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3 lessons from the 2022 Top HR Products of the Year

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.

Every year, a small team from Human Resource Executive® and the HR Technology Conference undertake my favorite project: selecting the Top HR Products of the Year. While I am a little biased, I feel like these awards are the most prestigious in the HR technology industry, given their (long) history, and the dedication and experience of the team members who form the selection team. We take the process and the ultimate selections very seriously and spend countless hours across several months to arrive at what we feel are the best expressions of innovation and accomplishment in the HR technology industry. With that said, I would like to make a few general observations of the 2022 Top HR Products process and share what I think this year’s award winners can tell us about the current and future of HR technology.

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Employee experience is the new category of HR technology

Over the last few years, employee experience has been at the forefront of HR conversations and at the top of HR leaders’ agendas. But the technology solutions that tended to be associated with improving employee experience were largely smaller point solutions for functions like pulse surveys or an HR help desk. These solutions can be effective, but by their nature, they tend to have limited ability to improve employee experience more broadly. What we have seen over the last couple of years—and we definitely saw this in numerous examples during the Top HR Products process—are more thorough expressions of platform approaches to improving the employee experience with technology.

This trend is especially prominent in what we have seen from some of the larger offerings from enterprise solution providers. An excellent example comes from Oracle, with its Oracle ME Employee Experience platform. The platform combines and integrates several important functional capabilities like employee listening, HR help desk, personalized workflow and an innovative HCM to an employee communication solution, which all play an important role in enhancing positive employee experiences. The solution benefits from insights into employees, including their profile, job history and learning and development progress, which are derived from an integrated HCM suite of applications managing the entire employee lifecycle. While hundreds of providers are playing in the employee experience space, it does seem likely that large enterprise providers like Oracle will be able to deliver more thorough and comprehensive solutions than their smaller counterparts. Either way, you will see lots of tools related to employee experience at HR Tech.

Innovation in talent acquisition technology continues

Throughout the years of reviewing solutions for Top HR Products of the Year, we consistently have received more submissions related to talent acquisition technology than for any other domain of human resources. We also see that in the HR Tech Expo, where it would not be surprising to see fully half of the exhibitors being from the talent acquisition space. It is a phenomenon I have always found curious given the imbalance between current employment and hiring in any given month. In the U.S., for example, there are about 152 million people in the labor force. And there are only about 6 million new hires monthly. So, why the disproportionate investment in HR technology focusing on the 6 million hires when compared to the more than 150 million current employees?

Well, it’s largely because hiring, and more accurately hiring the “right” people in a timely and cost-effective manner, has proven to be one of the most difficult challenges in human capital management for decades. That challenge, and the imperative for organizations to get better at hiring, continues to spur innovation in talent acquisition technology, and we see that demonstrated in several of our 2022 Top HR Products winners.

Two innovative solutions stood out to me. Talview Interview Insights is the first I have seen that applies advanced technology to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of the interviewer, not just the candidate. There is also Compa, which attempts combat pay inequities by helping organizations offer more accurate and fair compensation packages in new hire offers—another solution I had not seen before. There will be scores of new TA tools to see at HR Tech, and I am confident you can find the right tool for your organization’s needs.

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HR tech solutions are getting more intelligent—artificial or otherwise

The last lesson I took away from the 2022 Top HR Products of the Year process was a little more semantic and perhaps subtle. Whether it was from the content of the 150 or so company submissions we reviewed or the demonstrations we did over the summer, it seems to me that there is a shift from calling every new HR technology “artificial intelligence” instead towards just “intelligent” or otherwise. Prior to the pandemic, it seemed like just about every new development in HR technology—and a large percentage of the marketing messaging around these technologies—referred to “artificial intelligence.” While we will still certainly see AI bandied about again this year, the phrase a little less prevalent than in the recent past.

If I am right, I do think it’s a good thing for HR tech, and for HR leaders tasked with creating an HR technology strategy for their organizations. If the industry is focused more on impact to employees, driving increased wellbeing, creating better opportunities and helping organizations improve business outcomes, then we are all better off than talking specifically about technology capabilities. The specifics of how a piece of technology works are important, but not as important as their effect on the real people doing the real work. What I observed in 2022 was that the HR technology industry is continuing to create better and better solutions—and I don’t care if they come with the tag of “artificial intelligence” or not. Let’s emphasize the impact on people, and not just the technology.

I’d like to congratulate all 13 2022 Top HR Products winners as well as express my appreciation to all 150-plus companies that submitted their solutions for consideration this year. During the judging process, I would sometimes joke that a person has a better chance of being accepted into an Ivy League school than winning a Top HR Product of the Year award. All kidding aside, this award certainly is a great accomplishment.

If you happen to be attending the HR Technology Conference in a few weeks, please be sure to make note on your expo map of this year’s winners, and plan to pay them a visit to see these amazing solutions up close.

Learn all about this year’s top products here.