Google Funds IT Training for Thousands, Most of Which They’ll Never Hire

Google Funds IT Training for Thousands, Most of Which They’ll Never Hire

Google has taken its internal IT training curriculum and, in partnership with Coursera, taken it public in the form of a certificate program. The tech giant is also providing full funding to 10,000 students, despite the fact that the majority of them will never become Googlers. Still, this initiative will allow Google to build a pipeline of talent in a critical field—they’ll have an inside track to hiring top performers from the program—while also enabling diversity across the entire sector by upskilling candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. It burnishes the company’s public image as well: The program is available to anyone, the cost is highly subsidized, and Google will have a hand in closing the digital talent gap.

The cost of the program is $49 per month, and scholarships will be funded by Google.org grants and distributed in part through community groups such as Year Up, Goodwill, Student Veterans of America, and Upwardly Global, per Google’s press release. The goal is for students to be ready for entry-level IT support jobs within 8 to 12 months after they complete the training, which consists of 64 hours of video lessons as well as interactive labs and assignments.

Trainees will learn to handle tasks such as troubleshooting and customer service, operating systems, and system administration, automation, and security. Once students complete the program, they will also have the option to share their information with an impressive list of corporate employers such as Bank of America, Walmart, PNC Bank, and more, in addition to Google.

While Google is the trendsetter here, Coursera is working on similar programs with other companies, Quartz’s Michael J. Coren notes:

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Tech Giants Step up Competition in Voice-Activated Enterprise Tech

Tech Giants Step up Competition in Voice-Activated Enterprise Tech

Last year saw a sharp rise in investment in AI-driven voice-command technology for workplace use, with Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana beginning to take on enterprise roles, amid growing investments by these companies in AI. Based on how heavily voice-activated tools were promoted at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018), this year will see Google, Facebook, Samsung, Apple, and Cisco make moves in that market as well.

Fast Company’s Mark Sullivan pronounced Amazon the “winner” of CES before it even began, noting the omnipresence of the Alexa virtual assistant in everything from speakers to smart mirrors and automobiles. Sullivan noted an eMarketer survey which said that 45.4 million Americans will be using an AI assistant this year, 68 percent of whom will be using Alexa. HP, Acer, Asus, and Lenovo all launched Windows 10 PCs with two virtual assistants, Alexa and Microsoft’s notably less popular Cortana, but at this moment, it appears Alexa has the strongest foothold in the enterprise market.

“As we begin 2018, Alexa shows the strongest partner ecosystem — with the most hardware partners and the most skills — and an increasing presence in the office with Alexa for Business,” Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P. Gownder told Computerworld.

Sullivan noted that Google made its presence felt at CES as well, but they did it with aggressively placed ads on buildings and public transportation. Still, Google Assistant is not far behind Alexa and has some built-in advantages. Amazon was the first to launch such a product, releasing Alexa in 2014, but Google has a wealth of institutional knowledge in the AI space and also has the widely-used Android mobile platform to drive adoption and streamlined integration of Google Assistant. So far, Assistant is on touchscreen-enabled devices by Sony, JBL, and Lenovo, and also slated to go into LG and GE appliances, in addition to cars through the Android Auto offering, according to VentureBeat.

Microsoft’s Cortana has a chance to succeed in the workplace market thanks to its presence through Office 365 and LinkedIn, but will have a long way to go if it hopes to supplant Google and Amazon. Another new entrant, Cisco, has an advantage with its new voice-activated technology thanks to its well-established enterprise communication infrastructure. Apple’s Siri is another notable competitor but would need a big push to make gains in the enterprise adoption of its computers and phones to penetrate the workplace market.

Is HQ Trivia the Hot New Distraction at Your HQ?

Is HQ Trivia the Hot New Distraction at Your HQ?

HQ Trivia, a mobile game where players compete for cash prizes in live quiz-show style games, has been described as “the future of both mobile gaming and live TV,” as well as “the best worst thing on the Internet.” Whatever it is, it’s growing fast: Launched on iOS just a few months ago, with an Android version released just before New Year’s Eve, the app attracts hundreds of thousands of users to each game and topped one million users last Sunday night. A product of the startup Intermedia Labs, founded by two of the co-creators of Vine, HQ isn’t making any money yet but has attracted plenty of interest from venture capital investors.

A game of HQ lasts about 13 minutes, during which players must rapidly answer a series of 12 multiple-choice questions and are eliminated when they answer incorrectly. Those who get every question right split a prize pool, usually of $250, which means each player usually stands to win a few dollars, at most. The app comes alive to host a game at 9 p.m. Eastern time every day and at 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Of course, that means many users are likely playing it at work. SHRM’s Dana Wilkie solicits the opinions of some experts as to how employers should handle the latest craze:

“Like anything else, if it is causing harm or lowering productivity, nip it in the bud,” said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications for HALO Recognition, an employee rewards and incentives company based in Long Island City, N.Y. “However, if it engages your employees well and it’s something they really like, embrace it and set boundaries. It’s important to give it as fair of a shake as March Madness and Super Bowl pools, two things that, over time, have found a natural fit and flow in the modern workplace.” …

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Diversity, Technology Major Themes in LinkedIn’s Recruiting Trends Survey

Diversity, Technology Major Themes in LinkedIn’s Recruiting Trends Survey

Diversity, new interviewing tools, data, and artificial intelligence are the four trends set to have the biggest impact on recruiting in the coming year, according to LinkedIn’s latest Global Recruiting Trends report. Based on a survey of over 9,000 talent leaders and hiring managers worldwide, along with a series of expert interviews, the report underscores the growing role of technology in shaping how companies meet their hiring goals, of which diversity is increasingly paramount. Nonetheless, while many HR leaders see these trends as important, the number of organizations fully acting on them lags far behind.

Diversity was the top trend by far, with 78 percent of respondents saying it was very or extremely important, though only 53 percent said their organizations had mostly or completely adopted diversity-oriented recruiting. In recent years, diversity has evolved from a compliance issue to a major driver of culture and performance, as more and more organizations recognize its bottom-line value. This shift was reflected in the LinkedIn report, with 62 percent of the companies surveyed saying they believed boosting diversity would have a positive impact on financial performance and 78 percent saying they were pursuing it to improve their culture. Additionally, 49 percent are looking to ensure that their workforce better reflects the diversity of their customer base.

Diversity was the only top trend identified in LinkedIn’s survey that wasn’t directly related to technology, but technology is definitely influencing how organizations are pursuing it. In the past year, we have seen the emergence of new software and tools to support diversity and inclusion. The aim of these tools is to remove the human error of unconscious bias from the recruiting process, but it’s important to be aware that automated processes can also develop built-in biases and end up replicating the very problem they are meant to solve. This is an issue we’ve been following in our research at CEB, now Gartner; CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can read more of our insights on algorithmic bias here.

The development of new interview tools and techniques was identified as the second most important trend, with 56 percent saying it was important. The LinkedIn survey found that the most common areas where traditional interviews fail are assessing candidates’ soft skills (63 percent), understanding candidates’ weaknesses (57 percent), the biases of interviewers (42 percent), and the process taking too long (36 percent). The report highlights five new interviewing techniques, all enabled by technology, that aim to address these problems:

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Former Tinder Employees Launch Mobile-First Professional Networking App

Former Tinder Employees Launch Mobile-First Professional Networking App

A group led by former Tinder CTO Ryan Ogle has launched Ripple, a mobile competitor to LinkedIn. Rather than try to match up with LinkedIn’s growing list of features, however, the new app is focused solely on networking and includes a number of interesting features.

For one, Ripple hopes to gain from its mobile capability is the opportunity to take advantage of proximity. Users will be able to find potential contacts nearby and also start networking events using the app. This new offering, which originated from an internal hackathon at Tinder and eventually spun off into its own company, will be able to draw information from your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles and also—perhaps controversially—allow you to take pictures of people using your smartphone and find their profiles.

Ripple will also employ the swipe function popularized by its dating app cousin, but Ogle insists that Tinder is a lot more than swiping and plans for Ripple to include more detailed profile information such as job history, education, etc. without going to a new screen.

“People have misconstrued why Tinder succeeded,” Ogle tells TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez. “Certainly, the swipe was interesting, engaging and fun. But the reasons why Tinder succeeded were far deeper than that. We thought a lot about the psychology of networking and the problems… what holds people back and prevents them from achieving what they want to achieve.”

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Third-Party Recruiting Platforms Are Creating a Marketplace of Skills

Third-Party Recruiting Platforms Are Creating a Marketplace of Skills

Sifting through hundreds or even thousands of applications for one job opening is perhaps the most time-consuming task recruiters face in their day-to-day work. This process is seen as a promising target for automation, particularly in hiring for technical roles where a candidate’s mastery of specific skills can be more important than their credentials and experience. Accordingly, many new platforms have sprung up, offering gamified assessments that test candidates’ skills and AI-powered software whose creators say it can make more objective and less biased hiring decisions than human recruiters.

The emergence of these platforms could reshape recruiting significantly by bringing a new level of transparency and objectivity to the process, Ryan Craig, Managing Director of University Ventures, writes at TechCrunch. Craig sees these intermediaries, which he compares to the talent agencies that decide who gets to work where in Hollywood, as the builders of what he calls “online competency marketplaces”:

Competency marketplaces will help candidates understand the jobs and careers they’re most likely to match, and help employers identify candidates who are on track (or on a trajectory to match in the future) and manage long talent funnels in an automated way.

What will a competency marketplace look like?

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Lessons from Last Year: HR Tech Leaps Forward

Lessons from Last Year: HR Tech Leaps Forward

Technology played a huge role in shaping the direction of HR strategy in 2017. As organizations struggle with the rapid pace of change, challenges in implementation, and digital skills gaps, being nimble enough to take advantage of emerging technologies has become more important than ever. If done correctly, effective leverage of tech can lead to significant progress for the HR function as a strategic center rather than an order-taking and operations-focused unit.

Here are some highlights from the year that was in HR tech:

Tech Titans Entered the Fray

In the past year, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have made major plays in the business services space, with implications for HR in recruiting, productivity/collaboration software, and more. Google launched an expanded job search offering in June, which serves job seekers as well as large and small businesses. Most recently, in November, the online search giant added functionality for tablet in addition to desktop and mobile and the ability to independently estimate a salary range for job postings based on publicly available data.

Following its acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016, Microsoft began to make some interesting plays in this space last year. To start, the Seattle-based software company has been hiring AI talent by the thousands and plans to develop connectivity between LinkedIn profile data and Office 365 services such as the Outlook mail client. It will also connect LinkedIn data to its Dynamic sales and recruiting platforms, allowing users to quickly get background information on prospective targets. Dynamic will also have an AI-powered virtual assistant to help users with troubleshooting and completing various tasks. Additionally, Microsoft Word will be able to suggest job postings on LinkedIn to users as they are updating their resume, which stands to streamline the job search process for many candidates. Microsoft is also reshaping the next version of its Hololens headset as a powerful enterprise tool.

Microsoft also launched a Workplace Analytics tool as an add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans. The software captures metadata from email and calendars to help companies understand how employees collaborate and spend their time. It could be particularly helpful for understanding how high-performing teams are different from average ones. Microsoft is also launching an AI tool on the Azure Machine Learning suite called Pendleton, which helps with data collection, preparing, cleaning, and analysis.

Amazon is hoping its voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa, which has proven very popular as a household convenience, can deliver the same value in the workplace. In early December, the online retail powerhouse announced the Alexa for Business offering at its annual AWS re:Invent conference. This comes as a marquee addition to a suite of existing offerings from Amazon Web Services, including Workspaces and WorkDocs. Alexa can be programmed with “skills” or apps for business uses such as turning on lights, connecting to conference lines, and managing schedules. Alexa for Business will also be able to connect with third-party services such as Microsoft Office or the Google G-Suite.

Perhaps the most surprising of the tech titans to make big plays in the enterprise market in the past year was Facebook, though in hindsight, it looks like a natural fit. After launching an employee collaboration platform called Workplace in late 2016, the social media giant partnered with ZipRecruiter to expand its job search capabilities and began testing a wide range of options and features to help connect its massive user base to prospective employers.

These forays by some of the largest and most successful companies in the world confirm that technology will continue to drastically reshape how business is done in the coming years. These titans are investing heavily in the talent and assets to get a piece of the enterprise software pie, in competition with some of the more established companies like Oracle and SAP. We can expect this heightened competition to continue driving innovation in this space in the coming years.

HR by VR

As the cost of virtual reality technology goes down, we’re starting to see it used in a variety of workplace applications. In addition to the Microsoft Hololens, Google Glass has emerged as a potentially valuable business tool, though the two technologies are designed for slightly different uses. Microsoft’s headset offering creates more of a closed environment and is capable of displaying much larger graphics, while all the computing power is contained within the headset. Google Glass looks more like a pair of glasses and is less disruptive to the user’s field of vision. It also needs to be connected to a smartphone or computer of some kind to operate. Facebook-owned Oculus and HTC are also selling VR technology directly to companies.

VR has also been used for training purposes, helping the learning and development function standardize and scale training that mirrors real-life situations more closely than any other available option. Walmart has been an early adopter of VR learning, while KFC has also released a campy, gamified chicken-frying tutorial. We have also seen VR being used to support employees’ mental health and wellness, with offerings for anxiety, ADHD, fear of public speaking, meditation, PTSD, and more.

Employee Monitoring: Big Brother or Benevolent Buddy?

Late in 2016, we started to see the emergence of employee monitoring tech in the form of badges that can track an employee’s whereabouts and even analyze their mood based on their tone of voice. Through this tool, companies have been able to make improvements in productivity, such as finding out that socializing improved performance and that adding lunch tables helped employees socialize more.

In 2017, this trend continued, with some employers even experimenting with implanting microchips in employees. The microchip functions like a badge, able to open doors or unlock printers “with the wave of the hand.” While this particular initiative, first undertaken by a Swedish startup, has little to do with monitoring of health or productivity, it’s easy to see how it could. However, corporate fitness tracking programs using bracelets like the Fitbit seem like a more practical option for companies interested in monitoring employee health.

Another application of monitoring technology has been to help companies use space more efficiently. Barclays was among the companies to experiment with the OccupEye devices, which are attached to desks to determine how much time employees spend there. Part of the bank’s success in rolling out this initiative was a clear communication strategy. “The sensors aren’t monitoring people or their productivity; they are assessing office space usage,” the bank said in an emailed statement. “This sort of analysis helps us to reduce costs, for example, managing energy consumption, or identifying opportunities to further adopt flexible work environments.”

Automating the Process

One of the primary obstacles to widespread adoption of HR technology has been leaders’ hesitation to dive headfirst into the newest technologies, due in part to concerns over which parts of the HR function are suited for a technological transformation. While there are theories for automating everything from performance management to keeping employees from overworking, the most practical applications of automation technology in HR are in more administrative or repetitive tasks. A survey from CareerBuilder found that employee messaging (57 percent), benefit setup (53 percent), payroll setup (47 percent), and background checks and drug testing (47 percent) were the most common processes currently being automated in organizations.

Recruiting is often compared to sales in the sense that certain best practices translate from one function to the other. In sales, automated solutions in lead generation are reshaping the way both B2B and B2C businesses are finding customers. Recruiting seems to be following suit in sourcing, a practice analogous to lead generation in sales. One of the most interesting emerging technologies is an AI-powered sourcing software called Helena by Woo, a recruiting platform provider, which communicates with and on behalf of both the company and candidate to automate the candidate identification and screening processes. The company claims that 52 percent of Helena-sourced candidates make it to the interview stage, whereas human-sourced candidates move on at a rate of around 20 percent. Woo’s founder steadfastly believes he can automate the entire recruiting process.

Additionally, with so many companies folding AI into their products, not just in the HR tech space, demand for AI talent has skyrocketed. Microsoft more than doubled the headcount for its AI division and Amazon gave priority choice in the hiring process for engineers to its new Alexa for Business offering. Even the auto industry is playing ball, as Ford acquired a majority stake in an AI development startup as it competes with the likes of Google and Tesla in the race to develop fully automated self-driving vehicles.

Enabling Diversity and Inclusion

A number of major companies and startups are working on solutions to help businesses improve their ability to attract and retain diverse employees. SAP announced intentions to add functionality to its SuccessFactors recruiting platform, which will scan job descriptions for terminology that indicates bias towards men and recommend changes to attract more diverse candidates. It will also monitor performance ratings to find women who are overdue for promotions or identify if they experience a dip in ratings after taking maternity leave. Many other companies are working on solutions for reducing bias in the hiring process. They have their work cut out for them, however, as algorithms are only as good as the data that feeds them and there is a lot of evidence that most companies’ data is highly flawed.

Ultimately, this investment in developing diversity-enabling technology shows that diversity and inclusion are becoming more than just PR initiatives, as Quartz’s Sarah Kessler wrote in August, highlighting some of our research at Gartner:

Analysts at Gartner predicted in a March 2017 research note that by 2020, more than 75% of large enterprises will include features that promote diversity and inclusion in their selection process for HR software. John Kostoulas, a co-author of the report, told Quartz that companies have historically monitored diversity mainly to avoid breaking anti-discrimination laws, but he believes that they will take a more holistic approach as evidence continues to build for the case that diversity contributes to businesses in other ways.

It can be hard for businesses to keep up with the rapid pace of change as the capabilities of software and hardware accelerate so quickly. Leaders of large organizations will need to carefully consider the costs and benefits of making technological investments that could fundamentally transform the way they operate. The most successful types of technologies will be those that take much of the busywork out of existing processes in a way that is minimally invasive. Though 2017 was another great year for innovation, adoption is still low as leaders are increasingly less confident in the direction to take their technology strategy. At CEB, now Gartner, our HR practice will be closely studying the best ways to implement technology over the course of 2018.