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New Tech Directions

Go behind the scenes with the CEO of one of last year's "Awesome New Technologies for HR" solution providers to see what will drive the next generation of HR-technology solutions. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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One of the highlights of the human resource calendar each year is the annual HR Technology® Conference, (scheduled for Oct. 7 through 10 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Conference Center in Las Vegas; see http://www.hrtechnologyconference.com for more information). The conference, now in its 17th year, has become one of the industry's must-attends, showcasing presentations from HR professionals at many of the world's leading organizations; the participation of the top industry analysts, influencers and experts; an expansive program that covers all the critical human capital process areas; and the largest HR tech expo featuring all of the leading HR technology providers (and plenty of new HR tech companies as well).

At the conference, attendees will be able to hear from their HR peers in sessions covering important themes such as the increased focus on data and analytics to support HR processes and make decisions; the importance for end-user adoption of user experience and modern, intuitive design in today's leading technologies; and how ongoing trends such as social and mobile technologies are influencing the HR-technology landscape and supporting employees where and how they are working.

This year, the most significant technology-related trend underscoring many of the submissions and case studies being considered by conference leaders is the use of data and analytics to empower, inform and enable HR and business leaders. Data is at the center of almost every HR technology initiative today. Additionally, the continuing importance for HR leaders to provide their workforces with modern, easy-to-use and device-agnostic workplace-technology solutions remains at the forefront for many organizations in 2014.

Leading HR technologies are bringing these two themes -- data as an HR and organizational asset, and the need for HR technologies to provide amazing user experiences on a myriad of devices -- together. An example of such a solution is one of the 2013 "Awesome New Technologies for HR" designees, Jibe, a provider of mobile, social and analytics solutions for corporate talent acquisition.

HR Technology® Conference Co-Chair Steve Boese spoke with Joe Essenfeld, CEO of New York-based Jibe, about some of the important trends driving HR-technology-solution development, the increased focus on end-user experience and the importance of mobile-capable solutions in modern talent-acquisition processes today. Essenfeld also shared a bit of a preview of an exciting upcoming HR Tech presentation from Comcast, detailing how that company embraced a comprehensive approach to mobile recruiting.

Considering you're a leading HR-technology-solution provider in the space, what are some of the more important trends or drivers that are informing and influencing the technologies you're developing and delivering?

The emphasis on user experience and ease of use is one of the biggest drivers, if not the biggest driver, of our development efforts, and it always has been. Since our founding, we have always put user experience at the top of our list when designing and developing our solutions. For too long now, corporate recruiting has been saddled with outdated and impersonal solutions that get in the way of finding and recruiting top talent. It doesn't need to be this way. Modern recruiting technology should be designed so the practitioner can focus squarely on finding the right candidates and easily connecting with them. It shouldn't keep them mired in spreadsheets and constantly on the phone with IT support. Today's technologies should empower talent acquisition with tools that shift the focus back to the user, not the process.

Are we now in an age when every HR technology must simply work on any type of device of the end-user's choosing?

Yes, because that user experience that we just talked about needs to extend not only to the talent-acquisition practitioner, but also to the job seekers who those professionals are attempting to reach as well. In that sense, technologies that extend out to attract talent absolutely should be designed to work perfectly on any device because, as we all know, today's job seeker is mobile-first, whether they be millennials or baby boomers. Mobile is absolutely the way to go, for job seekers and practitioners alike.

So does the emphasis on ease-of-use and user experience extend beyond recruiters and hiring managers?

I think it does. The other real shift we've seen here is the massive increase in demand for solutions that emphasize both user and candidate experience. Only a year or two ago, those were merely "nice to haves," but now nearly every company we engage with has them at the top of their priority lists. To have already built solutions with those aspects underpinning them gives us a significant advantage.

As you work with customers and talk with HR and recruiting leaders in the market, what are some of the prevailing concerns and challenges they're facing in trying to find and attract talented candidates?

With regard to talent acquisition and recruiting, I still think there are a lot of frustrations around the current technologies these professionals have in place. Rather than helping them focus on their jobs, quickly find the best candidates and maximize efficiencies within their recruiting processes, the technology is simply getting in the way. Our survey of talent-acquisition professionals last year bore this out, and I think it's still true today. They need technology that's easy to use and helps them find and reach the top candidates quickly, and in a way they prefer to be contacted -- which is increasingly mobile, as we all know.

At the HR Tech conference this year, one of the primary themes and areas of focus will be on data and analytics, and how HR decisions can become more data-driven. Are you sensing that the leaders you work with are focusing more on data and analytics than ever before?

Yes, we are absolutely seeing an increased desire from recruiting and HR leaders to use more advanced and dynamic data and analytics to help them gain better insight into their recruiting strategy. Data has always been a part of the equation, but with the new solutions coming to market now -- including our own Recruiting Analytics solution -- talent-acquisition teams now have living, real-time and fully customizable data at their fingertips. And unlike in the past, the data is no longer trapped in silos. Modern technology solutions can now pull the data from disparate systems -- the applicant-tracking system, the customer-relationship-management system, career site, etc. -- and display it in a unified way via clean, easy-to-use dashboards that individual users can customize to show only the data that's most important to them.

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So what are the primary benefits that HR and talent-acquisition leaders are seeing from deploying these kinds of data-and-analytics-focused technologies?

One benefit is the ability for corporate recruiters and hiring managers to get a complete, real-time picture of any aspect of their recruiting efforts -- which has proven to be invaluable. They're able to see where their best candidates are coming from, whether that's by geography, by device type, or by drilling into the return-on-investment they're getting out of their recruitment-advertising sources. Beyond that, another key benefit is the ability to view real-time conversion and drop-off rates through every step of the application and hiring process, all the way up to the offer stage. This allows them to see where in the process they're losing candidates [so they can] then shore up any gaps in their processes to maximize efficiency and improve the overall candidate experience.

At this year's HR Tech Conference, you will be co-presenting a session along with your customer Comcast. Please share a little bit about the initiative at Comcast, and give us a taste of what attendees can expect to learn at your session?

Our client, Comcast, realized heading into 2013 that the shift to mobile by job seekers was in full swing, seeing mobile traffic to its careers site increase by more than 1,000 percent from 2012 to 2013. As a result, Comcast undertook an initiative to evolve its talent-acquisition practice and processes, which included the introduction of a comprehensive mobile-recruiting-and-application solution. While the scope of the project was wide and varied, the overarching goals were straightforward and simple: Offer the best possible candidate experience by ensuring that all job seekers could easily interact, engage and apply. At the conference this year, we'll be presenting the results of this initiative along with Comcast. We hope audience members will walk away with a clear understanding of why taking the full plunge into mobile recruiting is important, what they should consider when doing so, what challenges they should anticipate and how to prepare for them, and also what the full impact and benefits are that can be achieved by going mobile.

Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE's HR Technology® Conference (www.hrtechconference.com) and a technology editor for HRE. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com. Questions and comments about this story can also be sent to hreletters@lrp.com.

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