Choose the Future

The co-chair of the 20th annual HR Tech Conference offers a sneak preview of this year's event.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
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In early June, I participated as the host and a speaker at the second annual HR Tech China Conference in Shanghai. During that event, it became clear that the HR and business professionals in attendance had made a conscious choice to adopt an attitude that their current set of systems and processes were not going to be adequate to help them and their organizations with the challenges ahead.

The vast majority of these HR leaders were from Chinese companies, were eager to learn about the latest in HR technology from both local and global providers, network with their like-minded peers in a wonderful setting, and hear (and share) insights from HR, business and technology experts. In the words of one of the welcome dinner speakers, these HR professionals choosing to attend HR Tech China were not just choosing to educate themselves for today, they were, in fact, "choosing the future."

I loved that expression so much so that it continues to resonate with me months later. The expression and what it suggests is applicable for HR, business, and technology professionals everywhere who are embracing new tools, technologies, and solutions to help them and their organizations prepare for and thrive in today's and tomorrow's dynamic business climate.

As HR leaders, you "choose the future" when you seek out new ways of engaging with talented people, better methods of providing employees with compelling career plans and stories, and by embracing (and experimenting with) modern solutions that harness big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more -- all to enhance your organization's ability to succeed and to further your own development as a progressive HR leader.

This idea of choosing the future was one I had in mind, even before I heard the phrase articulated that clearly, as I worked on developing the program for the HR Technology Conference and Exposition® scheduled for October 10 -13, 2017 in Las Vegas. HR Tech has always been at an important level about the future -- of the workplace, of human resources, and of the ways that people interact with technology, their colleagues and their organizations overall. For many -- if not most organizations -- these varied futures will be greatly influenced by technology. It could be essential or core HR and workforce management tools, new tech that allows leaders to better understand the engagement and sentiment of the employees, or highly analytical technologies that can actually "predict" the future itself, and many others as well. These are the technologies and the stories that we will bring to the forefront at HR Tech this October and the ones that will help HR leaders navigate what can seem at times a challenging future.

Let's take a look at just a few examples of what "choosing the future" might look like for an HR leader and organization, and how you can learn more about these opportunities at HR Tech.

HR Transformations Continue

In the last several years the idea of "HR transformation" has been the subject of many organizational initiatives and corresponding HR- technology programs. While each organization's HR transformation journey is unique, they all have some common themes.

What most HR leaders have discovered is that choosing the future is just about impossible without a platform built on modern, usually cloud-based HR technologies and service delivery models. At HR Tech in October, we will showcase several HR transformation case studies and stories from diverse organizations -- different industries, company sizes, and with differing challenges, motivation and goals for these tech-driven programs.

Lifespan Health, for instance, leveraged modern HR technology to transform its HR service delivery, while Cummins Inc. relied on new technology to re-imagine its talent-management processes and outcomes, while Bristol-Myers Squibb transformed its global benefits while moving to a unified HR ecosystem in the cloud.

Data Tell the Story

If the first step, or at least an early step, of choosing the future is to modernize and transform HR platforms and service delivery models, then the next step is to figure out how to make sense of and to derive value from all of the HR, people and operational data that these modern HR systems collect.

In the past, a large portion of HR data analysis and effort was spent on simply collecting and compiling data manually, usually from multiple HR systems, reviewing and vetting the data for accuracy and completeness, and finally re-purposing the data into different and, again, often manually entered systems and formats for further analysis and communication.

But most HR transformations that incorporate modern, cloud-based and better integrated suites of HR-technology solutions are making many of the manual steps, tedious data reviews and reconciliations, and bespoke or one-off report preparation processes a thing of the past. Now most modern HR systems provide powerful, flexible and real-time (or near real-time) access to HR and people data on a scale that was previously only an HR leader's dream.

But these technology transformations, and the robust data sets that they make available present HR leaders with a new and different set of challenges. Namely, how to truly make sense of the HR and organizational people data, how to interpret what trends are meaningful and predictive, and perhaps most importantly, how to distill the voluminous data sets into a powerful narrative that can support organizational initiatives and lead to better HR and people decision making? 

So at the conference, we will showcase many of the HR-technology industry's leading thinkers on HR data, analytics, and how to make the connection between the data and the actions that the data drives the organization to take. Infor's Trish McFarlane, for example, will discuss how to make the connection between HR data and the "story" that HR leaders need to tell the C-suite to inspire action. HR leaders from FirstService Residential will share how to use HR data to speak the language of the business while improving the strategic value of HR to the organization; and industry expert and analyst Holger Mueller will help connect the dots between cutting-edge innovations in artificial intelligence and HR data for decision making.

Diversity and Inclusion at the Forefront

If there is one workplace or HR topic that has risen most significantly in importance and attention in 2017, it would have to be diversity and inclusion. We have seen almost countless stories this year that reveal issues as such as lack of diversity in leadership and in technology roles, cultures that turn a blind eye to ongoing harassment and hostility toward women and underrepresented groups, and an investment community ecosystem that has largely ignored if not perpetuated many of these problems themselves.

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These issues, while not solely HR issues, often become HR's to address. At HR Tech we will present our "Women in HR Technology" summit on the first day of the conference (see sidebar). This event, new last year, presents a forum for leading HR and HR-technology executives, emerging women leaders in tech, as well as CEOs and founders of technology companies, all of whom will share their personal and professional insights on women in technology and how organizations can do a better job of finding, recruiting, retaining and developing women in technology roles. Additionally, we will showcase several emerging HR- technology solutions that can support organizations with these initiatives. Finally, we will present a compelling discussion about diversity, inclusion and the role of HR and HR technology with a group of leading chief diversity and inclusion leaders.

What's New and What's Next

As has always been the practice at the HR Tech Conference, we will once again showcase the newest, most innovative and potentially most important HR technology solutions from the world's leading HR technology providers. The "Awesome New Technologies for HR" session will see the latest in innovations from several of the large, global HR tech providers that you know well.

The 2nd annual "Discovering the Next Great HR Technology Company" will give a platform to a group of HR technology startups doing disruptive and breakthrough work to provide HR leaders and organizations with new tools and approaches to HR and workplace challenges.

We'll also share the results of the third annual HR Tech Hackathon, where teams of developers and designers from several HR technology providers will work alongside conference attendees to imagine, design and build brand new solutions in less than 48 hours. Add in the growing Startup Pavilion in the HR Tech Expo and you can see there is no better place to learn about, see and touch HR technology solutions that will help guide you and your organization forward.

The last 20 years of workplace technology evolution and development have been incredibly profound, and I expect the next 20 will be similarly innovative, important and meaningful. As I look forward to the 20th Annual HR Tech Conference in October, I am encouraged and enthusiastic about the future of the workplace and the technologies that continue to demonstrate innovation in the field, and the opportunity for HR professionals to lead their organizations into this future.

Read also:

'Women in HR Technology' Returns


For more information on the 20th Annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition®, to be held Oct. 10 through 13 at the Venetian, Las Vegas, visit


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