Having just sat through 28 briefings these last few days, I can honestly say that I am ready for my flight out of Vegas later today. I am exhausted. My brain is full. I’m still processing all the announcements, conversations and information. The 2014 HR Technology Conference was a busy one with lots of new announcements, products and enhancements. It just felt more busy. We are at a turning point finally where technology is helping put HR and recruiting practitioners into the driver’s seat.
I consider myself an industry Anthropologist of sorts which is my educational background afterall. Briefings consist of a 15-25 minute meeting with an HR technology where I hear the newest enhancements, product updates and partnerships that are happening. It’s a quick snapshot of where they have been and where they are headed for the rest of this year into 2015. Meetings are sometimes online demos but most involve casual conversation and a quick slide deck to get me up to speed.
New Interloopers in HR Technology
One thing I noticed this year is the larger number of products who are entering from outside the marketplace. I sat with a number of companies who are entering the HR and recruiting industry. They have successful products and services and are expanding into HR technology. The crossover is easy in the areas of background screening, assessments and machine learning technologies. The downside of these new technologies is they often do not understand our little niche industry and more importantly the HR technology buyer. Also interesting was explaining to these new guys and gals how important bloggers and influencers are to our HR trust economy.
Having lived in Silicon Valley, I pride myself on understanding and immersing myself in the engineering and data scientist culture. For fun, I loved to attend meetups hearing engineers discuss how they are using software like Tableau to collect and analyze big data. Equally interesting was their perception and discussion of talking to the non-technologist or layman translating their findings to people in HR and marketing.
The term “machine learning” was a hot one this week. Companies like Saba offer machine learning features contained within their HCM Suite. Machine learning provides users a more focused and customized experience within their HR technology and portal. The more information shared and time spent within the portal helps the HR technology product learn your habits, experience levels and interest to make time saving recommendations and suggestions. It’s likely the reason that Cornerstone OnDemand acquired Evolv this week.
Machine learning doesn’t have to be complex. It just needs to serve an intelligent need. EnterpriseJungle is a Jam addon that makes suggestion connections within SAP’s Jam Product. These tools just help make our work lives more productive using technology.
Companies are working to tackle and address the engagement problem using HR technology. As the economy has improved, our focus as business leaders and HR professionals has moved from reducing and streamlining our headcount and human capital costs to retention and development of our existing employees. Companies are still concerned about lowering costs associated with our human capital, however, the world is much different than 2008-2010 where we were cutting benefits like tuition assistance, 401(k) match and employee development programs that foster retention and growth within our organizations. As the economy has become stronger, it is more expensive to recruit and hire new workers. Competition is strong so we begin investing in our employees.
Many companies are tackling this problem differently from engagement software platforms like Globoforce to gamification tools and improved survey and influence mapping tools within organizations. Understanding engagement within our organization and where the problem areas lie is very, very complex.
The ability to log into a single portal and have data transfer among products and services in HR technology fast and flawlessly is one that we still battle. Technologies are built on different platforms and systems. Data isn’t available in real time. Technology must help enable HR and business leaders to make decisions in real time with the best and most current information available. Products and services need to be integrated. This challenge is still a real one especially as new HR technologies enter the market. Not every product in a suite is best in class. Piece milling products and services together is still common and will remain so. Things like integration and having a flawless sign in portal that provides the look, feel and data transform of a single unified systems starts with integration. It’s important to practitioners. I don’t have the time to log into 5 different systems to run 15 reports to make a decision on my Q4 retention and human capital strategy.
Move Towards Metrics & Analytics
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but metrics and analytics are critical in helping elevate HR’s role within the organization. We need to be seen as business leaders who have experience and expertise with our people. In order to do so, we must think and act like our peers do in sales, finance and operations. We need to go beyond spreadsheet data-filled charts and our reliance on benchmarking to make decisions. Information needs to be fresh and help us shift our staffing and human capital goals when the organization increases business and revenue expectations. HR business leaders must be prepared for a variety of business scenarios and how the growth of business both short and long term will impact their strategy. Metrics and analytics are helping us move away from gut check HR and recruiting practices. We are becoming a more proactive business partner for the organization and there are technologies like Qualtrics and Visier that are helping put us in the driver’s seat.