Human Resources Are People Too

Human Resources

Every company’s looking to make that perfect hire and most expend significant time, talent, energy and money to seeking out and identifying the individuals that will best benefit the mission and goals of the company.  But while so many spend so much on evaluating and hiring that perfect “diamond in the rough” employee, many human resource (HR) professionals fail to realize the two most important challenges to introducing, developing and retaining the new resource talent.

By definition, a resource is a source or supply from which benefit is produced. Typically resources are materials, money, services, staff, or other assets that are transformed to produce benefit and in the process may be consumed or made unavailable.  Perhaps defining the role of those who are responsible for managing a company’s most valuable asset as “human resource managers”, is at the core of why so many HR functionaries miss defining the two most important challenges their departments face in today’s competitive business environment.  Employees, while a resource of skill sets and experiences, are first and foremost people.  And often integrating that “perfect hire” into an organization is not just a matter of the tangibles of science and evaluative data, but the intangible, and the difficult to quantify, aspects of human emotion and personality.


Onboarding is the buzzword used to describe what should naturally happen when new hires enter the ranks of their new company,  a planned, integrated process that not only gets the newbie familiar with his or her specific duties, but gives the person an understanding of the company’s overall culture and goals.  On boarding is not orientation, it is a process that leads new hires to feel a strong, emotional  sense of welcoming  to the company and where they become comfortable within the organization; feel that they have made the correct job choice; and are eager to build a long-term relationship with the company and their fellow associates.  No matter what form it takes, onboarding has one overriding objective: To make sure the employee feels welcome and supported, and is poised to be successful.


No matter the type or function of an organization, the most important factor in the successfully introducing a new entrant into an operation is quickly and effectively engaging them into the culture.  In a Towers Watson Global Workforce study last year, 63% of U.S. employees said they weren’t engaged in their jobs, more than six in 10 U.S. workers.  Engaged employees are passionate about their work and have a genuine connection with their employers and their co-workers.

They want to know exactly what they’re responsible for and what they’ll be judged on and have a clear understanding of expectations.  They need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed, and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.  Engaged employees tend to feel that they’re “in the loop” and have input on what’s going on in their work environment and what’s happening in the business as a whole.   They desire to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation.  Overall, good candidates are interested in promotional opportunities, extra training, learning new skills, personal recognition and naturally seek leadership from people they know and trust.

As is true with many things, the science of managing a resource is easier and more predictable than managing the elusive motivational characteristics of the resource.  But the later proves to be not only more challenging, but perhaps more significantly important to an organizations ability to effectively prosper and grow through the application of an organizations “human” resources.

The Big Data and Recruitment Partnership

Big Data

Big Data is making major changes in recruiting, hiring and performance management. And while big data offers significant efficiencies, traditional recruiters are expressing concerns about parting ways with human intuition.   Andy Sohn, Senior VP, Technology Architecture, Strategy and Innovation, Bank of America, “While Big Data is an overused and nebulous term, similar to “Cloud,” the fact is that data volumes and varieties available to business are growing dramatically and companies will have to leverage that data to be competitive.”

With hiring, firing and training taking up significant portions of the cost bracket, there are evidently considerable savings to be made by playing the long game when it comes to recruitment. Depending on the industry, staff costs account for between 30% and 80% of organizations operating costs.  Even so, the adoption of data methods has been limited to a handful of examples, most of which have come from Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and LinkedIn.  The primary road block for businesses to overcome is a skills gap in human resources.  Traditional Human Resource (HR) specialist is well versed on the legal aspects of employment and most thrive on their motivating skills, but as a rule they are not numbers people.

This lack of analytical skill sets among HR professionals can make the hiring process overly subjective, resulting in many businesses getting stuck with the traditional approach to recruitment.  These organizations have little data for the forward-thinking recruiter to use, and where it does exist there are few, if any established methods for extracting insights that can be fed back into a firm’s hiring strategy.  Data doesn’t solve every problem, but what it does is it creates an advantage over competitors who are working with untested theories and anecdotal evidence. Even if it’s a 2%, 3% advantage is a huge benefit.

A data-driven HR program uses data to achieve three objectives; make a company healthier, make it more profitable and create a more content workforce, after all, a happier and healthier workforce is more productive.  In a data driven environment, any aspect of an employee’s performance is measured to find those employee characteristics that meet the specific need of the organization.  From on-time performance to specific skills, such as leadership, those who meet the need best, can then be trained promoted and retained.

Having a big data capable HR function will become a requirement for companies to be competitive. Soon it won’t be state-of-the-art and cutting edge; it will be a necessary capability of an organization, focused on helping pair candidates with the employers with whom they have the greatest chances for success.

Bruce Belfiore, Senior Research Executive and CEO of BenchmarkPortal, says, “The field of “workforce science” is still in its infancy, but some entrepreneurs are already targeting the contact center industry, where turnover is notoriously high. Expect more refinements and perhaps some healthy controversy on this topic. Big data has met recruiting, and they appear headed for a long-term partnership.”

BYOD, the Saga Continues


It’s not news how BYOD has evolved from movement to mainstay in business.  BYOD promised to make employees happy and more productive by permitting them to use mobile gadgets of their choosing for work and would carry those gadgets practically all the time, meaning that they’ll be working in the evenings and on weekends. Worker productivity was projected to increase but some organizations experienced employees overusing their devices to check Facebook and play Angry Birds at work.

Many businesses pushed Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs into place too quickly, resulting in known and unknown security risks.  These companies soon learned that to be successful in the era of mobile devices in the workplace, risk management must be the foundation of any BYOD program.  “The use of personal devices to store and process sensitive information continues to rapidly affect the way we do business,” ISF CEO Michael de Crespigny said, “At the same time it means organizations are easily exposed to new and more complex threats from stolen, lost or destroyed data, malware and other attacks if the device is not securely used and protected.”

One response to the threats posed by BYOD is to ban personal devices from the workplace, but his approach denies benefits of BYOD to a company and assumes that employees will not violate (not likely) the ban.  The reality is, if a company doesn’t have a program in place, employees are still going to be using their phones and tablets at work.  It’s important for businesses to have an effective BYOD policy in place for protecting sensitive company data as it’s accessed on personal devices.  And for those who thought they could avoid the trend or were confident that they had their protective hands around the program, enter BYOWD.

Bring Your Own Wearable Device (BYOWD) might not yet be an actual trend, but as the technology gains momentum devices like Google Glass, the HC1 Headset, Galaxy and Plantronics will soon make their way into the business world for work use.  The “wearable technology” market is predicted to be a $12 billion sector by 2018, according to Business Insider. And ABI Research estimates that the global market for wearable tech in health and fitness could reach 170 million devices by 2017. These numbers show why it’s important for business and IT leaders to stay on top of this new technology now to be ready for the future. Because wearable devices may likely collect health data that employees won’t want their employers to know about, company policies should take that into account.  Potential uses for wearable technology abound with some not even been thought of yet, so don’t get tech security comfortable, the saga continues.

A Strategy For Creating An Effective Cyber Security Plan


Until the Department of Health fixed the security hole last week, it turns out that anyone could easily reset a user’s password without their knowledge and potentially hijack their account.  The glitch was discovered by Ben Simo, a software tester in Arizona. Simo found that gaining access to people’s accounts was frighteningly simple.  Armed with the account holder’s email address, a person with malicious intent could easily track down their target on social media, where they’d likely discover the answers to those security questions.  It wouldn’t have even taken a skilled hacker. Anyone with bad intentions, and a minimal understanding of how to read a website’s code, could have figured it out. “This seems really sloppy,” Simo said. “Either the developers were incompetent and did not know how to do the basic things to protect user information, or the development was so fractured that the individuals building the system didn’t understand how they fit into the bigger picture.”

A recent survey of governments, businesses, and individuals in the U.S., China, Russia, and India found that more than 88% of respondents believe that cyberspace threats are significant. While many respondents feel comfortable with online banking and shopping, more than 69% are not comfortable with sharing identity and personal data online.  This is a valid concern, the latest Internet Crime Report by The Internet Crime Complaint Center shows an increase in cyber-crimes, as thieves seek out personal data and other valuable information for their own advantage.  Small and medium-sized businesses face critical challenges due to limited resources and information, as well as competing priorities. The speed at which technology is evolving makes it difficult to stay current with security.

However, better security awareness and planning can help these businesses protect their intellectual property and trade secrets, and reduce loss of productivity due to downtime. Local, state, and central governments maintain an enormous amount of personal data and records on their citizens, as well as confidential government information, making them frequent targets. Yet many government entities are challenged with insufficiently secured infrastructure, lack of awareness, and competing funding and resource priorities. Better security helps government bodies provide reliable services to the public, maintain citizen-to-government communications, and protect sensitive information.

Every business that uses the Internet is responsible for creating a culture of security that will enhance business and consumer confidence and a cyber-security strategy to protect their business, their customers, and their data from growing cyber security threats.  Here are ten basic elements to an effective cyber security strategy.

Train employees in security principles.

Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cyber security policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

Protect information, computers and networks from cyber-attacks.

Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

Provide firewall security for your Internet connection.

A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, or you allow BYOD, ensure that their system(s) are protected by a firewall.

Create a mobile device action plan.

Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the company network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

Make backup copies of important business data and information.

Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

Control access to company computers and create individual user accounts.

Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

Secure your Wi-Fi networks.

If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

Employ best practices on payment cards.

Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

Limit employee access to data and information.

Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

Insist on passwords and authentication.

Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.

Cyber criminals are not going to shrink away from hacking important private information that can be used for financial gain or for simply creating havoc and mayhem.  A system that is unprotected for a few minutes or days is a tempting and easy target.