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How tech and data will change HR in 2017

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During 2017, we expect to see HR departments turn to technology to automate more of their work and to become more data-driven in their decision-making. ANJA VAN BEEK, of Sage outlines six trends.

Some of the key trends for this year are as follows:

1.     The mobile device will the HR department’s most imperative touchpoint

From recruiting talent to interacting with employees, the mobile phone is becoming the most important HR touchpoint for job candidates, employees, managers and other stakeholders. Today’s employees and jobseekers want it to be as convenient and easy to deal with an employer as it is to bank online or via a mobile app. Employers who want to attract young talent should make sure that their online job advertising and application processes are seamless, convenient and optimised for mobile devices.

Many companies already allow employees to use mobile apps to file expense reports and leave applications, change personal details, and access their payslips. In future, employees will increasingly access career and training information, performance feedback, and other important data from mobile apps. Such apps must be attractive, easy to use, and functional so that users will love coming back to them.

Managers will also want to be able to access information such as performance reviews from their smartphones.

2.     Data will drive decision-making

HR is about to change dramatically with data analytics becoming a way of life for HR directors and HR managers.

As HR professionals have more data (gathered through digital interfaces like employee self-service) about employees and the business at their fingertips than ever before; they will begin to use analytics to make better decisions and to shape superior employee experiences.

Data will help HR and the business to answer questions such as:

·         Where did we find the best hires for our business, i.e. top performers who have we retained for a good while?

·         How many people will we need in our service department to support our forecasted revenue growth of 10% for the next financial year?

·         What are the possible reasons for high employee turnover in the call centre?

·         What skills gaps do we have in our organisation?

3.     Integrated HR systems will stretch from recruitment to performance management

We are seeing the worlds of payroll, HR and business management solutions move closer together as organisations adopt integrated solutions to gain better control over their workforce costs and create stronger engagement with employees. One benefit lies in the fact that data and transactions don’t need to be captured multiple times across different business applications.

In addition, such systems give HR teams a complete view of their relationships with employees, from on-boarding to engagement, talent development and performance management. This empowers HR to react to the needs of the workforce and the business in a more agile manner.

4.     Performance management is changing

We have seen a lot of discussion in the past year or two about the value of annual performance reviews, and many large organisations around the world have streamlined performance management or even done away with annual reviews. Though I don’t foresee most companies scrapping annual reviews, I expect that performance management will change to cater for a changing work world.

We’ll see companies give employees feedback more frequently, perhaps each month or even each week, rather than once a year. This will help managers and employers to constantly monitor performance, identify challenges and opportunities and recalibrate employees’ alignment with its strategic objective. Annual reviews are useful in this regard, but they’re not frequent enough in a business world where the pace of change is so fast.

5.     Online recruitment will continue to take over

Recent research by the Society of Human Resource Management shows that in the past five years, recruitment using social media has increased by 54%, with one out of five candidates applying for a job through social channels.

There are many tools that can streamline the recruitment process, from managing job applicants and filtering CVs, to interviewing and screening candidates, and right up to the on-boarding process. Though the human touch will always be important in HR, companies will extend their tools such as online applicant tracking, talent communities, social media and internal career portals.

Online platforms such as Sage SkillsMap give organisations direct access to people in Africa and abroad who are looking for jobs, as well as the tools they need to publish their jobs to the Web and track the applications they receive. These tools help automate a lot of the paperwork for them, while providing access to high-quality candidates.

6.     Employer branding will be a focus

According to a recent EY Sub-Saharan Talent Trends and Practices Survey, the strength of the employer brand is the most important factor in attracting talent. Companies must focus on creating a positive culture; a quality workplace and a good employee experience since employees value this as much as they do money. Given that top professionals in most fields can choose where they work, employers need to sell their workplace experience and the benefits they offer to employees with as much enthusiasm as marketing departments sell the company’s products and services.

* Anja van Beek, Vice President for People (HR), Sage International (Africa, Middle East, Asia & Australia)

 

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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