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Social media behavior, cloud among HR trends shaping future

A new report from Constellation Research explores developments that will be vital to HR's future. Read a Q&A with the author.

In "Ten HR Trends Chief People Officers Need to Know in a Digital Age," Holger Mueller, a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif., explores some important changes in technology and other areas that will be critical for HR leaders to grasp in the years ahead.

Mueller, for example, says HR professionals will need to mine big data in social networks to recruit the best talent, use gamification to engage and motivate employees and understand psychological information in helping with teams, promotions, performance management and hiring. Mueller said the HR trends could raise the prominence of the industry.

In other HR trends, Mueller said adoption of cloud software will grow but is "no walk in the park" for HR professionals. He advises caution in working with vendors, saying that sellers are pushing deals that can lock in companies for five to seven years.

Mueller discussed the report with SearchFinancialApplications.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

One HR trend is that social media could become an important part of HCM processes, starting with recruiting. Do you think employers should always request access to employees' social networks when looking for a successful referral hire? If they gain access, what specifically should employers consider in social networks for referrals? How should they go about using social networks?

Holger Mueller: It is early on for how social networks are being [used] by HR as part of employee qualifications. When you hire someone because they speak French, for example, you expect them to use it at work. And maybe even their French connection. When you hire someone because of their social presence, do you expect it to be used and available? The example of salespeople means that in the longer run the answer to this will be yes. But today it is a gray zone.

Gamification, which includes the use of game-like techniques in teaching and engaging employees, is among other key HR trends. How does gamification help?

Mueller: Gamification is both a system and a management strategy. It can be used to steer and drive behavior by rewarding 'good' behavior. As my report explains, gamification can help align employees with an enterprise's objectives via playful or semi-serious methods. Gamification should not be seen as only applicable to HR -- but in a broader context, to enable desired behavior across all enterprise processes. The good news is that HCM technology vendors are incorporating gamification mechanisms inside key employee processes.

You also see psychology becoming a bigger part of human capital management. Should psychology be used more to analyze job applicants? How can psychology be used to find the best fits for teams and promotions?

Mueller: Psychographic elements are key for good management and staffing decisions. The way people work and interact inside and outside the enterprise is largely determined by their personality and psychographic traits. Putting people where they can make a difference and are likely to succeed and be happy is key for good HR decisions.

HCM leaders also will need to make more sense out of big data. How can big data, especially from social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, boost overall best HR practices, not just recruiting?

Mueller: I suggest that people read the column I just wrote for your site in January, called 'Can a big data project help repair broken HCM insights?'

You declare that it is time for HR executives to become bolder and more ambitious with their HR change projects. What are some ways to do so?

Mueller: Understand themselves as people leaders. Actively tackle the issues that are at hand and don't hide behind compliance issues. Study and follow the example of some great CFOs who have to handle more compliance than chief people officers -- but still have room for strategic work. Understand how successful CFOs organize their day, team and time and find an HR-tuned approach.

When tackling HCM automation projects, your report on HR trends advises leaders to segment the workforce by "digital proficiency" to help select the appropriate offerings and to help vendors design the interfaces for the largest group of users. What are the best methods for HR leaders to deal with employees who are not as proficient as needed with technology? The report, for example, labels these employees as "digital holdouts" or "digital disengaged."

Mueller: That is a behavior, not a skill. I am, for example, a digital holdout on Facebook. I am not lacking the skill to use it -- but don't want to use it, because I consider it a waste of time in my humble opinion. It's not a training issue -- but an understanding of personas of employees. And they are split. For example, I am 'digital native' when it comes to Twitter, meaning I am comfortable in engaging over Twitter.

As the administration of more HR processes moves to the cloud and SaaS, you advise HR leaders to take care in vendor selection. What are your best tips for choosing cloud vendors?

Mueller: I am currently writing a new report on that issue. In the report on HR trends, I touch on the issue briefly. I say, for example, that leaders should ensure that their relationship with their cloud-based HCM vendor is good and is enforceable by a sound contract. HCM leaders should avoid difficult arguments with the vendor or cloud software provider. It can mean a lot of work, risk and disruption to change providers and there are no guarantees of improvements.

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