5 takeaways from the first day of HR Tech

The HR Technology Conference got underway Tuesday, with HR, tech and business leaders from around the world converging in an unprecedented virtual setting to talk about this unprecedented year.

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The pandemic’s impact on the world of work was the topic of the day Tuesday–from how it is fueling expansion in different corners of the HR tech market to the skill sets HR and tech leaders today need to develop to weather the ongoing changes. Here are five of the top themes that emerged from Tuesday’s expert-led sessions:

Josh Bersin during a live Q&A during the 2020 virtual HR Technology Conference & Expo.

1. The HR tech market is changing–quickly.

Innovation and flexibility have become essential elements of HR technology, in light of the crises of 2020, and core HR systems are increasingly diversifying and integrating in order to keep up with those demands, industry analyst Josh Bersin said during his keynote this morning. Traditional core systems are strapped so thin, they have no choice to become ecosystem models–which will greatly influence the market in the years to come. The talent management space is also primed for significant shifts, as employers increasingly look to talent tools to drive diversity, equity and inclusion.

2. Supporting employees through today’s disruptions will lead to better business outcomes.

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According to Stacey Harris, chief research officer at Sapient Insights Group, organizations that made smart decisions about their talent in the last few months have realized better business outcomes. In particular, strategies like increasing essential workers’ salaries, hiring more essential workers, increasing technology spend on infrastructure and redistributing workers to new roles all were linked to successful business performance.

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3. The work/life balance is a thing of the past.

The theme of 2021’s HR tech market will largely be remote work, Bersin noted. As the pandemic drags on and more employers embrace long-term remote work, they–as well as HR tech providers–will be tasked with rolling out tools that help address workers’ stress, anxiety and financial concerns, all while driving productivity. In her organization’s research, Harris noted, remote work was the top area of tech investment when it comes to talent management; additionally, more than one-third of employers surveyed plan to allow remote work after the pandemic.

Anticipating the talent impacts of remote work is an opportunity for HR leaders to create change, which should be a mandate in the coming months, noted Cornerstone Chief Learning Officer Jeff Miller in a session on the new realities facing HR leaders. “You need to be reactionary to change but you also need to be conscious about limiting the negative effects of change,” Miller said.

4. Empathy should drive future HR and tech decisions.

The pandemic is highlighting the need for HR to center empathy in all of its decision-making. ServiceNow Chief Talent Officer Pat Wadors said “whole-person care”–that takes into account employees’ mental, emotional, physical and financial health, as well as individual home lives and family situations–should be a driving factor in benefits, performance management, workforce planning and more. Managers need to be better equipped for such strategies, she noted, and C-suite executives may need an extra push from HR to get on board. On the tech side, Bersin said, the market is seeing an influx of tools designed to help HR and managers be more empathetic.

5. This is L&D’s moment.

The demand for and opportunities of learning and development was a hot topic throughout the day. Skills-based learning is exploding, and the market is also seeing growth in tools offering both micro and macro learning, Bersin said. Employers surveyed in the Sierra-Cedar/Sapient Insights HR Systems Surveyed reported that, of those planning to make changes to their HR tech offerings, most were focused on learning. The rapid disruptions of 2020 have forced us all to be living in a “petri dish of learning,” Miller noted, and employers should approach the year’s many challenges as vital learning opportunities.


The HR Tech Conference features free, virtual content through Oct. 30. There is still time to register. For more information, click HERE.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].