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The Race to Dashboards

19 Dec

Dashboards are to software applications what Starbucks™ is to coffee – omnipresent. In the same way it’s hard to drive into any North American town and not see one or two Starbucks (and usually across the street from one another!), it’s hard to purchase any business software application – including HR applications – and not be told about, showed about, and confused about the plethora of “dashboards” that come with it.

But – to continue the Starbucks analogy – sometimes you’re just not in the mood for coffee. Maybe what you need is a nice cold beer. Or maybe just plain water. The fact is that application dashboards have been (and continue to be) so popular that we get sold on the concept of dashboards without taking the time to identify how we want to use them – not to mention when we want to use them, and who should be using them. There’s no denying that dashboards are useful; but like a cup of hot coffee on a hot day in the summer, there are times when a traditional dashboard isn’t the best solution.

And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

Your typical dashboard is a graphic display of business information. Perhaps the most common image of a dashboard is one that shows sales trends; a line chart that goes up and down over a period of time showing the overall growth or decrease in an organization’s business. Valuable? Absolutely.

Bar and pie chart dashboards are also eagerly advertised in software applications. Sales by product, region, or salesperson are good examples of where these kinds of dashboards shine.

The preceding examples have one obvious thing in common: sales. The sales department is by far the part of an organization that most benefits from dashboards that show trends and KPIs (key performance indicators). Human resources, on the other hand, doesn’t deal with the same kind of business information as sales, and thus the need for graphically-illustrated data is substantially less.

But just because there’s not the need for graphically-illustrated data in HR, that doesn’t mean there’s not the same need for dashboards. There is. It’s just that HR typically needs a different kind of dashboard – a non-graphic one.

Think about it – a dashboard is a dynamically-updated display of critical business data; how that data is displayed is up to you. So – whereas a graphic display showing how many hours of vacation time each employee has accrued might not be all that useful, a textual display of which employees are scheduled to be out of the office this week definitely has value. Similarly, whereas a line chart that shows how many employee certifications are due to expire over the next three months has dubious benefits, a dynamic listing of those certifications – along with their expire date, cost, and employee name – would be more than a little useful.

Generally speaking, graphic dashboards are more heavily used by executives who need to be kept aware of trends and who need to look at the “big-picture” of business activities. It’s the folks beneath the executives – departmental managers and their individual employees – who are tasked with keeping on top of the day-to-day business activities. And there’s no better way to empower these people than to provide them with “in-your-face”, dynamically-updated lists of critical business activities and tasks.

So – don’t let yourself get swept away by the “eye-candy” that is all-too-often presented to you as graphic application dashboards. They do look cool, and they do have their use. But in the HR world, it’s more often the details that spell the difference between success and failure. Make sure that you can get those details to the staff who need them – and do so in a dynamic dashboard format.

After all, the right information presented in the wrong format is about as useful as a cup of iced coffee in the middle of the winter . . .

Inexpensive Ways To Improve Employee Happiness and Engagement

17 Dec

There are many roadblocks on the path to employee engagement that never fail to impede most HR personnel the first time around. As the process is refined, though, there is also the risk of staff members becoming complacent. Assuming that existing systems work now because they did in the past and failure to review these processes could be just as vital a mistake as not upgrading HRMS utilities.

With changes in technology come differences in how people work, but inherently they as individuals remain the same. It is important to use devices, alternatives in working situations and other advantages that have come to light in the human resources field to encourage more fun in the workplace while still cutting costs. There are a number of applicable solutions for businesses willing and interested in employing them.

Bring-Your-Own-Device and Work From Home

Remote working has become a major draw for corporations that both want to save money and are interested in raising employee engagement. One of the leading reasons why this strategy works so well is because consumers already own the tablets and smartphones they prefer; meaning mobile devices are a ripe resource for companies that know how to use them.

Allowing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs can present some IT hiccups, but it also increases the amount of flexibility and productivity of each worker. Using these tools properly can turn them into learning centers, information resources and mobile workhorses, putting electronic filing capabilities into the hands of individuals so they can take care of tasks immediately instead of waiting to get back to a computer.

For companies that have the option, allowing people to work from home is also an appealing possibility. This creates a reduction in overall maintenance costs, lets the person spend less on commuting and eating out, and builds a sense of loyalty between the employee and the company. Such innovative tools may create a physical distance, but the closeness a person feels to their employer may actually increase because of it.

Recognize and Elevate

Paying people more to do a good job does not promote the same sense of value or employee engagement that other methods might. It also does nothing to save the company money, either in payroll or increased output.

Creating programs that focus on recognizing excellence and linking it to performance have a much greater impact. Top businesses strive to build employee loyalty by encouraging feedback from them as well as customers, thereby understanding worker culture and its connection to the corporate equivalent, while simultaneously gauging how well these ideals are being communicated to consumers. In the end, many companies see drastic increases in employee engagement, customer satisfaction and overall strength of corporate identity thanks to the consideration and recognition it gives its workers in exchange for superior customer service.

It is important to understand that more than just formal recognition needs to be delivered. Having an ad hoc way of bringing top achievements to light can be more endearing through its spontaneity, and since this method does not incur any additional costs, it is as financially-friendly for businesses as it gets. An informal solution can be as simple as rewarding employees who have finished their daily assignments with an early leave, or extra remote working time for workers that are far ahead of schedule. Such incentives encourage more productivity while promoting the idea that, the better job a person does, the more rewards they can hope to receive.

Actually Having Fun

A lot of businesses say, “We want to be a place where our people enjoy coming to work and have fun doing their jobs.” But what are they actually doing to make that a reality? If there is no plan in place to realize this ambition, it will never happen.

Leading innovators like Google encourage employees to play games, relax and get tasks done in an environment that is as much work as it is fun. When a company says it wants its people to have fun but provides no outlet for this to happen, chances are it never will.

“Anything that gets people out of their usual headspace and routine can help,” said Ryan Tate, author and HR expert. His book, ‘The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off and Breaking Rules at Work Drive Success in Business,’ coaches managers and HR personnel to allow one-fifth of their daily routine to be free-form. In other words, split up work so that every day has some playtime. Assigned duties will still get done, but the output will be of far higher quality, and employees will actually have fun at work.

What ways does your company promote fun at work?

Make Decision Making Simple With HR Analytics

5 Nov

Monitoring the progress of individuals within the corporate structure in order to reach desired outcomes is standard practice within many organizations. However, the reasoning behind HR analytics is not consolidated – some businesses see them as a tool to expedite future growth, while others see them as a way of looking back at the progress they have made. It depends how the company that owns the data wants to use it, and who is interpreting the information at that time.

The value of human resource analytics lies in flexibility. Robust analytics can produce rich reports detailing performance of individuals, teams, departments or businesses as a whole. They also provide a way of seeing where people are in relation to intended goals. This in turn can help human resources managers provide assistance where it is needed most, ensuring that everyone within the organization is cared for equally. HR analytics help with crafting engagement strategies and are the basis for calculations focused on return on employee investment.

Understanding Analytics
Some human resources personnel may still stop and think, “What exactly are analytics, anyway?” Simply put, they are the mix of business data with human input. It’s a way of collating progress in every department, every task and every aspect of the business, thereby allowing HR and other staff members to monitor performance and make necessary adjustments.

To successfully run a business these types of insights are needed. Companies should look within and use tools to research the data they already own. To take it the next level they can then compare their data with other performance indicators to formulate action plans. Additionally, using HR analytics a business can store business performance data and later use it to compare against historical figures.

What to Look For
It’s also essential that, when scanning internal and external information channels, the right indicators are being monitored. Simply looking at the broad expanse of corporate and consumer information can be overwhelming, but targeting specific behaviors and people can be useful. Leaders should be a primary focus, as isolating effective traits in these individuals can help steer others in management positions toward the same qualities. It’s also necessary to present incentives and gestures of appreciation to personnel in order to maintain their loyalty, and assessing these transactions can help businesses target the kind of feedback employees want most.

Gaining From Data
Creating these assets is one thing, but figuring out how to implement them could be challenging for companies that just started their analytics usage. Once entities understand what these tools are and how to make use of them, there are a plethora of resources available waiting to be tapped, both within the business structure and in the public sphere, which present opportunities to gain insight into hidden patterns and market indicators.

Outlets like social media and online communication are a wealth of analytics data, because these sources represent a massive channel of rapidly changing trends and information. Picking out the common themes amidst the chaos ensures a business that its strategies based on this massive volume of supporting data will be sound ones. What results is a product that can almost detect future movements within the corporate structure, taking previous performance indicators and other landmarks in both human and technology assets, providing a better business forecast for those within the organization. As Dashboard Insight wrote, “When HR uses fact-based decision making – instead of intuition or best guesses – the group becomes a more credible partner to the business it serves.”

If difficulties arise in the human resources management process or other roadblocks leap up to prevent progress, HR analytics are the ace up your sleeve in defraying the chaos and making sense of the situation. Finding solutions for difficult HR problems is as simply finding the facts and presenting solutions that alleviate these negative conditions, and triangulating the source of these issues is easier with quality data analytics.

Attract, Manage, and Retain The Best Talent

29 Oct

Attracting the best talentThe biggest asset a company has at its disposal is the staff it employs. Employees are the face of corporate culture, the first line of interaction a customer usually has with the business and the spokespeople for the organization outside the office as well. Keeping the best talent on-staff can increase employee loyalty and promote a positive office environment, but it might be difficult for some companies to hold on to these desirable workers.

Understanding what makes some organizations successful can help human resources management identify problems and implement new strategies for developing the best workforce possible.

Connecting With Technology

There is a vast amount of information being created every day in the corporate world, and businesses are constantly finding new ways to interact, analyze and store it. Not all these devices and interfaces will be familiar to users, and upgrading existing systems can be costly, but these initiatives are at the heart of the push to keep businesses progressive and competitive, both as entities and in the eyes of potential hires.

Adding new employee self service portals, for example, can help provide workers with a way of monitoring their payroll, checking for internal announcements and connecting with other people in the organization. Businesses need to be aware, though, that training may be necessary to keep existing employees engaged, as being presented with change can be detrimental to workplace sentiment in some cases. While younger users in the Generation Y and Millennial age groups will take strongly to technology, these sections only make up half of the available workforce.

Workers Go Mobile

It’s important to be open and communicative with employees to make sure they have the tools they need, understand how to use them and feel comfortable doing so. Extra opportunities for education should be available to those who aren’t having as much success as others with human resources software and other services, as these are integral to the progress and emerging mobility of the workplace.

The implementation of bring-your-own-device programs and mobile networks in everyday practice are sometimes easier when integrated into new infrastructure. For instance, a self-service program with employee schedule tracking and payroll information may be alien to some users, but by making it accessible on a smartphone, workers will be more willing to navigate through software and experiment with new digital experiences. Nearly half of all American workers prefer using smartphones as a primary work tool, while one-fifth would like to use a tablet computer in lieu of traditional computers.

Social Success Strategy

Another tactic tapping into the mobile deployment universe helps those already using social networking and other online sharing sites by helping them communicate achievements. These tools also help employees in connecting with others in the same company, similar fields and with like interests. Networks like Facebook help advertise corporate brand identity, while getting a job on LinkedIn is becoming more commonplace for corporations and consumers.

The use of services like email and text messages are still popular and widely-used in the corporate world, but making employees familiar and comfortable with advances in business technology will quickly establish it as a leader and forward-thinker in its industry. This makes it appealing to job seekers, and backing up that positive corporate image with loyal employee statements on social networks will boost the volume on that message.

Reduce Redundancy and Stay Compliant

22 Oct

One of the leading problems HR professionals face is redundant documentation in benefits and payroll systems. Here are a few simple actions to cut back on filing errors that could lead to HR compliance issues.

Move to Electronic Files

Not all businesses are using computerized data entry methods yet, but for those still utilizing traditional hanging file folders, converting to digital may be a good idea. Not only will it create a single unique file each time, but it will make them easier to review and maintain.

Employ Unified HR Software Solutions

A number of different desks within the HR department may need access to the same files, and having files under a single software umbrella relieves the need to recreate this information repeatedly for individual use.

Try Employee Self Service Systems

Letting the employees view data themselves will make sure their information is up-to-date and accurate so HR management can focus on administration rather than just maintenance. This kind of voluntary correction and review are even used by the IRS to relieve audit loads and identify 401(k) discrepancies.

Reducing redundant paperwork will lower maintenance and potential error costs as well as make the job of HR professionals easier, boosting communication and timeliness of reviews and processes.

See Why Paperless is More

15 Aug

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a people-centric HR professional and consultant with over 25 years of HR experience in telecom, finance, manufacturing, healthcare and higher education.  Mary Anne presents monthly on our complimentary Sage HR R&R: Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series.

Managing the many facets of human resources can be difficult if your personnel aren’t using a computerized system. HRMS software provides ease of use, collaboration and a reduction of costly errors, as well as better mastery of internal affairs. Saving money and increasing overall productivity with paperless human resources systems should be an intuitive choice for businesses.

HRMS efficiency

Using an HRMS tool in your workplace reduces costs and increases output. That’s because reducing paperwork and streamlining the process makes it simpler for HR personnel to monitor employee performance, access trouble spots and maintain a certain standard of operations throughout the organization. These tools also facilitate employee self-service at all levels of the company, giving everyone an idea of how well they’re doing compared to what’s expected of them.

Cutting costs is also quite easy with HRMS. Employing such a system cuts down on physical paperwork and storage necessities, reducing wasted office space, supply costs and efficiency. An electronic system lends itself more easily to review and makes mistakes harder to miss during initial entry or later in the process. Errors can be much more costly than file maintenance and can have further-reaching repercussions.

Following trends

Technology in the workplace is always evolving, and adoption of modern software like HRMS is vital to stay competitive, attract the best candidates, retain top talent and streamline operation.

By placing all important forms and documents into the electronic system, HR personnel and payroll staff see their job difficulty reduced greatly. There is no longer a mountain of paper to deal with for each worker, sorting out personal papers and tax forms, but the individual can key everything themselves on a computer, automating future processes.

These tools create a digital interface for employee and applicant tracking, monitoring progress and work statistics for workers throughout the company. HRMS tools help them connect with their bosses and select their benefits as well, allowing them to review pay statements and setup direct deposit, as well as enroll in health and other benefits programs. All activity conducted in the human resources management system gives employers a way to review staff preferences and performance, granting greater insight into the minds of workers.

Instituting a human resources management system reduces costs, increases productivity and keeps an organization at the top of the technology game. Instituting such a program is easy, and benefits everyone in the company.

Nobody Likes a Tattletale

20 Jul

A Positive Alerts SystemI had an interesting conversation last week with a customer who is using an alerts system. They were really pleased at all the notifications they had configured – many of which took the form of daily reminders about tasks that needed to be completed, contracts that needed to be renewed, and the like. And then this customer said the following: 

“You know, Alerts & Workflow is kind of like a vitamin for our employees. If left on their own, they’d probably forget to take it; now they get it automatically and they understand that it’s good for them.”

Hmmmmmm . . .

 There was something about that phrase that I didn’t like; a little later it came to me:

 Nobody likes taking their vitamins.

 Oh sure, we all understand that vitamins are good for us in the long-term, but on a day-to-day basis they’re more of an annoyance than a pleasure. And then I realized that it was all-too-easy for an Alerts system to take on these same qualities. Deep down we know that being reminded about tasks and other items that require our attention is a good thing, but that “daily ding” (or two, or three . . . ) that points out what we should be doing is about as enjoyable as getting poked with a stick.

Now no one is going to argue that we don’t all need the occasional reminder, nor would we argue that it’s better to let something be forgotten than to address it. But those facts don’t make the receipt of the reminder any more palatable. And — viewed in this light — an Alerts system can very easily be seen as a “tattletale” system; one in which its main purpose is to point out those things that we are doing wrong or – in many cases – not doing at all.

 And nobody likes a tattletale, no matter how well-intentioned they may be.

 That’s why, when implementing an alerts system within your organization, you need to look long and hard for positive, reinforcing uses of that technology. In the HR world, those uses can include:

  •  Celebrating employee birthdays and term-of-work anniversaries
  • Acknowledging training certifications completed
  • Congratulations on job position advancements
  • Communicating salary increases
  • Confirming an employee’s passing of mandatory drug tests
  • Thanking employees for completing certain tasks
  • Recognizing benchmark achievements (e.g., projects completed on-time and/or under budget)
  • Acknowledging that “Nothing Bad = Something Good” (e.g., commending employees with no overdue tasks)

The importance of positive, reinforcing alerts cannot be overstated. Without them, every automated notification that an employee receives will be viewed with a combination of dread and depression – a reminder of “what’s wrong” with their work habits. And interestingly enough, it doesn’t take an equal number of positive alerts to offset the “tattletale” ones. Even just one positive, reinforcing alert per day can offset the weight of countless reminders.

Ultimately, these positive alerts do far more than just make your employees feel good about themselves. An alerts solution that is solely designed as a tattletale system stands a strong chance of failing over the long term because users will eventually ignore the alerts they receive from it. But if you show your employees that an alerts system can also be used to recognize achievements, milestones, and above average performance, your alerts system will almost assuredly be a success.

After all — although almost no one likes a tattletale, pretty much everyone likes to be recognized for a job well-done.


The Bring Your Own Device Divide

18 Jul

There are two sides to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend now that IT departments are facing off against human resources professionals. Each side of this polarized debate has valid points, but finding ways to work together is essential for employee engagement and business security. The key to solving these issues and creating a friendly workspace is collaboration which, while facilitated by BYOD programs themselves, can be difficult to promote acceptance with at first.

HR Support

A Forrester report recently showed that more than three-fourths of company technology is already purchased by employees and used for both home and work purposes. The study went on to say that, based on previous adoption trends, BYOD will probably be the ruling institution among SMBs and big business alike within the next three years. These devices have proliferated in personal life and tend to go with workers whenever they travel already, representing a savings for businesses that don’t have to invest in new technology to make operations more flexible.

IT Resists

While this cuts costs and increases productivity for the workforce, it could result in a security problem in terms of increased data breach probability. The trouble with BYOD initiatives is that it’s already difficult enough getting employees to follow security procedures for company-owned technology, but introducing personal devices make people feel like they have more liberties with data protection. This could result in serious danger to business continuity, and by default complicates the job of IT personnel who have to buff up endpoint security to account for anticipated lackluster personal device security.

Some IT and HR professionals share the concern, though, that it could enhance FLSA compliance issues. Studies have found that workers tend to keep at job tasks even after they should have stopped for the day, resulting in overtime and reporting issues. Seeing as some of the problems of BYOD are shared, these departments need to get together and offer ideas on how to effectively solve each of them. By finding a middle ground, companies should discern a way to save data and money at the same time.

What do you think about BYOD? Should employees be allowed to use their own devices? Let us know on Twitter by mentioning @JoeyBaird with your answer.


What Makes Technology Cool? Business Results

13 Jul

Technology Tools That Increase Business Results

In this fifth installment of a five part series, Mollie Lombardi, a research director for Aberdeen Group’s human capital management practice, shares her thoughts on the importance of emerging and new technology. Mollie has surveyed and interviewed thousands of end-users to gain a better grasp of the key challenges facing human resources and talent management leaders. Mollie has an extensive background in writing and speaking about topics such as strategic talent management and employee engagement. If you’d like to learn more about Mollie you may read our first installment, Meet Mollie Lombardi.

 I am asked frequently to comment on the “cool new technologies” available in the world of human capital management. There certainly are a lot of shiny, exciting tools and products coming onto the market, and the ones that excite me most are those that can be used to implement strategy: technology that helps me make better decisions, connects me with the right stakeholders and helps me achieve business objectives. 

An area seeing much technological innovation today is in tools that foster collaboration, which can be thought of in two ways when it comes to human capital management: collaboration in completing projects and collaboration in talent decision-making.

Completing Projects: Technologies such as video chat on mobile phones and slide-sharing video sites within organizational firewalls help teams working together, individuals seeking out experts to learn from, or employees finding new ways to apply existing solutions to new problems.

Talent decision-making: The goal of any good hiring, on-boarding or succession initiative is to make better decisions about talent, ensuring that the organization has people with the skills, capabilities and knowledge the business needs to move forward. Technology that provides visibility of the data required to make decisions and allows individuals to collaborate by sharing comments and ideas is an exciting trend. These valuable technologies include:

  • Mobile phone apps that allow interview teams to rapidly evaluate and share comments about a candidate.
  • Internal social networking tools that have built-in analytics showing who key influencers are within the organization, making that a part of how talent gets evaluated.
  • Dashboard and analytics tools that can serve up data to any user based on their role, no matter where they are, from shop floor to executive meeting room.

An Aberdeen Group report, 2011’s HR Executive Agenda, reveals that organizations combining workforce and business data are three times as likely to achieve best-in-class status. This shows just how critical technologies that bring the right information to the decision-making process can be. So, as exciting as “cool new technologies” are, it’s important to measure their impact in the context of whether they help achieve organizational goals. In for-profit organizations, this tends to be revenue goals; for nonprofit organizations, it is meeting the needs of whatever groups or interests they serve.

The Aberdeen research also shows that though 57 percent of businesses say they can measure a correlation between their talent management efforts and business operational metrics, a mere 12 percent say they have the data to validate that correlation. For talent leaders to really have a voice within the organization, this number must increase.

Keeping abreast of the “cool new technologies” is important, but finding and using technologies that support strategy and enable results — and proving it — is the ultimate cool.


Give Yourself Time to Make Benefits Enrollment Easy

5 Jul

Time is of the essenceMost employers hold open enrollment during the October through December period because their benefit plan year starts January 1.  Open enrollment can be the defining task the human resource department undertakes all year as it has impact on employer and employee costs, employment satisfaction, recruiting and HR interdepartmental relations.

Organizations devote a great deal of energy and countless hours to meet the demands of end-of-year enrollment periods. With all of the details required to budget, plan and execute the open enrollment process, it can easily become a headache-prone project. Well-planned processes and smart technology can help ease the pain for HR and everyone involved. An online enrollment application can be used to collect and verify  employees’ benefit elections. Transmitting the enrollment data electronically to the carriers completes the solution by ensuring on-time delivery of benefit elections, eliminating data entry errors, and cutting many HR hours from the process.

Time is of the Essence

HR departments are right now negotiating new plan year benefits with insurance carriers and other benefit providers, looking for the best benefit to cost ratio for their employer and employees. Many are also shopping for new or upgraded benefits admin system with their focus on the upcoming open enrollment projects.

A prospective user of an electronic carrier connection solution needs to allow 60 days to implement it in order to take advantage of improvements this year.  This will allow them to fully purchase, implement the program, and then test it. Since most organizations hold their open enrollments at the end of the calendar year, the time frame is starting now to look for automated benefits solutions.

What other tips and tricks are there to making benefits enrollment easy?