Entries for top product and top training product are judged on innovation, user-friendliness and the value they add to the human resource profession.
It's that time of year again, when the editorial board of Human Resource Executive® chooses what it believes to be the best 10 HR and five training products introduced to the market in the contest's time frame -- in this case, July 2005 to July 2006.
Entries are judged on innovation, user-friendliness and the value they add to the human resource profession. More than 100 entries were submitted this year, most of them exemplifying a growing sophistication in vendors' applications to the Web and increasing knowledge of HR's overall demands and needs. In particular, many of the selections have something to do with talent management.
But that's hardly surprising, considering the level of pain this area presents to employers and HR departments. Of the entries received this year, we feel confident these products will deliver what they promise, though we continue to stress the importance of conducting the necessary due diligence before making your purchase.
Top HR Products
eQuest, San Ramon, Calif.
What It Is: Prophesy is an analytics tool designed to predict, using real-time data, the most effective job board for recruiting candidates by location and cost. Using information collected via eQuest's annual postings of more than 100 million jobs for its global 1,000 clients, Prophesy calculates the success rates of job-classification categories by city -- providing the "average cost per click" and the "average clicks per job." Released in June, the product costs $24,000 per year. It can be used as a stand-alone piece without purchasing eQuest job-distribution services or in conjunction with an eQuest ATS partner.
Why We Like It: Prophesy is breaking new ground in that it's a totally automated application that allows HR to rely on actual real-time data instead of information supplied by job boards. With new job boards continually being introduced to the business community, this product is especially valuable because it helps recruiters pinpoint the best job boards -- both large and niche sites -- and offers a more significant return-on-investment than what has been available before. It takes only seconds to plug in a city and a job classification number -- provided via the system. While critics may say Prophesy's data has limited use because it doesn't reveal the percentage of qualified candidates applying for each job (compared to the number of candidates as a whole), the data provided is still a big step up from what is available elsewhere. And because data is updated in real-time, the information is always current.
Extended Workforce Screening Solution
HireRight, Irvine, Calif.
What It Is: HireRight Extended Workforce Solution, a Web-based application released in May 2006, is designed to provide a comprehensive process for an organization to screen all non-fulltime employees, as well as partner and vendor employees who have access to its facilities, information and staff. EWS can work as a stand-alone solution, or can be integrated with existing badge and access control systems. Key features include a single-point Web-browser solution to manage all extended workforce checks, customizable templates and forms that meet company requirements, a secure process for requesting vendor participation and e-signatures for program guideline and policy acceptance. Also included are single-click acceptances or rejections of extended workforce employee requests and flexible payment options, including secure online payment. EWS allows users to offload account set-up, background-check submission, sharing preferences and billing to third-party vendors. Annual licenses and support fees vary by company size, but start at $7,500.
Why We Like It: Today, many organizations use part-time and/or outside help, whether on-site or in the field. This raises security risks, which, because of their complexities, aren't always easily handled. With HireRight's EWS solution, what you see is what you get. Nothing fancy or complex about the user interface or the goal: to make sure, to the best of your ability, that the people working for you (or with you) who are not fulltime pass muster on the security/background front. EWS takes a potentially complex chore and lets you determine the required background checks to be conducted on vendor employees, while enforcing compliance by loading these standards into the system. In fact, using EWS eliminates most of the tasks you would perform in conducting an extended workforce screening program yourself -- something every complex enterprise can take advantage of.
PayScale Inc., Seattle
What It is: PayScale Professional reports are designed to provide HR executives with salary survey information plus additional data not found elsewhere. The reports are generated from PayScale's online compensation database, which includes more than 2 million active employee profiles and is updated daily. The reports provide salary data broken down by years in field, skills, education and certification in an effort to give users an up-to-date glimpse of salary conditions for a given position. PayScale's database is augmented daily by an additional 7,000 to 10,000 new profiles added each day by survey respondents who enter their pay information and job history. Respondents are asked to complete an online, detailed and anonymous salary survey about their job and their workplace in exchange for a free salary report that compares what they're getting to others holding similar positions in the marketplace. Every submitted profile is then sent through PayScale's "filter" consisting of a patent-pending algorithm of 32 rules designed to verify accuracy, authenticity and validity. Each report includes total compensation, anonymous profiles and methodology. A one-year subscription ranges from approximately $2,600 for companies with 100-plus employees to $17,500 with 20,000 or more employees. Individual reports can be purchased for $80.
Why We Like It: The depth and breadth of PayScale Professional is unique. While the product is not yet mature, it represents something new and innovative. Unlike other compensation reports, PayScale's salary data includes variables such as years of experience, the size of the survey respondent's company and certifications -- details that are especially relevant now given the fact that today's employees are much more in touch with what they're worth, thanks to the Web. For HR executives who aim to settle for nothing less than the best in the talent wars, PayScale Professional should be an important addition to their arsenal.
(Joint Winners) TalentView of Performance and Lawson Performance Management
Personnel Decisions International and Lawson Software, both based in Minneapolis
What It Is: Released in September 2005, TalentView of Performance is a Web-based solution that helps companies make key people decisions, such as hiring, succession planning, promotion and leadership. It features a job-analysis questionnaire that allows companies to rank specific behaviors as they relate to specific positions. Included in the package is a competency and development content library. TalentView can be purchased as a stand-alone product, but also lies at the heart of Lawson Software's Performance Management solution. Released in May 2006, Lawson's Performance Management module combines PDI's TalentView application with GoalView, an application for setting up and evaluating goals and objectives. Employees and managers can view their progress toward completing goals at any time via Lawson's self-service application. Clients can also build their own custom models from scratch, if they so choose. Pricing for TalentView begins at $17,000. Lawson would not release pricing information on Performance Management.
Why We Like It: In assessing and selecting talent for key positions, there's no such thing as a sure thing. But PDI's TalentView is clearly a step in the right direction. Raters can choose from a wide selection of behavioral descriptions, thereby doing away with numerical ratings and traditional labels such as "meets expectations" or "exceeds expectations." It pulls from a robust library of more than 70 competencies and 600 behaviors. Companies should find TalentView a useful tool in arriving at more defensible decisions as they attempt to answer the question, "Who really are my A, B and C players?" To its credit, Lawson has recognized TalentView's strengths and made it a key component of its recently released Performance Management solution. By linking TalentView to its GoalView solution, Lawson has produced a performance management solution that, at least for now, goes a step beyond what other ERPs have done.
www.personneldecisions.com and www.lawson.com
Enterprise Applicant Manager (EAM)
Resume Mirror, Richmond, British Columbia
What It Is: Enterprise Applicant Manager (EAM), a Web-hosted service released in September 2005, is intended to provide advanced application-data management and resume-data extraction to customers who use ERP-based human capital management modules, commercial applicant-tracking systems and even custom recruiting systems. EAM's main function is to fill a "functional gap" in ERP HCM applications, which typically do not offer automated resume data-extraction capabilities. In essence, EAM automates the manual process of entering resume data that will be used throughout the ERP HCM system. It can also plug into the ERP HCM module and enter data from any source, including e-mail, online forms, paper resumes, faxed resumes, PDF or graphical images, and even hand-written resumes. Sitting at a desktop or laptop, a recruiter can process a resume directly into the applicant database and can instantly attach the candidate to a job requisition. Another feature, auto reply, can be used to open a communication link between applicants and recruiters. Pricing ranges from $23,400 for up to 20,000 applicants to $60,000 for an unlimited number of applicants processed annually. One-time implementation fees are usually less than $15,000 and take approximately 10 business days.
Why We Like It: For large enterprises, getting a seemingly unlimited number of resumes is the easy part. But squeezing that data in its various forms into the Oracle or SAP HCM module is another story. EAM steps into that breech admirably, giving talent-management executives an easy, relatively inexpensive way to get that critical applicant data into their systems. EAM's interface is neat and easy to use and, above all, requires very little technical expertise. It's pretty impressive when you can process resumes received in Microsoft Outlook (attachment or in the body of the e-mail) or reviewed in Microsoft Word, and with a single click (on a button that appears on the toolbars of Outlook and Word), that "unstructured" resume data is easily converted into clean, structured data that resides in the applicant database. With Office being the ubiquitous office suite among large enterprises, EAM's integration with Office is a very handy tool for recruiters, hiring managers, applicants, HRIS professionals and even HR teams that need to centralize, retain and share valuable applicant data. And, because it's so easy to use, EAM can alleviate the issue of a resume "sitting on a recruiter's desktop," a common hiring-manager complaint.
Taleo Reporting and Analytics
Taleo Corp., Dublin, Calif.
What It Is: Taleo Reporting and Analytics is a new application included with Taleo Enterprise 7, the latest release of Taleo's talent-management solution. The application is designed to provide a single source of workforce data for reporting and analysis so HR leaders can obtain overviews of their recruiting processes and determine what, if any, need to be rethought or redesigned. The product includes "analytic dashboards" that let users drill down to recruiting metrics for hourly, professional and contingent workers. The Permanent Dashboard (for hourly and professional workers) features information on time-to-fill, filled requisitions, offer-acceptance rates, declined-offer analysis, active requisitions and candidate sourcing, while the Contingent Dashboard highlights spend, active job orders, time-to-fill and filled job orders. The Combined Dashboard highlights key metrics for permanent and contingent workers and the Audit Dashboard is intended to highlight processes that need immediate attention, such as requisitions stalled in the approval process or hires who are missing required background checks. An average price for a company with 10,000 employees would be approximately $60,000 per year.
Why We Like It: This new application is user-friendly and intuitive, and provides HR professionals with useful workforce metrics through an on-demand delivery model that frees the IT department from having to build a new data warehouse. Because so many of today's permanent and contingent employees are working side-by-side, Taleo's ability to support their management on one platform means users can view their entire workforce through one integrated reporting function. Users will no doubt appreciate the Interactive Viewer piece of the product, which lets them modify reports, change data presentation, and create and save graphs and charts for later use without the need to export the data to Microsoft Excel for formatting and manipulation. Taleo has clearly put some thought into a product that should make the gathering and reporting of workforce analytics much easier.
Trovix Inc., Mountain View, Calif.
What It Is: Trovix Recruit is a Web-based application that uses a new search technology to identify the best candidates possible using "human-like" search criteria. Trovix Recruit, launched December 2005, combines what it calls "next generation" contextual search technology with a full-featured applicant-tracking system. It was designed for corporate staffing departments (large and small), primarily recruiters, with most of the design input coming from recruitment practitioners and experts. Some key features include automated approval routing, report generation, career-site hosting, enterprise integration, resume capture and extraction, duplicate candidate detection, e-mail-integrated workflow, workflow dashboard view, top candidate alerts and multi-user-level profile. On the pricing front, Trovix Recruit starts at $2,000 per month.
Why We Like It: When you see Trovix Recruit in action, you immediately sense how its automated, "human-like" evaluation of resumes puts it in a class by itself. Trovix calls the process "intelligent search," and it lives up to its name. The application easily matches candidates to jobs, but -- like today's new breed of search engines -- can also "sniff out" those matches based on preferences, credentials and other factors, not just keywords. Trovix Recruit's contextual search can, for example, differentiate "Juniper Networks" as a skill from "Juniper Networks" as an employer, which provides real meaning and value to a resume. Another impressive feature is its ability to infer preferences for schools and employers, skills and concepts -- for example, it can factor into a search how hiring managers feel about people who change jobs frequently. Trovix Recruiter has already racked up some impressive customers, including Salesforce.com, Linksys and Palm. Its user interface is tight and easy to use. Plus, it offers a "learning" feature that helps hiring managers make decisions. Put simply, Trovix has cracked the code when it comes to getting beyond, way beyond, today's basic keyword resume search products.
VirtualEdge Corp., Newtown, Pa.
What It Is: Released in May 2006, VE Pilot is a "talent-positioning" system designed to strengthen and deepen users' relationships with potential talent. VE Pilot allows recruiting organizations to build a pipeline of talent, share leads, manage opportunities, create marketing campaigns and forecast and engage talent. Companies can either buy it as a part of the VE Talent Lifecycle Suite or as a stand-alone solution. It features a sourcing tool that identifies candidates from job boards and resume databases. It also includes a metrics dashboard utilizing measurements, graphs, charts and tables to visually analyze key elements of a company's talent-pipeline efforts. Enterprise licenses for an unlimited number of users range from $2.50 to $4 per employee, with additional discounts available when purchased as part of the company's Talent Lifecycle Suite.
Why We Like It: In a market segment crowded with new-product announcements, VirtualEdge's VE Pilot can be included among the standouts. VE Pilot is an extremely competent sourcing tool, but users will especially appreciate the ease with which the system allows them to move people into their talent pipeline and applicant-tracking systems. In today's competitive recruiting environment, its ability to permit users to personalize marketing campaigns also won't go unnoticed. Nor will its comprehensive dashboard, which allows users to measure campaign effectiveness and use that data to revamp or fine-tune their strategies.
Education in Motion
CareerSolutions LLC, Ringwood, N.J.
What It Is: Education in Motion is a college admissions and student success self-service Web site with live counseling and support directed to employees who are the parents of high-school and college students as well as the students themselves. The site guides users through the college-admissions process from the necessary high-school tests through college interviewing, essay-writing and applying for financial aid. However, support extends beyond the usual online text libraries and college search databases. The product includes a series of student-assessment tools to help parents and students judge readiness for college and specific majors. Live college-planning workshops are also available to students. The product and service can also be used by employees seeking career and professional-development advice and preparation for graduate school. Costs start at around $50,000.
Why We Like It: Most HR-related products take on many problems at once and try to offer one-stop solutions to everything that affects HR executives and benefits administrators. Education in Motion takes on a single employee need -- managing college -- and brings to bear a wide variety of resources. In an era that finds parents obsessed with the success of their children, the product reduces employee time spent in the college search (as much as half a day a week), eliminates hiring outside college consultants (a growing new field) and moves college planning out of the workplace and back into the home. Parents pay big money these days to pre-test their teens to assess their readiness for college, but an Emotional Intelligence System is built in. The product also counsels parents about empty-nest syndrome after the kids are away.
Benefits Lifecycle Management
HighRoads Inc., Woburn, Mass.
What It Is: Benefits Lifecycle Management is intended to manage the lifecycle of employee-benefit plans, from the initial request for proposals, through an online real-time auction among vendors, to the generation of a final contract and performance standards. When bidding and buying is completed, the data-management tool allows HR executives and benefits administrators to generate updated summary plan descriptions, track individual vendor performance by the individual performance standards and poll employees about their satisfaction with each plan and vendor. Released in April 2006, the product is designed for large employers with 5,000 or more employees who are managing multiple employee benefits plans in diverse work locations and dealing with complex negotiations for renewals with plan providers and third-party administrators. The product also helps employers maintain and compare performance measures and generate audit trails for corporate accountability under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Pricing for HighRoads' full BLM solution typically ranges from $75,000 to $500,000, based on a company's preferred delivery model, number of employees and the number of plans under management.
Why We Like It: Escalating health-care costs have turned employee-benefits administration into an enterprise-risk issue, involving the highest level of executives in the procurement and review processes. As a result, employers are bringing more sophisticated techniques to employee-benefits acquisition and monitoring the processes in a much more detailed fashion. The online auction among vendors is the flashiest aspect of this product and it is fast and efficient at containing costs. What might be an even bigger value, however, is the product's ability to trim consulting costs. The product creates a detailed audit trail for all transactions, captures performance standards and tracks performance in real time -- reports that consultants charge big money for and deliver less frequently. Nice features include the SPD publisher and employee survey generators that produce in-house products in minutes that used to be farmed out to consultants.
Top Training Products
CustomerVision Inc., Des Moines, Iowa
What It Is: The centerpiece of the new iteration of CustomerVision (version 3.0) is what its creators call BizWiki, an adaptation of the increasingly popular "wiki" technology, which allows anyone (with authorization) to contribute to a given piece of work. In this case, employees are permitted to share knowledge and expertise quickly and easily, and learning content can be continuously updated and improved with the latest information and resources, using only a Web browser. Each revision of an article is saved and all comments about articles are accessible. The company can also provide templates and assistance to businesses. The product's price ranges from $100 to $5,000 per month, depending on the number of logged-on users.
Why We Like It: The world has discovered the value of wikis via the sudden popularity of the online Wikipedia encyclopedia. CustomerVision is ahead of the curve on this new functionality, and has created a well-designed tool to harness the power wikis can provide for the management and control of a corporate knowledge base, and for empowering collaboration in areas such as sales, training and application support. Of course, wikis have had a reputation for being updated irresponsibly. CustomerVision has addressed that issue by including a device that saves all revisions and comments so changes can be rolled back or reconsidered. This creates an environment for sharing information that combines the wisdom of all the experts in a group with the proper mechanisms to ensure the information meets corporate standards.
Elluminate Live! 7.0
Elluminate Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Calgary, Alberta, Canada
What It Is: This real-time, Web-conferencing application can be used to train employees or be used as a virtual conference room or collaboration tool. Participants can interact in a variety of ways that include text messages, voice, Webcam video, shared white-boarding and polling. With full duplex audio, up to four people can speak simultaneously or have a natural conversation. Users can also show video and PowerPoint slides, transfer files or log on to the Internet during their session. Moderators can make marks on the white board, highlight specific text or point to an area on the screen. Likewise, they can assign attendees -- or allow the program to randomly divide them -- into breakout rooms to discuss different topics. In addition, the product includes closed-captioning for employees with hearing disabilities or who speak different languages. Attendees can even raise their hand during sessions via keyboard commands and create their own profile that can be saved by others in the form of a business-like card. The technology works across any platform or bandwidth and supports up to 10,000 users and all sessions can be recorded and archived. Pricing is $67/seat/month, with discounts for contract length and number of seats. In addition, there's a 15 percent surcharge for the hosted offering.
Why We Like It: One of the reasons we chose this product is that it reflects the company's philosophy of "no user left behind," meaning its products are designed for users of all ethnicities, circumstances and income brackets. Its attention to the hearing-disabled and non-English-speaking users is especially noteworthy. It also exhibits new freedoms and flexibilities in collaboration and communication not seen in competitive products. But the technology isn't restricted to just training. Employees can also use it to conduct meetings, share important information or update each other on new developments, broadening its appeal and usability, and further underscoring our belief that it has the potential to greatly enhance any training/learning function.
Think Before You Send: A Practical Guide to E-Mail in the Workplace
Interactive Employment Training Inc., Jericho, N.Y.
What It Is: This online training program instructs employees on proper e-mail practices and the potential consequences of using e-mail incorrectly. The content is divided into eight areas, each focusing on a realistic workplace scenario, such as using e-mail to criticize an employee's behavior, bet on a sports game or send private messages that can turn into a public-relations disaster. Each scenario is followed by a Q and A section, summary and listing of seven deadly sins that further elaborates on the do's and don'ts. While employees can complete the program within one hour, they have the option of turning off the sound and reading the text, which speeds up the program. Other features enable employees to electronically record their completion of the course and print out the seven deadly sins lists as a reference tool. Employers can also add their own policies and a certification page requiring employees to acknowledge their understanding of company policies. The average price is $14 to $17 per employee.
Why We Like It: The program is the first we've seen addressing such a comprehensive array of false assumptions about e-mail that are common in the workplace, assumptions that can cause serious trouble for an employee or company, ranging from lawsuits to public relations disasters. Since most employees don't realize that sending and receiving e-mails creates permanent records, this program is an efficient and consistent way to sensitize them to appropriate e-mail practices. Employees can also relate to the realistic scenarios, which reinforce many do's and don'ts.
Communications Skills for IT Specialists
LearnKey Inc., St. George, Utah
What It Is: This e-learning course is designed to explain to IT professionals, without talking down to them, the importance of increasing their communications skills in the workplace. The course is hosted by IT specialist Tom Carpenter and covers all aspects of power communication, from understanding theory to conflict resolution and presentation styles. Included are scenarios that show how effective communication becomes a key advantage in today's IT environment. The product's price ranges from $175 for a single-user license to $435 for a multi-user license. Pricing for the online version varies based on number of learners.
Why We Like It: Most HR professionals, for whom soft skills are part of the job description, have encountered more than one IT professional who knows exactly how a circuit board works, but has no idea how to interact with people. This course shows great promise as a tool capable of nudging them in the direction of better customer service, explaining why it's important for IT pros to increase their people skills. Host Tom Carpenter, who has delivered training programs to more than 29,000 IT professionals since 1997, approaches this task with good-natured aplomb, which heightens the product's ability to capture and sustain attentions.
ePOST (Electronic Point of Service Training)
RWD Technologies Inc., Baltimore
What It Is: ePOST is a server-based tool that provides a company's workforce with instruction in ways to accurately perform a specific job or task on demand. The information is designed to be delivered directly to an employee's job site, whether in an office or on the factory floor. Additionally, ePOST can be loaded on the computer of an individual piece of equipment and accessed using the machine's Windows-based interface with a standard Web browser. Training materials can be updated quickly and as often as necessary to stay current as a company's processes and procedures change. Pricing ranges from $75 to $100 per license, depending on the number of licensees.
Why We Like It: Training managers often find themselves plagued with time-consuming little projects: training one or only a few employees on an occasional but very important task. Depending on whisper-down-the-lane training from previously trained employees can be dangerous. This product makes sure staffers get exactly the training they need, just at the right moment: right when they're doing it. The interface has also been designed to be user-friendly for all staffers, regardless of previous training or experience. We find this product to be especially appropriate in work settings where tasks are infrequently undertaken, constantly changing or especially challenging; where the cost of noncompliance or poor performance is high; and where staff turnover or planned and unplanned job-rotation rates are high.