12 per user.

Why We Like It: HIM delivers the effectiveness and user-friendliness of a time-tested online employee survey application with an equally easy-to-understand and use employee-appraisal-management system.

In the real world, this two-pronged approach is appealing because, as many performance management experts have noted recently, a key to effective performance-management is that the process needs to be ongoing and year-round, not fragmented into one or two annual appraisals. Using HIM's comprehensive online survey capabilities, it's easy to keep that ongoing dialogue going.

In addition, the HIM survey tool can collect and integrate both employee and customer feedback. Its interface is easy to use and intuitive. Employees will also welcome the way the product connects the dots between employee performance and customer satisfaction (both internal and external customers).

Seeing HIM in action, it becomes clear how it would help employers create a performance-driven environment, because it delivers an effective, user-friendly way to hold employees and the organization accountable for the customer experience.

Sonar6 Version 2

Sonar6, Auckland, New Zealand (North American operations based in Santa Clara, Calif.)

What It Is: Sonar6 is an integrated application that enables companies to collect various forms of evidence about performance and people and use that information to better manage talent. The software, which was released to the North American market earlier this year, uses Adobe Flash technology to create a unique user interface.

Managers are able to rate their teams by dragging icons along a sliding scale. Each scale represents a desired behavior or skill. Pop-up windows and customized questionnaires are used to ensure the ratings are accurate and meaningful.

Managers are also able to get a bird's-eye view of an entire organization or unit -- and their level of performance -- or zoom in on an individual. With the release of Version 2, the software now engages employees in the process by allowing them to perform self-assessments.

The software uses a subscription pricing model. For a small-size organization, the price is roughly $150 per employee per year and decreases as the number of employees increases.

Why We Like It: Sonar6 has entered a fairly crowded space with its talent management solution, which focuses primarily on the areas of employee assessment and succession management.

But thanks to its intuitive and inviting user interface, it delivers to the market a solution that addresses one of the more formidable challenges facing HR departments- -- engaging managers in the process. Managers are likely to appreciate the "line of sight" the software gives them: In addition to providing them with insight into their organizations and units, the software offers them a view of the performance of specific individuals.

Nonetheless, it's the distinctive visual approach that truly makes this product a standout in the talent-management arena.

Top Training Products

iContent

Plateau Systems, Arlington, Va.

What It Is: iContent is a hosted solution for procuring, distributing and managing learning, training and performance content. The offering is a combination of software, content and managed services.

Clients are able to view, buy and update third-party and custom content through a single portal. Further, they're able to upload, validate and catalog custom content before it's deployed.

The product can be used in conjunction with a learning-management system or as an independent solution. Content providers currently include Element K, Ninth House and SkillSoft, as well as specialized suppliers such as Pure Safety, MedSenses and MedCom/Trainex.

Pricing is based on the number of users, the number of content titles and the type of content, with annual subscriptions ranging from $40,000 to $100,000 for medium and large enterprises.

Why We Like It: Despite efforts to meld technology and content, most attempts have so far fallen short. But now, with the release of iContent, Plateau Systems has successfully solved many of the shortcomings that have been evident in previous offerings.

Plateau likes to describe iContent as the iTunes or Amazon of learning. One could argue such analogies are a bit of a stretch, considering the depth of iContent's current content library; but the description does capture the product's core-value proposition -- giving users the ability to easily view, buy and update third-party and custom content from a single-point solution.

Retaining Talent

Ninth House Inc., San Francisco

What It Is: Retaining Talent provides managers with a tool designed to boost employee engagement and retention. The course equips the next generation of leaders with the skills necessary to keep their employees engaged and committed to their organizations.

Managers acquire the ability to identify reasons key employees leave and strategies for retaining them. In addition, the course teaches the skills and techniques necessary to maintain efficient work groups, reduce turnover and increase employee loyalty.

The product approaches retention from the perspective of leadership development. That focus fosters efficiency among managers, enabling them to take proactive action and implement plans to keep valuable employees and reduce turnover.

It's priced at approximately $200 per learner, with volume discounts available for enterprise purchases.

Why We Like It: In an era marked by talent shortages and concerns about employee retention, HR professionals will find Retaining Talent to be a valuable tool for equipping managers with specialized methods for engaging employees and keeping them committed to their organizations.

The self-paced training tool includes not only a guide that enables discussions following various segments, but also a specialized module for reinforcing information following course completion. Retaining Talent provides lots of relevant information presented in a nicely organized format.

MyQuickCoach.com

AthenaOnline, Emeryville, Calif.

What It Is: MyQuickCoach.com is a subscription Web site that offers short videos -- usually less than 5 minutes -- in which more than 60 thought leaders give mini-briefings on a variety of topics, including leadership skills, innovation, self-development, communication, negotiation, strategy and mentoring.

Many of the videos deal with nuts-and-bolts subjects such as how to deal with difficult co-workers. The idea is that instead of attending a long seminar that may or may not be helpful, users can get quick advice on a single issue or aspect of a problem they're facing.

Among the coaches are Marshall Goldsmith, Russell Ackoff, Delorese Ambrose, Beverly Kaye and Chip Bell. Bios and contact information for the coaches are provided. Videos can be downloaded to MP3 players to be watched later, and some can also be accessed on iPods and cell phones.

The cost of an account is $325 a year per person.

Why We Like It: It's extremely easy to use. A keyword search results in a Google-like list of videos, which give the topic, the coach and the length of the presentation. Click on the one you want, and the video loads and starts playing. That's it.

Although presumably you could get similar advice on the Internet, the advantage here is that the information is coming from well-known experts, and they're talking right to the camera -- so what they're saying tends to stay with you. It's like the difference between watching someone give a speech and reading the transcript -- the human touch matters a great deal. Here, you can watch the video and print out a transcript, so you don't have to take notes.

Production values are good, and by and large, the coaches are engaging. Another nice touch: as the coach is talking, bulleted highlights of his or her advice appear on a separate screen next to the video.

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