Inside HR Tech Column

5 Big Themes in HR Tech

In advance of the upcoming HR Technology Conference, here are five important developments that are transforming the HR technology landscape.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
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The 19th annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition® is fast approaching (Oct. 4 through 7 in Chicago) and, in my capacity as program co-chair, I get a unique opportunity to talk with dozens of executives from HR technology solution providers, organizational HR leaders, industry analysts and thought leaders as I review and prepare the conference agenda.

Through these many conversations, solution demonstrations and my participation in industry events, I try to get an overall idea on which trends, themes and important ideas are driving the practice of HR and are reflected in the HR technology landscape. This year, I'd like to share what I think are the five big themes and trends in HR tech, what they suggest for HR leaders and offer a little bit of a preview of how these themes will be covered in the upcoming HR Tech Conference.

1. Making Sense of HR and People Data

If there has been any single, consistently cited HR trend in the last several years it's the increased use of data and analytics in the practice of HR and talent management. This trend is still in the early stages of more mainstream and common adoption in organizations, and once again at this year's HR Tech Conference we will focus on some success stories of organizations that are making early and important progress in implementing analytical approaches and technologies to inform and improve people processes and talent-management decisions. As analytics and data-driven capabilities become more accessible and available in HR technology solutions, it will be critical for HR leaders to stay up-to-date on these latest developments, to learn from early-adopter organization successes, and to position themselves and their HR teams for what is coming next.

Featured Session: Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Hiring and Retention at Foot Locker

2. Engaging and Retaining Talent

Just as analytics remains an HR "trend" that does not show signs of diminishing in importance any time soon, the organizational challenges of engaging and retaining the best and most talented employees continues to rank high on the agendas of most HR and business leaders. As the economy continues to improve, and unemployment rates decline to near "full employment" levels (at least in the United States), talent management has likely never been more critical to the success of the modern organization. The stubborn skills mismatch in many in-demand job roles only adds to the need to improve talent-management practices. The HR technology marketplace, of course, is responding to these challenges, with an evolving set of solutions to help HR leaders and organizations with these important talent concerns.

Featured Session: Taking Talent Management from Antiquated to Innovative at White Castle

3. The Continuing Impact of Marketing on HR and HR Tech

A few years ago, we began to see more collaboration between marketing and HR in the areas of recruitment advertising, employment branding and candidate experience. Today, most HR and talent-acquisition leaders have seen the value of this increased amount of integration and collaboration, and the adoption of many marketing principles in HR and recruiting processes. It's not just Candidate Relationship Management systems where we see this manifest in HR technology -- in the last few years new HR tech solutions for managing HR and recruiting content marketing, crafting, shaping, and communicating the employer brand, and helping employees share their unique career stories with the outside world have emerged.

Featured Session: The Employer Value Proposition: What the CHRO Needs to Know

4. Succeeding with Modern HR Technology

While the migration of most modern HR technology solutions to SaaS-based delivery models has made certain aspects of implementation, deployment and adoption simpler and faster for HR organizations, there remains fundamental challenges to succeeding with technology that HR leaders must continue to consider. A well-designed strategy, control of the scope of the implementation, and robust communication and change management all go a long way to ensuring the organization's investments in technology solutions and process re-design will produce the desired benefits. And there are practical considerations as well, such as how to ensure your processes and approaches to vendor solution evaluation are sound.

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Featured Session: Getting the Most Value From the Vendor Demo: The Experts Tell You How

5. Design and User Experience Comes to the Forefront

In the last decade or so, loosely tied to the introduction of the original iPhone in 2007, the importance of design, usability and user experience has increased not just in the technologies we use in our personal lives, but also with the technologies that we rely on in our workplaces.

HR technologies, particularly ones that are designed to be used by "all employees" (benefits enrollment and portals, feedback and recognition tools, scheduling and attendance, etc.), now have to not just provide a baseline of features and capabilities, but they must also be designed and developed in a manner that encourages universal adoption. That means the solutions must meet, or even exceed, popular consumer technologies in terms of layout, appearance, ease of understanding, and "time to value", i.e., the length of time it takes to provide value to users. Employees aren't going to adopt technologies that can't provide this value, as defined by the employee, in a fast, efficient and easy to understand manner.

Featured Session: Design Matters: Building the Next Generation of HR Technology

As you can tell, it certainly is an exciting and challenging time for HR leaders seeking to utilize modern HR technology solutions to help solve organizational and talent challenges, better engage their workforces and improve business outcomes.

The HR technology market continues to innovate and adapt in order to help HR leaders achieve their goals -- and for HR and business leaders to find technologies that meet their specific and unique challenges has never been better.

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


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