This year's event kicked off with an opening keynote speech from Don Tapscott, co-author of the book, Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success. Tapscott provided a brief but thorough explanation of four principles: collaboration, transparency, sharing, and empowerment. On day two, Bill Kutik and Naomi Bloom co-hosted the first ever "HR Tonight Show." Borrowing from the familiar late night show's format, they interviewed four industry experts about various topics, interspersing humor along the way.
Tapscott's opening keynote and Kutik's "HR Tonight Show" provided the foundation for the conference, but the real value for me came from the practitioner-led sessions, my conversations with vendors, and interactions with numerous HR professionals.
Five Trends and Observations
Here are five trends/observations I came away from the conference with:
1. Health and Wellness
Patricia Milligan (Mercer), one of the guests on Kutik's "HR Tonight Show," shared her prediction that we will begin to see more "technology aimed to promote personal accountability; technology to help people help themselves."
I think Milligan may have been on to something as there did appear to be a bit of a buzz about health and wellness at the conference. This was immediately made apparent by the pedometer (provided by Health Dialog) found at the bottom of my conference bag. There were also several sessions on the use of technology to help educate employees on their health and to encourage changes in behavior. Examples include, Buck Consultant's session titled, "How Mobile, Social and Gamification Tools are Improving Employee Health," and Warren Lindley's presentation on how Walgreens is using technology to, "reinvent employee learning," arming their pharmacists and managers with the ability to become health guides for their customers.
The most impressive innovation in this space was the release of Richard Branson's Virgin Group product, "Virgin Pulse," which focuses on improving an employee's total quality of life. The application goes beyond the use of gamification and social media bringing together tools to help employees embrace well-being in every aspect of their lives under one platform.
2. Recruiting (AKA: "Talent Acquisition"), Aggregators, and Video-Interviewing
Another trend I noticed was the use of aggregators (software that pulls information from multiple sources into one place) by many of the recruiting vendors. Aggregators allow recruiters to post jobs in multiple places at once and pull relevant job postings for consumers on one website. These are by no means new to most consumers (think Monster or Dice.com). What is new are the ways in which some vendors are pulling candidate information from a multitude of publically available online sources, aggregating that information, and making it available for recruiters in one easy to navigate platform. While many of these vendors do not foresee any legal problems with this approach, the jury is still out.
There was a proliferation of vendors that have embedded video-based interviewing into their recruiting/applicant tracking software. Vendors such Waltham, MA-based PeopleFluent and Burlingame, CA-based Jobvite showcased their recently released addition of video collaboration capabilities. Combined with embedded social collaboration functionality, this delivers a more engaging and user-friendly experience for candidates. Candidates can record their responses to interview questions as a part of the job application process either through recording their responses ahead of time (pre-interview/pre-application) or any time during the hiring process.
The benefit from the use of video interviews is reduction in the cost of hiring--as recruiters and hiring managers can quickly get insight into candidates without having to set up in-person interviews. However, this trend has employment lawyers at the ready, with potential concerns over discrimination and claims of selective hiring based on qualities not essential to the performance of the job.
It looks like vendors have taken an innovative approach to the integration woes commonly associated with SaaS. Rather than myopically continuing to push a unified platform approach as the only answer to true integration, many vendors have recently released data integration capabilities that allow their software and that of other vendors to be seamlessly integrated, enabling the ability to share data between on-premise and cloud (SaaS) applications (e.g., SumTotal's elixiHR© platform). Perhaps this is the start of a movement by vendors to bring in-house the functionality they have been relying on external middleware vendors to provide.
Continue to Part II of Michael's recap of the HR Technology Conference.