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You ought to be going to HRDemo (December 8 and 9 in Las Vegas).
In its inaugural year, the show promises to shake up the conventional definition of a convention. HRDemo is designed for people who want to understand what’s really possible with HR Technology. Unlike other events, HRDemo gets you front row exposure to the vendor’s latest. No lines to get to the booth while the booth workers fling plastic objects.
If you talk to most industry analysts, they will tell you that HRTechnology is not very well differentiated. The past several years have seen intensified development with little growth in marketing or sales. As a result, you can barely tell one vendor from the other. They all carry the same recurring 80% of the functionality.
So, what makes them different from each other.
By now, you’ve heard my notion that software is really that thing that operates between you and the people at the vendor. Thick or thin, software is a kind of membrane that is supposed to be the nexus where all of the action takes place. Since it’s 80% the same, what matters?
Company culture. What you really need to understand when you buy technology is the vendor’s culture? Do they blame each other when something breaks? Do they get creative when there’s a problem? Do they quickly jump to tell you whether or not the problem is a scope issue? Are they more interested in your success or their own? Are promptness and accuracy the foundation of their work? Or, are they quick to obfuscate and slither with spin?
The best way to find out is to see them in action.
At HRDemo, the main thing is a series of product demos. The vendors are on stage for an hour. They get to tell their story the way they want you to hear it. There are no prearranged, prescripted scenarios to fake you with. They do their thing and you get to participate with your mind and your laptop.
What you can know for sure is that any demo that lasts an hour will encounter technical glitches. That’s when you get to see the underlying culture shine through.
You might be asking yourself, why would I go somewhere to see this? I can get demos done by webinar at any time?
At HRDemo, there will be 6 hours of programming on each of two days. You’ll be able to pick among a variety of vendors to see the stuff you want to see. Rather than arranging a dozen demos and doing all of the internal coordination, you can get it all done in one place in an intense couple of days.
Of course, there will be some fun to be had. We’re going to throw a Viva SaaS Vegas party in honor of the emerging HR SaaS Consortioum (it’s a collective of users, vendors and analysts). It should be a major moment.
If you decide to go, you can get a 50% discount by mentioning my name. Use JOHNSUMSER as the code when you register.
I’ll tell you some more in coming days.
In The Know v1.42 SaaS Tutorial
If you are involved with HR Technology in any way, you need to understand the Software as a Service (SaaS) story. These five links will help you get a clearer picture and sort out some of the mumbo jumbo.
- Microsoft’s Definition
According to the folks in Redmond, SaaS is software that is delivered over the internet. They believe that SaaS “s increasingly popular for its ability to simplify deployment and reduce customer acquisition costs; it also allows developers to support many customers with a single version of a product.
- Workday’s Definition
Workday, Dave Duffield’s new HR Software juggernaut, is front and center in the SaaS Army. This page points you to their various white papers (mostly self-serving) on the key aspects of a SaaS implementation: No hardware, software or middleware to install or maintain; Continuous innovation and bug fixes; Faster deployments, Consistent global user experience. In Sass world, everything is hunky-dory and inexpensive. All risk is born by the vendor. And, pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain.
- The Flaws of SaaS in Medical Practices
There are not many articles that describe the risks and limitations of SaaS. It has all the problems of any rental proposition. The vendor is responsible for maintenance and improvement. This always comes at the expense of profitability. A quick glance through this articld will give you some ideas of places where Saas is less useful: big data; broadly distributed user bases; divergent record sizes.
- Special Report on HR Technology: In SaaS Battle, Customers Win
From Workforce Magazine comes this piece. It’s a good overview of the competing market arguments.
- Trends Slideshow: Human Resources Turns to SaaS
Quick simple slide show with some stats that can be used to explain the choices to your management.
- Bonus Link: HRSaaS Directory
Who’s even heard of most of these companies? In theory, SaaS makes the market more responsive. Instead, it makes it increasingly difficult to tell one vendor from the other. Here’s the evidence.
It would be very easy to dismiss Laurie Ruettimann as a lightweight or vacuous. (I was going to use the word flaky but that means undependable and Laurie is never that). The personality behind Punk Rock HR and the current author of Cynical Girl, Ruettimann takes a very 21st Century social media orientation to her work as an HR pundit. Articles about her cats and pet peeves are integrated tightly with common sense answers to HR conundrums.
The outer superficiality is like the ‘spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down’. Claiming Penelope Trunk as her inspiration, Ruettimann delivers Mary Poppins in the same way that the Brazen Careerist channels Helen Gurly Brown. Ruettimann is busy in the midst of an experiment to see how educational approaches can be adapted to make great HR palatable.
Leadership styles are changing. The model of HR credibility, rooted in trying to pass as a member of the dark-suited-pasty-white executive team is dying. Emerging in its place is a looser, more intimate leader who fails publicly, is easier to get to know and comes with the quirks and foibles that make real people who they are. Laurie is at the leading edge of this shift. Occasionally awkward looking, new and better approaches often have difficult births. Part of Ruettimann’s influence comes from her willingness to go first, to be at the edge of this new and improved style.
More than a few very serious old timers treat Ruettimann’s method and content with disdain. In the drive to build credibility for HR, much of the sense of humor required for effective leadership has given way to a dour focus on ROI. When HR is busy being the hatchet-man (I mean person), it’s easy to lose sight of the basics of the human part of this thing. Cheerful even when bitter (it’s that magical nanny thing), Ruettimann has little toloerance for ogres.
21st Century communications channels are not the same as they were in the industrial era. In a time of intense quantification, influence might be best understood as a function of audience size (yep, it matters). Ruettimann’s deep influence on the industry (whether you like the style or not) comes from the size of her audience and her willingness to hit the road to build it. Influence doesn’t come from great ideas or virtuous behavior (it would be a wonderful world if it did). Instead, people follow the people they can see. Without an audience, good ideas are useless. With an audience, anything is possible.
Laurie is using the skills she learned in her formal HR career to build a communications channel. Smart enough to know that she has a lot to learn, she builds with charisma and common sense. If you stop to think about it, who has a bigger platform? Lots of people are listening. SHRM solicits her strategic advice.
After moving into HR straight out of college, Laurie found she was great at hiring. “I know how to deconstruct a narrative,” she says. “That’s how you find the connection between a person and a job.” She rose quickly into Recruiting leadership slots and branched out into the rest of HR.
In 2007, following one more move, she started blogging. A decade in HR served as the foundation for her writing. She quickly developed the style she is still known for three and a half years later.
“It’s all about connecting people, all about the conversations. The current crop of blogging advice is pretty awful. It’s focused on the process, not the things you need to do.”
We spoke about the things driving HR’s evolution.
“HR is being pulled apart. Part of the problem is that HR simply hasn’t delivered. The other element involves the fact that technology eliminates HR’s traditional role as coordinator of administrivia. That said, much of HRTechnology is lost on me. It’s technology for the sake of technology. HR is not about Tech; it’s the relationships, the management of behavior and the generation of results.”
Moxie is a key element of creating results in an organization. Ruettimann is at the very beginnings of what will be an extraordinary career. By brashly putting herself out in front, she’s built an opportunity to make some interesting things happen. If you want to understand how influence works, watch the way Laurie uses hers in the next couple of years.
Calling BS on Social Recruiting
Jason Blais is an industry veteran with deep experience in the job board and Recruitment Events business. His blog, which is one of the more substantive sources in the Recruitosphere, provides an ongoing stream of info and insight into Recruiting technology. Jason says,
I started this blog with the idea of sharing the volumes of qualitative data I was collecting. Data that didn’t fit nicely into any report. Data that when viewed as a whole, provided an amazing perspective for the issues facing both employers and job seekers with respect to the job hunting and recruiting paradigm. Over the past couple years, however, my focus has turned more toward developing new technologies and partnerships to provide employers and job seekers with better tools to be effective in their search for candidates and jobs respectively.
Jason does a good job of identifying and summarizing key issues in the space.
Recently, he published a piece called Primer on Social Media for Recruiting. In the piece, which I’d consider a solid tutorial on the way things are, you’ll be able to gather the essence of Social Recruiting as currently practiced.
Jason segments the universe of social media possibilities into two general areas: push and pull. In the push segment, you promote job openings by shipping out information to social media sites. In the pull arena, you develop content that will attract the kinds of candidates you want.
The problem with Jason’s view (and most of the contemporary thinking about social recruiting) is that it grossly understates the cost, time and complexity involved in making things work. At the same time, it dramatically overstates the likelihood of success.
While social recruiting operates as Jason describes it, the problem is really different if you are a 10 person shop, a 500 person company or a 100,000 person enterprise. For a lucky few (say the top 1500 companies), the existing brand is good enough to drive employment branding activities. For the other 97% of us, employment branding is a challenging battle rife with opportunities to throw good money after bad.
The trick is that ‘defining your target audience’ isn’t so easy. There are no good templates and no proven methods for adequately identifying, sizing and attracting the people you want to reach. Whenever you hear someone tell you about the ‘viral power of the internets’, hold on to your wallet. For the vast majority of us, the internet is anything but viral.
If a large audience on the web was the flu, we’d be well immunized. If figuring out how to make something ‘go viral’ is the holy grail, most crusaders are returning from battle empty handed. It’s really, really hard to make something grow.
That’s why most efforts to deliver social recruiting really amount to spamming the social media sites with job posting. There is little evidence that social recruiting, as currently practiced, actually yields meaningful results. It’s simply not even cheaper to distribute jobs through social media. The job boards are vastly more cost effective.
So, take a look a Jason’s post and see if there’s a conversation to be started. Do you know anyone who is actually getting results with social recruiting? Are they doing anything more than spamming job postings? Is there anything particularly social about their approach?