HR Gets Techy

HR Gets Techy

Well, would you look at that? The human resources industry is getting all hip and trendy. Within the past year terms like “big data,” “people analytics” and “workforce science” have become part of the HR rhetoric, turning what was once a traditional, people-person, gut-based field into a technical industry equipped for the twenty-first century. How is HR getting so tech-savvy? For one thing, software programs for managing employee performance and analyzing potential hires are evolving, thanks to the gobs of data that now exist on any one person. These tools provide new insights that help decide who gets hired, who gets fired and who’s up for a promotion. Think Moneyball for the office. Investors and enterprise companies alike see this developing field as a huge opportunity, with the former backing big-money IPOs for HR tech startups and the latter, IBM and Oracle among them, spending billions to acquire similar firms. 

Technology tools new and old are streamlining the hiring, training and managing of employees. But as with all good things, overdo it and you’re in trouble. It’s crucial to balance the high tech—like data-driven decision making and automated workflow processes—with high touch personal interactions, says Claudio Diaz, chief human capital officer at accounting and business consulting firm Wipfli. “Both are critical to differentiating yourself in today’s marketplace. If you do too much of one you lose the benefit of the other,” he says. Sending emails in place of holding a meeting can seem easier, but too much email-only communication can leave employees feeling isolated. Conducting an interview for a potential new hire via Skype over flying him or her to you can save time and money, but the interviewee might not get a good sense for your office culture and miss out on the human side of the business. Says Diaz, “Never let efficiency trump effectiveness.”

Mike Wagner, CEO of Madison startup Forkforce, explains how his team is disrupting the traditional hiring process within the food and beverage industry

What is Forkforce? It’s a social network for food and beverage industry employers and job seekers, bringing proven social technologies into an industry to disrupt the hiring process in a positive way. I think of it as LinkedIn meets for restaurants, bars, café and the like.

What’s one thing Forkforce offers that the traditional application process doesn’t? We make it easier to find the right cultural fit for both the applicant and the employer. Somebody moving from San Francisco to Madison could look at Lazy Jane’s Café or Harvest. If you’ve been to both, you know they’re pretty different. But from the name, you might not know. We’re trying to provide clarity into the culture at both places by letting restaurants and applicants tag themselves with personality attributes.

Why the restaurant industry? One, the turnover is so high. And second is the demographics of the industry—younger people who are used to the web in general and who don’t want to be filling out twenty or thirty identical applications. They want to be able to search online, apply with one click and communicate through that same system.

Will this be more beneficial for employers or job seekers? In general, it does make applicants’ lives easier, but I think the whole idea is that this is going to help the employers more than the applicants. In terms of developing capabilities within the Forkforce platform, we are going deeper and deeper into the employer route.

Is moving the hiring process online a broader trend outside the restaurant industry? I think that trend has already begun, and that’s what attracted me to taking the position as CEO of Forkforce. The last couple of positions I found in Seattle I found over LinkedIn … I’ve seen this work with other businesses.

Do you see an expiration date for print applications? I think that is coming sooner rather than later. With tools like digital signatures, electronic contract solutions and a preference toward paperless, that’s just where the world is moving.