We just returned from the Annual HR Technology Conference and Expo in Chicago last week, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience.
HR Tech 2016 was a great opportunity to meet teams who use Bonusly face-to-face, to catch up with our friends in the industry, and learn about all the exciting new tools, technology, strategies, and methodologies driving HR forward into the future.
For those of us who weren't able to make it out to the conference, and for those who are excited to continue the exciting discussions that began there, we gathered a list of the six most powerful trends we identified across the conference.
The days of siloed, disparate platforms have already been numbered, but it has never been more apparent than at this year's HR Tech Conference.
Tools are integrating more seamlessly with one another to provide an entirely new experience, both for the HR practitioners, for senior leadership, and for employees.
Modern HR platforms are talking to one another, sharing resources and working together in concert to provide new and more actionable insights.
Payroll systems are no longer completely separate from performance management, or employee engagement.
"Will it integrate with our current stack?" is becoming almost as common a question as "how much will it cost?"
This trend of convergence isn't limited to breaking down technological and data silos -- departmental silos are breaking down as well.
Sales and marketing organizations are blending into one another, internal communications and PR, Hiring and Marketing -- all blurring the lines between previously distinct business functions and embodying a singular cause of moving the organization forward.
Now, more than ever, it's becoming important for HR professionals to be flexible, and to work cohesively across departmental boundaries, and the tools being offered on the expo floor show it.
People-Centric Design and Strategy
There's also been a noticeable dialectic shift from 'talent' to 'people' across leadership in many organizations, large and small.
But what does that really mean?
Talent isn't a person; talent is a characteristic -- and we don't hire characteristics, we hire people that embody characteristics. We're not hiring engineering bandwidth, we're hiring Michelle, a talented engineer. We're not hiring SEO capabilities, we're hiring Ken, a talented SEO expert.
This focal shift to 'people' realizes and embraces that delineation. It's a deliberate focus on employees as people -- what value a person can provide to an organization, and what value an organization can in turn, provide for a person.
So what does that mean in terms of strategy?
You're now more accountable for developing, communicating, and making good on your organization's Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
At HR Tech, we saw a burgeoning compliment of tools relating to improved employee health, wellbeing, and development.
In addition to developing the organization's value toward the employee, it's also becoming more and more important to provide an environment and framework that helps employees to realize their maximum potential.
What does that kind of framework look like?
Technologically speaking, people have become more and more accustomed to and increasingly expect user-friendly and intuitive Business to Consumer (B2C) design in the tools they use. These tools are there when they're needed, but stay out of the way when they aren't.
Seamless and transparent communication and collaboration among colleagues has also become much more of a need-to-have, rather than a nice-to-have trait of the working environment.
The HR tools of the near future will provide more intelligent, personalized, and intuitive interactions between individuals and their organization. It's exciting to see them taking shape, and considering how these tools will shape the future of work.
Understanding and Challenging Bias
During one of HR Tech Conference's "Women in HR Tech" panel series, I heard a brilliant quote:
"Diversity fuels innovation -- there's no room for like-mindedness."
There's no question that diversity is a crucial element of any top-performing organization. The multiple perspectives diversity provides are a major competitive advantage in any industry -- and perspective is only one of the many benefits diversity brings.
Here's the problem though:
Biases still present themselves in most organizations, whether those biases are conscious or unconscious.
Very few people would be comfortable saying "I run a biased organization," or "Our hiring process is quite biased," yet in many cases, it's true.
The first step in tackling biases is better understanding how they're formed, and the myriad ways they manifest themselves.
It takes a certain level of fearlessness and a good set of tools to seek out and challenge both conscious and unconscious bias within an organization. But with the courage to accept that biases exist in your workplace, comes the opportunity to challenge them.
Whether it's reconsidering organizational value alignment, evaluating hiring and onboarding practices, or tackling bias with programmatic interventions, there are more tools available than ever before, and we saw many at the expo.
Now that HR leaders are being presented with an ever-expanding toolkit to help seek out unconscious biases within their organization, they're in an unprecedented position to be a positive force for change.
Data and Predictive Analytics
Probably one of the biggest, most frequently recurring themes within the conference was data. Over the past few years, more and more tools have come available that are designed to help organizations make more data-driven decisions regarding people ops.
As these data analytics tools evolved and matured, the methodologies for deploying them have begun to evolve alongside them.
In its early stages, HR analytics focused on answering specific, static questions with data. This isn't without its value, but that value isn't as clear to a wider group of stakeholders in the organization.
As HR analytics evolved, it has begun to focus more on solving business problems through predictive analytics.
Senior organizational leadership has begun to expect more from HR in terms of the types of business problems it can solve, but these new technologies are making it possible.
As Josh Bersin put it during his talk on the "Datafication of HR" panel:
"It's not about analyzing HR data for HR's sake; it's dangerous not to be business-aligned in this area."
With these new tools and capabilities available, it's become more important now than ever for HR to forge strong interdepartmental relationships, and demonstrate the exciting new possibilities for collaborative problem solving.
How do you do that?
Edward Baker-Greene, SVP Chief Human Resources Officer at FactSet offered a really useful strategy. When using these tools and developing initiatives based on them, ask yourself:
“How am I using this data to help inform and drive the organization forward?”
Innovation and Iteration
The influx of startups and startup culture in HR Tech brought an exciting wave of creative problem solving to the industry. Even some of the largest and longest-standing HR tech platforms have begun to adopt a focus on agility and continuous iteration.
This is great for the HR industry as a whole, because it shortens the feedback loop between the people who make the tools, and the people who use them.
The adoption of an agile methodology was viscerally present in the Second Annual HR Hackathon.
Four teams of talented engineers and designers sat down with a group of 60 HR professionals to find creative ways to solve some of the industry's most challenging issues.
What came from those discussions (and two days' hard work) was nothing short of amazing.
During the final phase of the hackathon, each team presented proof of concept applications they built in answer to the challenges they were tasked with solving.
A team form IBM designed a tool called SmartLens. The tool was designed to enable a more bias-free resume review app that did an excellent job of communicating only the pertinent job-related information to the reviewer, without surfacing information that might trigger unconscious bias.
TMP Worldwide's team developed a wiki-based platform to reward organizational knowledge sharing. An employee would simply search for a question. If the question didn't have an answer, they could post it for others to answer.
If others felt the question was valuable, they'd be able to upvote it. Users could also choose to post an answer for review, and receive points from the community for their answers as well.
Ultimate Software's team developed a work life virtual assistant called UltiMatt that promised to utilize human natural language and deep HRIS/HRMS and HMC integrations to help contextualize data and help employees manage their day-to-day operations much more efficiently.
Willis Towers Watson's team built an app they called Kompas, to help organizations successfully fill key positions with internal candidates, and to help employees with career pathing.
Using this app, an employee would be able to view internal job postings, and identify which would suit them best, based on their own skills, and the skills required of the new position.
The system would also help them identify skill gaps, and help employees close those gaps by intelligently surfacing internal company contacts to meet with, e-learning courses to attend, and special projects to take on.
All of these were great examples of how quickly and effectively problems can be solved when a platform and its users participate in a tight feedback loop. It was great to see such a visible example of this in action, and on such an exciting scale.
We were incredibly fortunate to attend this year's HR Technology Conference and Exposition. It was a great learning experience, and a fascinating window into the future of HR tech.
Hopefully this list of trends sparks your imagination, and your anticipation for the future of work. From the floor of the HR Tech 2016, it was looking quite bright.
If you're ready to take another step into the future of leadership and people operations, check out our latest guide: