hr technology conference attendees

Dispatch from the 2013 HR Tech Conference: Part II

This is a continuation of last week's blog post covering five themes I observed at the Human Resource Executive 16th Annual HR Technology Conference. If you missed Part I, which covered the first three themes, read it here.

4. Social

I attended three of the five sessions from the "Social as Enterprise" track. Here are my thoughts on each session:

1) Collaboration Connects the Enterprise at Cigna--led by Cigna's CLO, Karen Kocher. This was a wonderful case study on how Cigna rolled out an enterprise social collaboration tool. Kocher shared Cigna's journey by explaining the burning platform that led to their decision to undertake such a grand (and bold) initiative. She highlighted the strategic drivers for the implementation of social networking at Cigna, walked us through the implementation process, shared lessons learned, and a few success stories. Employees can access learning materials through Your Cigna University, connect with other learners and get recommendations about learning opportunities through the social features built into the platform.

2) 4th Annual Social Media Panel: How the Collaborative Enterprise Gets Work Done--moderated by Marcia Conner. This panel was comprised of experts across five different organization types. Each speaker had about five minutes to describe their business environment (each unique in their own way) and how social media/networking tools help their organizations get real work done. Examples included both intentional and unintentional ways in which social media helped to solve problems at the panelists' organizations, from creating more health conscious employees to solving crimes faster and strengthening technical expertise pipelines.

3) HR's Role in Social and Collaboration--led by Lisa Rowan of IDC. This session was an intimate and interactive discussion between Rowan and approximately 75-100 attendees. She shared her view of HR's social/collaboration readiness--illustrated by a three-level maturity-curve--and used this as a platform for an hour-long discussion among the attendees about how they are/are not using social media., hurdles they are facing and advice and insights from those further along the maturity curve on overcoming resistance to the use of social media in their organizations. Many participants raised concerns with compliance and reduced productivity.

The buzz after this final session was intense. Conversations continued as the attendees poured into the hallways heading toward the conference room for the closing keynote.

With each successive session it became clearer to me that HR is hungry for "social." I had an overwhelming sense coming out of this last session that HR is beginning to move past concerns about compliance and brand reputation and are acknowledging that social media has holds the potential to affect outcomes businesses cares about.

Even more surprising (especially given that this was a technology conference), was that there was little to no talk about the tools used; rather the conversations hovered almost exclusively around the many different ways social media can be used to break down invisible silos and harness the power of collective intelligence.

5. Specialization

One final trend I noticed at this year's conference was the large number of specialized niche applications catering toward specific processes and/or audiences. Specifically, there were numerous vendors who have developed solutions with the millennial workforce in mind. Consider, for example, Causecast, which offers software to engage employees in corporate volunteerism, and cfactorworks, which provides a personalized pre-boarding solution that introduces the company in an engaging way through videos and connects new hires with their colleagues to help them hit the ground running on their first day.

Both of these technologies were honored as "Awesome New Technologies for HR" by HRE's Steve Boese, and while I agree they are both awesome, there were three others I was equally if not more impressed with.

The first was Work4, a recruiting solution that I would describe as a social job sharing application. Through a very close partnership with Facebook, Work4 is able to harness the power of the social networks within Facebook to reach candidates through an organization's Facebook Career Site and on mobile devices. This vendor approaches social recruiting in an innovative way "by making everyone a recruiter and everyone a candidate," according to Work4's website.

I was also impressed with a relative newcomer to the workforce analytics software space, Ves(tric)s (formerly Capital Analytics). This platform takes workforce analytics to the next level by helping organizations isolate and measure the impact of human capital investments. Founder, Gene Pease, categorized their software platform as a "workforce optimization" solution rather than as a workforce analytics platform. The latter focuses primarily on reporting on historical activity and does little in the way of helping organizations to understand which human capital investments have the most impact, which in turn enables them to make better business decisions. This cloud-based application brings sophisticated statistical modeling techniques to the HR function through an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface.

The last innovative vendor I want to highlight was not an exhibitor at this year's conference. TINYpulse, started by David Niu, is a unique employee engagement survey solution. Recently featured in Fast Company, this lightweight solution provides managers and leaders the ability to gather real-time and anonymous feedback from their employees. A standard engagement survey question is, "how happy are you at work?" By providing leaders with a steady "pulse" on employee happiness, Niu asserts they will more consistently "care for, develop, listen to, and appreciate" their employees.

I believe that continuously monitoring concerns of employees, followed by taking action and/or acknowledging those concerns--not the use of traditional annual employee surveys--will increasingly be viewed as a more productive process for increasing employee loyalty, engagement and retention.


For me, this conference can be summed up in one word: Connecting.

  • Connecting employees to other employees through the use of socially enabled HR technologies.
  • Connecting recruiters to candidates, both current and past (see: Entelo, software that recycles previous applicants).
  • Connecting multiple vendor software through seamless integration.
  • Connecting managers and the HR function to the right data to help them make better decisions through the use of workforce planning and analytics software that goes beyond historical reporting.
  • Connecting remote workers to the organization through fully functioning mobile versions of HR applications enabling employees to connect remotely to them anytime and anywhere.

HR Technology software has the capability to connect us in ways barely imagined ten years ago. Whether HR departments are ready to embrace those capabilities, however, is yet to be seen.