5 Key Insights from the 2019 HR Tech Conference

Oct 31, 2019   |   By Patrick Donegan

HR professionals and technologists came together at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition to highlight key trends to look out for in 2020.

The annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition took place in Las Vegas, NV, between October 1st and 4th this year. Attendees included well-known leaders in HR technology, 30 startups, and over 500 vendors aiming to impress clients and competitors.

If there is one clear takeaway from the event, it’s that the field of HR technology is rapidly evolving. Today’s HR tech firms are driving innovation in talent acquisition, payroll, benefits, employee experience, and much more.

As a managing director, I partner with clients to carry out end-to-end HR transformations. In my assessment, SEI has been consistently successful at helping clients find the right tools for their organization because we emphasize the right fit for the right function. We do not present HCM as a panacea to simplifying HR operations.

With that in mind, here are five of the top trends on display at the 2019 HR Technology Conference & Exposition and their implications for modern businesses.

1. AI-Integrated Solutions

A staggering number of vendors in Las Vegas presented AI- and machine learning-powered solutions. AI has already found a breadth of applications in recruiting technology, simplifying tasks like generating job descriptions, skills matching, and candidate interviewing and analysis.

It’s estimated that 25 percent of HR products on the market leverage automation in their platforms in some way and experts at the conference predict this number will only rise in the coming months.

2. Focus on the “Experience Layer”

Due to the proliferation of HR technologies in the past decade, departments typically maintain mixed sets of HR systems. HR professionals are increasingly required to juggle tasks on multiple platforms.

Managing multiple systems can create a taxing work experience, hampering productivity. As HR leader Josh Bersin pointed out to his panel: “We’re walking around with basically supercomputers attached to our bodies, yet we’re getting less work done per hour overtime.”

As a solution to low morale, flatlining levels of employee engagement, and diminishing productivity, Bersin advised that organizations should be — and are — increasingly adopting an employee “experience layer” that joins enterprise resource planning (ERP) and talent management as a strategic priority. Implementing an employee experience layer is a way of ensuring that organizational tools are efficient and effective by measuring what HR practitioners already do and finding tools that enhance their productivity.

3. Managing Costs Through a Single-Interface Solution

HR initiatives can be costly for organizations if they are not carefully budgeted. 53 percent of HR initiates miss their budgets, and 32 percent run significantly over budget. Moreover, 42 percent of initiatives are considered “not fully successful” or “failures” after two years. Widespread low success rates can be attributed to the hidden costs of virtualization and consolidation.

Organizations are turning to cloud-based computing to virtualize HR services. However, a slew of problems arise when companies fail to consider the way HR tools are already embedded in existing ecosystems.

Vendors promise to consolidate new technologies and tools onto a single platform for seamless HR delivery. Unfortunately, human capital management (HCM) software often fails to achieve full integration, and HR departments are left managing multiple systems inefficiently, slowing service delivery and driving up costs. Cloud HR systems can help organizations create a single user interface, but often at the cost of efficacy and user experience.

4. The Rise of People Analytics

Interest in people analytics is relatively new in the field. But beyond ensuring the right people are connected to the right roles, data and analytics on an organization’s talent will likely become the preferred method for tracking career trajectories and monitoring internal mobility.

Employees and managers can use people analytics to determine what skills and certifications are central to their personal career advancement. Armed with this information, employees are empowered to chart coherent career paths and leaders are able to discover new, effective ways to invest in talent development.

5. Disruptive Technologies in Training and Professional Development

Currently, learning can be divided into micro-level learning (usually task-based and immediate), and macro-level learning, which is concept-based, non-computational, and whose lessons may take longer to assimilate. Now, new solutions are driving advancement in macro-level learning in the workplace.

Advancements in virtual reality (VR) technology will change the way employees gain “on-the-job” experience. Most current web-based learning focuses on webinars and videos. But VR technology will enable employees to shadow experienced colleagues, make real-time decisions in a workplace simulation, and gain hands-on experience.

Preparing for the Future of HR Tech

Navigating the HR tech marketplace can be overwhelming, but at the end of the day, the basics of HR functions such as timely and accurate payments are non-negotiable. Advanced analytics and new technologies may be transforming HR, but the key to effective HR will always be putting employees first.

Patrick Donegan is the managing director at SEI, where he founded and helped grow the Washington, D.C. branch. He partners with clients to achieve digital transformation in the HR space. He previously held roles at IBM, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, and State Street.

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