HRExaminer v3.11 March 16, 2012
Table of Contents
Bodega Bay, California March 14, 2012
Top 25 Online Influencers: The Pulse of HR
If your task is to read the HR market, these are the voices and topics dominating the conversation.
The measurement of influence leaves a lot to be desired. Jim Holincheck, the leading analyst of HRTechnology, routinely asks me “How do you tell the difference between quality and quantity.” His point is that measurement, at its most primitive, is a simple counting of this and that. Fancy algorithms are a layer of sophistication over a view that says, “More is better.”
To be fair, that’s how we measure almost everything. More is better. Bigger is better. Growth is better.
There are only a couple of things that are simultaneously invisible and influential. They tend to have the paradoxical characteristic of being both seen and unseen, everything and nothing. Otherwise, more influence boils down to more.
Still, Holincheck’s critique is brutally simple.
On the one hand, you can point to Brad Pitt and notice that he (or George Clooney) is one of the most influential people on the planet. Is that quantity or quality? Then, my bookshelves are full of brilliant ideas from people you’ve never heard of. Is that quantity or quality. I also have a dreadfully big habit of reading thrillers and mysteries, mostly bestsellers. If you ask the people around me, it’s definitely quantity.
We’re not sure that there are definitive answers. That’s why we took a new tack with this edition of the Top 25.
SocialEars, our partner in this round of analysis, has a feature that identifies the most popular topics in the HR industry. The tool catalogs tweets, blog posts, magazine articles, links and other forms of content. It is designed to focus exclusively on material generated in and around the HR industry. The trending topic function lets the user see the most common word clusters (adjusted so that terms like recruiter and recruiting are covered in one grouping) over a given period of time.
A market is a conversation. 13 years ago, the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto first introduced this idea into common parlance. “Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.”
The SocialEars tool is a starting point for understanding the conversation that is the HR Market. That’s why they call it a listening tool. In a partial answer to Jim Holincheck’s piercing question, the service simply tallies attributes, leaving judgments of worth to its users. The SocialEars tool is a way to discover the market and the voices who live there.
We chose to use the six month window as a baseline for further investigations. The topics covered by the list are the most referenced and written about ideas in the HR Market over the past six months.
There were 125 topics in the overall conversation. We took the top 10 conversations and identified the 25 (or so) most visible participants in each of the topics.
In order, the top 10 threads in the HR Market over the past six m0nths were:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Wage Garnishment
- Service Level Agreement
- Unemployment Compensation
- Career Podcast
- Workplace Bullying
- Voluntary Benefits
- Americans With Disabilities
- Exit Interview
- HR Certification
The original idea was that we’d discover a group of people who, rather than being the drivers of the edge of things were representative of the essence the market’s conversation. The operating theory was that we’d find a group of people who represented the pulse of the industry. We were looking to find a way to get at the middle rather than the edge.
We used SocialEars to search each term. The top 25 in each category received a score. #1 got 25 points, #2 got 24, #3 got 23 and so on. We completed the searches, tallied the scores and produced the results.
It didn’t exactly work as planned.
Rather than finding a group of people who were at the middle of the market conversation, we only found a couple. William Tincup, who is a regular presence on our various lists, is at the top of this one as well. He covered six of the ten topics in his work. This was the highest number of ‘appearances’ by any single author.
In some ways, it’s not surprising. William has been on the road for a year and a half, listening to HR all over the world. Somehow, he has gotten more plugged in, polished his standup routine, lost 50 pounds and developed a keen sense for what really matters in the HR conversation. If we were able to measure audio files, Tincup’s score would certainly have been a perfect set of 10 appearances, one in each category.
John Hollon, of TLNT, comes in second with 4 appearances.
While several familiar names appear on the list, the majority of the voices (175 in all) are names that were at least a bit unfamiliar. (You can see those names, and links to their twitter profiles in the spreadsheets attached to the Top 25: Finding the heart of the HR Market.)
Here’s what we found.
While we can identify a large group of people who are a part of the conversation at the center of the industry, there are no individuals who have a complete read on the pulse of things. Currently, LinkedIn has the profiles of over 2 Million HR professionals in their database. The interests of that group are so varied that it’s unlikely, in hindsight, that there would be single players who have a good clear understanding of the industry as a whole.
That means a couple of important things.
If you want to stay on top of the real concerns of HR, you need to track a ton of conversations (We’ve given you the twitter addresses of the people who touched on key conversations at least once, in the aforementioned spreadsheets). You might read this influencer or that for personal fulfillment. But, if your task is to read the market, there are a lot of competing voices and stories.
It also means that you need a way to stay on top of the changes in the conversation. It’s possible, and we’ll explore this in a future Top 25 list, that there are some people who are really good at anticipating the moves in the market’s conversation. The current idea is that they’ll show up in searches that cover a narrower time frame.
Generally speaking, all 175 voices in the spreadsheets have a hand in shaping the conversation that makes our marketplace. They are worth your attention.
The pushback from people who have often made our influencer lists was interesting. I got mail suggesting that the list wasn’t credible because person X wasn’t on it. (Of course, that was usually the person writing the note.) I wanted to take some time to dig a little further into what we discovered with the most current list.
One correspondent went so far as to describe the topic list as being from “Back in the days when HR was the rules police.”
Any time you hit a nerve, there’s real learning somewhere in the neighborhood.
As a reminder, the ten topics that the algorithm showed had the highest level of activity over the past six months were:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Wage Garnishment
- Service Level Agreement
- Unemployment Compensation
- Career Podcast
- Workplace Bullying
- Voluntary Benefits
- Americans With Disabilities
- Exit Interview
- HR Certification
While they are not actually the exact same list as you would have seen 20 years ago, they’re close. That’s because, the concerns of the HR department have some common threads over the life of the discipline. All of the sexy, gee whiz shiny pieces of technology you can cobble together don’t change the fact that the core business of HR involve conflict resolution, payroll, anti-discrimination measures and career management (or internal mobility as they call it in the technical side).
Our core question with this Top 25 list was “what things are HR pros interested in most?”
It wasn’t, “What do pundits wish people were talking about?” or “What’s hot in the HRTech sector?” or “What do the jet-setting bloggers spend their time on?” It wasn’t even “What do people who are trying to change HR thinking about?” or “Which of the people who think they should be on the list should we try to appease?”
This was an attempt to find and measure the heart of HR. We wanted to see whether the topics in the various outlets matched up with the things HR folks pay attention to. The results were pretty surprising.
First of all, the people we’ve traditionally identified as influencers don’t generally cover the material. Second, there are not very many people who cover all, or even most, of the topics. Third, the accumulated voices wo do cover the material are not a collection of the usual suspects.
These are big things to notice. What most caught our attention was the absence of most of these topics from the most popular settings.
There may be a difference between cyberspace celebrity and the appearance of influence and the meat and potatoes business of HR. Democratic publishing may be more democratic than anyone thought. The apparent success of a whole range of social media processes may be short lived and divorced from market realities.
Meanwhile, you might want to follow the Pulse of HR Twitter list. Right now, includes all of the folks on the Top 25: Pulse of HR list. By week’s end, it will be expanded to all 175 accounts that made into our scoring and ranking process
In related news, SHR India has released a list of the top 20 Influencers in social media from India. It’s amazing how a good idea can catch on.
Kelly Cartwright is Vice President, Corporate Development at SourceRight Solutions and a member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Recognized as one of the Top 100 HR Influencers by HR Examiner, Cartwright has more than 15 years of experience in the Human Capital Management industry with deep expertise in the rapid development, delivery and implementation of professional services and technology solutions. Prior to joining SourceRight Solutions, she was the general manager of The Newman Group, a Futurestep Company. Full Bio »
by Kelly Cartwright
When it comes to business, the label of “big” comes with significant connotations. Big business can drive economic prosperity for employees and shareholders alike. But it can also mean “too big.” Consider the connotations that critics attribute to big tobacco, big oil, the “too big to fail” banks.
In truth, big industries and companies don’t always live up to their sensational reputations for being good or evil, or even invincible—but they do have influence. That influence extends to everything from global markets and the price of milk to who holds office. And that brings us to the one of the most influential forces in the economy today. Call it big talent.
Unlike the industry bigs, talent is not a particular vertical, and it’s not manipulated or defined by companies that provide services. In fact, big talent is owned by the talent itself: millions of people at all levels of skill and experience distributed around the world. Talent is more available than ever, with global access and high educational standards around the world. At the same time it’s more in demand than ever as the need for skilled talent continues to outstrip its supply.
Even as lower level talent (high school or less) experiences 8+% unemployment, skilled workers, from undergraduate degrees through doctorates, range from 5% all the way down to 2% (see “Education Pays” below).
According to a recent study by Lloyd’s and The Economist, talent scarcity is the number two perceived risk among top business leaders today, following only the “loss of customers.” Manufacturing is also feeling the pain. A Financial Times report in Oct. 2011 mentions that “US manufacturers have 600,000 unfilled positions because of a lack of qualified skilled workers, in spite of stubbornly high unemployment rates and a plethora of new training programmes.”
The influence of talent is causing companies re-examine their corporate strategies. It’s causing them to re-think the way they attract and retain the people that drive their success. Companies are embracing a host of very real trends and innovations, from social media and new technologies to maturing practices such as workforce planning or outsourced solutions. Increasingly, companies find that they need to shape themselves to the needs of their talent, not the other way around. That’s influence.
Looking Beyond Trends: A Focus on Fundamentals
Looking beyond the trends of today, beyond social media and beyond solutions acronyms (RPO, BPO, MSP, HRO), companies are wrestling with a more fundamental question: “What does it take to engage talent in the landscape of today, and in the future?” Everyone has a different answer, but below are three realities that I believe apply to everyone that touches talent, not just talent solutions providers and technology vendors, but every company that relies on talent to drive success. That pretty much includes everyone.
The New World is Good
To address talent as the large-scale global force that it has become, many organizations have to change the way they work. It may require integration of processes, different measures of success and more participation and ownership of results from outside the traditional HR and talent organizations. These changes take time and money. To embrace them and sell them to stakeholders, an organization must look at big talent as a positive.
Why the push for change? Consider the alternative. Isolated localized talent functions, legacy systems and processes, limiting definitions of talent needs—all will become more expensive to sustain. The old ways weren’t bad, but in many cases they dealt with talent on a smaller scale. When a competitor casts a wider net—eliminates location restraints, or opens roles to both permanent workers or the growing contingent/free-agent class—that competitor is thinking in a larger universe.
Over time, that competitor will out-compete the smaller thinkers in reaching the critical talent. When it comes to accelerating processes, spurring more efficient technologies and improving how companies meet the “right person, right role, right time, right cost” mandate, big talent isn’t a necessary evil, it is an influencer of progress. That’s a positive.
Adaptability is Critical
Big talent is always changing. In 2008, everyone talked about how quickly they would need to replace the aging skilled baby boomer generations. Today, that’s partially true, but we’re now also talking about how we can continue to engage them after retirement as something other than full time workers. A decade ago, the ability to acquire people with scarce technical skills could make the difference between success and failure for a Silicone Valley start-up. In 2012, many of those skills are commonplace or obsolete, replaced by newer areas of need in business and technology today—and the talent function must adapt.
“Adapt or Die” is a much more succinct phrase than “adaptability is critical.” Unfortunately, it’s not accurate. Any company can adapt today and live. It can assess what’s needed, take a hard look at how it works, and make the difficult decision to implement changes based on what it sees in the market. It can implement a sourcing process—with centers of excellence, passive candidate strategies, global infrastructure, and social media tools—and achieve some measure of success.
But what happens when the newly implemented strategy doesn’t perform to expectations. How early would the company detect an issue? What is being measured to indicate performance? How well suited is the strategy for switching gears? How well has the need for flexibility been socialized internally? What if market conditions or company goals change—how will the talent strategy respond? The answers to these questions will determine how quickly a talent organization improves, and how well the internal stakeholders support the function.
Clear measures of success and the ability to capture them are central to adaptability. A strategy that enables adjustment without requiring wholesale change is adaptable. If an internal organization, talent leader or solutions provider suggests that it has the best mousetrap to address talent needs today, they may be right. How well are they suited to identifying new needs and making changes they don’t see today? That’s the question that will drive success in dealing with talent next month, next year and ten years down the road.
Finally, the big talent landscape is vast and largely untamed; however, in the strategies of most companies, it is still riddled with “fences.” Today, many of those fences are coming down. The divide that separates the acquisition of employee talent and contingent and free–agent workers is beginning to blur, as more companies embrace a unified “blended workforce” approach.
The divisions that separate pre-hire talent acquisition and post-hire development and strategic activity are being connected by processes and technologies that span the talent management continuum. The divides that confine talent by geography are disappearing due to a more global workforce and the ability to work virtually.
Clearing the traditional fences in thinking and strategy is probably the most challenging task for companies in a global talent market, but it is also the most compelling. Most organizations recognize the need, and most technology and services providers are evolving their offerings to operate across organizational, geographical and operational boundaries. The devil will continue to hide in the details, but progress is being made.
What does the changing talent landscape mean for business right now?
For anyone involved in talent planning, the implications of the changing talent landscape are immediate and real. Companies are realizing that talent is too big to leave solely in the hands of any one organization, whether it’s HR, Talent Management, Procurement or line of business. Increasingly, responsibility is being shared. For example, when roles are not being filled quickly or effectively, the recruiting organization is looking at its approach and the line of business is looking at its requirements.
Companies are asking the right questions to their solutions partners. It’s no longer simply a question of “what are your innovations in the world of social media?” but instead, how well do you work with your clients to stay on top of the changing market, evaluate performance and evolve your strategies? Finally, forward-thinking companies are re-tooling for flexibility. They are more open to free agent talent (with an eye toward the quality of talent, not just the cost). They are improving their ability to measure performance, and in many cases they are rethinking their talent requirements, both in terms of skills and location.
While companies continue to evolve their approaches to talent, the pressures of the present never let up. Many companies are seeing the changing talent landscape as a chance to evolve their thinking and gain an advantage in the market. Some are acting on the opportunity. Some are procrastinating. Regardless of the action, one fact is true: no one can point to big talent and say “they are just a passing trend.” After all, big talent is not they. We are all part of big talent.
PeopleMatter: Voice Driven Services
Nate DaPore is a natural showman. The founder of PeopleMatter, fresh from a significant funding moment, is rapidly building market momentum for his integrated talent suite for the Restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. The offering breaks new ground in a number of areas.
Last week, the lanky entrepreneur hosted the Charleston, SC version of a Steve Jobs product launch. Complete with stage drama, talk show like interviews and a high end demo, Dapore was in his element.
DaPore has managed to build a Talent Management Suite that you can get excited about. For the most part, the vendors in our industry offer dull gray stories about their technical products. In this very orchestrated launch, Nate found the sweet spot.
Let’s start with the most marketable part of the process.
PeopleMatter’s new release includes a voice driven scheduling and training system that actually seems to work. Scheduling is the biggest bugaboo in the industries they serve. Every increment of schedule management s a hassle for everyone involved. Unlike white collar environments, every hole in a schedule has to be filled (or the manager gets to work more shifts).
The first increment of the solution is a smart phone based tool for managing shifts, time off, shift swaps and so on. Understanding that it will be a while before the blue collar segment is fully armed with iPhones, the company wrestled with how to reach the standard (non-smart phone) user. Ultimately, they figured out how to build a voice driven tool that accomplishes the same end.
Managers in the segments that PeopleMatter serves spend inordinate amounts of time developing, managing, revising and improving their schedules. The PeopleMatter toolkit acts kind of like Tungle for shifts. Employees interact with the system to solve their own problems and/or pick up more shifts. The manager is freed to manage. Scheduling decisions are accompanied by cost estimates based on the individual employee.
It’s a part of an overall system that begins with candidates and ends with schedule management (currently). The SaaS tools are accessible by phone and desktop. By integrating training, training management, hiring and scheduling into one single package, the PeopleMatter software streamlines most of the HR functions a restaurant, retail store or hotel would need to attend to.
Charleston, SC is an unlikely place for a software startup. It’s a fantastic place for a service driven startup. Expect to hear more from the company and its founder.
How the Ceridian team headed up by CEO Stuart Harvey are reshaping the company with their purchase of DayForce and revamped product positioning for their 130,000 HR software customers
Over the past couple of years, the team at Ceridian put a great deal of energy into telling their story. The company is one of the largest players in the HR software business. With 130,000 customers who have a total of 25 million employees, the 8,000 employees at Ceridian serve over 400 of the Fortune 500. The company offers:
a comprehensive range of human resource, benefits and payment solutions. From workforce management and benefits to productivity and payroll services, we help organizations maximize their human financial and technology resources. As a leader in payroll outsourcing, gift cards and corporate expense management, we’re the driving force in payment innovations.
- from the Ceridian website
The company’s history is a map of the comings and goings of computerization over the past 80 years. At various times it was a part of IBM and Control Data before gaining independence in the early 1970s. In late 2007, the company was taken private by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Fidelity National Financial.
Between 1993 and 2007, the company bought and sold various parts of its business in 24 major transactions. The result, by the time it was taken private, was a large collection of moderately dissonant pieces with relatively happy customers. True to its roots as a service bureau, Ceridian’s reputation is built on solving individual problems for individual customers.
You’ve never met a nicer guy than Stuart Harvey, Ceridian’s CEO. He exudes a kind of warmth that seems to percolate through the crowds of people he reaches out to. About 20 months ago, he took the reigns of the company. His task was to understand the operation and put it on a path to long term profitability. We first met him about 9 months ago as he began to deploy his approach.
In the first meeting, Stuart introduced David Ossip and his team at DayForce. A Harvard Business School graduate, Ossip built DayForce with the help of Canadian subsidies (this was also the strategy used by Taleo and Rypple, among others). DayForce offers an integrated approach to HR that includes tools for Workforce Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting, Task Management, Workforce Scheduling, Time & Attendance, Employee Self-Service, and Analytics.
At that point, Ceridian was taking a closer look at the company and had purchased a 20% stake. By the time we met last week, things had progressed to the point that the paperwork was all but signed on a deal to make DayForce a part of Ceridian.
Ceridian has to walk a careful path here.
The decision to purchase DayForce underscores their commitment to deliver profitable services to their customers in the future. While they will not stop supporting customers who have legacy tools that work just fine, the future of the company’s functionality lies in the integrated, single code base of DayForce’s toolset.
It’s a beautifully simple approach to solving the question of Ceridian’s future. With an enviable customer base and a variety of businesses, it’s in the firm’s interests to keep customers happy while providing a repeatable path to the future. Ossip, with his relentless focus on process improvement, is just the guy to pull it off.
Meanwhile, Ceridian happens to be one of the largest providers of paycards. With a 500 Million dollar business, the Ceridian paycard is a logical alternative to paychecks, particularly for employees who can’t get a bank account. This is the hidden gem in the Ceridian portfolio.
Stuart Harvey has simplified the Ceridian product matrix by creating three buckets: Existing solutions, the integrated platform and the paycard business. With seasoned managers like Larry Dunivan in place to run the businesses, something resembling smooth sailing will start to be the name of the game. When customers want to grow, there’s a path.
And now, the fun starts. With an expanding bankcard business, Ceridian will start to have a deeper and deeper consumer interface. If they can figure out how to energize the existing customers while focusing on the consumer business, there just might be a huge success story here.