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HR must keep up with high-tech

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Many HR departments are being left behind as new technology becomes available and the job market becomes more transparent. The also need to make faster decisions as the amount of information they need to manage grows, which is creating new challenges for HR directors, writes SANDRA SWANEPOEL, MD for Sage HR & Payroll.

The world of human resources (HR) is changing at a speed that is leaving most HR departments behind. New technology is bringing more transparency into the job market and into the performance of the HR department, creating new challenges for HR directors.

It’s also changing the expectations that employees and job applicants have of the employer experience. What’s more, HR departments need to make faster decisions, even as the amount of information they need to manage grows. For   example, I know of a business that received 100,000 CVs after advertising a group of positions. Meanwhile, a volatile labour market, growing competition for scarce skills, and tighter regulation all bring with them complex and constantly evolving pressures. Line mangers and senior management are putting more pressure on HR departments to add value to the business and to serve as their strategic partners.

As a result, HR departments need to become more tech-savvy. They need to put in place systems that allow them to automate routine paperwork, make sense of growing volumes of data, and respond to the needs of the business and employees in a more agile fashion. Without technology, they will not be able to meet the demands they face.

Digging through big data

As a start, the recruitment market poses some interesting challenges for HR managers. They have access to a wider potential pool of talent, thanks to the Web and social media, but that also means that they need to be able to process more information. Here, online applicant tracking systems and career portals can be a massive help in filtering and managing data.

In much the same way as the Internet has given employers access to jobseekers, it also gives talent access to expanded employment opportunities. Let’s face it: anyone who has a CV on a career website or a profile on LinkedIn is on the job market for the right price and opportunity. It’s easier than ever for recruiters to spot great talent – which means the HR department’s job is harder when it comes to skills retention.

Engage and retain

As such, it’s also important to apply technology for engaging, managing and retaining employees. When it comes to managing staff, HR departments can gather rich data about the business and use it to analyse skills gaps, performance, costs, and more. Increasingly, HR decisions about hiring and training are driven by good information housed in HR and line of business systems.

In the background, a robust HR platform enables the HR department to capture data about employees’ key performance areas (KPAs) and indicators (KPIs), performance reviews, training and development requirements, medical history, occupational injuries, and more. This information can help the business to make better hiring and training decisions. HR directors can get better insight into trends such as staff churn, the costs of training and development, and the skills they may need to attract and develop to support the business’s future growth.

IT also has an important role to play in employee engagement. Tools such as employee self-service can reduce paperwork for the HR department while delivering better service to the workforce. When people can apply for leave, fill in expense claims and pick up payslips online or from their mobile phones, everyone wins from the gains in efficiency and convenience.

Closing words

In a world where employees are ambitious and connected, and where business has high expectations, HR departments must become more flexible and focused.

Technology is an important enabler for them, offering them the ability to streamline operations and make better decisions. And with today’s cloud-based options, it is easier and more affordable than ever for HR departments to modernise and automate the way they work.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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