Getting Personal with HR Tech

By: | April 4, 2018 • 4 min read
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and is a co-chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.

An improved—and more personal—user experience is just one of the themes HR tech solution providers are exploring this year.

A major part of the planning process in creating the program for the upcoming HR Technology Conference and Exposition® is attending as many industry and HR technology solution provider customer conferences as I can. The primary benefit for attending these events are the conversations: with product executives about their current and future plans, with HR leaders who are using these products in their organizations, and with industry analysts and influencers about what they are seeing in the HR tech market.

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In the last month or so, I have had the opportunity to attend three such events: Ultimate Software’s Connections conference in Las Vegas, IBM’s Think event (also in Las Vegas) and Oracle HCM World in Dallas. (As an aside, while I do believe Las Vegas is the best place for any large conference, kudos to Oracle for choosing a location with great weather and great barbecue.)

Rather than producing an event report for each conference, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight some common themes across all three events. While every HR technology provider approaches new trends, technologies and customer challenges in its own way, it is useful to assess what kinds of technology developments and “big picture” considerations are being seen across the industry, as these tools and developments are likely to shape much of the HR technology conversation for both solution providers as well as in customer organizations this year.

Here are the three major themes I took from those recent conferences.

AI-powered Solutions

At HR Tech last year, artificial intelligence was the one theme that seemed to emerge out of almost every conversation with a solution provider. This is a good thing for HR leaders, but potentially problematic as well. While the promise of AI and AI-powered HR technology is amazing, the confusing blend of terminology, technology and marketingspeak can make AI in HR tech a difficult concept to grasp, as well as challenging to understand its practical applications.

At the recent events I have attended, one major theme seems to be communicating more clearly in this emerging HR technology area. Currently, the primary way this technology is being deployed in HR tech is in the form of using AI to create more specific and tailored recommendations to support HR and HCM processes (for example: job matching, targeted employer value proposition messaging to specific, desired candidates, and recommended actions for managerial coaching and development opportunities for current employees). These and other AI-powered capabilities are demonstrating how this advanced technology can be put to work by HR and organizations without having to “learn” how the AI really works or hire AI-savvy HR staffers.

Expect to see more AI usage, and more examples of AI becoming the “fabric” of HR technology platforms as this technology evolves and organizations become more comfortable with AI-powered HR tools. From what I heard at the three recent conferences, AI offers HR leaders tremendous opportunity and promises to dominate the discussion in HR tech in 2018 and beyond.

User-experience Development Never Ends

In many ways, enterprise technology solutions remind me of the purchase of a new car, in that once you drive it off the dealer’s lot, the car’s worth drops by about 15 percent. For enterprise technology, once an organization deploys a solution to its employees, it doesn’t take very long for that solution to move from the “latest and greatest” new technology available to just another solution in the market. The pace of development in HR technology is so fast these days that what was the most amazing technology in the market one day becomes what is often referred to as “table stakes” just a short time later.

We see this pace of development and change in HR technology most acutely in user experience (UX). As technology evolves, the way users expect to interact with technology solutions evolves as well, and the expectations for improved UX continue to rise.

At the three events I mentioned above, each of the solution providers addressed UX as a primary concern and priority of their short-term and longer-term development plans, and all have invested heavily in UX designers and development talent. In sum, consistent and frequent UX improvement should be something that HR leaders must insist on and expect from their HR tech providers. Your employees, as the end users of these tools, will demand more and better UX from the tools your organization provides.

Personalized Technology Solutions

The final theme is one that has arisen as a combination or a result of the first two trends: the increase in AI-powered technology and the continued emphasis on improved user experience.

When you combine AI-supported technology—with its ability to generate insights and recommendations based on large data volumes, past outcomes and adaptable, scenario-based analyses—and modern, enhanced UX tools, then you begin to approach what we can call “Personal HR Tech.” The main idea here (one that I heard discussed several times at the recent industry events I have mentioned) is that providers are increasingly able to create and expose personalized, truly individualized HR technology capability and experiences.

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One example can be found in career development: By using AI and improved UX, an HR technology solution can provide employees specific, recommended career-progression options, development opportunities and connections to the right people in the organization who can help them reach their goals. The recommendations are made based on information from employees’ personal profiles, which include stated career objectives, prior experience, and past performance and feedback. Expect to see more “personal” HR tech from the leading and emerging HR technology solution providers this year.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be attending several more industry events where I am sure to hear and learn more about what leading HR technology solution providers are building in these important areas, as well as what kinds of experiences, successes and failures that customer organizations are experiencing. I like to think I do the “hard” work of traveling around to various HR tech events so you don’t have to!

But it is only valuable time spent if I can share what I have seen and learned to help you be better informed, make the right technology decisions for your organization and achieve the desired people and business outcomes from your HR technology investments. All these elements—especially the idea of “customer success”—will be covered in more detail at the HR Tech conference in September in Las Vegas.

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