An economic climate impossible to ignore and strategies to overcome it were on the agenda during NY HR Week.
By Debbie Bolla
In a year of economic turmoil, the annual pilgrimage of the HRO community to New York City for HRO World last month had thousands of attendees focused on the business climate and the contribution that HR can make. The seventh annual event, the two-day HRO World saw some of its usual fanfare diminished by the somber economic times and lower attendance as a result.
Despite the challenges organizations around the world face, the event was still the center of the HRO world, and it still drew considerable attendance, especially by public sector HR professionals, who also attended the annual NY HR Week that took place in conjunction. They also enjoyed the learning and networking opportunities offered through numerous conference sessions and on the trade floor. In addition, the HRO industry celebrated its best and brightest with the annual HROA Gala and Awards, which recognized the most influential contributors among buyers, providers, and advisors.
The tone of the event was set on the first day by New York Times labor and workplace columnist Steven Greenhouse, who is the author of the book, “The Big Squeeze: Tough Time for the American Worker.” He pointed out the sobering state of the economy and how HR can be an arm to revalorize the American worker. Questioning whether the decline in the treatment of middle-class employees is the cause or the result of the economic crisis, he reinforced the importance of HR executives to acknowledge how results are achieved collaboratively.
The economic theme continued throughout the event. Phil Fersht, director of global business and outsourcing services for AMR Research, explained how companies and their service providers are taking steps to improve business execution through outsourcing HR, finance, supply chain, and IT business processes. Citing a recent study that found the two top human capital priorities are talent acquisition and employee performance management, he noted that the level of outsourcing remains low, despite its cost-savings aspects.
While talent acquisition is a critical focus of companies that is increasingly being outsourced, the study showed that 65 percent of businesses maintain the function in-house. Other statistics of note include 49 percent of companies keep payroll in-house; 10 percent are looking to outsource payroll this year; and 10 to 15 percent are considering a shared-services function. He said in today’s economic climate most business executives are taking longer to evaluate the business value of the proposition before making a decision.
A highlight of the first day was an industry panel discussion moderated by conference program chairman Elliot Clark, CEO of Crossing Media. The panel included industry leaders such as Christian Baader of SAP AG; Rosemary Collins of TPI; John Gibson of Convergys; Cay Gliebe of NorthgateArinso; John G. Higgins of Accenture; Mary Sue Rogers of IBM; and Mark Squires of ACS. Clark questioned the industry veterans about globalization myths, the war for talent, the status of enterprise HRO, the rise of the mid-market segment, new technology platforms, and future development. The first day culminated with the HROA Gala and Awards.
The public sector came into focus on the second day with a presentation by Michael E. Smith of TALX Corporation and Anthony J. Vegliante, chief HR officer of the U.S. Postal Service. The session highlighted how the nation’s second largest employer (800,000 employees) maintains an integrated HR system by keeping some functions in-house while outsourcing others. Through selective outsourcing, the U.S.P.S. has incurred more than $120 million in annual savings.
A growing trend—offshoring—was examined by a look a Qualcomm’s money-saving move to outsource to India. The technology leader discussed its approach to offshoring the conversion of its HRMS to a Java platform through a partnership with Tata Consultancy. Challenges such as the time difference, and benefits such as a quicker return on investment and cost savings, as well as tips that encourage a smooth and effective partnership were covered during the session.