HR Tech 2018: A Retrospective

By Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management with Daria Friedman, Principal Analyst, Talent Acquisition and David Wentworth, Principal Analyst, Learning and Development,  Brandon Hall Group

HR Tech 2018 is a wrap. After talking to over 90 different organizations, a few themes emerged. We asked the Brandon Hall Group research team to share the trends they observed and share it with those who didn’t attend or attended but did not get to visit with as many service providers.

Daria Friedman, Principal Analyst, Talent Acquisition, said this year’s story is the deep, strategic way talent-acquisition technology providers are working toward solving organizations’ hiring challenges and the unique, out-of-the-box ways they apply their technology. Their new solutions not only impact hiring, but other talent management practices as well, including employee engagement, off-boarding, and mergers and acquisitions.

  • Onboarding: Not only used to assimilate, train and engage new hires, onboarding is also being deployed to manage employee transitions, such as off-boarding, returning from a leave of absence, and mergers and acquisitions.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Here we see multiple approaches to improving diversity and inclusion, such as adverse-impact analysis
  • Application-completion rate: Candidate drop-offs during the application process (and even before starting the application) are an ongoing problem for employers. Here, chatbots are used to answer candidate questions, schedule time to speak with a recruiter and screen candidates.
  • Employee engagement: Providers are expanding their solutions to identify talent that would most likely be engaged with the organization during the recruiting/hiring process. Another solution enables the organization to easily compare engagement survey results with exit survey results so they can understand how they might have prevented attrition

David Wentworth, Principal Analyst for Learning and Development says the theme at HR Tech is artificial intelligence. The letters “AI” were prominently featured on t-shirts, beverage koozies and banners throughout the Expo Hall. The problem, David says, is that it is very difficult to differentiate between solutions with actual functioning AI (very few) and those with a lot of marketing hype (most others). It’s clear that AI is going to have a huge impact on human capital technology, but most of what is available now is basic machine learning and recommendation engines.

Learning-technology players try to define (or re-define) their place in the space. As evolving functionalities blur lines across platforms, David is unsure if corporate buyers would come away from HR Tech with a better understanding than they had last year of who really does what. The roles and importance of solutions like LMS, LXP, LRS and content libraries remain fluid. We can also expect another year of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships.

Finally, in workforce and talent management, the overarching theme seemed to be creating a more human, people-centric focus for existing and emerging technologies. The marketing of capabilities involving AI and ML are expanding, as David noted above, but communicating the processes and talent needed to support those capabilities to companies is becoming increasingly important. Along with that, how organizations use these tools is shifting to the facilitation of human connections. Whether it involves more sophisticated ways of measuring engagement, sentiment or well-being, or even in improving communication, coaching and empathy, there is tremendous interest in leveraging skills that can’t be replicated by machines and those skills are the real value that HR brings to the table.

We find this development heartening, as large conferences often become incubators for buzzwords and marketing spin without really addressing the actual needs of the market. Let’s hope that next year’s HRTech doesn’t bring a sea of t-shirts, koozies and banners with the word “blockchain” on them.

For more information on Brandon Hall Group’s research, please visit

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.