IBM and Microsoft collaborate on accessible MS Office assessments

This month, October 2015  is National Disability Employment Awareness month.  In honor of the 70th anniversary of this day, I’m very pleased to share that IBM and Microsoft are announcing a new solution through IBM Kenexa Assess on Cloud that will allow job applicants to complete workplace assessments of Microsoft Office through accessible simulation technology.  Typically, these assessment simulations have been inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision because it uses images to represent Microsoft Office through HTML5 and thus cannot be replicated in the same manner for screen readers.

To make these simulated tests equivalent and accessible for all, IBM developed a first-of-a-kind cloud based assessment solution that integrates Microsoft Office with JAWS and MAGIC software remotely, while giving the user the same experience as if it were running on their local machine

IBM and Microsoft both have a long-standing commitment to accessibility and came together to resolve this challenge by agreeing to make the licensing free for all users.  In addition, Freedom Scientific adapted their licensing infrastructure to enable JAWS and MAGIC users to remotely access IBM Kenexa Assess on Cloud and Microsoft Office using their own computers without incurring additional licensing costs.

This creates an accessible solution that can be a model for inclusive assessments around the world and demonstrates the importance of industry leaders coming together to ensure equal access to products and services for people of all ages and abilities. The new accessible assessments will be available before the end of the year.

If you’re at IAAP Las Vegas go check our solution in the booth and say hi to Jon Busa and Amanda Tullio!

IBM and Microsoft Collaborate on Accessible Office Assessments


Big Data Simplicity

I have posted information and comments recently on our Talent Insights product and described how it uses cognitive analytics from Watson to support HR professionals. John Medicke is our IBM Distinguished Engineer working in this area. In the post below John adds a Big Data perspective to HR Analytics. Big Data has become an overused term in HR analytics and John brings some clarity to how we can think about Big Data, Cognitive Computing, and how it all works for HR professionals.

Headshot - John Medicke
John Medicke, IBM

Big Data Simplicity

Big data does not just mean “big.”  There is much more to this transformation to big data and to the analytics around big data than just supporting ever-increasing data volumes.  A large part of what will – and is with products like IBM Kenexa Talent Insights – bring this transformation is simplification of the data analysis experience.  HR organizations, just like any other business organization, have big data already.  The problem is that much of that data is inaccessible for analysis because of the cost involved in creating analytical insights from that data.

Kenexa Talent Analytics images
IBM Kenexa Talent Analytics images

Traditionally, analytics involves creation of complex warehouse data models, construction of costly Extract, Transformation, and Load (ETL) processing, and custom built dashboards.  This is a very rigid approach in which each new analytical business requirement translates into required changes in the dashboard design, in the warehouse model, and in the ETL processing.  Changing technology alone – for instance switching from a relational data warehouse to hadoop – does not solve the problem.  Intelligence and automation need to be built into the big data analytics platform.

This is what makes the Talent Insights approach different.  The system applies advanced data analysis, statistical analysis, natural language processing, and cognitive analysis to automatically understand the data, align that data with other data, and to prepare recommended analytical views for the user.  This brings immediacy to the analytical experience for the HR business user; load your data in, and then directly onto asking questions of your data.   It empowers the HR Professional to do perform their own analysis, gaining insights without a dependency on IT to create custom analytics for them.

The Next Generation of HR and Talent Systems

I’ve invited Stefan Liesche, one of our Distinguished Engineers to talk about our Kenexa Open HR strategy , our new framework, the Kenexa Open UX Toolkit  and how this will impact the future of HR technology.


Exciting times for Talent Management Solutions! The IT Technology Landscape is rapidly evolving and undergoing change,  A new generation of solutions and innovations is entering the HR and Talent Management arena fueled by the next generation of mobile applications, cloud based solutions designed for security and social interactions, and deeper insights through data driven analytics solutions. These new applications deliver a whole new set of capabilities that were previously impossible to realize. The latest evolution in HR Tech will drive new opportunities that will evolve the workforce. These new, emerging solutions are third generation HR solutions that are not ported to the cloud, but born in the cloud.  HR departments are being faced with the need to not only support and integrate multiple existing systems, but also leverage new innovations that best support the needs of their workforce.  Only an open framework can build best-in-class solutions and deliver world class experiences to the workforce. This framework needs to be flexible and adaptable so employees, managers and HR professionals can benefit from the latest innovations.

Open talent suite

The combination of small, agile innovations and large, long established solutions requires a new approach to support HR leaders.
Key requirements include an open system that supports the following:
– Large and small solutions,
– Strategic partnerships and entrepreneurs
– Rapid change to support and energize fast innovation.
– Openness for new and emerging concepts.
– Leveraging existing standards and technologies for easy and efficient entry.
The obvious advantage of such a system is that it not only supports existing solutions but also provides a strategic platform for future growth and enablement. HR Leaders will want the ability to select components best suited to their needs and have the flexibility to consume new, innovative disruptive solutions, some of which don’t yet exist.

So why does that matter, and why am I writing about this? I wanted to share my thoughts and views as we unveil the next generation of the IBM Talent Suite which offers an Open Framework: A new, unified approach to HR solutions and systems.  The Kenexa Open HR ecosystem enables the integration of multiple solutions on the backend and the delivery of a consistent user experience on the front-end for all employees, managers and HR professionals. There is also a new Kenexa Open UX Toolkit to benefit customers, business partners and solution vendors alike providing the tools and platform to build new, innovative solutions.

HR leaders are no longer locked in to one solution with one vendor. As cloud computing and analytics bring unprecedented capability and power to the internet with a new generation of cloud solutions, there needs to be an easy way to build, integrate and deliver new solutions directly in to an open framework.

HR teams need to be able to benefit from the latest tools and technology by integrating the newest and best solutions to meet their needs. Business partners and Solution vendors should have an easy way to build and integrate their solutions with an open framework. The Kenexa Open UX toolkit uses well known, standardized technologies such as html5 css and javascript so there isn’t a steep learning curve. The result is that our customers can have a unified solution comprised of many vendors and the ability to extend it with new capabilities and features as needed. Our business partners and solution vendors can turn their ideas in to production ready solutions.

Open talent suite app integration

Thank you Kevin for the opportunity to publish as a guest here and I am looking forward to comments and feedback.

The Kenexa Open UX Toolkit Business Partner API set is already in beta and will launch shortly.  Please reach out to us today if you have a new, innovative solution that you would like to integrate. We are here to help.  Check out the IBM Social Business toolkit for building socially infused cloud based solutions and execute the solution in an innovative cloud environment. You can start exploring today by going to Bluemix to familiarize yourself with our digital innovation platform and the app dev framework.   IBM Bluemix IBM Bluemix

Hiring mistakes can be costly

Hiring mistakes can be costly in so many ways. According to recent a recent WorkTrends survey from Sheri Feinzig at the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, many hiring mistakes are being made.

They asked 6,200 managers and HR professionals who have hired in the past two years: “if you had it to do over again, what percent of your new hires would you rehire?” On average, only 61% would be rehired. That means nearly four in ten hires were mistakes. The full post can be read here: Study: Don’t be fooled by the wrong metrics

Workforce analytics

-Kevin Cavanaugh

Predicting best fit for high value roles

Successfully engaging employees starts with hiring the right people that are the best fit for the job. It also means understanding how your best employees are doing their work and using that info to screen new people.

The IBM Talent Suite includes scientifically proven behavioral assessments that ensures candidates are well suited to the needs of the job by using analytics and workforce science to predict “best fit” for high value roles, and help people do meaningful work. Hiring the right people is not easy but better testing and tools are yielding some positive results with employers reporting better fit, lower attrition rates and happier teams.
The WSJ had a full page article on this on last week where our very own Jay Dorio talks a little about his work in this area:
WSJ: Today’s Personality Tests Raise the Bar for Job Seekers


IBM Talent Suite as a System of Engagement

The latest McKinsey quarterly study entitled “Digital hives: Creating a surge around change” discusses the benefits of using social technology to bring about meaningful change in an organization. Online communities are one proven approach to help companies engage with employees to accelerate change and the paper discussed several others. Given the way people work and communicate today in the professional and personal lives, social technology enables new opportunities to complement offline, real world events.

The IBM Talent Suite was designed from the bottom up for social. It incorporates IBM Connections, the leading enterprise social platform. This provides social capabilities to enable new hires, recruiters, managers and employees with tools to collaborate, communicate and problem solve.

As I talk to HR leaders they are often skittish about getting involved in the deployment of social tools. In some cases they have security or content management concerns. In others they think it is just not their job. They think need to wait on overall corporate decisions for the CIOs team to get going.

The beauty of social in a cloud based talent suite is you can use what you want and use it for the specific purposes that you think are important. You don’t have to make some long thought out corporate decision. You don’t have to solve every use case. You pick a place to start and get going. Different companies will choose different starting points.

For example:

Recruiters can tap existing employees and their networks to find people with the relevant career interests and expertise. This benefits not only the recruiters but employees can easily learn about career growth opportunities for themselves and can also recommend their peers inside the organization. Some organizations can start with social in this way.

New hires can benefit from social onboarding by connecting with their manager early in the process – as soon as an offer is accepted questions can be answered quickly and the employee can move through the process more easily. They also get some insight in to their team, colleagues and company culture so they can hit the ground running when they start. Some organizations find that this is the right place to begin.

But social can extend beyond new hires. Managers can work with their teams and peers more effectively with alerts about what is going on with their team, news when a new member is joining and better insight and awareness to everything going on that is relevant to the team and its mission. Many organizations will decide this is a great way to build engagement and to follow up on an engagement survey. Companies make significant investments in survey employees to judge engagement. Following up through social tools is a great way to get full value out of that investment.

Our Smarter workforce blog has more info on our solutions and I welcome your questions and comments.

IBM analytics helping the current and future workforce

On St. Patrick’s day, I had the pleasure of attending the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI)  event in Washington DC. IBM has been deeply involved with the research community in Ireland. I was very proud that we were mentioned by the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, in his lunch talk for the work we are doing at the INFANT Centre University College Cork.

Irish Prime Minister and team
Left to Right: Dr Anthony Morrisey (Centre Manager, INFANT).Prof Louise Kenny (Centre Director INFANT), An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Robert McCarthy (Leader Business Development, Innovation & Operations IBM Ireland Lab) and Prof Mark Ferguson (Director General of Science Foundation Ireland).

Speaking at the lunch hosted by Science Foundation Ireland to celebrate scientific collaboration between Ireland and the United States An Taoiseach (Irish for Prime Minister), Enda Kenny TD, said, “I congratulate both IBM and the Infant Research Centre for collaborating on LEANBH. The project demonstrates the value of collaboration between industry and academia. LEANBH has the potential to have a global impact on the medical care offered to expectant mothers”.

This month we announced this collaboration between IBM Ireland and the INFANT Centre (Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research) at University College Cork (UCC). ‘LEANBH’ is a pilot research project providing remote healthcare monitoring to expectant mothers to improve the detection and treatment of hypertension and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that affects approximately 5% of all pregnancies. Hypertension, one indicator of pre-eclampsia, is more common in all expectant mothers.

The vision for LEANBH is to manage hypertension and pre-eclampsia care in the home using remote monitoring of the medical data of the at-risk expectant mothers. By doing so, the project aims to reduce the number of unnecessary follow-on hospital visits, lowering the additional stress and cost of visits to both the patients, and the healthcare system. LEANBH will focus on enabling faster responses and a higher quality of care through automated alerts to doctors. Whilst also improving data sharing among the healthcare team members and offering the ability to integrate with electronic healthcare records.

This is one of several collaborations between IBM Analytics and the INFANT Centre.

LEANBH will develop remote monitoring that will be combined with IBM predictive analytics and data modelling capability.

This is the same technology that our Kenexa Smarter Workforce products are using to analyze recruiting and workforce performance. It is gratifying to see our work make a difference not only to today’s workers, but to the youngest among us who will be the workers of tomorrow and support us in our retirement.

IBM Talent Insights: Behind the Scenes

Traditional Business Intelligence approaches have significant drawbacks. By the time an HR Analyst identifies desirable insights into data and IT has built the required ETL processes, data marts, and dashboards considerable time has been spent and the value of the insight may have been lost. The resulting dashboard may not even fully satisfy the original requirement or it may not have the flexibility to further explore data.

Business Intelligence (BI)  generally satisfies the scenario where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are required but does not allow users to explore or unearth all the data has to offer. Talent Insights is an evolution on BI, designed to empower users to get instant insights into data by asking questions or conversing with the data in natural language. Talent Insights also suggests statistically interesting visualizations to uncover insights from data that would traditionally have gone unnoticed and this is even based on the context of the data that a user is currently looking at. These evolutions on data analysis make it possible for the whole HR organization to delve into the realm normally reserved for the HR Analyst. As Talent Insights evolves we’re also introducing more functionality to bring data science and predictive analytics to a wider community. This will speed the identification of the best data and most interesting conclusions.

Talent Insights dashboard

How is it different from Watson Analytics?

While Talent Insights is built on Watson Analytics, its function is differentiated.  Kenexa’s wealth of experience in the HR domain further enhances the Watson Analytics experience. The cognitive experience is tailored for the HR domain, a customizable interface for defining frequently used questions is included and access control on datasets is provided. Talent Insights enables the HR Organization to provide data for the HR team for analysis without the constraints of a pre-built dashboard. However,  we  provide  templated input datasets to accelerate time to value for Applicant Tracking Systems and HRIS.  We’ll be adding templates for other systems like performance management, learning, and surveys in the future.

Users can still upload and work with their own data and join this with the data provided as part of Talent Insights for  deeper exploration.

This all sounds great, but surely the data still needs some processing?

Yes, this is true but to a lesser extent. Datasets do need to be prepared so that column names and data values are presented in a human-consumable form which generally means transforming internal database column names into a readable form so that they can be interpreted. Some consideration is also needed for the way data is structured and split into files. Talent Insights is then exceptionally good at resolving users’ questions to the appropriate dataset or datasets to answer the questions asked.

Talent Insights been available since November 204. Talk to your Kenexa sales or support contact  to see how you can begin to use this with your own data. See  Jonathan Ferrar’s discussions on Workforce science to learn more about how this fits in to your overall strategy.

You can also check out our latest video on Talent Insights.

Engagement Surveys… hello from Lincoln, NE

Boston has been hammered by snow this month. Just under 5 feet so far in February for a winter total of 8 feet (2.5 meters). However, I have managed to escape for a few respites. I was with a customer in California about 10 days ago and in Lincoln, Nebraska last week. Almost no snow left on the ground in Lincoln and temperatures hovering just around freezing.

The IBM team in Lincoln has a long history and a deep involvement with survey research. Specifically, they create and implement engagement surveys for companies. They measure employee engagement and make recommendations on how to improve productivity by improving engagement. We have done over 30 million surveys in the last 10 years, about 7 million last year.  We have done this work in over 140 different languages. We maintain a normative database that allows our customers to calibrate their results against those of other companies both inside and outside their industry segments.

Our core development  team in Lincoln started working together in 1999.  In those days, we primarily processed paper surveys.  The printers were on the first floor and there were times where our current development managers, who were entry level developers at the time, would “man” the printer by replacing ink or filling paper, and have the horrible task of throwing away thousands of paper surveys if there were ever a mistake found after printing had begun. Their jobs are very different today.

Today we are integrating IBM’s analytical tools with our survey software and normative database. We are using the cognitive capabilities of Watson analytics to explore survey results and drive new insights from surveys and/or normative data. We are replacing a lot of ‘manual labor’ with tools that allow us to gain insight in real time and help our customers get a more accurate and up-to-date view of their workforce and take corrective actions more quickly. More statistics and algorithms than paper and ink.  Here’s a preview of the new mobile experience. We’ve come a long way from paper….

Engagement_survey_mobile2Engagement survey_mobile

Check out some of our videos on engagement surveys on Youtube