Inspiration, data, tips and insights all on tap as HR Tech kicks off

The HR community today has no shortage of urgent topics to address: more than 18 months of COVID-19, the instant transition to remote and work, the emergence of the Great Resignation. But, at the first in-person HR Tech Conference since the start of the pandemic this week, keynotes, panel discussions, networking sessions, demo sessions, HR Tech Talks and more should help to put all of that into context for HR leaders.

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Managing a remote workforce and its impact on employees will be a particularly hot topic, says global industry analyst and HRE columnist Josh Bersin. “Hybrid work requires having conversations around your company culture. Work practices, management behaviors, reward systems and flexibility are all likely affected by any plans you put into place. It’s important to discuss and review changes so employees know what’s expected,” writes Bersin, who will deliver the keynote address, HR Technology Reinvented: The Big Shift towards Work Tech on Wednesday.

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Attendee Ryan Gormley, head of people for Nylas, a communications API provider, is interested in learning how companies are handling hiring, remote onboarding and employee wellbeing.

“With greater emphasis and buy-in from other departments and leaders and the trend of remote work not going anywhere, I hope to find additional investments, resources and applications that can help address employee well-being,” says Gormley.

Sarah Rodehorst, CEO at Onwards HR, a separation management platform provider, is looking forward to the session on women-owned businesses in the HR technology arena.

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Related: Don’t miss these 5 HR Tech Conference sessions

“According to Harvard Business Review, only 13% of all engineers are women, and women-owned technology companies are nearly non-existent,” she says. “Onwards HR is one of the few HR technology companies where all founders are women so I’m looking forward to connecting and hearing more about the pioneers of our industry and the changes we’ve seen during the pandemic.”

Rodehorst is also eager for some inspiration. “As a former soccer player turned soccer mom and an advocate for equal rights and inclusion, I am very much looking forward to hearing Abby Wambach speak on how HR leaders can change the game as well,” she says, referring to the opening keynote on Tuesday afternoon. “I have three daughters and I am passionate about building more inclusive workplaces that unites us all.”

Looking ahead at innovation and its impact on HR tech careers is a key point for Steve Boese, HRE’s Inside HR Tech columnist and program chair of HR Tech. He cited an article called 21 HR Jobs of the Future by Jeanne Meister and Robert Brown, which Brown and others will be discussing Tuesday during a mega-session titled “The HR Jobs of the Future Are Happening Now.” Some of the jobs identified in Meister and Brown’s report? Chatbot and Human Facilitator, HR Data Detective, Algorithm Bias Officer, VR Immersion Counselor. “All will require extensive technology skills and, if the report is correct, will represent important functions for HR in the near future,” writes Boese.

Christine Tao, CEO and co-founder of Sounding Board and a Women in HR Tech panelist who will discuss Improving the Female Leadership Pipeline, is attending HR Tech with her company’s head of engineering and they’ll be on the lookout for cutting-edge HR technology.

“There is just so much innovation, whether it’s AI, big data, lots of interesting virtual reality and augmented reality. There’s a lot of different technologies that are being applied to HR solutions and we always want to stay on top of those,” Tao says.

Tao also is looking for ideas about managing a workforce in a global pandemic.

“It’ll be really interesting to see how companies are navigating the next stage of the pandemic. We all thought we were coming back to work but maybe we’re not,” she says. “I think a lot of companies are thinking much more long-term in terms of their planning around technologies that they’re using to be able to say, look, this is going to be our reality for probably a very long time.”

For many attendees, part of the reason they’ll be at the conference is to bring data and insights presented at the event back to their workforces.

“I’m very excited to share information and learnings with my colleagues after the conference,” Gormley says. “It is always great to soak in a bunch of new information and findings during the show, but it is even more exciting to put all of that into action and share best practices with my coworkers.”

And Rodehorst has a very specific hoped-for takeaway from one HR Tech speaker. “I plan to bring back a signed copy of Stacey Harris’ book, HR Technologies: Understand How to Use Technology to Improve Performance and Processes,” she says.

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.