From Ultimate Silicon Valley insider Ray Wang

This article was originally published on HRE’s sister site It has been updated and lightly edited.

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R “Ray” Wang (pronounced WAH-NG) is well-known across the technology and startup hub of Silicon Valley in the US. With a 30-year career across software, consulting and business research, his analysis of workforce trends and technology advances is sought after from business leaders across that broad spectrum, and he has some unique, data-backed ideas on workforce management in the digital age.

That’s covered in great part across his A Software Industry Insider blog, which is a must-read across Silicon Valley. From the sprawling campuses of giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, to the startup businesses still based in the garages of hopeful founders (and their parents), Wang’s observations, advice and insight are part of the unseen infrastructure keeping the U.S. technology industry constantly evolving and growing.

Wang is also a prominent and dynamic keynote speaker, delivering keynote addresses at the biggest tech conferences around the world, as well as in more intimate executive settings such as the annual World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.

Still on his 2020 calendar despite the coronavirus disruptions is HR Tech Festival Asia, where Wang will deliver a keynote address on the state of the technology industry and how it is helping HR teams get the most out of their staff, and themselves. [Originally scheduled for May 12-13, the event will take place Sept. 29-30 at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. And the virtual HR Tech Fest 2020, featuring thought leaders John Sumser, Josh Bersin and Jason Averbook, among others, is set for May 12-13.]

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HR Tech Fest 2020: Taking the next step in intelligent tools

The key question on tech

Wang says much of the application of workforce technology comes down to one question. “Can a work process be augmented with technology, or should it be automated because humans are actually not very good at it?” he asks. “All those kinds of things come into play.”

Wang considers his five years with Forrester Research to be vital to his realization that a wide range of stakeholders participate in every HR technology decision.

“While I was there I started to understand how clients view the world, how vendors view the world, and most importantly, how partners view the world,” he said. “Looking at it like a three-legged stool is really how we try to help everybody.

“You typically have these technology scenarios where the customer is trying to solve a problem, partners are there to help him out, or a technology vendor is trying to help. And somewhere in between all that, you get to the answer.”

On the horizon

With such a rich history of experience and continuing analysis, Wang frequently gets asked about the future of HR technology and what is getting him excited at the moment. Wang says that right now, he is most closely watching the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence around the world.

“It’s really transforming how work’s going to be done and how insights are being delivered to democratize decision-making across the organization,” he tells HRM Magazine Asia.

Related: HR technology in the coronavirus era

But as in everything in technology, it’s possible for Wang to take things a step further. The exciting thing about artificial intelligence is how it creates digital feedback loops—these digital networks that allow organizations to think about what’s next, he says.

Related: Q&A with HR Tech Influencer Ray Wang

“This could be used to improve anything from figuring out which employees should be given more training, or more opportunities to be promoted, or which employees actually need more motivation or more incentive so they’re more aligned with a particular organization and what’s actually happening,” he says.

“Artificial intelligence is playing a huge role in terms of creating these opportunities for organizations, but we must also apply design principles for digital ethics for the sake of humanity.”

Most recently, Wang says, these applications have been used to great effect in regulatory and compliance efforts for complex organizations with large numbers of employees and projects.

“Oops! It turns out we hired people under the age of 18 and didn’t pay them appropriately, or we were supposed to calculate benefits a certain way,” Wang lists as common scenarios that a well-considered examination of data can help an organization get ahead of. “Also, if you’ve got CSR initiatives that you’re trying to go after, algorithms can help you know where you stand in terms of your organization and compliance.”

Singapore-bound for 2020

Wang says he is looking forward to sharing some Asia-specific insights during the Singapore event.

“I’ll be talking about the changing dynamic that’s happening in Asia, right now,” he says. “People like to talk about the war for talent, but I like to look at it a little bit differently. I think all across Asia, the skillsets for the future are being built, right?

“Every company and every university’s playing its role, and along the way employees are learning from each other.”


Catch R “Ray” Wang live as a speaker at the upcoming HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 (Sept. 29-30, Singapore), the region’s largest HR technology conference and exhibition.