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Best of the Bunch

The editors of Human Resource Executive® announce their selections for the top HR and training products of 2010. This year, many recruiting tools -- often with social media components -- were winners. There were also a number of entries featuring workforce analytics and workforce planning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010
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Each year, as the HRE editorial board judges its top-product entries -- with additional help from outside analysts -- trends and signs of the times often become apparent. This year was no different.

Leading the pack among yet-another healthy batch of entries were numerous recruiting innovations, most of them taking advantage of social media. Though we view this as more of a technological trend than an economic one, these products and others like them should come in handy as the recovery ensues.

We also noticed, this year, an uptick in the number of tools leaning in the direction of workforce analytics and workforce planning -- indicative of another fast-growing space within the HR technology realm.

This year's 10 winners include nine HR products and one training product. (To be considered, products had to be released between July 2009 and June 2010.)

As we reiterate each year, the products featured in the next few pages are, in our estimation, the best of the solutions we received, capable of delivering on their promises and capable of making HR's job easier.

And, as we also remind you each year, make sure you're doing your own due diligence before licensing or purchasing any of them.

Rypple Feedback

Rypple, Toronto

What It Is: Rypple Feedback is a web-based, Software-as-a-Service application that is designed to provide managers with better visibility into the performance and activities of employees. By using Rypple on a regular basis, managers and companies are able to capture the actions, outcomes, feedback and accomplishments of team members and thereby compile a clearer picture of team members' activities and performance. The application enables the public recognition of achievements, including links to specific results and competencies. Pricing ranges from $3 to $7 per employee per month.

Why We Like It: What we like most about Rypple is its simplicity. As Rypple's website points out, the product is basically a "social network for feedback." It permits employers to provide employees with continuous and confidential feedback in a format that's as straightforward as many of the popular social-networking sites. To be sure, Rypple isn't for everyone (it's specifically targeted to the needs of small and medium-sized companies). But if you're among those HR leaders seeking a better way to provide employees with meaningful feedback on an ongoing basis, you may want to at least test the waters of Rypple.

Kenexa 2x Mobile

Kenexa, Wayne, Pa.

What It Is: 2x Mobile is an application designed for the iPhone and BlackBerry (with Android and iPad apps planned for 2011) that allows hiring managers to approve job requisitions and hirings no matter where they are. The 2x Mobile app is integrated with Kenexa's 2x Recruit applicant-tracking Software-as-a-Service solution so that all information is automatically captured and updated in real time. The app limits transactions to the key actions needed to allow HR professionals to move the process along, regardless of whether the hiring manager is in or out of the office. Icons on the smart phones let the hiring managers know how many tasks are waiting for action, and the phones can be set up to vibrate or make noise when an action is added or updated. The mobile app requires an additional subscription fee ranging from 9 percent to 12 percent of a company's regular subscription fee for Kenexa's ATS. A single fee covers all platforms and phones in the organization.

Why We Like It: With some statistics showing that half of the workforce is mobile on any given day, this simple approval system lets the work of recruiters continue even as hiring managers are on the road. The interface is intuitive and basic, providing barebones information -- or offering more details, such as entire resumes or full job reqs -- when desired by the hiring manager. And there is an "are you sure?" approval step that makes a lot of sense for anyone who's pressed some wrong buttons on a phone's tiny keyboard. It can definitely be a time-management boon for organizations whose hiring managers are on the road a lot.

Saba Impressions

Saba, Redwood Shores, Calif.

What It Is: Saba Impressions is a performance-feedback tool that opens the process to all co-workers and expands the time frame from once or twice a year to every moment of every day. It uses a Twitter-like platform that enables individuals across the organization to enter comments, regardless of reporting structure. Each employee has a set number of "nuggets" (read: gold stars) to give away to co-workers and their comments are limited to 200 characters. The module is an add-on to Saba's performance-management solutions, costing $5 per user perpetual or $4 per user per year on demand.

Why We Like It: Who hasn't dreaded the annual performance-review period, when managers and employees alike have to plumb their memories searching for items to include in the forms? With Saba Impressions, colleagues can comment on projects or work at any time, and the information is saved into the formal performance-review process. And with the limited number of characters permitted, the comments will be concise and useful instead of wordy and wandering. While some performance-appraisal tools do offer an individual and his/her manager everyday journaling of work activities, Saba Impressions is different in that it opens the process up to the entire workforce. It's also informal, thereby making it very accessible and inviting. And if someone is unhappy with a co-worker's performance, this tool can provide feedback and enable corrections in planning or execution.

Accero Workforce Intelligence

Accero, Lake Oswego, Ore.

What It Is: Accero Workforce Intelligence is a reporting and analytics tool designed to quickly uncover actionable HR information. It includes approximately 200 predefined HR metrics, scorecards, charts and graphs as well as traditional reporting capability. The tool is intended to be fully integrated with the Accero Cyborg solution. Workforce Intelligence also has a prebuilt data feed for all HR and payroll data and a data model for storing it. Pricing starts at $50,000 and varies based on the clients' number of employees.

Why We Like It: Accero, long known as Cyborg Systems until its recent name change, has a relatively small but loyal band of customers, and this well-designed product will no doubt strengthen those ties even further. Designed to be up and running within days of initial installation, Workforce Intelligence's rich trove of easily navigable scorecards, charts and graphs should make it an indispensable asset for today's data-driven HR organization. Although Workforce Intelligence is currently available only to organizations that use Accero Cyborg, plans are in the works to make it more widely available at a later date.

Voice Advantage

HarQen, Milwaukee

What It Is: Voice Advantage is a candidate-interview program that lets recruiters use their phones and a simple web-based dashboard to create and distribute custom, recorded phone interviews. Candidates can be interviewed at their own convenience just by clicking on a link in an e-mail or on the web, typing in a phone number, and answering a call a second later. A digital recording of the interview can immediately be reviewed, as well as sent to others for their input and ranking. Voice Advantage also generates an automatic report that lists the candidates who have completed the interview, in order of team preference. Monthly subscription fees start at $250 per user.

Why We Like It: A real timesaver for hiring managers, Voice Advantage not only allows hiring managers to select from a built-in template of interview questions, but a campaign-creation feature also allows them to set up an entire hiring process with just a few simple steps. We also like that the program includes an optional series of knockout questions on the website, which streamlines the process and minimizes the number of poor-fit candidates before they even get on the phone. What IT will like about it is that the entire process is managed with a simple online dashboard and requires no administrative support. For managers, we also love that the program eliminates scheduling hassles, including time-zone challenges, because candidates can interview as soon as it's convenient for them. Also, candidates can actually hear a recruiter's voice immediately upon signing in, while also lending their own voice and personality to their resumes.

Power Resume Search

Monster Worldwide, Maynard, Mass.

What It Is: Power Resume Search is a new technology that can help recruiters find the most qualified candidates when searching Monster's immense database. Instead of Boolean, keyword-based searching, 6Sense semantic search technology determines years of relevant experience -- regardless of the innumerable ways resumes may list that information -- as well as educational background and other search criteria. It understands abbreviations, synonyms, current experience versus past experience, and knows when certain types of skills correspond to various job requirements -- such as understanding that, when a candidate lists SAP or Peoplesoft experience, it meets a requirement for enterprise-software experience. The tool then provides a prioritized list of quality candidates. The dashboard also allows recruiters to automate search queries, and provides candidate-management actions such as e-mailing and adding notes. A two-week license costs $845.

Why We Like It: Power Resume Search allows recruiters to filter through the deluge of information on the web and find potential job candidates by analyzing both the content and the context of resumes in Monster's database. The difficulties of creating just the right keywords to search for a candidate is no longer an issue, as the tool extracts and automatically displays relevant skills and years of experience against job criteria -- and against other possible candidates. It takes less time to find more qualified candidates -- and who can argue with that? Monster initially acquired the technology from Trovix and then spent nearly two years improving various aspects of it and scaling up its performance level.

Aquire InSight

Aquire Inc., Irving, Texas

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What It Is: Aquire Insight is a hierarchy-driven workforce-analytics solution that provides trend analysis, talent-management measurement and scorecard metrics for HR executives to align workforce analytics with a company's strategic goals. The SaaS solution can create organizational charts, custom reports and graphical trend reports that can be easily linked and distributed via PowerPoint, Excel and Cognos reports, thereby allowing managers to better visualize and analyze workforce trends. Users can also perform workforce-benchmark analyses to use as baselines for modeling predictive analytics for their organizations, and utilize its automated, built-in ad hoc report-distribution function. Pricing for the solution and support starts at $160,000 annually, after an initial $95,000 setup fee.

Why We Like It: When it comes to managing an organization's promotions, transfers, terminations, new hires and workforce initiatives, it's always helpful to have access to an array of handy add-ons, such as a feature that provides annotations for timelines to provide insight into how changes in the workforce will affect an organization's bottom line and the ability to analyze employee movement by both layer and position within the organization. But having dedicated access to a certified workforce analyst, which is included in the cost of the solution, is also helpful when dealing with hypothesis testing of business drivers and when linking workforce trends to business trends. And we love that InSight's secure reporting engine -- hosted on Aquire's servers -- enables users to provide managers with access to the workforce-performance metrics specific to their particular departments.

Jobvite Source

Jobvite, Burlingame, Calif.

What It Is: Jobvite Source is a social-networking application that focuses on referrals to promote jobs and find qualified candidates. Jobvite uses propriety matching technology to source, match and recruit candidates using employee referrals, social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and web searches. The matching technology can also be used to match jobs and send job invitations -- Jobvites -- to contacts in Microsoft Outlook and other databases. The real-time dashboard allows recruiters to track each job, the source where candidates found information about the jobs and other analytics. Subscriptions start at $350 a month.

Why We Like It: Employee referrals have always resulted in more qualified job candidates being brought forward for open positions, and Jobvite Source is employee referrals on steroids. Its automatic searching, matching and filtering solution targets that most sought-after job applicant -- the passive candidate -- by a variety of methods, such as job level, attributes, geography or other criteria. Using social media for recruiting is a very time-consuming endeavor, but Jobvite Source makes it quick and automatic.

mResource Mobile Talent 2.0

mResource, Chicago

What It Is: mResource Mobile Talent 2.0 is an interactive text and mobile web platform that enables organizations to use cell-phone texting and mobile web applications in the recruiting process. Job candidates opt in to the service -- which organizations can promote on corporate or external career job sites or on social media. Recruiters can screen the applicants -- using text or mobile web -- for information such as e-mail addresses, and geographic or job preferences. Once profiled, the recruiters can use text messages to alert candidates -- targeting just one or many -- about open positions and/or the applicants can be steered to the recruiter's applicant-tracking system. Recruiters can also track the time spent on the page, content delivered and data requested as well as take advantage of keywords to track candidate sources. A monthly enterprise license for the customized SaaS product costs about $2,000 to $4,000 per month.

Why We Like It: Cell phones are ubiquitous and this is a simple, effective way to leverage them -- for both recruiters and applicants. mResource Mobile Recruiting Solution also doesn't require a smart phone; any ordinary cell phone will do. Add in the ability to offer employer branding and expanded job data via the mobile web capability and you can see why we think this solution provides recruiters with easy, real-time connections with job candidates.

Englishtown 10

Englishtown Inc., Hong Kong

What It Is: Englishtown is an online program designed to teach students how to speak, read, write and understand English. Its interactive approach offers a variety of learning activities that mix and match sounds, words, letters, pictures, games and videos. Students are tested on their comprehension skills, receive feedback on their progress and learn a few shortcuts to learning a new language -- such as focusing on nouns and verbs to understand what is spoken or written. Students can join live conversations every hour, get private lessons from online teachers or create their own stories in a grammar lab. Monthly price ranges between $60 and $90 per student, depending upon country and lesson types.

Why We Like It: This is definitely not a traditional language class where students collectively repeat boring phrases like, "I'm going to the library." This is fun, even motivating. Students engage in a variety of highly interactive activities that simultaneously test their reading, writing, language and listening skills. They may listen to someone read a sentence aloud, see the same sentence written, then fill in a missing word from a list of words. Other clever features let students match two halves of words from a list, such as "key" with "board" and match pictures with words read aloud. They can also listen to a group of words, then click on those words, which appear in a written list, in the order they were spoken.

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