There’s so much going on in the world of HR technology today, that SkillSurvey is partnering with Careerminds on a joint blog post to share all the latest topics. SkillSurvey is focusing on where HR tech is going – especially when it comes to talent acquisition — Careerminds post focuses on the performance benefits of HR tech.

The human resources technology that’s available today has changed dramatically over the last decade evolving greatly being systems of record. “The next generation of technology is being designed to inform our decisions and simplify our activities,” according to the “Sierra-Cedar 2016–2017 HR Systems Survey White Paper.” In addition to being digital and cloud-based, according to the survey, the new list of non-negotiable qualities includes “user experience, roadmap strategy, and tailored relationships.” With all the new emerging technologies, the survey finds 40% of the HR technology decision makers representing 1,500 organizations surveyed in have a major HR Systems Strategy initiative underway.

Adopting new or upgrading existing HR technology means repetitive processes are automated, leaving your staff with time for more strategic tasks. For example, you have more time to consult with other departments, making sure HR priorities and goals are included in organizational development. Freed from the burden of time-consuming administrative tasks, you can focus on strategic planning, learning and development programs and employee engagement. And higher engagement is good business. A 2016 Gallup poll reports that organizations with highly engaged teams experience a 20% productivity boost.

Tech Transforms Talent Acquisition

According to the Sierra-Cedar study, the highest level of HR technology growth estimated by respondents over the next three years was for talent management systems – at 53%. Higher-ed institutions are not only applying technology to reduce costs and gain efficiencies but also to make better hiring decisions that improve the quality of faculty and staff. It can also enhance the applicant experience and help organizations gain a competitive edge.

Let’s look at technology to boost faculty and staff recruitment and retention. Organizations can now use online, cloud-based online reference checking technology to get more scientific, less subjective feedback on an applicant’s soft skills (e.g. problem solving and adaptability, personal value commitment, professionalism and interpersonal skills) versus gleaning information from interviewing a candidate. For example, Clemson University in South Carolina now uses cloud-based technology that allows references to send in their feedback 24/7 using any device, eliminating dead time between the time an applicant fills out the paperwork and verification comes through. That’s enabled the university to find and hire talented employees before other institutions do. On average, the university gets feedback from 4.66 validated references for each candidate.

Organizations are also using cloud-based technology to test applicants to determine their skills level – versus focusing exclusively on résumés or educational background. And that’s helping to increase diversity and reduce implicit biases that can occur throughout the hiring process.

Social networking platforms are also increasingly important in helping organizations recruit job candidates. Sierra-Cedar found that 72% of respondents currently use LinkedIn strategically for this purpose, with another 12% planning to do so within 12 months. Collaboration tools (web-based applications that offer services such as instant messaging for groups, mechanisms for file sharing and collaborative search engines) and Facebook are the second and third most popular tools used by organizations.

Just as our society has adopted all things mobile to communicate and gather information, so has the world of HR. Forty-seven percent of respondents to the Sierra-Cedar survey said they will have adopted mobile-enabled HR technology this year, up from 39% last year and 13% in 2014. Responding organizations with an equally spread or younger workforce were 10% more likely to have mobile-enabled HR technology than those with an older workforce. In the talent management area, 38% of the respondents currently have talent acquisition mobile-enabled software, and another 11% planned to adopt mobile systems in the next 12 months.

Predictive Analytics

The “Sierra-Cedar 2016– 2017 Survey White Paper” also found that today’s HR organizations placed the highest value on predictive analysis technologies – among a pool of five emerging technologies. Today, new studies are showing that algorithms can be used to help make hiring, tenure (in lieu of peer-based tenure reviews) and promotion decisions.  While algorithms routinely help bottom-line focused businesses increase profitability and minimize risk, should predictive analysis take the place of real people making complicated, insightful decisions at learning institutions?

SkillSurvey’s validity studies have shown that use of its online reference checking solution has led to 35.5% lower first year turnover for cause and better post-hire performance. It helps colleges and universities get deep insights on faculty and other job candidates, by allowing references to go online and quickly and confidentially rate candidates’ skills on job-specific surveys.  The result is more advanced candidate assessments, and includes data on competencies as well as critical soft skills, for example problem-solving or adaptability and interpersonal skills. The idea is to provide the key information hiring managers need to make good decisions – not to make the decision for them.

Championing Diversity

Higher-ed organizations are also striving to make their campuses more diverse, to expand the breadth of faculty expertise at their schools as well as attract a more culturally diverse student body. More advanced hiring practices help to impartially assess a person’s skills and potential. The best, most reliable feedback comes from references who can submit their input easily online and confidentially. But the real value to reference feedback comes when they can assess a candidate’s ability to be a “team player” or whether they’re good at “adapting to change.” These soft skills ratings complement the pre-hire skills assessment of the applicant, rounding out the picture of their capabilities.

Expanding Talent Sourcing

Another study, Mercer’s “2017 Global Talent Trends Study,“ which polled more than 1,700 HR professionals, 5,400 employees, and 400 business executives, says attracting top talent externally was the biggest priority for 44% of respondents. To expand their candidate pool, more organizations today are using technology to reach passive candidates, those individuals already employed but who may be open to good opportunities. Using technology can ensure an “always-on” recruiting operation with opt-in career pages, and links and forms connected to every email communication, making it easy for companies to promote their organization as well as recruit references, referrals and visitors at every digital touchpoint.

Emerging Technologies

The movement to software based in the cloud, and of course, mobile-first, versus installed or on-premises software, will continue to drive forward. According to a Gartner report, “Market Guide for HCM Suite Applications,” spending on cloud-based HR solutions is growing faster than spending on traditional business software. Further, cloud-based HR software will be 50% or more of total HR technology spending by 2017.

Also on the mobile front, texting job candidates is gaining ground. But watch for recruiters to continue to weigh the ups and downs of this strategy. According to ERE data, more than 60% of recruiters currently use texting as part of their recruiting process. This improves the candidate experience and speeds up the recruiting process, among other things. However, organizations are debating the security of sending and receiving texts securely via recruiters’ personal devices, and they’re weighing options for specific apps for safer, centralized data transfer and analysis.

While many HR organizations have embraced social tools to recruit and conduct HR processes with employees, they’re aiming to refine outreach efforts by maximizing use of different platforms to target varied age groups. The Sierra-Cedar 2016– 2017 Survey White Paper found that large numbers of HR managers across all generations use “traditional, more established, and less time-sensitive activity-driven Social tools” (e.g. LinkedIn and collaboration tools).  On the other hand, the more “constantly interactive communication tools” (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) were “more likely to be adopted for strategic use by organizations with younger and equally spread workforces.” Meanwhile, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr were “far more likely” to be used strategically by younger workers than older employees.

Just as Siri, Alexa and the new Google Home are transforming our digital experience at home, new digital, cloud-based HR technologies are creating new experiences in the way HR and talent management teams reach and interact with job candidates. For more on how HR technologies can improve performance in higher education, read this blog post from our friends at Careerminds.

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