Training & Development
How Technology Can Help Win the Talent War
The reasons for the red-hot talent wars raging in many leading industries are by now a well-rehearsed litany: the tightest labor market in 30 years is coinciding with record economic expansion, the emergence of the "free agent" worker, high turnover rates, and the number of brick and mortar companies scrambling to put an Internet or e-commerce strategy in place. Thanks to information technology, new opportunities abound in virtually every industry, but workers are scarce. According to a report issued by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), there will be a shortfall of almost 850,000 IT workers this year alone. The forecast for next year is even worse, when another 1.6 million IT workers will be in demand.
If it's fair to claim that, to a large extent, information technology has contributed to this labor shortage, can technology help companies alleviate the crunch? While technology can't magically make up for the shortfall in numbers, a workforce management solution with a sophisticated understanding of HR can give companies what they need most - the tools to hire people quickly and efficiently and to help retain quality employees.
Putting People First
Perhaps the most pervasive socioeconomic force exerting pressure on workforce practices is the transformation of the US economy from an industrial to a knowledge economy in which workforce expenses now far exceed expenses for direct materials. Indeed, by 2005, only 20 percent of the workforce will be involved in manufacturing, the lowest figure since the agrarian period of the mid-1800s, according to Jon Ekoniak and Timothy Klein, authors of The B2B Analyst. A knowledge economy puts a premium on its employees whose intellectual resources are the product.
"Training and the ability to learn may be more critical to a dynamic organization door," claim Ekoniak and Klein. Given the extraordinary pace of change in information technology, workers who are agile learners will be in great demand.
Across the board, major industries such as finance, banking, semiconductor, telecommunications and high-tech continue to show brisk growth, but, for many, competitive pressure to hire talent has become a serious obstacle to growth. Over 60 percent of banks with assets of over $200 million report difficulty in attracting workers, and nearly 43 percent report difficulty retaining employees (Community Bank Competitiveness Survey). More and more banks are now taking customer service online and planning other Internet and e-commerce initiatives, further straining their employment practices. Likewise, telecommunications companies are racing to seize new opportunities, including alliances with networking developers, voice activation and wireless technologies. To keep up with the changes brought on by the New Economy, well-established players in many industries must compete for the same pool of IT professionals as companies in high-tech, e-business and dot.com enterprises.
Here's where a workforce management solution that automates planning and implementation of employment practices offers extraordinary efficiencies to change the way companies hire and retain employees. Who should consider such a solution? Companies experiencing high growth in sectors such as telecommunications, finance, banking, healthcare, biotechnology and high-tech will want to evaluate the dramatic benefits of automating workforce processes. Companies with volatile, cyclical peaks in hiring should also consider the value of a proactive workforce solution that can help reduce staffing ramp-up time significantly.
How Technology Can Help
Over the past three decades, the use of IT has dramatically increased productivity, and many companies are now looking to technology to help improve the productivity of their hiring and retention processes. A major paradigm shift in employment practices may well be in order. In a highly competitive environment, companies who engage their entire workforce in the hiring and retention process improve their chances of hiring and keeping the best people. This effectively means shifting to a decentralized process that lifts some of the burden from human resources executives and elicits the active participation of line managers.
All hands can join together to make smart hiring decisions in an online workforce solution that integrates and streamlines the many processes involved, such as routing resumes and requisition orders. Tedious administrative tasks that entail manual, paper-based processes, such as circulating resumes for review, can be greatly expedited online so that companies don't miss out on the best candidates.
Greater productivity means lowered costs in dollars and time. On average, it takes 65 days to fill each job opening according to Saratoga Institute, a human resources consulting firm. Filling many technical positions can easily double that time. A workforce management solution can save as much as 15 percent in management time. But, best of all, a sophisticated online workforce solution won't just save time, it allows companies to use their time wisely. With analytical tools to anticipate and plan for workforce needs, HR professionals can make strategically informed contributions to the hiring and retention process.
How It Works
Workforce solutions can be provided as shrink-wrapped software for installation and monitoring in-house, or delivered directly to clients over the Internet on a hosted, subscription basis. Of these alternatives, in my view, the ASP, or web-based delivery mode is preferable for workforce management solutions.
What is an ASP? In the past few years, a multitude of vendors known as Application Service Providers (ASPs) have emerged to manage and deliver applications to customers over the Internet. An application or a suite of applications for workforce planning and management, for example, is hosted on the ASP's servers and delivered to clients via the Internet through a user-friendly web interface. Since they are accessed over the Internet, ASPs are also referred to as web-hosted solutions or hosted-application services.
A form of outsourcing, an ASP model is based on the recognition that more people than ever before have access to data networks through the Internet or related Internet Protocol networks. Companies, large and small, can access data and applications stored in a central location with just a browser and an Internet connection. By all estimates, small businesses stand to benefit greatly from ASP solutions because they now have affordable access to business-critical applications that in the past were used chiefly by much larger companies.
Using a hosted solution, applications can be available and running in minimal time and require little to no IT in-house support. Since web-hosted applications are offered on a subscription basis, new product versions can be brought into use quickly and painlessly, without costly outlay for new versions. And, an ASP can deliver complete and comprehensive enterprise solutions rather than a series of loosely connected interfaces.
From the user's perspective, applications accessed through an ASP seem no different than those that are installed in-house. But, in fact, the applications are stored and executed remotely from servers in the ASP's datacenter.
A web-hosted solution provides online application access to link various locations and external contractors. Everyone who needs to can access the system simply and easily, wherever they are.
What To Look For
It will come as no surprise that not all workforce management solutions are alike. Ideally, a workforce solution should be built on a full understanding of the role of HR, and of the rapid changes occurring in workforce management as more people within an organization share responsibilities for growth and development of the workforce. The best solution will streamline key processes, foster collaboration and provide tools for strategic workforce planning all within a fully integrated, end-to-end system. The net result? You should have a system that allows you to track career development for valuable employees while adding new personnel efficiently. The time to hire, and hence the cost of hiring should go down, and you should have more time for strategic planning.
1. Streamline key processes
First, and foremost, an online work-force solution should make your job faster and easier. It should put you in control at every stage of the hiring process from headcount tracking, requisition creation and routing, candidate searches, offer processing, and beginning the first day of work. It should reduce the time-consuming administrative headaches of routing paper resumes and requisitions by routing all documentation online. The system should manage the input you get now in the form of paper, web, fax and email resumes and offer an easy, automated way to import resumes into the workforce database. By streamlining common administrative processes, an organization can dramatically reduce the time-to-hire and deploy HR resources in more strategic endeavors.
The bottom line is that a workforce management solution should add significant efficiencies that save time and money. A provider should be able to estimate the savings the solution offers in terms of a reduction in the cost per hire, and management time saved. A return on investment (ROI) study performed by a third party can give executive management the metrics they need to evaluate the full benefits of using a workforce solution over time.
Ideally, the workforce solution will serve as a busy, central station where employees and managers, HR specialists, contractors and recruiters, and workforce suppliers all work together to foster a thriving workforce. A workforce management solution should give everyone involved in hiring access to information they need for proactive, informed decisions and the tools to collaborate effectively.
Employees can actively participate in their own career development by keeping their online profiles current with information about job experience, skills and career aspirations. A department manager with a position to fill can source the database of existing employees to match the position. Failing to find a match within the company, the department manager then creates a requisition order and initiates collaboration with HR who begins recruiting and posts the status of each search online. Using the workforce application, managers can follow the ongoing search in real time, and HR can continually update progress, including posting interview notes and current offers.
HR benefits from a system that automates its existing workflow process, and line managers gain direct access to the candidate pool. Ultimately, more involvement early in the process on the part of line managers who will work directly with the new hire leads to a better fit between the company's needs and the candidate's capabilities. Line managers can partner with HR to search for the precise technical skills and work experience they need in a candidate, and help speed the process of finding the right employee.
4. Building Relationships
The biggest benefit of advanced work-force technology may well be simply providing the ability to actually build ongoing relationships, both pre and post hire. Each contact with a candidate provides the opportunity to better know the candidate. A key decision point for many candidates comes down to whether they feel connected to the prospective employer and their people.
Retention is often a matter of being heard and being able to manage one's career interest within the organization. When the workforce system allows profile updates, status updates with feedback and previous contact information awareness, everyone involved works smarter and with less redundancy. Candidates and employees have a way to feel and be heard while hiring managers are able to communicate in one step rather than two.
Strategic Workforce Planning
A workforce solution can provide for strategic workforce planning by linking access to finance and HR information systems. The ability to act quickly depends on real-time workforce intelligence. But far too often, HR professionals have limited insight into key hiring metrics such as cost-per-hire because finance and HR systems are not integrated. A workforce management solution should provide visibility into finance systems so that HR executives can identify all known costs of hiring and be equipped to provide an accurate total cost per hire.
A workforce management solution should enable HR professionals to:
- project end of quarter head count and actively manage to a plan
- use aggregated, company-wide data to anticipate workforce issues and plan accordingly
- identify divisions experiencing high attrition and respond
- evaluate the most successful candidate sources and spend recruiting dollars effectively.
A web-hosted workforce management solution can provide significant efficiencies in the administration, assessment and strategic planning of hiring and retention employment practices. By replacing time-consuming, paper-based processes with Internet-based efficient practices, and fostering collaboration in hiring across the company, a work-force management solution can afford HR executives with the time and analytics they need to contribute meaningfully to strategic workforce planning. Additionally, potential and current employees have tools to better manage their own careers. Fully implemented, workforce management solutions enable companies to compete for the best and brightest employees while significantly lowering work-force management costs.
Article by Eric Lane from http://www.nehra.com/articlesresources/article.cfm?id=597