Passing the Torch at HR Technology Conference: Technology and People

Passing the TorchFollowing the 16th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas this year, I took a week off to spend some time with my family in London before I attended the HR Tech Europe conference in Amsterdam. With a little time to reflect on the proceedings, I found that the most critical takeaways from the Las Vegas conference this year weren’t so much about HR technologic innovations as they were about a “changing of the guard.” It could also mean that I’ve spent a little too much time site-seeing at Buckingham Palace as well, but either way, I felt there were a number of lessons for HR managers this year that went beyond technology, and spoke to changes taking place in their own companies.

“Changing of the Guard”: Does your Succession Planning have Enough Flexibility?

The predominant changing of the guard for the HR community this year, were heralded in announcements by Bill Kutik and Naomi Bloom that they were making big changes this year. After 16 years as co-chair and all around ring leader for the HR Tech Conference, Bill passed the torch to Steve Boese.  We will all greatly miss Bill’s direct impact and clever wit on the HR Tech event, but like all change, the HR community is now looking forward to seeing what new ideas Steve brings to the table.  We also saw Naomi Bloom, the long standing advocate for KSAOCs (Knowledge Skills Abilities and Other Characteristics) and true technology integration, announce a few months before HR Tech 2013 that she was wrapping up her consulting practice. If you speak to either Bill or Naomi they are very quick to point out they aren’t retiring completely, just slowing the pace and focusing their attention on the things they care about most within the HR space.  Does this sound familiar? Do you have senior leaders looking for similar opportunities?.

As some of the old guard moves on, others move into the newly vacated leadership roles and so we look forward to new talent that pushes the envelope for everyone. This was also the first year I saw a large group of Millenials, Generation Y, filling key roles across the event.  As key presenters, their voices were heard in the analyst halls, and played new and important critical roles in solution provider teams. In my not so humble opinion – Brandon Hall’s own Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, was a breath of fresh air with his new perspective on recruiting technology.

In order to ensure successful succession planning, today’s HR Leaders must take a look within their companies and ask:

  • Do you have people who would be interested in a more flexible work arrangement?
  • Have you looked at your current talent pool and at those within retirement range who have knowledge yet to share?
  • Have you identified the next generation of leaders and idea generators?
  • Do you have employees who could be re-energized if you offered different working arrangements?
  • Are you creating new scheduling models due to the Affordable Care Act and need to understand the possible impact on your decisions?

Analysis like this requires more than simple succession planning tools or basic workforce management tools; it requires an environment of openness and transparency, along with solid workforce analytics and analysis tools that leverage historical data to predict future talent risks and opportunities.

At this year’s HR Tech we were witness to some demonstrations that might help you in this area:

Team Rebuilding: How Effective are your Teams?

Brandon Hall Group’s recent study on team development and performance outcomes found that the impact of a dysfunctional team can negatively impact organizational productivity and quality by greater than 76%. The time of focusing solely on individual high performers is coming to an end. In an era built on collaboration and outreach, tomorrow’s high-performing organizations will need to understand team dynamics as well as they understand individual goal alignment.

Many of the conversations that took place at HR Tech this year concentrated on the lateral movement of talent across various solution providers and clients – illustrating how very small the world can be for many of us.  Most organizations soon realize that good talent often works best when championed by a good supportive team. Bill Kutik readily admitted this in his outgoing address, where he took the time to thank all the people that “made him look good over the last 16 years.”

Has your organization begun to think about team dynamics and the impact this has on business outcomes? Is your organization focused on changing or improving cultures? (In which case you should also be examining the different teams and their unique cultures.) Have you created new team goals and started to address how teams will achieve them?

HR Tech demonstrations we attended that might help you address these issues were:

Passing the Torch: Time for Some New Ideas

Although much of this year’s focus was on filling in product gaps and rebuilding brands after several years of M&A activity, we did see a glimpse into the future of where things are moving, mostly being generated by an enthusiastic next generation of thinkers.  I didn’t see this as a generational thing, just a different way of looking at things.

While the technology itself is still getting up to speed for most of these ideas, we heard several presentations and the seeds of interesting demonstrations across large and small companies alike. I was pleasantly surprised by Shawn Price, the new president of SuccessFactors. His presentation at the opening of their user’s conference went beyond the common themes of cloud, mobile, and social – and outlined real issues that next generation talent technology will need to address such as:

  • Managing alumni and boomerang talent pools
  • Connecting work and personal information for the benefit of the employees
  • Supporting new global management models

In rethinking the entire talent model, companies like and SmartRecruiters are looking to flip the model, providing a shoppers experience to the job searching environment starting initially with free services. Companies like Clear Company shared their vision of driving the entire talent management model from a goal alignment perspective, versus an HR process perspective. It was intriguing in its simplicity. Companies like PageUp People, Achievers, Triple Creek share a vision of making careerpathing, achievements, and mentoring central parts of tomorrow’s business processes.

Other organizations were heading more into the marketing and branding realms, connecting social responsibility tools to the talent management strategy and branding. Organizations such as JK Group  are creating an environment where people feel both good and connected to the corporate goals.

Presently, none of these ideas are ready for full implementation and many of these solution providers are going through their own growth and metamorphosis – but they warrant watching.

The opportunities of where HR technology will take us in the next few years are endless. Change is always important and necessary, always a little unsettling, but best of all is filled with anticipation. We at Brandon Hall look forward to sharing the journey with you, bringing you insights and data that will assist in your efforts to make the best business decisions possible.

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