3 Lessons of the Industry

Here are three of the most important lessons learned about the HR-technology landscape uncovered by programming the world's largest conference in the space.

By Steve Boese

The last four years I've spent as the co-chair of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition® (Oct. 4 through 7 in Chicago) have provided me with a unique perspective and view of HR-technology innovation, insight into the major trends and shifts in HR-technology solutions, and a better understanding of how the most successful organizations are applying these solutions in their enterprises to achieve superior business results. The last four years have been spent taking software demonstrations from hundreds of innovative HR-technology start-ups, meeting with and attending customer conferences and analyst meetings with many of the industry's leading solution providers, and perhaps most importantly, talking with HR and business leaders who have presented at the conference about their challenges and successes. These experiences have given me a large data set to consider when I think about how I would approach HR and workforce technology if I were back in the role of selecting, implementing and supporting such solutions for an enterprise.

With this year's conference just about a week away, I thought it would be interesting and hopefully informative for HR leaders if I shared what I think are (at least some of) the most important pieces of advice about the HR-technology market and how HR leaders can best increase their chances of success with their investments and programs. These are not in any particular order of priority or importance, just a few things that come to mind as I think back on all the technology I have seen and people I have learned from these last four years.

Lesson One: If the HR solutions in your organization can't communicate with each other, they are probably less valuable by half.

There's been a big trend these last two years, in particular, for many of the leading HR-technology solution providers to create application marketplaces that are more open and easier for HR and HRIT leaders to use to better integrate different solutions from different providers. These marketplaces -- from providers such as ADP, CornerstoneOnDemand and iCIMS, among others -- are explicitly designed to make supporting and complementary solutions work more seamlessly with the "core" HR solutions such as payroll and applicant tracking, to name just two. This trend toward openness and easier integration is likely to continue as HR leaders recognize the additional value and cost savings of simpler, faster services supported and backed by the providers themselves, not just the customer's own IT resources.

Lesson Two: Analytics may not have taken over HR, but what is coming in the next evolution of analytics just might.

At previous HR Tech conferences, we devoted considerable time and attention to HR analytics. But even in 2016, it still seems that the organizations presenting their analytics success stories at the conference are still in the decided minority, and that most organizations have yet to embrace and implement many, if any, of these analytics-heavy technologies. But I actually think the next phase of innovation in this area will make applying and getting value from HR analytics easier and faster. Most of the major HR-technology providers (Oracle, Workday, SAP, Ultimate, ADP and more) have taken significant steps to improve the availability, accessibility, applicability and relevance of their HR solutions. Expect the next phase of HR-analytics solutions to be better embedded in HR and talent-management systems and capable of providing HR and business leaders with data on historical trends, insights into what might happen next and support and counsel on what specific actions to take. These analytics solutions will be easier to understand, implement and help convince skeptical managers about their value.

Lesson Three: The best, most successful HR-technology programs and projects are the ones that put the real, frontline, in-the-trenches employees at the center of all the important decisions about new HR technologies.

Almost every successful HR-technology project that has been featured at HR Tech in the last few years has had "people" and their needs, goals, desires and expectations at the forefront. Enterprise technology has long had a reputation as being hard to use, designed for the back-office power users only, and purchased by senior executives who are often far removed from the day-to-day challenges the vast majority of employees face. The best, most innovative HR-technology solutions and programs are flipping that script, making users and their needs a top priority, and designing and deploying technologies with them in mind. Some great examples from this year's program come to us from organizations including Capital One, which will share its technology transformation to improve candidates' experiences; Morton Salt, which has leveraged modern technology to enhance employee well-being and wellness; and Foot Locker, which has taken a data-driven approach to hiring and assessment that has resulted in a better cultural fit and overall team cohesiveness in its retail locations. All of these examples (and there are many others in the conference's agenda) show how a "person-centric" HR-technology approach can result in lasting success.

Building the program for HR Tech is always challenging, but it does provide me with a wonderful ability to get a sense of what is trending in the market and gain a better understanding of how these HR-technology trends are impacting some of the world's most successful organizations.

While all organizations' specific circumstances and requirements are unique to them only, and simply attempting to copy what one of the successful ones is doing with HR technology is likely to produce a less-than-desirable outcome, we can all learn something from the combination of innovative solutions with smart, driven and capable HR and business leaders.

Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE’s HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.


Sep 27, 2016
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