Four key takeaways from the 2018 HR Tech Conference

People seated along bench using tablets, smartphones, and laptops

People seated along bench using tablets, smartphones, and laptops

Technology continues to revolutionize the way we access information and work. New tools are not only making HR more efficient, but also more effective. And they can significantly impact the way we hire, retain and engage employees. And they’re not stopping there.

At this year’s HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas, we heard from analysts, clients, fellow exhibitors, startups and presenters about the latest trends and where the future is heading.

So, what’s hot in HR tech and what should HR leaders consider on the journey to digital transformation?

Here are four key takeaways from the conference, along with insights from our HR technology experts.

1. Artificial intelligence continues to be a hot topic, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s really important.

Chris Pinc

Chris Pinc

It’s no surprise that the hot topic at HR Tech this year was artificial intelligence (AI). There was no shortage of HR technology solution vendors making bold claims and showing off flashy screenshots of AI-powered solutions that would eliminate the human effort involved in finding the right candidates; getting them to apply for a role; and then onboarding, developing, retaining and engaging them.

But it also seemed that the concept was really misused and misunderstood – as if AI is something you need to have because it’s AI. My take is that, without a doubt, there are hugely important applications of new AI capabilities that will help solve the challenges HR and employees face. But it’s a means to an end, a way to solve for the “how” as opposed to the “what” or the “why.”

Employees and the companies that employ them are unique, with specific needs and challenges. Just like we all have dozens of apps on our phones, companies are always going to need a rich combination of products and services to deliver a great employee experience and drive business performance. So it’s important to have a simple, easy-to-use experience layer, i.e., a single “front door” that employees can go through as a starting point to easily get to the information they need – whether it’s through a chatbot or something else.

2. The role of HR is shifting from data gatherer to data interpreter.

Cynthia Pohlmann

Cynthia Pohlmann

With all of the buzz around AI, it makes sense that organizations are looking to consultancies and technology providers for better, faster and more accurate decision-making support systems. In fact, advanced business intelligence tools are close to becoming table stakes in the bustling arena of HR technology. At this year’s conference there were solutions for common issues, administrative pain points and things you didn’t realize were problems.

Yet, we must take caution amid the rapid change. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the delight of automation and simplification, losing sight of what machines are really telling their users and how much work still remains for people to do. Yes, machines are now at the forefront of making suggestions, providing recommendations and predicting areas of concern. But as technology increasingly enables organizations to become more strategic and less tactical around human capital management, we can’t forget that the human element is still required to make smart choices using complex data.

Machine-enabled suggestions, recommendations and predictions aren’t answers or guarantees. So, the role of HR now shifts from data gathering to deeper interpretation of results and continual feedback into advanced, statistical data models. It will take the human element to ensure these evolving models and data continue to support ever-dynamic systems and markets.

3. The definition of “employee experience” continues to evolve.

Organizations are talking a lot about “employee experience.” Depending who you ask, its definition ranges widely – from what perks an employer provides to how employees access tools to get their work done, and from the company’s culture and its impact on employees to how employers share their company purpose or create an emotional connection with their workforce. Among all these definitions, one thing is clear: what employee experience is not.

Employee experience cannot be summed up by a piece of technology that streamlines or automates HR processes. Technology can enhance the employee experience but it’s not the only aspect of it.

4. The “candidate experience” is an equally hot topic.

Tiffany Shortridge

Tiffany Shortridge

The candidate experience is also top of mind. HR professionals understand the need to incorporate an engaging and interactive candidate experience within their hiring process; the next generation workforce demands and expects this type of functionality while looking for employment. Although the experience is a definite hot button, most HR professionals are still not willing to sacrifice the behavioral data gleaned from valid psychometric assessments as a means of predicting top talent.

As a next generation assessment provider, our challenge is incorporating both elements – an engaging candidate experience and valid behavioral data – into the hiring process. To stay relevant, providers need to bring the hiring process to life by incorporating interactive media formats, such as video, simulations, etc., into the behavioral component of a candidate’s journey. The experience is one thing, but if the assessment doesn’t impact the business from a validity or return-on-investment standpoint, clients may only be getting a one-dimensional view of a candidate.

Final thoughts

The world is still in the early phases of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, thus many areas remain unpredictable and uncontrollable. But one thing is certain: we can expect HR technology to continue to play a vital role in improving the employee experience. Understanding the possibilities and preparing ourselves for the digital future will help us make the most of HR technology in the years to come.

About Chris Pinc

Chris Pinc is the Global Director of Product Management at Willis Towers Watson, responsible for the vision and dev…
Categories: Employee Engagement, Future of Work | Tags: , , ,

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