Halloween and HR Conferences

Oct 10, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

libary of Congress photoIt’s that time of year: the start of the fall holiday season. Halloween will be here soon. Soon there’ll be skeletons, ghosts, monsters, candy being handed out, and people in weird costumes. There’s a lot of similarities with the conferences that dominate the fall. Go to any and you’ll see vendors that are skeletons of what they used to be; ghosts of vendors that have been swallowed up by others; one Monster (never more), and, of course, candy being handed out and people in weird costumes. I saw people dressed up as cows, pirates, Romans, and angels, in the expo hall at some recent conferences. Maybe it’s the silly season — this is why elections are held in the fall.

Deja Vu All Over Again

But like Halloween every year, not much seems to change. Much of what’s there looks the same from years past. It’s like a neighborhood at Halloween where there’s only cosmetic differences from one year to the next — last year someone had an inflatable pumpkin on their lawn and this year they have a giant witch on their roof. It’s appealing for a moment until you notice the giant spider in front of the next house. It’s become that way for HR technology — new and interesting stuff is hard to find. At one conference someone grabbed my arm and said they wanted to show me the newest release of their ATS which was “very next generation” — whatever that means. Maybe they’re planning to boldly go where no one has gone before — like an HR conference in Alaska. Someone else said they were advancing their product’s functionality “at warp speed.”. I had to check my badge to verify that I wasn’t at a sci-fi convention.

Sometimes it’s difficult getting excited about HR technology. There’s no shortage of new products, but so many of them are just the same as old products — like Halloween decorations. Last time I wrote about this someone who’s obviously very insecure complained that I missed all the great stuff that was there — like the improvements in a certain database. It may be thrilling stuff for some people, but that’s like saying people should be impressed by the new siding and insulation you put into your house.

The Best of What’s New

But it’s not all a yawn fest where one goes to collect tchotchkes and freeload at the parties (and who doesn’t?). There are still hidden gems to be found. Three that I was impressed by are Forte, HerdWisdom, and SiiYa.

Forte, from KornFerry/Futurestep, is a remarkable product in a field — Performance Management — know for highly unremarkable offerings. KornFerry has created an iPad app that is visually compelling and invites use. Performance appraisals are by and large dull and boring exercises. More often than not both managers and employees see appraisals as a chore to be completed and put away until the next year. Forte make it seem almost like a game, with stacks of cards containing traits that can be sorted and stacked. Improvement goals can be created and linked to content that can help in learning. Results are displayed in simple and highly attractive charts. KornFerry is at the leading edge of a trend to use tablets more than other computers and has taken full advantage of the functionality of an iPad.

HerdWisdom has a social media product that turns filling jobs into an online game involving cows (they also had the cow in their booth). People get points for participating, adding their profile, sharing a job, and making referrals. What makes this interesting is that they’ve truly grasped what social media is about — it’s about engagement, having fun, doing something interesting. That is fundamental to getting success with social media as a recruiting tool. Call it the gamification of social media. This is why games like Farmville and Mafia Wars are so popular. Recruiting is serious work but if we’re to use social media then the fun element is critical.

PivotLogix has also launched a social media product called SiiYa. The product makes it easy to manage all of a recruiter’s or company’s social media contacts. SiiYa allows a person or group to combine their social media and other contacts in one place, segment them on a wide range of criteria — skills, industry, location, title, etc. — and directly reach out to any group of prospective candidates. This eliminates the fragmentation and duplication that occurs when contacts are distributed across networks, and it allows recruiters and employees to easily combine their resources. A company can invite employees to add their contacts to the pool and make it easy for them to target specific individuals to receive job postings.

It’s early days for all of these products and their success will ultimately be determined by the market, but all are great examples of innovation in a space where it’s sorely lacking.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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