Key Trends in HR
Part 1: Companies Seek Advanced Technology

By Toni Vranjes

December 19, 2012

What trends have been shaping human resources in recent years, and what are the expectations for 2013? To provide insight, Revive My Career is running a three-part series covering key developments in HR.

  • Part 1 examines the sophisticated world of recruiting and hiring technology, which employers are using to increase efficiency and find the best candidates.
  • Part 2 focuses on compensation and benefits. Companies are rewarding top achievers and expanding benefit programs — but they’re also shifting accountability to employees.
  • Part 3 explores the growing appeal of flex time and telecommuting. As workers face conflicting demands from work and home, these flexible arrangements are expanding.

Employers Streamline their Technology

Many companies are once again investing in HR technology, in order to improve services and become more efficient, according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The major focus areas are software as a service and shared services, which are becoming the most prevalent models for delivering HR services.

In a survey released in August by HR consulting firm Towers Watson, most employers reported that their HR technology budgets would either increase, or stay the same, in the coming year. The report, which surveyed 628 companies, found that 53 percent plan to spend the same amount, while 31 percent expect to increase their spending. Only 16 percent planned to reduce their investments.

Rackmount Servers in a Data CenterThe Towers Watson survey also found an increase in the number of firms that are planning to change their HR structure. The 2012 survey showed that 44 percent expect to change their structure over the next couple years, up from 26 percent last year. Their goals include streamlining processes and improving quality.

Software as a Service

The “software-as-a-service” delivery model is one element of cloud computing, and it’s a hot area in HR technology.

Under the “software as a service” approach, employers outsource their HR functions, and the software is delivered via the Internet. This model is touted as more efficient and less expensive than the traditional in-house approach.

Some of the key players in this area are Kenexa Corp., which was recently acquired by IBM; Taleo Corp., which was bought by Oracle Corp.; and SuccessFactors Inc., which was purchased by SAP. These companies offer a variety of HR tools, including recruiting technology.

As the technology becomes more advanced, a new trend has taken shape, according to Bill Glenn, vice president of marketing and alliances at TalentWise. He sees growing demand for a single platform to manage the entire hiring process – which begins when the employer selects a candidate and presents an offer letter, and ends when the new employee is completely onboarded.

Instead of using multiple vendors for various parts of the hiring process, like background screening and onboarding, employers can use one service to handle everything. The company’s platform, called TalentWise Hire, was launched earlier this year to meet this need.

TalentWise Hire includes a wide array of offerings, including assessments, background screening, corporate forms, government forms, and a portal for job candidates and new hires. All users, including the candidates and new employees, log into TalentWise Hire through the cloud.

One key element of TalentWise Hire is assistance with the complicated work opportunity tax credit. Glenn cites a Wall Street Journal story, which found that many eligible employers don’t claim the tax credit because the process is so difficult. The TalentWise system helps companies determine when they qualify for the tax credit, and it submits information to the government on behalf of eligible employers.

In addition, TalentWise Hire helps HR professionals manage the data they collect about job candidates. It allows HR to “make heads or tails” of the data and make better decisions, according to Glenn.

As part of its business strategy, TalentWise has partnered with Kenexa, Taleo and SuccessFactors. The TalentWise Hire platform is pre-integrated with the recruiting technology from these companies. In addition, TalentWise Hire integrates with PeopleSoft software, which many companies use to maintain all their information about employees in a central location.

The software-as-a-service model potentially could save companies a lot of money. The traditional in-house approach involves high up-front costs for equipment and software licenses. If a company buys on-premise software, it needs an individual license for each employee. But under the new approach, companies pay a subscription fee based on usage.

Over time, employers have become more confident about the security of cloud delivery, according to Glenn. He says that TalentWise has strict procedures for ensuring that information is stored securely.

“More HR professionals and organizations in general are gaining confidence in putting information into the cloud,” he says.

TalentWise has about 10,000 customers, including General Motors, Lego and the American Cancer Society. Glenn estimates the U.S. market for services like TalentWise Hire is $7 billion to $10 billion annually.

As more employers seek a single platform to manage the entire hiring process, he expects more partnerships among technology companies, and integrations between their offerings and platforms like TalentWise Hire.


Employers are also embracing video for a variety of purposes, says Alan Mellish, a senior analyst at the Human Capital Institute.

Video interviewing is one major trend. At its most basic form, it involves using Skype to conduct interviews. Other players include HireVue, Montage Talent, and GreenJobInterview. Video interviews can be recorded and shared with others in the company. Employers also can integrate video interviews into their applicant tracking systems.

The use of video interviews is increasing at U.S. companies, according to an OfficeTeam survey released in August. It found that 63 percent of firms often use video to conduct job interviews — up from 14 percent a year ago. The survey was based on interviews with about 500 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees.

Sometimes, companies use video interviews as part of their college-recruiting activities, Mellish says. They might speak to a job seeker at a career fair, and if they’re impressed, they might later interview the person via video.

When employers do use video, they typically use them only for an initial interview, he notes. If a candidate’s video interview is impressive, an employer usually will interview the job seeker in person before making an offer.

“I doubt it would ever completely replace in-person interviews,” he says. “But I think there are certain aspects of it that candidates like and employers like.”

Meanwhile, some companies encourage jobs seekers to send videos as alternatives to traditional cover letters. For instance, Zappos prefers videos  – instead of cover letters – to highlight applicants’ skills and interests. The Zappos corporate culture values individual style, and this approach reflects the culture, Mellish says.

The use of video is appealing — for some companies, and for certain types of jobs. And in general, younger job seekers are likely to be most comfortable using video during the job search, according to Mellish.

Personality Tests

These days, employers often are deluged with resumes for job openings, and they continue to seek ways to filter applicants. In order to do this, many companies are using various tests, such as quizzes and personality assessments.

“It’s an easier way to filter for people with the right traits and competencies for the role,” Mellish says.

The exact approach can vary. In some cases, once applicants submit their resumes, they’re automatically taken to a quiz.

But other employers will wait until further in the process. For instance, a recruiter might sort through resumes to find appealing candidates, and then ask them to take a personality assessment.

Although these tests have been around for a while, it’s now automated and easier for employers to assess for cultural fit, Mellish notes. Employers are trying to find people who not only have impressive resumes, but also have the personality traits that are needed for the job. These traits include the ability to learn quickly, organization, and a flexible thinking style.

“They’re trying to find out a different angle on people so they make better decisions,” he says.

Social Media

Another major recruiting trend: a continued focused on using social media to attract top talent. Many companies are trying to express their “personality” and convey to job seekers what it’s like to work there.

“Employers and HR professionals have to be thinking about their employment brand, and how to put forth the right employment brand to attract and obtain some of the best candidates in the market,” Glenn says.

To get the best talent, employers are promoting their brands on LinkedIn company pages, Facebook company pages, on Twitter, and other sites. Glenn notes that the TalentWise Hire portal allows candidates and new hires to learn more about employers through social-media links.

In addition, employee referrals are important when trying to fill jobs, and social media can play a key role in that, Mellish says. To help with the referral process, employees can reach out to connections in their social-media networks.

Mobile Recruiting

Mobile recruiting is an important development, but it’s still at an early stage, according to Mellish.

Web traffic via mobile devices has grown quickly in the developed world, and even faster in developing countries like India, he notes. However, only now are employers beginning to take advantage of it, he adds. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have neither a career site that is optimized for mobile devices, nor a mobile career app, according to Mellish. One notable exception is PepsiCo, which has both of these.

Many employers are wary of making that investment, because there’s no guarantee their target audience will find them, he adds. However, PepsiCo is a big global consumer brand with a big global workforce, and so it was worth it to the company.

Mellish expects more companies that resemble PepsiCo, such as Walmart, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, to follow suit quickly in developing apps and mobile career sites.

He also expects that other smaller organizations will find different ways to take advantage of mobile devices in their recruiting efforts – approaches that don’t require the investment that mobile recruiting apps might. For instance, these smaller employers could use QR codes or texting.

Personal Interaction

As HR technology becomes more advanced, it can create greater efficiency, and companies can save a lot of money. While this trend has many positive aspects, the increasing automation is also a source of concern.

Job seekers crave personal interaction when searching for work. Sometimes, though, the process can be very impersonal, and that can lead to frustration and isolation.

The challenge is to maintain a balance between automation and engagement, as HR expert Jessica Miller-Merrell wrote in a recent blog post. She makes some great points, and hopefully this message will spur employers toward a more balanced approach. Job seekers want some real, authentic communication – with actual human beings.

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