We kick things off this week with John’s Tech Story to give you some background on how he came to be so passionate about technology. Next, we dive into a new show designed from the ground up to make evaluating HR Tech solutions easier than ever. We cap things off by profiling a Top 100 Influencer who has a profound impact on HR and Talent Acquisition technology – Gartner’s Jim Holincheck. Finally, be sure to read Strategic Recruiting 2 the follow up to last week’s piece.
- Julian, contributing editor
Table of Contents
With my degree firmly in hand, I entered the workforce in 1979. The jobs available to a middling liberal arts graduate were few and far between, I tended bar and took seasonal work as a Santa Claus. I found the early keys to my future running small camera stores in Washington, DC.
To sell cameras in that era, the customer had to feel confident that they could master the operating instructions. Today’s photographers are comfortable with the fact that technology makes most of the operating decisions. Then, it was all manual. The trick was getting the customer to the point that they felt comfortable with moment to moment decision making.
It was life changing.
In short order, I fell in love with technology and joined the Defense Industry. Over the years, I learned to code software (with punch cards at the beginning), taught introductory computing courses as the PC entered the workplace, became a certified engineer (in lieu of a degree) and began to run Research and Development projects.
I got my first PC in late 1981, the 68th machine off the IBM assembly line. I got my first email account in 1982 and was working in online communities around the defense industry by 1983. In those days, PCs were for business and mainframes were for real technology.
In large scale technology, I was involved with the first interactive video disc project (a hyper-linked training program for aircraft maintenance in 1984), high density decision making display architecture, hardware-software integration and the design of logistics systems for frigates. I organized, wrote the spec and managed the team that built the first multi-facility supply chain management tool in the mid 1980s.
In the early 1990s, I left corporate life to move to California to run a struggling non-profit called the Point Foundation, home of the Whole Earth Catalog (the print precursor of the web). Point was involved with the push to make the Internet (a Defense Industry initiative) into a part of daily existence. It was home to the WeLL, a pioneering online community. Point was a mecca for futurists, science writers, culture expanders and explorers.
While at the Point Foundation, I saw the very first copy X-Mosaic, the first web browser. My reaction, embarrassingly, was to ask “Who would ever want a graphic interface to the internet?” A few months later, in an early conversation with the founders of Yahoo, I famously said, “You can’t possibly make money with a web index.”
In my first project after the Point Foundation, I started to document the emerging job board market. My company, interbiznet, produced the first reports offering market and technology analysis of any form of HR on the net. We expanded rapidly into Applicant Tracking Systems and the related data associated with the Talent Acquisition process.
Over the intervening years, I’ve worked the bleeding edge of technology and data in the HR environment. From demographics and compensation databases to a variety of Peoplesoft projects, I’ve been monitoring the full spectrum of HR Tech.
I chose to focus in HR for a number of reasons. While in the Defense Industry, I spent many evenings in a Master’s program in Organizational Development dropping out at the thesis phase. It turns out that the real cost of technology is never the technology itself. The learning curve and relative fit of the solution to the organization are the primary drivers of Technology cost.
That means that the companies who produce the solutions are at least as important as the solutions themselves. Any competent analysis of solutions has to include an assessment of the fit between customer and supplier. To say that this is missing from the game today is to engage in dramatic understatement.
I’d love to hear your Tech story and I bet HRExaminer readers would as well. Please post a link to your own tech story or just write a quick one up right here in the comments area.
Technology vendors are not the enemy. Given the way they are usually treated, you’d think that they were vile criminals whose primary intent was fraud. At most trade shows, they are corralled into a ghetto, prodded by the event hosts, straight-jacketed and humiliated. They are forced to distribute small plastic objects to disinterested attendees who are focused on filling their shopping bags.
In the most egregious cases, the conference host forces vendors into unnatural positions and then hurls epithets at them. This odd form of amusement is passed off as ‘HR Technology Analysis”. Prizes and accolades are heaped on the team that is most willing to endure the hazing. Like a carnival freak show, the barker makes his living by being an abrasive self-promoter. Vendors vie for attention in the sideshow as a way of generating leads.
The result for the vendor, in retrospect, is insignificant. The audience, which rarely contains actual buyers, is no closer to a smart decision. The entertainment is shallow and leaves the audience with an unearned sense of mastery. The only winner in this bizarre sideshow is the company that runs the trade show.
There is nothing particularly wrong with that approach.
Trade shows, with their roots in an earlier time of energy surplus, are really a combination of circus and class reunion. Although the vendors foot the lion’s share of the bill, it’s more along the lines of a community service. Providing the platform and entertainment for a party is a good public relations move.
Circus acts, self-effacing entertainment, public service and lots of chotchkes are a necessary part of the mix. But, they are not sufficient to make a coherent marketplace for HR Technology. In order for the market to improve, potential customers need a quieter more conversation friendly place to encounter suppliers.
Technology and technology decisions are high risk components of the HR ecosystem. A well executed project can be the spearhead of an HR Department’s transformation into a strategic weapon. A botched deal wreaks havoc on budgets, priorities and organizational credibility.
I’ve joined forces with SharedXpertise to launch the HRDemo conference. We want to complement the existing system, not replace it. Like salt and pepper, both forms of event have their place and relevance.
At HRDemo, it will be all technology all of the time. Rather than treating vendors as errant juveniles in need of supervision, we will give them the opportunity to tell you other story on their terms.
We are offering slots for 48 vendors (four tracks of six sessions each day) the opportunity to tell their story to an audience. The audience will have access to the demonstrations on the hotel’s specially beefed up wireless network. Each session lasts an hour and includes detailed question and answer sessions.
We expect about 500 participants to join us in Las Vegas on December 8th and 9th. Each presentation room will be wired, as only Las Vegas can deliver, with enough bandwidth for participatory demos.
Our goal is to give serious purchasers an opportunity to compare the culture, products and services of a number of suppliers in a compressed time frame. The idea is to condense your acquisition cycle by delivering dense information in a short time frame.
It’s a smart place to bring a team focused on buying technology next year.
We’re also inviting all of the industry’s major analysts. I’ll tell you more about the analyst function in the next installation.
Top 100 Influencers in HR v1.65 Jim Holincheck
Gartner (IT) is the preeminent IT research firm. With 650 analysts covering over 1,000 subspecialties, the firm wields mighty influence over the IT industry. Their value proposition is nicely summarized by a customer (who i quoted on their website):
“Without Gartner, we’d likely find ourselves perpetually overspending on technology and taking more time to complete technology-enabled business initiatives.”
Famous for its magic quadrant and hype cycle view of technology adoption, a positive review from Gartner can make the critical difference for companies entering the market. The company specializes in creating a simple view from the complex barrage of information that overwhelms its customers. One way of thinking about the company is that it creates intelligence out of chaos for its clients.
Sellers need Gartner’s approval. Buyers depend on the firm for everything from contract analysis and acquisition guidance to environmental scans of business intelligence about emerging tech trends. These two complementary realities create a powerful niche for Gartner in the operations of its clients.
Jim Holincheck is the head of the Gartner operation that covers Human Capital Management. As the Managing VP – Applications: ERP – Finance, HCM, and Procurement, Holincheck is singularly powerful in the Enterprise software arena. That he has such dramatic impact in the HR ecosystem is a testament to his incredible capacity to cause things to happen.
Holincheck‘s blog lists the following categories of interest in the HCM space:
* Call Center Workforce Management * Compensation Management * Contingent Workforce Management * E-Learning * E-Recruitment * Employee Performance Management * Global Solutions * High Performance Workplace * HR BPO * HRMS * Human Capital Management * IT Workforce Management * Retail Workforce Management * Sales Workforce Management * Service-Oriented Architecture * Software as a Service * Software Market Consolidation * Talent Management Application Suites * Workforce Analytics * Workforce Management
After a career on the partner track at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in the software intelligence group, Holincheck got his feet wet as an analyst at Giga Information Group.
These days, analyst firms point heavily to the data that drives their conclusions. The role is so powerful that there is a constant pulling and shoving between the firms and the marketplace. Gartner has been particularly adept at navigating this dynamic.
In his current role, Holincheck spends an enormous amount of time on the phone with individual or groups of clients. Coupled with writing and public speaking demands, you start to wonder where he ever finds the time to manage his team, let alone think coherently about the future.
We talked for some time about the flood of data that is about to hit the HR operation. We have an enormous store of information about what people know and what they do. Still, the applicability of this data to the workplace remains hard to clearly envision. Jim is very aware of the difference between a pioneer and a practitioner. It’s very easy, he says, yo let your view of the future get too far out in front of the real world.
As he looks towards the future of HR, he believes that practitioners will want:
- Social Media as a Sourcing Mechanism: Finding and connecting with the people you really want to hire
- Data Driven Innovations That Improve the Quality of Hiring Decisions
- Next Generation Performance Management: Moving beyond the automation of 20th century MBO programs to flexible performance leverage that continuously meets dynamic business objectives
- Next Generation Workforce Planning: Dynamic systems that facilitate the development of agile talent pipelines and scenario based acquisition plans
Most importantly, Holincheck sees an emerging end to the idea that people are all one thing. “The same people play different roles. They can be a candidate, an investor, a customer, an employee, a neighbor or a supplier. Often they play multiple roles. The fact that we are starting to have enough data to differentiate these aspects means that there will be ongoing pressure on internal silos to share decision making.”
That’s a clear vision for the future of HR as a fully functioning organizational peer.
Our sponsor Pinstripe, Inc. designs, builds and delivers high-performance talent acquisition and management solutions. Pinstripe’s innovative approach to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) integrates sourcing, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and engagement into a complete, end-to-end solution. Pinstripe on-demand hiring solutions are tailored for specific clients across a spectrum of industries including financial services, healthcare, technology, telecommunications and other major industries. For healthcare organizations, Pinstripe Healthcare works with clients to attract the best available talent so they can deliver high quality patient care and reduce overall labor costs.
The goal of workforce planning is to adequately predict the hiring, training and retention requirements of an organization.
Workforce planning can seem so complicated that it never gets done. Visionary systems suggest that a combination of scenario planning and deep skills assessment can lead to a decision-making framework. I favor the back of the envelope school of thinking. That is, some level of planning is far superior to none at all.
When you have a department (or company) focused on the accomplishment of a single, repetitive task (even if it varies in the way that customer support tends to) there are sound, repeatable tools for workforce sizing that can and should be broadly applied. The techniques are so easy and powerful that precision can be measured in fractional percentage points of accuracy. A spreadsheet, attrition rates, forecast growth curves and a few variables will turn out excellent products in these cases.
In more sophisticated settings, organizational dynamics and political issues complicate the problem. Ultimately, good workforce planning is an iterative (and ongoing) process. Bottoms-up estimating will always be modified by top-down concerns. Workforce Planning is, after all, a planning conversation. Learning to engage the organization in the give and take of planning is at the heart of successful implementation.
Knowing your needs and the issues that affect them is one half of the planning equation. The other, equally important facet, involves understanding your labor market. It is both possible and desirable to know, by name and other contact information, all of the people you could employ within your market. Narrowing it down to those you want to employ comes later.
Although it may seem overwhelming at first (particularly if your organization is in an extremely large city), you should be able to identify the people who are likely to become a part of your workforce, the various sources (schools, competitors, adjacent industries) from which they will emerge. It’s a matter of reviewing the data you already have to determine those sources and the degree to which you rely on them.
This is one of the best uses for an applicant tracking system (ATS). What you are looking for is quantitative data describing the schools, competitors and adjacent industries that supplied you with your current workforce. The very best source of that information is company records. The most likely central repository is the ATS. Data from your existing workforce can show the labor supply patterns.
(Remember the searches you have done in the ATS. They will be useful as you begin to mine for potential employees later on in the process.)
Once you have a solid list of supply points (again, that’s schools, competitors, adjacent industries and other organizations), you can start to ask some pretty interesting questions like:
- What percentage of last decade’s graduates from Community College X did you hire. What percentage of which majors? Are they going to continue that level of supply over the next five years?
- What percentage of your engineers come from competitors? What percentage come from colleges? Will both sources continue to be viable over the next five years?
- Where do your program managers come from? What’s happening in those institutions?
- Where do your technicians come from? What’s happening in those worlds?
Ultimately, you need a supply point by supply point assessment of value and likelihood of continuation? This is the very same exercise that purchasing departments engage in when they plan for the availability of critical materials or subcontractors.
In fact, you might consider collaborating with them. One person’s labor supply is another person’s subcontractor. Being well versed in the labor supply includes understanding the sources for the entire organization’s supply chain.
State funded Economic Development Councils and Boards are great places to find the right data. Each of the members of the Employment Supply Chain, from Universities to Customers and Vendors, from Regional Government to Competitors in transition, members of your chain know the answers to your questions. Building a comprehensive picture of your labor supply, its causes and conditions is a critical step in learning to manage it.