Outsourcing The Human Resource Function

Outsourcing

In business, outsourcing is the contracting out of a business process to a third-party and has become increasingly popular with businesses small and large in the United States since the beginning of the 21st century.  Not always popular with those whose functions are being outsourced, the practice is receiving continued interest from business owners and executives across all types of industry.  Companies outsource to avoid certain types of structured or fixed costs that are associated with non-core activities. Among the reasons companies elect to outsource include the avoidance of regulations, high taxes, high energy costs, and costs associated with defined benefits and taxes.  In today’s business arena it is getting increasingly rare to find a company that is not outsourcing at least one non-core competency function.

Human resource (HR) departments oversee employee payroll and tax filing as well as employee benefit and health administration, legal compliance, file and records maintenance, and oversee training and development. For many businesses, the various functions of the HR department are too comprehensive and complex to maintain in-house. Businesses that outsource HR functions receive several advantages that support the company’s bottom line and allow them to focus on managing their core business.

Managing Risk

HR outsourcing firms help businesses minimize the risks that is associated with employment and labor law changes and can be very important to ensure employers remain up-to-date on regulations that affect the workplace.  HR firms also maintain and audit company policies and practices to ensure the organization and its employee’s best interests remain protected.

Cost Savings

Reducing the cost of maintaining nonrevenue-generating expenses has long been a priority of businesses that are experiencing a steady decline in profit margins.  Costs associated with supporting non-productive efforts are an attractive target for reduction or elimination.  Outsourcing costs are variable and can be reduced when business needs warrant.

Efficiency

Maintaining an efficient and productive workplace is critical in today’s highly competitive environment.  Advanced human resources technology utilized by outsourcing providers help streamline important HR functions and helps employers and managers spend less time doing paperwork and more time dedicated to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce.

Training and Development

Training, developing and monitoring employees is a critical part of any successful business, but maintaining a full time dedicated staff is expensive and out of reach for most small to mid-sized companies.  Outside providers can implement performance management plans to ensure employees comply with company policies and procedures, establish training and personal development programs and monitor employee performance to ensure compliance with organizational goals and objectives.

When outsourcing internal services, a company’s confidential information t such as payroll, personal employee information, computer and proprietary business processes is exposed to outside subcontractors, so care should be taken to protect unauthorized distribution of proprietary information.  While outsourcing is not always a popular strategy it is often a very necessary decision in order for companies to be successful in this ultra-competitive environment.

Emerging Pathways to Mayhem and Larceny

Mobile Security

Just as business leaders are beginning to feel they are making progress in securing their valuable company data and monitoring and controlling unwanted intrusions into company computer systems, a new challenge to keeping all that valuable information is rapidly emerging thanks to the popularity of company issued mobile devices and policies that encourage and permit employees to bring their own devices to work (BYOD).

According to a recent Juniper Research report, more than 80 percent of all enterprise and consumer owned smartphones will remain unprotected through 2013, despite growing awareness of security threats and the availability of mobile security software.  The report attributes the low level of adoption of security software to several factors, including a relatively low level of consumer awareness about mobile device vulnerabilities and a general perception that security software is too expensive.  The Juniper report also states that cyber criminals are transitioning their focus from PCs to mobile devices, across both enterprise and consumer segments.

The mobile device industry is moving to encounter the threat by providing new software and features to thwart unauthorized intrusions.  Apple recently unveiled two new iPhone models, the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, the latter of which has a fingerprint sensor dubbed Touch ID built into the home button. The sensor will allow users to use their fingerprints instead of a password to unlock the device and make purchases on iTunes.  In presenting the technology, Apple said the fingerprint data is encrypted and locked in the device’s new A7 chip, that it’s never directly accessible to software and that it’s not stored on Apple’s servers or backed up to I Cloud.  But fingerprint technology is not a high-security feature, said Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at mobile security firm Lookout. That’s why most military installations, for example, use hand geometry or retina scanners instead, he said. The best single factor of authentication remains a strong password stored only in the user’s brain.

A more compelling reason for a company’s concern for mobile device security is revealed in a recent report from Kindsight Security Labs, a subsidiary of telecommunications equipment vendor Alcatel-Lucent.  An increasing number of Android phones are infected with mobile malware programs that are able to turn the handsets into spying devices.  Until recently, the number of infected mobile phones accounted for slightly more than 30% of all infected devices connected to mobile networks, but by June 2013 they grew to more than 50%.

The malware threat most commonly seen on Android devices was an adware Trojan program called Uapush.A that sends SMS messages and steals information, Kindsight said. Uapush.A was responsible for around 53% of the total number of infections detected on Android devices.  The second-most-common Android threat was a Trojan program called QdPlugin, whose primary purpose is to install and control other adware programs. This malware is distributed as repackaged versions of legitimate games and connects to a control server located in the U.S.  Spyware programs can typically record phone calls and text messages; track the phone’s location; monitor email, social media and browsing activity; access photos and contact information, and more and until now mobile spyware has been aimed at the consumer market but in a world of BYOD the threat to businesses lies in the ability of the spyware to be installed unknowingly on an employee’s phone and used to capture control of an enterprises proprietary data.

As more of society’s computing tasks move to mobile platforms, and businesses encounter the new security challenges, the market for mobile security will be a growth segment for years to come.  Analyst firm ABI Research has made its predictions for the growth of mobile security management over the next two years. It predicts that the segment will hit $1 billion by the year 2015, up from a predicted $560 million by the end of this year.  The IT security market is predicted to rise to $30 billion worldwide by the year 2017.

Securing personal and company data and computing devices will continue to be an on-going, never ending task.  As steps are implemented to slam existing doors and windows closed to unwanted and unauthorized intruders, advancements in technology and the equipment that brings the benefits of that technology to an ever hungrier consumer and enterprise market, makes it certain that other new entries will open to those cyber criminals who seek to cause mayhem and larceny.

Risk Being More than Just Another Piece of Paper

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In business it’s called differentiation, a fundamental marketing tactic that is employed in an effort to cause prospective consumers to focus on one business over the competition.  It’s almost always used in a crowded market place where little variation exists between competing marketers.  The goal is to highlight some aspect or feature to form a perception of added value of one offering over another.

In the current crowded job market where virtually every candidate has evolved their interview skills and techniques to a high and consistent level, standing out in the sea of competing job seekers has become critical for individual job candidates.  Finding yourself in a position of sameness among the vast interviewee crowd will do little to capture the interviewers’ attention away from the rest of the pack.  The situation demands you be different.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Human!

We tend to think of interviewing and landing a job as a sort of mechanical process where you do A, B, and C to make yourself “presentable” or “professional”, and if you can do these things the person will see you’re the most qualified, or the best fit for the job, and they will hire you.  But this assumes that the decision to hire one candidate over another is purely objective.  The reality is that those making the hiring decision are all human and base their decision on how they “feel” about you.  It is important to move away from all the others and be that one person who really builds rapport and makes an emotional connection with the person you’re interviewing with.  When you can build rapport, an interviewer will associate warm, positive feelings with you; everyone else will just be a name on a paper, but you will stand out to an interviewer because you built a “real relationship” with the human being whose favor you are trying to win in order to get hired.

What you don’t want to do is think of an interviewer as someone you’re trying to just present all your qualifications and experiences to as formally as possible; you want to see the interviewer the same way you’d see a friend over a cup of coffee. Your goal should be to be able to present yourself as a friend; smiling, laughing, likeable.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Don’t overthink the process and appear to be trying too hard to win favor.  People who don’t try to be liked, and just put themselves out there openly, honestly, and authentically, are the people who are the most successful. Be charming, not robotic.

Being Empathetic Is a Good Thing

Step back and look at the interview process through the eyes of your interviewer.  What would have a more powerful effect on your decision to hire someone you were going to have to work with for the next 5 or 10+ years:  The candidates logical qualifications and work experience, or how comfortable, pleasant, and happy you feel around them?  When asked this question, the vast majority of respondents say they would hire the person they like, and will even forgo a slightly more qualified or experienced candidate, because they know that a specific person would easily fit in with everyone else at the workplace, and would fit in perfectly with the company’s culture.

Work experience and qualifications do count, but among equals showing some personality and being yourself will instantly make you stand out, and leave an instant memorable and lasting impression in any interviewer’s mind.  Be bold, be different and confidently stand aside from the pack.  Take the risk that comes with being more than just another piece of paper amidst the stack of others.

Honor Among High-tech Miscreants

Hackers

Among the more curious revelations to emerge from the recent National Security Agency leak saga is how a 29-year-old high school dropout landed a $122,000 job in a sensitive government program.  Edward Snowden, the contractor who spilled top secret information about a sensitive government electronic data-collection program, said he did so out of idealism.  His actions have triggered a debate about privacy and national security and highlights just how hungry the government and private industry are for people with computer skills.  The Pentagon and the intelligence community are both ramping up cyber capabilities in the face of repeated attacks on U.S. companies from China and elsewhere and concerns about how terrorists use technology to communicate and raise money.

But the government’s efforts to recruit talented hackers could suffer from the recent revelations about its vast domestic surveillance programs, as many private researchers express disillusionment with the National Security Agency (NSA).  The NSA and other intelligence agencies had made major inroads in recent years in hiring some of the best and brightest, and paying for information on software flaws that help them gain access to target computers and phones, but after the very public Snowden debacle, much of the progress and goodwill has been erased.

The problem with hiring “hackers” to spy on international and domestic enemies is that the most talented of the computer whiz-kids tend to be anti-establishment types and often hold free-spirit personality traits, making them risky “Catch Me If You Can” candidates. The campaign to use “hackers” to identify and prevent serious damage to U.S. cyber-interest is an important program to protect the nation from individuals and foreign governments who are not friendly to the United States and their allies.

Recently hackers-for-hire uncovered, “Icefog”, an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) that has been active since at least 2011, targeting mostly Japan and South Korea. Known targets include government institutions, military contractors, maritime and shipbuilding groups, telecom operators, industrial and high-tech companies. Kaspersky Labs researchers have linked a cyber-mercenary gang to the wave of surgical strikes on military and government agencies.  Cyber mercenary gangs are a growing problem facing the security community.

Security researchers have also linked the “Hackers for hire”, Hidden Lynx Group, with a number of high-profile attacks, including an assault on net security firm Bit9, as well as the notorious Operation Aurora assault against Google and other hi-tech firms back in 2009.  Hidden Lynx is a sophisticated hacking group based in China and is made of up of between 50 to 100 individuals who provide “full service” as well as “customized” cyber-espionage attacks against corporate and government targets.

Recruiting and hiring the most accomplished miscreants to gain insight and knowledge of threats to public safety is nothing new.  Police departments, the FBI, CIA and Interpol have long acquired the skills and services of high profile thieves, forgers and embezzlers to help prevent ongoing threats to public safety.  Some more notable stories of once public enemy’s turned public servants have reached legendary status, but in this high tech era where one talented miscreant can cause massive wide spread damage and disruption, utilizing cyber-tech bad guys turned good guys, turned bad guys can be very risky indeed, as evidenced by the Edward Snowden affair.

Employers: Prepare for the Arrival of the Class of 2013

Work-1

Identifying and understanding the perceptions of various generational worker segments has always been a challenge to employers who are looking to grasp what motivates and retains good employees, but the passing of so many “Baby Boomers” out of the workforce has seen a significantly large wave of “Millennials” arriving to replace them.   Forming effective workplace cultures and environments, benefit and salary scales and overall employee policies in these changing times is emphasizing the already complex challenge.  Employers who seek to attract and retain the finest young talent, must understand how the two million-plus “Millennials” entering the workforce this year plan to seek employment, what they expect from their employers, and what it’ll take to hold on to them.

The “Class of 2013” survey, conducted by Achievers, an employee success software and services company that strives to increase employee engagement and performance, and ConnectEDU, a technology company committed to helping students transition successfully from high school to college and college to career, asked more than 10,000 students about their previous work experience, where they plan to look for jobs, how they like to be motivated, and their overall feelings about job prospects, among other things.  Nearly all respondents graduated this year or will be graduating with a post-secondary education and searching for full-time employment within the next two years.  “The goal of the survey is to equip employers with an understanding of the expectations that this graduating class has when entering the workforce,” says Hally Pinaud, a workforce and university solutions product marketing manager at ConnectEDU. “

According to the survey results, here’s what employers need to know about the class of 2013:

Prior Experience

The class of 2013 doesn’t have much work experience. About 46% of this year’s respondents have never had a full-time job; almost 10% haven’t held a part-time position; and 41.4% never interned.  As a result of this lack of experience, office etiquette and politics are foreign concepts to about half of all “Millennials” entering the workforce, therefore it’s important for human resource professionals to explain workplace concepts and expectations beyond the specific responsibilities for a job role.

How They Plan To Search

Forty-five percent of Millennials plan to use LinkedIn as a primary source for their job hunt. That’s 800% growth from 2010, when a meager 5% said they’d use the social networking site.  Traditional old fashioned approaches have not been abandoned though, with about 87% of respondents indicating they plan to go straight to the source and submit an application directly to the company. Seventy percent said they will search for jobs at a networking event, while 65% said they’re most likely to utilize a career services center on campus revealing that employers need to be savvy about the channels that students frequent.  Millennials are much more plugged in to things like campus and alumni media sources and social media outlets.  Employers need to invest in building their brand and establish or revitalize their “brand ambassadors” for new hires.

What’s Most Important?

What’s most important to the “Class of 2013” when making a decision about where to work?  Graduates ranked each factor on a scale of one to eleven and salary came out on top. It earned a weighted score of 8.2 out of 11.  Following close behind were career advancement opportunities (8), and interesting, challenging work (7.3).

While salary is high on the list “Millennials” still desire progression and growth along with challenging and interesting work that piques their interest.  Given that these are such powerful incentives, it’s critical that employers highlight these opportunities in the recruiting process.

Size Doesn’t Matter

About 27% of the survey respondents said they don’t care about the size of a prospective employer, which means employers have to distinguish themselves for something other than size, like strong corporate culture.

How Long Will They Stay?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of “Millennial” employees in the U.S. is 1.5 years, but 20.6% of survey respondents expect to stay with their first employer for 5 years. An even more ambitious group, and the vast majority (21.5%), anticipate that they’ll stay for more than 10 years.  This stark difference between “Millennials” intended loyalty and speedy departure rates present an opportunity for employers to design more effective retention strategies.

Rewards They Love Most

Students ranked travel as the most appealing reward and pre-determined rewards, such as plaques and certificates for years of service, showed little appeal among Millennials but an experience reward, such as a spa getaway or white water rafting trip, was the second most appealing to students and recent grads.

Feelings and Expectations

A majority of respondents (66.6%) said they’re very or somewhat optimistic about their career opportunities after graduating, a somewhat surprising response given the bleak employment outlook for their age segment, indicating that “Millennials” remain optimistic and very confident even though the hiring world is not back to normal.

Without an understanding of the perspectives, wants, and needs of tomorrow’s leaders who are entering the workforce today, employers will have difficulty appealing to potential top talent.” says Hally Pinaud, a workforce and university solutions product marketing manager at ConnectEDU.   He adds, “Once Millennials have been successfully hired, employers need to understand this new crop of talent in order to fully and effectively incorporate them into their corporate culture. Understanding their expectations and their perspectives is key in creating appropriate programs and guidelines.”

Millennials: Navigating the New Workplace

Millennials Enter the Workplace

How people perceive you at work has always been vital to a successful career. Now with the Internet, social media, and the unrelenting hum of 24/7 business, the ability to brand and promote yourself effectively has become absolutely essential in today’s new workplace.  “Today’s workplace doesn’t tolerate slackers,” says Gen Y career expert Dan Schawbel in his new book “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.” In a rapidly changing economy, young people either rise to the top or don’t survive.  To navigate the new workplace”, Schawbel says, “Millennials need to master a new set of rules that aren’t taught in school. Advances in technology, the rise of social media, and 24/7 connectivity mean young people have to promote themselves and take ownership of their careers in ways that previous generations wouldn’t or couldn’t have imagined.”

Here are some of the new rules developed from Schawbel’s work that Millennials must learn to survive and get ahead in today’s modern work environment.

  • To succeed in today’s workplace you’ll have to do a lot more than what you got hired to do.  Always be on the lookout for new projects and collaborations with other groups, and do as much training and development as possible.
  • As the world changes, so does the workplace.  The one company career is a reality only in our grand-parents world.  Seek out every opportunity to expand your experience and capabilities in multiple disciplines.   You will be changing jobs and companies, the more diverse skills and experience you have, the better.
  • Soft (interpersonal) skills have become more important than hard (technical) skills. Companies are looking for leadership, organizational, teamwork, listening, and coaching skills.
  • Your reputation is the single greatest asset you have. What you do is important, but what others think you is even more important.  Build a strong reputation.
  • Sweat the details of personal appearance and behavior.  How you behave, dress, your online presence, body language, and whom you associate with can help build your brand up or tear it down.  If done smartly and effectively, your online presence can help you build your reputation.
  • Learning how to manage relationships with those in other generations.  Today’s workplace includes Gen Z (interns), Gen Y (employees), Gen X (managers), and Baby Boomers (executives).  Developing a relationship with each generation of associates will increase your personal value.  It’s less about what you know and more about whether you can work with other people to solve problems.

Accept responsibility for you own career and strive to prepare and position yourself to take a leadership role when the workforce shifts and older generations retire.  Realize your value, deliver on it and measure your success.

Strategically Rethinking Business IT Security

Security

In a world where everything and everyone are connected, businesses that embed technology into its every area of operations need to be constantly aware of and one step ahead of cyber-attacks and threats of unwanted intrusion.  Today’s businesses enterprise needs to always be aware and ready to respond to the risks to avoid compliance issues, financial loss, and reputation damage.

Security is not just about malware and firewalls.  In a world of increased threats that are more persistent, sophisticated, and unpredictable than ever before, forward-thinking security tactics will need to be deployed to manage risk and to effectively address the new list vulnerabilities brought on by increased trends in IT consumer utilization, mobility, social media, cloud computing  and cyber-crime.

The challenges facing IT security programs have become far more complex.  With employees bringing personal devices to work and taking work devices home there is no longer a hard line between work and home devices.  With remote working becoming more popular, controlling network access, identity, application permissions, and other IT elements is much more difficult than ever before.  Some companies are moving towards increased cloud computing in an effort to leverage the benefits of standardized applications, reduced maintenance, pay-per-use models, and reduced capital expenditures.  But the tactic has increased risk when it comes to compliance, privacy, and transaction integrity.  The range, frequency and potential damage of cyber threats increases every day, with more sophisticated viruses and malware, most of which attack slowly and at multiple points of entry in an effort to avoiding detection.

Sharing of information across social media can seem innocuous, but with the data that might be shared on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, coupled with the ability to correlate that data, it has become easier than ever before to expose confidential, proprietary and sensitive information to unintended recipients.

The Ponemon Institute’s, Second Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study revealed that cyber-attacks have become a common occurrence.  Companies in the study experienced a 72 percent increase in discernible and successful cyber-attacks per week, which represents a 44 percent increase in successful cyber-attacks over the number experienced by organizations in the previous year’s study.   Protecting mission-critical data and managing the risks associated with technology-enabled services requires a new focus on business processes.

A recently published HP business white paper, “Rethinking Your Enterprise Security”, lists some critical priorities to consider when formulating an IT Security strategy:

  • Change your security posture.  Every business decision has inherent risk, and it is essential to understand and make decisions based on the cost and potential value of that risk.
  • Avoid the problems associated with traditional security approaches.  As systems, software, and the Internet evolve, the approach to information security needs to evolve as well.
  • Formulate an end-to-end security program.  Develop a solid framework and layered system of defense to assess, transform, manage, and optimize security investments in the context of the rapidly changing nature of threats.
  • Address the critical security priorities.  The challenge is to create a strategy that applies an approach to the areas of business that need to be secured first: data and information, application, identity, endpoint, and network.

To secure a business network in today’s world, your strategy must ensure a 24×7 global availability of applications while guarding against unwanted and damaging intrusions.  Selecting an experienced partner with the technological resources to guide today’s vulnerable enterprises is essential to sustainable business success.