From consumer-grade employee experience to AI-powered everything, find out about this year’s top trends from Las Vegas

The 2019 HR Technology Conference and Exposition featured more than 100 sessions, 450 exhibitors, and was attended by more than 10,000 individuals from around the globe. Now that the conference has come to a close, many industry professionals are reeling from information overload. 

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t worry. Here are three trends to focus on:

1. Technology Designed for Employees, Not HR 

One of the most prominent messages at HR Tech was the shift in focus from HR Technology to Technology for People

We’ve all used a system designed for HR at some point in our careers. For many, it triggers flashbacks of winding click-paths and massive submenus that left you wanting to run for the hills.

This year’s conference looked more like SXSW than an HR conference. The stuffy systems of the past were replaced by apps with interfaces that were bright, friendly, even cute. Even large, established vendors had a bright, modern look, and greenery sprouted from practically every booth.

From left: AIIR’s Jonathan Kirschner and Robyn Garrett at the opening of the HR Tech Expo and a “growing” display in the expo hall.

Redefining Usefulness and Frictionless

All of this is in service of the true user of these systems — the employee. In Wednesday’s opening keynote, Josh Bersin challenged HR leaders to think about things differently.

“We’re not building software for HR anymore,” said Bersin. “We’re building it for employees. If employees don’t find it useful, if it doesn’t fit into the flow of work, then it’s not going to be used.”

This sentiment was echoed Thursday by LeapGen cofounder Jason Averbook. In his session on technology transformation, he pressed the audience to rethink their definition of frictionless technology. He shared a story about helping his 12-year-old son with his math homework. 

“The teacher doesn’t care how we find the answer,” said the boy. 

What did he do? He picked up his phone and asked Siri for the answer. Averbook was surprised. 

“You know, you could use a search engine to find the same answer,” he offered. 

“But dad, I don’t want to search for something. I just want an answer.”

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2. Using AI to Optimize the Human Side of HR

Unsurprisingly, you could barely stop by an Expo booth or pop into a session without hearing about AI. As we saw earlier this year at ATD and PAFOW, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used in every area of HR. The difference at HR Tech was that this development isn’t being regarded with fear, but with relief. 

“AI is creating the jobs of the future, not destroying jobs,” said Andrew Saidy, VP, Talent Digitalization at Schneider Electric. 

From CRM-driven recruiting platforms to highly-personified chatbots, AI is sporting a much friendlier face this year.

Panelists discuss Re-Imagining HR in the Age of Artificial Intelligence on the opening day of the conference. Photo credit: HR Executive

Separating Real AI from the Hype

With all of the conversation surrounding AI, you might start to wonder: Are the advances it promises really possible? You might be right to be concerned. It is certainly true that advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can help us make better decisions, but only if your team knows how to use it. As more data becomes available, it is increasingly important that your team develops data literacy

A panel session titled Elevating the Employee Experience With Machine Learning and Workforce Analytics addressed this issue.

“We need to be able to tell stories with data,” said Genentech Head of People Analytics, Chase Rowbotham.

Marcus Erb, VP of Data Science and Innovation at Great Place to Work, moderated the session. He agreed that HR is still weak in understanding and recognizing where AI and machine learning can help, and where it can’t. 

“Sometimes,” he explained, “Customers ask us for more data than they really wanted. We will build them an elaborate model and they will end up taking only the top five data points because that is easier to understand. You have to know where your audience is.”

3. Employee Expectations are Sky-High

With unemployment at a 50-year low, companies are competing for top talent. This truth, coupled with the tech-enabled environment we now live in, has resulted in ever-growing employee expectations. Not only does that mean that they want exceptional benefits, purpose-driven work, and a great commute, they also demand exceptional HR systems. 

Talent analyst Mercyn Dinnen presented a talk titled Moving from Employee Experience to Talent Experience. He advocated for HR leaders to think about the employee’s perspective instead of their own when creating a technology ecosystem. Employees don’t want to hop from system to system, inputting their data every time. 

“For the employee,” he said, “it’s one seamless journey. And, unfortunately, we’ve been sectionalizing it.”

 

Left: The live HR Tech recording of the HR Happy Hour podcast. Right: AIIR’s Jonathan Kirschner and Robyn Garrett with keynote speaker Josh Bersin.

Consumer-Grade Technology with All of the Frills

In addition to a seamless, frictionless HR tech setup, employees expect these systems to offer a user experience similar to the platforms with which they are already comfortable interacting — Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc. 

Don Weinstein, Chief Product and Technology Officer at ADP, joined Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane on the HR Happy Hour Podcast to discuss UX. 

“The best solution [requires] no training, because it’s just so comfortable…” Weinstein said. “I spend a lot of time looking at the consumer technology landscape: How do I find information? [I] look at Google. I don’t have to train people … to navigate our [product]. If you’ve you’ve ever used Facebook, it’s going to feel very comfortable and intuitive for you.”

How does technology enhance world-class leadership development?

Robyn Garrett

VP, Marketing at AIIR Consulting
Robyn's mission is to understand the pain points of talent leaders and alleviate them with industry-leading solutions.
Robyn Garrett

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AIIR Consulting

AIIR Consulting is a global leadership development consultancy dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and performance of leaders and their organizations. Through the strategic integration of coaching and technology, AIIR Consulting brings agile leadership development to today’s connected leader.

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