Big Themes in Tech
Here are a few important HR trends that need to be top of mind for HR leaders as they navigate the rest of 2014 and beyond.
By Steve Boese
Businesses and workplaces are constantly evolving, but it seems that in just the last few years (post 2007 or so, corresponding with the release of the first generation iPhone), the pace of change is continually accelerating. This technology-driven development has been described with statements such as:
Software is eating the world;
Every company is a technology company; and
The most successful organizations in the future will be the ones that can manage and thrive during the ongoing digital transformation.
And here is an observation from me: Your pre-teen kids are almost certainly far more proficient with technology than you were at their age. (Heck, mine might even be more proficient with tech than I am today.) And these kids are soon to be your newest candidates and employees.
Workplaces of all types are becoming increasingly defined and differentiated, and their outcomes determined by technology. No organization is immune to these changes and challenges. For today's HR leader and, perhaps more importantly, for the successful organization of the next 20 years, closing the technology proficiency gap both personally and organizationally will be among your most important challenges you'll face.
A careful review of this year’s HR Tech conference program sheds light on the many ways that progressive HR leaders and successful organizations are rising to meet these challenges. What trends and themes are being revealed?
Data is driving HR and talent management
Perhaps half of this year's program could be summarized thusly, "Learn how XYZ has taken a more data-driven approach to (insert HR function/process here)." The importance of data, the strategies to gather, compile, assess and cull meaning from that data, and the ways that this enhanced understanding informs people and talent and business strategies is a major theme of this year's conference. Large organizations like ConAgra and Unilever are using data, analytics, and the modern tools that have become increasingly available for HR and business leaders to efficiently manage this barrage of data to make more effective and efficient people decisions and set talent strategies. In addition, the CHRO of an organization with perhaps the most complete, robust and valuable set of data about talent, namely LinkedIn, will present on how HR leaders can drive their organizations to become more data-driven and data rich.
While not strictly a technology story, (but one that is becoming more heavily influenced by technology), the continued confluence of marketing and HR, and what that means to functions like talent acquisition, employer branding and even learning, is one of the most interesting underlying themes in HR and technology today. At HR Tech, we will feature content and more importantly, interactive conversations from HR and talent-acquisition leaders from organizations such as Twitter, Mastercard, Glassdoor, Lego, IBM and more on the ways that modern HR is increasingly borrowing and leveraging from marketing to execute talent strategies. Whether it is connecting with potential candidates on public social-networking sites, building communities of expertise and empowering employees to share knowledge and insights, or simply aligning the organization’s public or consumer brand with their employer-value proposition, HR is taking more and more from the marketing playbook each year.
Technology is transforming organizations
The idea of technology, especially HR technology, serving as a critical component and even a catalyst of larger organizational transformation will be showcased at the conference in several contexts. Some are large organizations like Bloomin’ Brands, Kimberly-Clark, and Desination XL that turned to modern HR technology solutions to increase efficiency, standardize processes, and empower employees and managers alike. Others are smaller but growing organizations like New Belgium Brewing, SendGrid and Red Hat. While the specifics of the HR technologies, and the specific business challenges they are meant to address, differ in each of these examples (expansion, international growth, assimilation of acquired companies, etc.), the underlying business-transformation messages are consistent. HR technologies are providing organizations with the tools they need to execute on business and strategic objectives that would be almost impossible to achieve without modern solutions.
If you have any doubt about the importance of HR technology and the need for the workforce technology experts in their organizations, I'd like to remind you what HR industry legend Dave Ulrich had to say about the importance of technology acumen in describing the key competencies needed for success in HR:
"To be successful HR professionals must be technology proponents who use technology for efficiency, to connect employees, and to leverage new communication channels, e.g., social media."
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.
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