Thursday, February 27, 2014

Workday unveils recruiting platform

Note: I posted this a while back but had to take it down because it was pre-release. Now that its available I'm re-posting it.

This post is going to be a bit different from my normal ones.  I'm not going to talk about research, but instead focus on technology.  Long time readers know HR technology is another passion of mine, and as recruitment/assessment professionals I think it behooves us to know "what's out there."

Recently in my day job we've been looking at automated HR systems, primarily to replace our manual time and attendance process, but it's impossible to not consider other applications once you start looking.  For the uninitiated, these systems go by various names like HCM (Human Capital Management), HRMS (Human Resource Management System) or HRIS (Human Resource Information System).

In my opinion, now is a very exciting time to be looking at automated HR systems.  Why?  Because unlike years past, when using these systems was about as pleasant as reading FMLA regulations, recent applications have taken a decidedly more "consumer" approach, borrowing heavily from popular websites like Amazon and Facebook.

One of the companies that has been the most trailblazing in this regard is Workday.  Workday was founded in 2005 by the former CEO of PeopleSoft along with its former Chief Strategist following Oracle's hostile takeover.  Workday provides cloud-based SaaS software for a variety of functions, primarily around finance, HR, and analytics.  One of Workday's big differentiators is it uses a single line of code, meaning every customer is using the same version all the time (again, just like a website).  Those of you that are used to being on Release x.2 while others are on x.6, and planning on how to upgrade, know what a big deal this is.

(If you're thinking "cloud-based whatnow?" this basically this means delivering software over the web rather than relying on locally hosted systems; obvious benefits include a potential massive reduction in local IT support, particularly attractive I think for the public sector)

For me, considering a large IT project implementation, I've seen enough to know that the user experience is essential.  Obviously the product has to work as advertised, but if users (including HR) don't like using the system--usually because it's unintuitive or overly complicated--chances of ultimate success are slim.  At best people will tolerate it.  I certainly don't want my name attached to that project.

That leads me to why companies like Workday are adding so much value to HR software.  Because their interface looks like this:

Not like this:

Up until now, Workday's HR offerings have focused on things like benefits, time tracking, and internal talent management.  Their recruiting module, announced back in 2012 and eagerly anticipated, has just been rolled (GA, or general availability, to Workday customers).  Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a pretty-much-finished version, and here are my observations:

1.  It's clean.  As evidenced by the screenshot above, Workday prides itself on a clean UI, and the recruiting module is no exception.  I don't have any shots to share with you because, well, I couldn't find any.  But there's plenty of white space, the eye knows where to go, and you won't get overwhelmed by sub-menu upon sub-menu.  Candidates are displayed using a "baseball card"-like interface, with key stats like years of job experience, skills, social feeds, and attachments.

2.  It's mobile- and social-friendly.  These were clear marching orders to the developers, and it shows.  Workday's mobile app is great, and SNWs like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are consistently integrated.  One feature they consistently stressed (for good reason) is how easy it is for candidates to upload their info from their LinkedIn account, saving a ton of time.

3.  At this time it's basically an ATS (applicant tracking system).  This isn't a bad thing, but don't expect qualified candidates to magically jump out of your monitor.  It's a very clean way to manage applicants for requisitions, and it's integrated into their core HR.  For many long-time users of other ATS products, this is a big deal.  Additional features, such as being able to quickly change candidate status and do mass emails, will also be popular.  Finally, you can easily search your candidate pool by competency, location, etc., similar to the employee search function in their HCM product.

4.  It will be particularly useful for organizations with dedicated recruiters.  I commented in the demo that in many organizations (including my own), we don't have dedicated recruiters; rather recruiting happens locally, driven by the hiring supervisor and their staff.  So anything these systems can do to engage and reward proper behavior (dare I say gamification here?) will pay huge dividends, and I think this is a development opportunity.  On the other hand, organizations with full-time recruiters will immediately "get it".

5.  It's a work in progress.  The career portal of the system wasn't up and running yet, although I was assured it would be by GA.  To me this is a huge missing piece, and I look forward to seeing how they integrate this with the back end.  There were also clearly plans for future features like assessments (e.g., video interviewing), job board aggregation, and CRM.  Definitely features to watch.

So at the end of the day, it wouldn't solve all our problems, but it offers an enormous potential for us, as HR, to get a better handle on what our hiring supervisors are doing.  Not only will this help with compliance, it will allow us to gather information to make more strategic decisions about resources.  The built-in business intelligence functions have the potential to transform our practices. You can get more details here:

Now lest I leave you thinking that I'm a Workday shill, its not the only game out there, there are plenty of competitors, including newer players like Ultimate as well as more established ones like Oracle, both having lots of satisfied customers.  But Workday is--at this point--one of our finalists and has been on a crazy growth spurt over the last few years.

Want to know more about this technology?  I've found CedarCrestone's annual report to be extremely helpful, as well as HRE's technology articles.  The HR tech industry is huge (see my earlier post about one of the conferences) and you can very easily spend your entire career in this space.

I can honestly say it's technology like this that has the potential to evolve much of HR from unpredictable and frustrating to exciting and engaging.  I'm ready.>

Thursday, February 20, 2014

March '14 IJSA

In my last research update just a couple days ago, I mentioned that the new issue of IJSA should be coming out soon.

I think they heard me because it came out literally the next day.

So let's take a look:

- This study adds to our (relatively little) knowledge of sensitivity reviews of test items and finds much room for improvement

- More evidence that the utility of UIT isn't eliminated by cheating, this time with a speeded ability test

- Applicant motivation may be impacted by the intended scoring mechanism (e.g., objective vs. ratings).

- The validity of work experience in predicting performance is much debated*, but this study found support for it among salespersons, with personality also playing a moderating role.

- A study of the moderating effect of "good impression" responding on personality inventories

- This review provides a great addition to our knowledge of in-baskets (a related presentation can be found through IPAC)

- Another excellent addition, this time a study of faux pas on social networking websites in the context of employer assessment

- According to this study, assessors may adjust their decision strategy for immigrants (non-native language speakers)

- Letters of recommendation, in this study of nonmedical medical school graduate students, provided helpful information in predicting degree attainment

- Interactive multimedia simulations are here to stay, and this study adds to our confidence that these types of assessments can work well

Until next time!

* Don't forget to check out the U.S. MSPB's latest research study on T&Es!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Research update

Okay, past time for another research update, so let's catch up!

Let's start with the Journal of Applied Social Psychology (Dec-Feb):

- Cultural intelligence plays a key role in multicultural teams

- Theory of Planned Behavior can be used to explain intent to submit video resumes

- More on weight-based discrimination, including additional evidence that this occurs more among women (free right now!)

- Does the physical attractiveness bias hold in same-sex evaluative situations?  Not so much, although it may depend on someone's social comparison orientation

- "Dark side" traits play a role in predicting career preference

- Evidence that efficacy beliefs play a significant role not only in individual performance, but in team performance

Next up, the January issue of JAP:

- The concept of differential validity among ethnic groups in cognitive ability testing has been much debated, and this study adds to the discussion by suggesting that the effects are largely artifactual due to range restriction.

- Or are they?  This study on the same topic found that range restriction could not account for observed differential validity findings.  So the debate continues...

- A suggestion for how to increase the salience of dimension ratings in assessment centers

- Ambition and emotional stability appear related to adaptive performance, particularly for managers

Spring Personnel Psych (free right now!)

- First, a fascinating study of P-E fit across various cultures.  Turns out relational fit may be more important in collectivistic and high power distance cultures (e.g., East Asia), whereas rational fit may be more important in individualistic and lower power distance cultures (e.g., the U.S.).

- Next, a study of recruitment messaging for job involving international travel.

- Last but definitely not least, a narrative and quantitative extensive review of the structured interview

Not quite done: One from Psychological Science on statistical power in testing mediation, and just in case you needed more evidence, the Nov/Dec issue of HRM has several research articles supporting the importance of line manager behavior and HRM practices on things like employee engagement.

The Spring issue of IJSA should be out soon, so see ya soon!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

MQs: An idea whose time has passed?

For better or worse, I've spent nearly my entire career working under merit systems.  For the uninitiated, these systems were created many years ago to combat employment decisions based on favoritism, familial relation, or other similarly non-job related factors.  For example, California's civil service system was originally created in 1913 (and strengthened in 1934) to combat the "spoils" system, whereby hiring and promotion was too often based on political affiliation and patronage.

Part of most merit systems is the idea of minimum qualifications, or MQs.  Ideally, MQs are true minimum amount of experience and/or education (along with any licenses/certifications) required for a job.  They set the requirement to participate in civil service exams, and scale up depending on the level (or "classification").  For an entry-level attorney, for example, one would need to have a Bar license.  For a journey-level attorney, you might be required to have several years of experience before being allowed to examine and be appointed.  The idea is that MQs force hiring and promotion decisions to be based on job-related qualifications rather than who you know or what political party you belong to.  Makes sense, right?

But recently, I've had the opportunity to be involved in a task force looking at minimum qualifications and it spurred a lot of discussion and thought.  I'd like to spend just a moment digging into the concept a bit more and asking: are they still the right approach?

This task force was formed because of a recent control agency decision that places increased importance on applicants meeting MQs and reduces the ability of employees to obtain positions by simply transferring from one classification to another based on similarity in level, salary, etc.  Because this will result in fewer options for employees--and hiring supervisors--the discussion around this decision has been rigorous, and at times heated, but without a doubt intellectually stimulating.

As part of my participation in this task force, I reached out to my colleagues in IPAC for their thoughts, and got a ton of thoughtful responses.  While there were arguments for and against MQs, the overall sense seemed to be that they are a necessary evil.  Perhaps most importantly, though, I was reminded how important they are and thus the amount of attention that should be paid while establishing them.

So where does this lead me?  To play my hand, over time I've become less and less of a fan of MQs, and my participation on this task force has cemented some of the reasons why, however well intentioned:

- They are overly rigid and inflexible.  If an MQ states you must have 2 years as an Underwater Basketweaver, it doesn't matter than you have 1 year and 11 months and you just attended the Basketweaver Olympics, sorry, you don't qualify to test for the next level.

- They are often difficult to apply, resulting in inconsistencies.  What exactly is a four-year degree in "Accounting"?  What is "clerical" work?  If someone worked overtime, does that count as additional experience?  How shall we consider education from other countries?  And what about fake degrees and candidates who, shall  we say, elaborate their experience?

- They serve as barriers to talented individuals.  This results in fewer opportunities for people as well as a smaller talent pool for supervisors to draw from (ironically actually cannibalizing the very concept of the merit system).

- They serve as barriers to groups that have a history of discrimination, such as women and ethnic minorities.  Take a look at any census study of education, for example, and look at the graduation rates of different groups.  Implication?  Any job requiring a college degree has discrimination built into the selection process.

- Most were likely not developed as rigorously as they should have been.  Like any other selection mechanism, MQs are subject to laws and rules (e.g., the Civil Rights Act and the Uniform Guidelines in the U.S.) that require them to be based on job analytic information and set based on data, not hunches or guesses.

- Without a process to update them quickly, they rapidly become outdated, becoming less and less relevant.  Many classification in the California state system, for example, haven't been effectively updated in thirty years (or longer).  This becomes particularly painful in jobs like IT, where educational paths and terminology change constantly.

- They require an enormous amount of resources to administer.  At some point someone, somewhere, needs to validate that the applicant has the qualifications required to take the exam.  You can imagine what this looks like for an exam involving hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applicants--and the costs associated with this work.

- From an assessment perspective, MQs are a very blunt instrument--and not a particularly good one at that.  As we know, experience and education are poor predictors of job performance.  Experience predicts best at low levels but quickly becomes irrelevant.  Education typically shows very small correlations with performance.  As anyone that has experience hiring knows, a college degree doth not an outstanding employee make.  So basically what you're doing is front-loading your "select out" decisions with a tool that has very low validity.  Sound good?

- The ultimate result of all this is employers with MQs systems are often unable to attract, hire, and promote the most qualified candidates, while spending an enormous amount of time and energy administering a system that does little to identify top talent.  This becomes particularly problematic for public sector employers as defined benefit plans are reduced or eliminated and salaries fail to keep pace, resulting in these organizations becoming less and less attractive.

Recognizing these limitations, some merit systems (the State of Washington comes to mind) have recently moved away from MQs, instead evolving into things like desirable or preferred qualifications.  This presumably still outlines the approximate experience and education that should prepare someone for the position, but relies on other types of assessments to determine someone's true qualifications, abilities, and competitiveness.  I like this idea in concept as long as an effective system is put in place to deal with the likely resulting increase in applications to sift through.

The private sector, of course, does not operate under merit system rules, and have had to deal with the challenges--as well as reaping the benefits--associated with of a lack of rigid MQs.  They do this through increased use of technology and, frankly, significantly more expenditure on HR to support the recruitment and assessment function (particularly larger employers).  Of course some private sector employers adhere to strict MQs as a matter of course, and they would do well to think about the challenges I outlined above.

So where does this leave us?  Do MQs still serve a valuable perhaps?  Perhaps.  They hypothetically prevent more patronage, although anyone that has worked in a merit system can tell you this still happens.  Perhaps the strongest argument is that as more employers move to online training and experience measures (another example of an assessment device with little validity but quick, and cheap), MQs serve as a check, presumably helping to ensure that at least some of the folks that end up on employment lists are qualified.

But I would argue that any system that still employs MQs is basically fooling itself, doing little to control favoritism and ultimately contributing to the inability of hiring supervisors to get the best person--which is what a system of merit is ultimately about.  Particularly with what we know about the effectiveness of a properly administered system of internet testing, MQs are an antiquity, serving as a barrier to more job-related assessments and simply not worth the time we spend on them.  If we don't reform these systems in some way to modernize the selection process, we will wake up some day and wonder why fewer and fewer people are applying for jobs in the public sector, and why the candidate pools seem less and less qualified.  That day may already be here and we just haven't realized it.