Is HR a Channel Gold Mine?
When Jude Reser, SHRM-SCP and SPHR, completed her master’s degree and entered the human resources workforce 23 years ago, it was a completely different world. Everything was on actual paper, and applications, benefit enrollment and payroll were all processed manually. Reser, who today is a market director of human resources for Marriott International, recalls that the hospitality industry’s primary method of recruitment was in the sort of classified ad sheets you could pick up at a grocery store. If the ad listed an email address where applicants could submit their resumes, it was considered pretty technologically advanced.
Today, Reser’s job is a completely different animal. Very few—if any—of the functions surrounding her role are manual paper processes anymore. The HR department rises and falls on the technology that supports it, surrounds it and interconnects it with other business functions within the organization in a complex web of applications, service desks and databases. HR is an IT service provider’s gold mine.
When asked, Reser rattles off a laundry list of systems she uses to manage HR functions. There’s the human resource information system PeopleSoft to manage employee records. The hospitality giant has an in-house system that interfaces with its Kronos timeclock system to create payroll. For recruitment and talent acquisition, Reser relies on online database Taleo’s global recruitment system. She uses the company extranet to communicate with employees and a GIS system to handle pre-hire background checks and drug screens. There’s a third-party service provider called Hewitt that manages benefits, retirement and PTO tracking with its own proprietary system similar to ADP. Then, of course, there are the ubiquitous Microsoft Office applications, Dropbox for filesharing, Smartsheet for collaboration, and the on-premise company servers that house it all.
It’s a different industry than the one Reser entered more than two decades ago. Where she used to spend days filtering out candidates based upon qualifications and notifying them of whether or not they’ll move forward in the interview process, for example, today the Taleo system automates nearly the entire process.
“I used to fill out ‘thank you but not interested’ postcards by hand back in the day. Now one of my hiring managers can post a position on Friday, and we’ll have a hundred applications on Monday. From there it’s just click click click.”
As the technology has evolved, so has the system for managing IT. In the late 90s, all of the purchasing decisions and ongoing management of the tech Reser used went through the in-house IT department, and she’d call the support desk for any technological issue whatsoever.
“It was one number, and there were like six different options. Now, I find myself not calling my company’s support desk unless, for example, my computer crashes.”
Instead, Reser has a slew of different 1-800 numbers for each application she uses, and the company utilizes a finely tuned, collaborative support chain to ensure all of the interconnected systems stay operational. Finance and accounting, IT and HR all work together internally and with each individual application provider to ensure the essential tech infrastructure works smoothly.
While the technology has outpaced anything Reser could have imagined when she first began her career, she says the underlying premise of dispersing funds to different HR job functions are surprisingly similar. The difference is that today a company is paying for software to do something that 10 years ago they would have paid a human to do.
“Ten years ago, I was working at a property where I had a recruiter in house, and that’s all he or she did all day: Go through paper applications and schedule interviews. Now that that’s automated through technology, I don’t have to budget the labor hours, but I’m budgeting that money toward technology. Today, I share my hourly recruiter with maybe 10 other properties, because it’s all electronic.”
Reser’s story illustrates a big opportunity for systems integrators and managed service providers looking to specialize in a line of business (LOB) where buyers know what they need, but don’t know the technical specifics of how to make it happen. For Reser, it all comes down to three things: smooth integration, ease of use and security.
It’s obvious that sensitive employee information such as social security numbers, dates of birth and even addresses and maiden names should be highly secured to protect employees’ identities. But the security needs of HR go beyond personal data, especially at a publicly traded, worldwide conglomerate. Metrics such as EEOC percentages or salary and wage trends fall into a category called ‘human capital analytics,’ and companies take zero chances with these sorts of data points.
“How long does it take me to fill a position, or to fill one job over another job? How much revenue am I generating per full time employee? How many hours per week do my full time employees really get?” Reser explains that these analytics can reveal the core of an organization’s makeup and performance, and as such are considered highly sensitive pieces of information.
“That information doesn’t go through the cloud. That’s handled via the extranet and safely secured amongst the company’s servers.”
Because of the sensitive nature of the information HR departments safeguard, the human resources LOB can lag behind other business functions when it comes to adoption of new technology, especially at a company that has to worry about protecting more than 400,000 employees worldwide. A recent study by KPMG showed that about half of all organizations surveyed said their HR functions fall behind other departments on the path to digital transformation. Reser explains it isn’t because HR directors are any less eager to adopt emerging tech; it’s just that between unions, governmental regulations like EEOC or entitlement enrollment guidelines and confidentiality concerns, any new application or service that HR wants to try out has to go through a long and extensive vetting process to ensure there are no legal hiccups.
That’s not to say HR managers aren’t always on the lookout for new ways technology can improve their job functions. Reser can see a variety of ways that prescriptive analytics and machine learning can improve HR best practices, especially from a leadership development perspective. If a people management software analytics platform could analyze an employee’s current qualifications and desired employee track, for example, she envisions prescriptive analytics being able to identify certain training classes or responsibilities the employee could pursue to advance his or her career.
She’s also excited about the opportunities certain mobile applications offer in terms of employee communication and engagement. In the hospitality industry, it isn’t safe to assume that all associates have access to a computer or are even computer literate, says Reser. But almost everyone has a smartphone.
“If I could send a push notification that could translate communications about things like where to park, what’s on the menu at the employee cafeteria or when and where staff meetings are into the associate’s primary language, then push that notification to their phone, I can absolutely see the immediate benefits it would have in terms of employee communication.”
There are complications that the legal department needs to work out, such as what to do if a union demands access to such a distribution list. So Reser is patiently waiting for the day she gets the green light to implement such a mobile application.
“I told corporate: If you need a test pilot, remember me.”