How fast is technology accelerating and what are the visible signs? Perhaps it was the driverless Lyft ride we took from Old Vegas back to the Venetian on the strip. Or the Clear kiosks that zipped me through security at McCarran International Airport. It was most definitely the volume of vendors hawking their solutions at the 22nd HR Tech conference, the annual gathering of big thinkers and bigger ideas in Sin City.
Here are five takeaways from the keynotes and breakouts. Consider these a framework for HR discussions as we plan for 2020.
The truth about AI
The AI discussion was everywhere. In fact, 83% of employees believe it is their responsibility to reskill themselves, according to a 2019 Edelman report. But the emerging theme is not about AI replacing humans; in fact, there is overwhelming optimism that AI will create more jobs.
“The most pressing myth regarding AI is that AI will replace more jobs than it creates,” said Jeanne Meister, partner at Future Workplace. “AI might not stand for artificial intelligence but, instead, augmented intelligence.”
As AI technology continues to evolve, the upside is that skilled workers will have the bandwidth to be more strategic, to spend time on what’s next rather than logistical responsibilities that fill precious hours during the workday.
“AI is not about eliminating jobs,” said Bill Balog, SVP of global compensation and benefits at Dell. “It’s about raising everyone’s skill and letting the machines do the lower-value work.”
“AI is creating jobs of the future rather than destroying jobs,” said Andrew Saidy, VP talent digitization at Schneider Electric.
The demise of end-to-end solutions
Josh Bersin, global industry analyst and dean, Josh Bersin Academy, led a 70-minute clinic on the breadth and depth of HR technology, clearly defining the current landscape and providing insight to the future. One of his key themes is for companies to strategically invest in point solutions, as the larger enterprise companies are struggling to “do it all.”
He pointed out that single-platform systems are making way for an ecosystem of apps, where buyers should look for the solutions that solve very specific needs. The ultimate suite of products moves companies from integrated HR transactions to an improved employee experience.
Once solutions are in place, it’s up to humans to optimize those choices, another validation that AI is a workplace complement. “CEOs are looking for more creativity out of their people,” said Josh. “Curiosity is becoming a competency. A growth mindset and design thinking are in demand.”
The importance of a positive culture
With record-low unemployment and plenty of choices for skilled workers, building and nurturing a culture of mutual respect and fairness is more important than ever. Speaker and author Jason Lauritsen moderated a panel of Workhuman® customers including John McGowan, HRIS manager at Edwards Lifesciences; Kecia Reichstein, HR director at Kaiser Permanente; and Mark Wojcik, talent and leadership development at PSAV. The panel discussed how implementing a global social recognition platform connects their employees.
“We have had tremendous growth through acquisition and when you do that, you can lose track of your culture quickly,” said Mark. “We are able to build our social recognition platform around our core values, which unites us as one company.”
“As we grow rapidly, we know the importance of reinforcing our cultural values,” said John. “Peer-to-peer recognition allows us to do that.” And, added Kecia, “this impacts business outcomes. We wanted a way for people to come to work together and connect – we do it in a social way, which includes celebrating life events and years of service.”
The value of a human-centered workplace
Putting employees first is not a new concept, but a theme throughout the sessions was that leaders need to recognize the value of their people, not only in how they are treated, but also by ensuring continued education and opportunities within the organization.
“If I’m going to take a job in your organization, I want to know what I am going to learn,” said Josh. “What am I going to get out of it for my career? [Your employees] see the articles about the future of work, the role of AI, and the role of technology, and they want to make sure you’re developing them.”
And when good work is done, show gratitude.
“If you want to motivate people to accomplish goals, recognize them publicly in front of their peers,” said Barbara Corcoran, star of the TV show “Shark Tank.” “Recognition gets people where you want them to go. When you give people recognition, they love you back. It’s as simple as that.”
The emergence of work-life harmony
The concept of bringing your whole self to work and the importance of family values was an emerging theme, refreshing amid the technology discussions. “If you allow people to have a life you will find that you are working at a human level,” said Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources. “But I still see so many companies that are traditionally run and not putting families first. This needs to change.”
This is especially important when it comes to gender fairness, “but we can’t change the conversation without everyone being part of the conversation,” said Jess Von Bank, head of marketing at Leapgen. “Promoting a culture of work-life harmony requires both men and women. This is not a women’s issue.”
“We need to change the conversation, but you can’t do it with just one side of the story,” said Kyle Lagunas, director of strategy at Beamery. “It’s all of us.”
Did you attend this year’s HR Tech conference? What were your key takeaways?
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