5 Trends at #HRTechConf

October 22, 2015 Sarah Payne

The Globoforce team is officially back from the HR Technology Conference and Expo in Las Vegas! We had some great conversations at the candy booth and a fantastic session with Cisco on Tuesday (more on that soon).

And as promised, here’s a wrap up of some of trends I heard after spending three and a half days in sessions and keynotes.

  1. We need to re-think talent management data.

The days of top-down, manager-driven performance ratings are long gone. Marcus Buckingham opened his Monday keynote with this stat: 61% of a performance rating is a reflection of the rater, not the ratee. Why? According to Marcus, “human beings are horribly unreliable raters of other human beings.” There’s a lot of bias involved. He also pointed out that most work today happens in dynamic teams, not in a boxed organizational chart. So to get a true picture of an employee’s performance, we need to access data from colleagues across the organization.

  1. The best employer brands leverage employee stories.

Just as consumers do their research before making a purchasing decision, job candidates are scouring sites like Glassdoor before they even talk to a recruiter. That means no company can afford to ignore their employer brand. Kim Pope from Wilson HCG and Jason Seiden from Brand Amper led a session titled, “Big Data Meets Employer Branding.” They shared that the best brands are leveraging stories directly from their employees to add more meaning and authenticity to their messaging (we explain a bit more about that in this post). Not only does this attract the right candidates, but studies also show that companies with strong consumer and employer brands financially outperform their peers by 36%.

  1. Open organizations can encourage more productivity and engagement.

Jim Whitehurst, CEO at Red Hat, discussed the major changes that are happening in the way organizations are built and the way they operate—especially compared to the industrial age. Back in 1870, the average company had only 3.5 employees and there was little variance in how those employees performed. Today, performance differences between employees can vary up to 10x. And because a majority of a company’s competitive advantage is through innovation and moving more quickly, everyone wants to know the secret to employee motivation. Jim suggests that an open environment is the answer—one that is transparent and gives employees context as to how their jobs contribute to a higher purpose in the organization. Fostering this rich, open dialogue makes organizations much more effective (and is much better than silence).

  1. Machine learning has officially entered the HR space.

One of the most talked about ideas at HR Tech was machine learning. Wikipedia defines it as a “subfield of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence.” That’s the techy answer. I polled Twitter while at the conference and got this definition from Chad Atwell, CCP/GRP: “algorithms finding relationships in data; feeding end users recommendations like Amazon’s ‘you might like’ feature.” So machine learning has already made nearly every aspect of our personal lives easier. Now it’s allowing HR leaders to make informed decisions and act on what Jim Whitehurst calls “prescriptive advice” based on data collected across various HR systems. In a panel moderated by Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane, Mike Ettling, President of SAP SuccessFactors, said, “A.I. and machine learning will just be how technology operates in the future.” But that doesn’t mean machines will take over our jobs. Mike added, “There’s no replacement for leaders who can create a sense of purpose.”

  1. Technology can elevate the role of HR and drive business results.

Stacey Harris, VP of research and analytics at Sierra-Cedar, presented some really interesting results from the 2015-2016 HR Systems Survey of more than 1,200 organizations in the U.S. and U.K. The survey found that talent- and data-driven organizations drive 1.4x higher revenue per employee. HR is helping drive this change by becoming more focused and analytical. According to the survey, HR data analytics roles will increase by 31% in the next year. This was a theme I saw throughout the conference. On the CHRO Perspectives on HR Technology panel, Eric Volini from Deloitte said HR leaders need to look at data as an asset—bring it out of the back office and own it as the path forward to bring HR to a new level, adding, “HR tech allows HR to become relevant.”

5 Trends at #HRTechConf
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Overall, there’s a definite tension in the HR tech space between the business case for leveraging the data we have at our fingertips, and the desire to maintain the human element at the core of the HR discipline. It’s a delicate balance, but one we can manage with the right systems in place that ultimately make us more efficient and effective in recruiting, retaining, and developing our talent.

Did you attend the show? Were there any other trends you noticed?

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