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http://www.hreonline.com/images/SteveBoese106x106.jpgThe Road to 'Awesome'

The process for selecting HR's most "Awesome New Technologies" reveals an industry that continues to innovate. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
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Recently I was speaking with a friend and former colleague who is now the CHRO at a small to mid-size manufacturing company. As is often the case when I get a chance to talk with CHROs, the conversation turned to HR technology. I immediately seized upon the opportunity to opine about some of the massive shifts that are impacting all kinds of enterprise technology -- Big Data, the emergence of Software-as-a-Service, and the increasing consumerization of enterprise systems -- those sorts of things. Because not only are these kinds of major, generational-type shifts important, but I also find them really interesting to think, write and talk about.

Somewhere during the conversation (probably just after I launched an exposition into thoughts around how the development of new and better fully articulated industrial robot technology will change EVERYTHING about work and the workplace), my friend, the CHRO, stopped me cold when she said, "Robots might be the future, but I have problems that need solving today. I have so many candidates for some jobs, and not enough for others. I have an understaffed team that is overwhelmed with employee questions and issues. I have healthcare reform to sort out. I need to make sure our best employees see and can truly envision building a career with us. What technologies have you seen lately that can help me address those problems that I have right now?"

One of the tasks I have as co-chair of the upcoming HR Technology® Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas this October is to program and select the participants for the "Awesome New Technologies for HR" session, a general session meant to showcase a half-dozen of the most innovative and exciting new products and solutions in the HR market. The largest part of this process involves seeing product demonstrations and talking with a wide range (and large number) of solution providers from across the HR technology industry. And while, at the time of this writing, I am still in the middle of the process, and no "Awesome New" participants have been selected as of yet, I certainly have seen about 40 or so solutions, many of which, whether they become "awesome" or not, definitely fit the criteria my CHRO friend described.

So rather than wax philosophical once again in the column about some major "mega-trend" in the industry, or offer some highly subjective interpretation of the "future of HR technology" in this month's column, I'd like to simply recognize a handful of really interesting and innovative technology solutions that I have seen recently, and that are indeed the kind of solutions that are accessible and (more importantly) deployable relatively quickly by organizations of all sizes. And most importantly, meet the CHRO's need to solve a problem she has right now -- and not in some future, robot-dominated, Google Glass covered world.

Disclaimer at this point: None of the solutions below have been officially selected for the "Awesome New" session at the conference, nor were they necessarily the best overall solutions I have reviewed. But all of them have the qualities that are important to me and this column's purpose, as well as to my CHRO friend. Last, these are presented in no particular order of importance or "awesomeness."

360 Candidate -- In the overall HR technology market, it has always been technology associated with the recruiting process that has led the way in terms of innovation and the "wow" factor. Just in the last few years, more advanced tools for assessing candidates and reviewing candidates' social-media presence, video or digital interviewing platforms, and automated and sophisticated reference checking and evaluation solutions have all emerged. 360 Candidate is interesting because it combines elements from all of these types of innovations into one easy-to-use and deploy solution.  If you are a small or midsize organization that wants to explore several of the most recent recruiting tech trends in one unified package, then 360 Candidate might be worth a look.

Dovetail -- Dovetail takes what on the surface seems like a dull, but necessary function, HR case management, and turns it into a much more engaging process and helps HR leaders to create a valuable organizational asset. With user-friendly dashboards and task-lists to help organize cases, the ability for increased visibility towards case status, comments, and resolution, and the support for the creation of a company-wide HR knowledge base, the software helps HR organizations do their jobs better and more efficiently. The "see what other cases this employee has opened up" feature alone makes this tool not only cool, but effective. And Dovetail execs tell me a midsize company can be up and running in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

Zao -- Year after year, "source of hire" surveys indicate the same key finding: Employee referrals represent the top source of qualified candidates. It is such a common truism in recruiting that most organizations have some kind of employee referral program in place. And managing these programs, maintaining employee participation and enthusiasm, and leveraging both employee and external resources' social networks are the components of the latest generation of employee referral software solutions. One such solution is Zao. Zao enables and empowers the modern employee referral program, can connect with participants' social networks to facilitate sharing of job information and, best of all, can be implemented and live in a matter of just a few days.

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careerCentre -- Whether it's been too many years of organizations repeating the mantra, "Career development is the employee's responsibility," or the after effects of a long-term global economic recession that forced many firms to focus on basic survival, it seems like employee career development has not had significant attention in the organization, and in HR technology arenas. The New Zealand-based Career Engagement Group aims to change this trend, with its engaging careerCentre solution. The careerCentre uses some clever and fun assessments, coupled with an engaging user interface that I've not really seen before in HR software, to deliver a set of tools and capability that enables employees to better understand their strengths and values, and for organizational leaders to better align their workforces to the overall mission.

Bonus.ly -- I was only going to list four solutions in the column, but I will throw in a "bonus" solution -- a brand new concept for awarding employee bonuses called Bonus.ly (pardon the pun). Bonus.ly offers a simple, yet compelling and really almost addicting capability -- allowing employees to give each other periodic and small monetary bonuses. Did your colleague bail you out of jam on a project? Award them $10 or $20 to say "Thanks." Did your team members run the shop with no emergency calls to you while you were on vacation last week? Give them all a few dollars as a way to recognize their efforts. There are numerous "rewards and recognition" solutions on the market, but I like the way Bonus.ly keeps it simple -- do something good and get some cash from your colleagues and peers.

I could go on and on with this list of interesting, cool and accessible new HR tech solutions, but I think (hopefully) you get the message that while often the HR tech industry is dominated by the strategic moves, and mergers and acquisitions of the big players, innovation continues to happen on the edges. I like all the solutions profiled above, and there are many more I have seen this summer that I like as well. If you make it out to the upcoming HR Technology® Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas this October, you can see which six technologies get the designation as "Awesome New Technologies" as well as see and touch many, many more innovative technologies at the show. And even if you can't make it out to the show, just remember that the HR tech market continues to move forward, with amazing new solutions that are within the reach of even the smallest organizations.

Steve < Boese is a co-chair of HRE's HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.

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