#HRTechConf – We’re All Technologists Now!


The final keynote at the recent HR Technology Conference was from Jason Averbook, who delivered an overview of HR technology – where we were, where we are now and where we should be going.

His rallying call was that we need re-imagination – we’re getting bright shiny new technology but we’re doing old school things with it. To emphasise this point he ran through 5 generations of technological development, the 4 different eras of what we’ve called HR, and concluded that despite all that change we’re still basically doing what we’ve always done.

He also had news for the HR professionals who think that technology isn’t for them – We’re all technologists!Do you call IT when you want to search Google?” he asked. “Who keeps their smartphone nearby when they go to bed at night?” got a clear majority show of hands.

Another show of hands revealed that only 5 people in an audience of many hundreds were from the payroll function, yet payroll is usually the first HR process that we get technology for. A couple of comments on the twitter channel questioned whether this was because the process didn’t innovate – but I’m not sure that’s true.

When I first started work I got paid cash on a weekly basis, then by cheque on a monthly basis, and more recently by direct transfer. I used to be given payslips with my cash/cheque but now I have to log in to a system to find them. And because I don’t do it regularly I invariably have to reset passwords – coming up with a new on each time! Payroll evolves much the same as any other process, yet where were the specialists at this show?

Jason also touched on the irregularity with which people interact with their internal technology. He asked when we last got married, had a child or moved house, as these are three key events when we will interact with the HR technology at work. Clearly for most people these events happen very rarely – maybe every few years – giving them little reason to interact with that technology, yet most HR professionals will complain that employees aren’t using the tech. Again you need it to do different things if you want more interaction.

The importance of measuring for now was another key point. Performance reviews, engagement, development are all measured and reviewed historically, yet employees are more interested in what’s currently happening. The technology for real time measurement is available so why not use it for now as opposed to what’s already gone.

Some other points that Jason covered:

  • People come to work and expect to get connected, most people keep their phone within 3 feet at all times of the day and night, yet we often deny them that connectivity.
  • If you go to a website that sucks, you don’t stay on it for too long. But do you ever go back to see if it’s better? Probably not, this is why businesses need to get their tech right.
  • For possibly the first time consumers now have better technology than businesses do. Expectations are raised.
  • The Cloud doesn’t change cultures – it’s just a delivery mechanism.
  • Give them real time access to social channels – or they’ll post on Glassdoor!
  • “HR sucks at simple”. Contentious, but it got a reaction.

The closing call was ‘If interaction is not embedded in the process then it won’t get done’ with a plea to ‘think simple’.

Jason is a good speaker who puts his points across with energy and simplicity. I took away a clear message that too many HR professionals see technology as something that isn’t really their thing, but a box that needs to be ticked. Clearly everyone in the room used technology constantly in their personal lives and there shouldn’t be a disconnect when it comes to embedding it in the workplace.

My view is that the things we look for in the technology we use in our personal lives – ease, relevance, convenience, enhanced experience – should also apply to the technology we use in our working lives. Technology should not be a barrier to getting work done but should be an enabler to getting a better job done. As Jessica Merrell tweeted ‘innovation & technology change isn’t just the vendor’s responsibility – amen!’

Laurie Ruettiman’s blog on the automation of HR is worth a read – ‘you might want to think about understanding the technology that’s about to upset your apple cart. If you know your enemy, you can destroy it’

After all, it’s never really the computer that says no….

#HRTechConf – 5 Observations From Across The Pond

HRTech panel

Recently back from Vegas having attended my first HR Technology Conference in the US…a three day extravaganza of exhibitors and demos, content and parties, and most importantly, connections and networking.

I was lucky enough to have an access all areas blogger’s pass so here are some of my random thoughts on what stood out for me as a first time attendee…from a UK perspective, obviously!

1) Its Huge. The Expo was larger than anything I have seen in the UK and the press room alone was big enough to hold a one day conference! Massive scale but still with a personal touch as everyone I came across took the time to network, get to know you and talk enthusiastically about their particular area of expertise/interest.

We’ve all walked round expo floors dodging glances from slick sales people manning the stands and looking to collect business cards and email addresses to help them spam you with messages and calls. I wasn’t sure how this one would go but have to say that every exhibitor I spoke to wanted to engage in a conversation (OK, maybe it was my accent) and talk you through their product, usually displaying a real passion and pride in what they do. That may be because my inbuilt anti-sales radar kept me away from the others.

2) Bloggers Count. At this event bloggers are important. We had our own room, sponsored by Dice, and numbered about 30. I remember Rob Jones writing about how having blogger as opposed to a sales prospect’s job title on his badge at CIPD11 elicited a more ambiguous approach from exhibitors. Not here. Most businesses wanted to engage the bloggers and tell us about their tech and what it could do. They seemed to see us as important conduits of their message. They scheduled meetings with us, made sure we were at all the parties and receptions, sought our views on trends and generally saw us as a valuable, and influential, channel…something UK event organisers should take note of. I really appreciated, and learned from, time spent with Glassdoor, RoundPegg, Success Factors and MTM Recognition.

The impression I got was that bloggers were seen as an important part of the conference and an important link for exhibitors and speakers.

3) Swag and Parties. From some of the blogs I had read covering previous years I was expecting to need an extra suitcase for all the swag on display – I’m a sucker, I really did think there would be t-shirts with slogans like ‘HR chicks/dudes do it better’ ! As it was, amongst the stress balls, pens and flashing party specs I will make use of my Cornerstone on Demand shirt proudly proclaiming that I’m a Millennial at Work (I took a survey, honest) and my limited edition ‘Seize the Night’ Virgin Pulse launch one. Not forgetting my SumTotal iPhone/iPad charger, Glassdoor lip salve, mints and torch/bottle opener key ring, Technomedia USB, Broadbean beer cooler and many more!

The parties…well, I’ve shared what I need to on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! There were many of them, often 3 or 4 on at the same time, offering part networking and part fun. No expense spared either. My top three were courtesy of Reputation Capital/Blogging4Jobs/Technomedia, Jobvite and Virgin Pulse/Starr Conspiracy. If you really need reasons to go to this conference then the parties are as good a good place as any to start!

4) Content. The actual conference part provided me with a mix of great, good and average. The keynotes from Don Tapscott and Jason Averbrook were excellent. The panel sessions were good value too. Some of the breakout presentations were less insightful though – maybe I was spoiled by attending HRevolution the day before as there was certainly more energy, ideas and insight at that event than in some parts of the larger conference. Will be interesting to see how this shifts with Steve Boese now at the helm of HR Tech.

Of course the real big noises of the content show were that perennial fave ‘talent management’ which jockeyed for overuse with the younger rising star ‘big data’. For me both are default terms that cover for a lack of more interesting conversations…would have been good to have a deeper dive into both these areas particularly with reference to the end user. We heard how both Amazon and LinkedIn know more about employees than their employer does but no real insight as to the relevance and impact of this.

For me the three most interesting, and encouraging, technologies at the event were about sourcing & candidate identification, using social reach and conversations to provide something a lot deeper – Dice’s Open Web, and two emerging businesses that didn’t exhibit but were certainly active participants in the conversations – eitalent and entelo.

5) Connections and Conversations. This was a huge part of the conference experience and one of the strongest. Some really great conversations and insights were shared, with the opportunity to have face time with many people who are often just avatars on a social networking platform, being a particular highlight. It’s difficult to put a value on this kind of interaction, but I know that this part made the whole trip worthwhile for me.

As you may have gathered, I enjoyed the experience. The interactions, insights and social aspects were hugely important. Technology is an enabler, a delivery platform that is now embedded in almost every action that HR and Recruiters take on a daily basis. From payroll to on-boarding, rewards to succession planning every professional needs to understand how technology can help deliver an improved and enhanced service, and experience, to current, past and future employees, managers and directors.

This event was a great place to start – I’m planning on coming back next year!

(Image from Trish McFarlane)

What I’m Looking For at #HRTechConf

I’ll be spending the next few days at the HR Technology Conference – the first time I’ve been able to go.

I’m lucky enough to be part of the blog squad so have been thinking about what new trends and innovations I’ll be looking for.

In recent months I’ve been at a recruiting leaders round table, as well as two FIRM (Forum for Inhouse Recruitment Managers) conferences, and at all three events current recruiting pain points have been discussed. Invariably they are very similar, whichever group of delegates has been bought together. The key ones, unsurprisingly, have been:

ATS – specifically how to get one to do what you want them to do
Creating a positive experience for everyone who applies
Reducing the volume of unsuitable candidates tied in with better screening
Talent pipelines
Improving internal mobility
Difference between generating names and creating candidates
Hiring for potential vs hiring for now

Many of those are linked to technology so wearing my recruiter’s hat I’m going to be looking at how tech suppliers can help ease that pain. And how they can give a better experience to applicants and candidates.

From an HR perspective I’m keen to see how the employee experience can be enhanced. From attraction and nurturing, through on-boarding and performance management to internal collaboration, personal development, promotion and succession, I’ll be interested to see if what works for the employer is also creating a great experience for the workforce. And how technology can help not hinder.

As the level of connectivity, and the demand for an experience that has a positive, shareable impact, all grow it will be interesting to see if technology that offers a streamlined, cost effective and superior service to the company can also create an enhanced experience for the end user – the job seekers, recruiters and employees.

Gonna Set My Soul on Fire With Some HR Technology

About the time you’re getting the chicken and roasties out the oven this Sunday I’ll probably be starting to jam your Twitter timelines with talk of Gen Y mythbusters, HR improv, hickeys and employer brand (not at the same time I hope), not to mention passion and great places to work.

Yep, that means I’ll be hanging out with some of my US HR friends at HRevolution. (#HRevolution)

And by the time Coronation Street starts on Monday I’ll be immersed in radical openness and workforce analytics. I’ll be at the HR Technology Conference too. (#HRTechConf)

So apologies in advance if I get a bit carried away with this stuff.

I’ll be joining an awesome blogging team and don’t want to let the side down so I’ll do my best to make sense of it all and write about it here.

According to Blogging4Jobs I’m in for 3 days of conference sessions, expo hall madness, and parties galore – sounds like it might be a tough gig, but someone’s gotta try and do it 😉 And this time there’s also a wedding (#ZuCoWedding)

Maybe that’s what Elvis meant with how I wish that there were more than the twenty-four hours in the day, cause even if there were forty more I wouldn’t sleep a minute away

I’ve been to Chicago and Atlanta for HRevolution in the past so I sort of know what to expect, but this is my first time at HRTech – can’t wait to experience it.

If you’re reading this and planning to be there – then let’s make sure we meet up.

And if you’re in the UK I hope I give you some insight into what’s going on through Twitter and this blog.

I promise that what happens in Vegas will stay on the blog…well, the bits you need to know about anyway 😉


(Image via @Jeremywaite)