November 3, 2017 Emily Lierle

2017 HR Technology Conference: 5 Key Takeaways for Modern HR Leaders

Our team at Y Scouts is passionate about changing the way people connect to work that matters. As part of our ongoing learning in this process, we attended the 20th Annual HR Technology Conference last month. With over 500 exhibitors demonstrating their newest technology products and solutions, and dozens of learning sessions available, the HR Technology Conference offered a wealth of opportunities for our team to understand how best to navigate this highly complex and changing landscape. For innovative, forward-thinking HR/People Operations leaders, here are our five key takeaways from this year’s event.

What Business Challenges Do You Want to Solve?

Deciding where to begin when it comes to acquiring new solutions can feel overwhelming. The key is to remember that every product is unique, with features appealing to a wide range of target markets and business needs. Most new products won’t be right for your situation – even though an army of well-trained inside sales agents would like to convince you otherwise.

Instead, begin the process of selecting new technology based on the challenges you are trying to solve. Are you struggling to find the right kind of talent for your open positions? Does your organization have issues with developing a clear performance management program? Do your existing HR tools operate in a silo, failing to work together on an integrated platform? While you may have multiple issues you’d like to address, understand that selection and implementation is a process, and begin by finding the right solution for your most pressing concern.

Making an Informed Purchasing Decision

After you have identified the area of your HR process where new technology can make the greatest impact, it’s time to begin selecting the right option for your business. Jonathan Grafft of Blackbox Consulting and Madeline Laurano from Aptitude Research Partners led us through their recommendations to optimize the buying process.

Grafft and Laurano encouraged everyone to identify their ideal future state when it comes to approaching any technology purchasing process. After implementing your new solution, what should be different than today? Defining the future allows you to evaluate every potential vendor using the same lens – are they able to help you get there, or would their solution require you to make compromises to what your business needs? This thought process will allow you to go through the market, eliminating the tools that won’t truly meet your expectations and create a shortlist of products worthy of further investigation.

At this point, the presenters recommend bringing others into the buying decision. Involving the end users and key collaborators will help you evaluate each product on your shortlist from a variety of user perspectives. Following this process will ensure you reach the right decision, and allow you to build a strong business case for the expense if additional approval is needed.

Beware the Shiny New Object

When evaluating potential technology products for your business, it can be easy to trust the exciting product claims made by providers. However, multiple presenters cautioned everyone to maintain their objectivity and be careful when the buzzwords start flying. Too many companies are willing to tell you they have the “first artificial intelligence solution” or how their “best-in-class machine learning” software will make all the difference for your business. Take these claims with multiple grains of salt, and don’t be afraid to question anyone to see if their product truly matches their claim. Many times, what the vendor is telling you won’t match up with the product’s performance – take your time to carefully go through a software demo or read third party reviews of their solution.

Tools for Diversity and Inclusion

As progressive, forward-thinking HR leaders, it’s easy to agree on the importance of diversity, inclusion, and pay equity in your business. The challenge is building an organization where these principles become reality given unconscious bias in the workplace. There were many positive signs at the conference, as companies are beginning to develop innovative solutions to these challenges.

Many times, the language used in job postings has a way of attracting candidates of certain backgrounds due to the preferences of the person who wrote the description. Textio has developed an augmented writing platform to evaluate job postings for potential bias in language, allowing the writer to redesign their word choices in real time as they write. Payroll solutions giant ADP now offers a pay equity platform to help larger organizations examine pay differentials related to gender, ethnicity, age, and other factors that can often go unnoticed due to the opaque nature of compensation practices even within an organization. As these tools are on the cutting edge, we will be paying close attention to future technology development in this space.

Building a Culture of Innovation in Your Organization

Finally, our team enjoyed a fantastic keynote from Laszlo Bock, former longtime head of People Operations at Google. Bock discussed the process of building a culture of innovation within any business. Creating this culture isn’t about having the best technology, but instead allowing people to take creative risks and tap into their intrinsic motivators. By encouraging people to bring their whole selves to work, and connecting them to work that matters in their lives, they will respond with a high degree of creativity and investment in your business. Bock also emphasized the importance of psychological safety in relation to innovation. Taking chances and creating change can only take place when people feel they are supported and allowed to fail and learn.