Last week was the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Our team has made attending and exhibiting at the conference an annual event. (In case you missed our previous post, read why we look forward to the conference every year.) We wanted to share a quick recap of the trends we noticed, vendors we met, hot topics, etc., to those of you who maybe weren’t able to attend. For those of you also at the conference, feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below.
Talent, Talent, Talent (Again)
Talent management solutions have dominated the conference the past few years. Historically, talent management was paper driven and very manual. With HR technology, talent management can be automated, and employees are better able to explore career paths on their own. We saw a suite of tools that created a seamless process for managing the employee development lifecycle. These tools help create a meaningful performance management process and then tie that to the learning and development needs of the employee. The tools that excited me go one step further by helping the employee explore future career moves and by helping the organization automate succession planning. One of the vendors said they wanted employees to “know that the next best job is at that employee’s current organization,” and several tools we saw made that a legitimate possibility. We saw technology that enabled employees to look at the skills needed for their next step up the “career ladder” and allowed them to conduct a “profile match” between their current skills and future needed skills. Then it showed them the skills, education and experience they needed to get there. In an era where learning and development is often self-directed via Ted Talks, YouTube and massive open online course (MOOC) learning, this approach is impressive.
ACA was MIA
The lack of attendance by the stand-alone Affordable Care Act (ACA) vendors was shocking. (Health e(fx), Ernst & Young and Worxtime were the only vendors who presented as stand-alone options.) This is not to suggest ACA vendors were completely absent, just few and far between. There could be a number of reasons, but it’s likely they’re too busy right now or the hard and soft dollar price of entry to the conference was prohibitive. A number of human capital management (HCM) or benefits administration vendors were promoting their in-house ACA solutions, and our belief is that in the next couple years, the stand-alone solutions will be acquired or integrated into the more established HR tech providers. Much like we’ve seen with COBRA or flexible spending amount (FSA) vendors, only a few stand-alone solutions will remain.
Data and Analytics
A colleague of mine mused “data makes the world go ‘round.” That philosophy was on display with appealing pie charts, dashboards and drill-down reporting, but vendors also took it a step further by helping predict the future. I really liked the approach of having data for decision support and prediction at the right time to make an educated choice. Looking at the past makes it possible to reflect and make changes for the future, but some of the exciting new data tools provide people data that can predict future events and allow you to intervene. I found the prediction capabilities around turnover to be particularly interesting and powerful. Saving a talented employee before they resign is always easier than the alternative of trying to find a new one. We always used to say that the best way to decrease turnover is to “hire right,” and now some systems will even help you identify which are the best sources, skills and attributes of candidates that make great employees with the highest retention rates.
Did you know 238 percent of your workforce is not engaged? You may not, but the software vendors do, and they’ve found a way to turn it in to a business need. One vendor created a solution, designed with mobile technology in mind, that can create and delivery short five to seven question surveys to evaluate employee engagement. Several other vendors provide the tools for simple, quick surveys to measure engagement and other tools that gather quick feedback. In a market where companies strive to retain talent, this is cool stuff to get a read on the health and mental state of your employees at a moment’s notice.
It seems as though the vendors in the HCM/ human resource information system (HRIS) space continue to focus on strengthening talent management offerings and choose not to enhance benefits administration. For example, one vendor we spoke with is adding decision support for managers to help with succession planning (talent), but not choosing to add true driven decision support when enrolling in benefits (ben admin).
There are a number of new entrants and existing HCM vendors in the market without a payroll or time and labor solution. This will drive a need to integrate with stand-alone payroll providers.
We spoke with a lot of vendors open to integration with other systems, which continues to be a popular trend with the majority of the solutions in the market. This would still require a system of record and does not necessarily mean the idea of true dual integration between systems is growing in popularity. What it does show is vendors continue to embrace the idea of allowing integration with their system and another solution. This is being witnessed in all product areas (HCM, ben admin, talent point solutions, applicant tracking systems, etc.).
Presence of Private Equity/Venture Capital Money
We had at multiple conversations with investment bankers, private equity groups and venture capitalists looking to buy or sell various HR technologies (which, in my opinion, will further inflate the tech bubble). One group in attendance had $1 billion to spend; others were looking to sell HCM or enrollment systems. The buying and selling wasn’t limited to domestic companies; one European firm had a 500-employee sourcing advisory group on the blocks.
Try It Before You Buy It
There were several vendors who allowed conference attendees hands-on access to a demonstration site to navigate the system, test out functionality and more – all at their booth. One vendor also passed out tablets to attendees in the demo room and allowed them to navigate through a series of activities. This really illustrates how much easier HR-related technology is to navigate compared to where it was a few years ago.
More than a few HCM/HRIS vendors in the SaaS model are allowing clients to see new releases in advance, including testing functionality and features with their own data.
We can’t wait to see how these emerging technologies and advancements in automating HR evolve over the coming years. Share your #HRTechConf thoughts with us by commenting below.