An Exercise in Trendspotting
Several important and transformational themes can be gleaned from this year's HR Tech speaking proposals.
By Steve Boese
I've spent the better part of the last three months creating the program for the upcoming HR Technology® Conference running Oct. 7 through 10 in Las Vegas, and the process of evaluating speaking proposals, talking with HRe leaders about their technology initiatives, developing content ideas with industry thought leaders and making the final program decisions has been both challenging and instructive. There were a record number of speaking proposals submitted for the upcoming event, a testament to the increasing strategic importance of technology in human resources, and to the growing number, type and diversity of technology solutions available to organizations today.
Additionally, the review, development and selection process for the HR Tech program provides unique and valuable insight into some important trends that are providing the impetus for organizational HR and business transformation projects and the kinds of HR technology solutions that are supporting these projects. And, because it is likely that these trends will remain important and predictive for the balance of 2014 and beyond, I thought it would make sense to share some of what I've learned from reviewing more than 250 speaking proposals, and offer some thoughts about what these trends might mean for HR leaders more generally.
Trend No. 1: Data is in the driver's seat.
During the review/selection process for HR Tech, it quickly became apparent that the most significant technology-related trend underscoring many of the submissions and case studies is the use of data to empower, inform and enable HR and business leaders. Call it a long-term effect of popular books such as Moneyball, (whose "real-life" principal characters have been regular speakers on the HR conference circuit for several years now) and the election-prediction success of well-known stats geek Nate Silver, but there is no question that applying data to HR and people management has never been more in the forefront for HR leaders than it is today.
At the conference this October, we will hear from HR and recruiting leaders on how this trend toward data-driven decision-making is turning up in numerous HR and talent-management processes. Some of the specifics that will be addressed are the increased use of predictive assessments in the candidate- screening process, more sophisticated matching algorithms to find better matches between jobs and people, and even the use of detailed workforce data on hours worked and compensation in order to inform Affordable Care Act compliance awareness and strategy. And, of course, detailed talks on workforce planning, developing an analytics strategy, and the latest and best technologies in these areas will be a big part of the program once again.
Trend No. 2: HR is becoming more like marketing.
While the need for HR leaders to become more "numbers" oriented and work more closely with their colleagues in finance and accounting has been both popular and accepted for some time now, recently, the need for a new C-suite collaboration for CHROs has emerged -- that with marketing. Marketing and HR are traditionally the two key functions concerned with people in a company. They both focus on how to attract and engage people in the company mission. In the age of social media and networking, the lines between an organization's various stakeholders -- customers, employees, community members -- are beginning to blur. And with the increased competition for specialized and in-demand talent, especially as the U.S. economy continues to rebound from recession, HR and recruiting leaders have to be ever-more concerned with branding, messaging, engagement and image. At the conference, we will hear from some of the leading talent-acquisition practitioners from large and small organizations on how they are applying traditional marketing concepts -- and even technologies -- to engage communities, candidates, applicants and employees.
Trend No. 3: HR technology comes in many sizes.
One of the things that became really clear as I reviewed the hundreds of conference speaking submissions -- and had conversations with dozens of HR leaders and their solution-provider partners -- was the substantial variety and complexity that comprises HR technology today.
There is an often-repeated axiom that states, "Every company is a technology company today," and the HR equivalent of that statement could be, "Every company can benefit from HR technology." So while we will hear HR-technology-transformation stories and case studies from several Fortune 500 type companies, we will also learn how smaller and even some start-up firms are extracting value from their HR technologies and, in turn, making better people-management decisions. Certainly, the growth of HR solutions deployed in the cloud has made more and more powerful HR solutions available to organizations of all sizes, and this year at HR Tech, you'll see this trend develop even further. And, of course, social technology, mobile HR solutions and how HR technology helps build a culture of collaboration will also be a major part of the proceedings.
While "traditional" HR technology solutions for payroll, compliance support and even traditional performance management remain important and essential for HR leaders and organizations, it is in these new trends where we are seeing both excitement and opportunity. For many organizations, even small and medium-sized, the need to drive competitive advantage through people is propelling investment of time and resources toward more modern and innovative HR technologies.
Whether your objective is finding ways to make more data-informed human capital decisions, thinking like a marketer and positioning your organization as an "employer of choice," and learning from the experiences of companies both large and small, chances are there will be something at HR Tech this October that can help you meet those challenges.
Hope to see you there!
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 email@example.com.