Global perspectives on HR technology from a people leader in Norway

A recent Gartner survey found that 56% of HR leaders believe that their current technology solutions need to be better aligned with the present and future requirements of their businesses. But this hasn’t turned them away from digital platforms. On the contrary, HR departments are actively investing in technology, indicating that tech was their top investment priority in 2023. Additionally, nearly half of people leaders told Gartner they intend to boost their investments over the coming year, making events such as HR Technology Europe an essential part of the vendor vetting process.

Cathrine Smebye Sørlie, human resource leader at Rental Group
Cathrine Smebye Sørlie, Rental Group

One such tech buyer is Cathrine Smebye Sørlie, human resource leader at Rental Group, a supplier of machinery and equipment for construction projects in Norway and the Netherlands. Sørlie manages the HR team and establishes and implements the HR agenda and priorities for all Rental Group subsidiaries, currently encompassing eight companies. 

Last fall, Sørlie and a human resource business partner traveled to Las Vegas to meet with vendors and learn from the wide gathering of tech companies at Human Resource Executive‘s annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition. Sørlie found the experience so enlightening that she will attend HR Tech’s inaugural sister event: HR Technology Europe, May 2-3 in Amsterdam. There, she will join thousands of other attendees gathering to learn from more than 180 speakers presenting 80 sessions and a globally focused expo, including a start-up pavilion.

One such speaker is Trish Steed, CEO and principal analyst at H3 HR Advisors. She’ll be presenting a program on people analytics and participating in an ask-the-expert session, where conference attendees gain direct access to conversations with speakers. “I’m looking forward to meeting many of the European counterparts of the U.S. vendors I know and work with,” says Steed. “It’s spring so that also means many new product announcements and innovations.”

Trish Steed, CEO of H3 HR Advisors
Trish Steed, CEO of H3 HR Advisors

Steed hasn’t always been on stage at the HR Technology Conference. In fact, her connection with the event started when she discovered the Las Vegas show in 2010—as a practitioner and attendee. “For the first few years, I was attending as an HR leader so my experience was around learning in sessions and evaluating HR solutions in the expo hall,” she recalls. “I would bring that knowledge back to my workplace.”

Sørlie will also be mining for ideas to report to her team. She will be using her time at the two-day event to explore HR technology that applies to European laws and culture. “It is clear that there is a difference in working culture and laws between Europe and the U.S.,” she says. “It will be interesting to see the European approach to the HR Technology [Conference].”

More highlights of HR Technology Europe include a panel discussion featuring global analyst Josh Bersin; Uzair Qadeer, CHRO at the BBC; and Esmé Valk, CHRO of Royal Schiphol Group. EEOC commissioner Keith Sonderling, Aptitude Research founder Madeline Laurano, i4cp leader Kevin Oakes and Recruiting Brainfood curator Hung Lee will also be keynote speakers.

On the hunt for a new HRIS

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Given the vast range of platforms available, Gartner advises HR leaders to select “big bang” technology initiatives to harness the advantages of market innovations, thereby enhancing talent and contributing to the business outcomes that matter to the organization. 

For this, Rental Group utilizes a recruitment system and an HRIS platform—two of the most relied-upon solutions in the HR tech stack. Sørlie is in the process of changing the company’s HRIS to a more modern platform. Last year, as part of the vetting process for the new HRIS, Sørlie needed to fully understand the options on the market, she told HRE. This prompted her to register for the HR Technology Conference in October 2023. 

Sørlie said the conversations, sessions and experts at the conference helped shape her view of human resource technology. “We are working on changing the way we approach HRIS currently, both to include AI and to streamline and focus on self-service,” says Sørlie.

Attending the conference gave Sørlie insight into how other companies use technology—for example, AI and virtual reality—to conquer many challenges she and her team are facing today. “So this was an eye-opener for the conference,” she says.

Sørlie studied HR management at UCLA, so she’s aware of multiple HR approaches, from both Europe and the United States. She says the level of global variety at HR Tech impressed her and that learning from other companies was valuable, including those with solutions and practices unique to the U.S.

“It was extremely interesting to attend the conference, and I learned a lot about the options out there, which was my main intent,” Sørlie says. Sørlie found it valuable to learn about the scope of HR tech systems that have been created to alleviate financial debt for employees, in particular.

Diverse interests require unique strategies

During a presentation at HR Tech in Las Vegas last year, European analysts Mervyn Dinnen and Matt Alder highlighted that, although HR technology in Europe and the U.S. may stem from the same vendors and platforms, the motivations driving adoption and application vary. 

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Dinnen and Alder emphasize the diverse landscape of Europe. With an array of regulatory frameworks across the EU, integrating technology requires a tailored and nuanced approach. Despite the perception of the EU as a unified bloc, it comprises 27 member countries with numerous languages and cultural nuances.

This diversity underscores the need for HR leaders with global interests to recognize distinct contexts and adapt strategies accordingly.

Sørlie believes HR teams can use technology to deliver value to the organization through employee self-service tools and automation for administrative work. At many global companies, additional priorities extend beyond efficiency to infuse future aims—according to Gartner’s 2023 Board of Directors Survey, almost 90% of boards say that digital is an “implicit part of growth strategies” for the organizations they represent.

HR Technology Europe is an excellent opportunity to vet vendors and absorb strategies from peers. As Edward Barry, Gallagher’s managing director for HR technology, writes: “Don’t wait for a problem.” He advises HR leaders to evaluate any software more than five years old to determine if current needs match the platform’s capabilities. “Start planning for replacement a year or more before you want to make the change.” 

The agenda for HR Technology Europe is out now, and registration is underway. Until April 3, book your spot at the advance rate of €375. Get your ticket.

Jill Barth
Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist with bylines in Forbes, USA Today and other international publications. With a background in communications, media, B2B ecommerce and the workplace, she also served as a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services for nearly a decade. Reach out at [email protected].