Meet the HR Tech keynote speakers: Josh Bersin

The industry analyst sounds off on how the pandemic will shape HR in the long-term.
By: | September 21, 2020 • 3 min read
Industry leader Josh Bersin, speaking at the 2019 HR Tech conference, will deliver the opening keynote address at the virtual 2020 HR Tech Conference.

This is the first in a series introducing our keynote speakers and their HR Tech Conference content. Check back soon for more.

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Like most, Josh Bersin is spending hours every day on video calls; for Bersin, the content of those calls is largely focused on the strategies and innovations to make today’s—and tomorrow’s—workplaces more tenable for employees, given the disruption of the pandemic. The industry analyst is hyperfocused—through initiatives like his Josh Bersin Academy—on exploring the impact of the global crisis on HR and on uncovering solutions to tackle its most pressing challenges.

Bersin will explore how the pandemic is shaking up HR, particularly the tech marketplace, during the upcoming HR Technology Conference & Exposition, which takes place Oct. 27-30. Bersin will kick off the first day of the free, virtual event, starting at 11 a.m.

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For more information or to register for HR Tech, click HERE.

Related: Here are the top speakers coming to virtual HR Tech

Before he speaks at the conference, Bersin sat down with HRE to share early HR lessons learned from the pandemic.

HRE: Josh Bersin Academy is now in its second year; what’s been the most challenging aspect of getting this venture off the ground for you personally?

Josh Bersin

Bersin: It has been amazing how important HR professional development is for every HR person we talk with. Not only do people want HR skills development and up-to-date, timely information, but they also want to connect with others in a safe, inclusive network. The challenge for the academy is growth. We are a start-up and went from zero to approximately 13,000 members in less than two years. I personally am trying to make sure we maintain our quality, service and culture of support. And, in the middle of this pandemic, we want to make sure we’re supporting the most critical issues on HR professionals’ minds.  So I’m working a little harder than I planned, but it’s one of the most exciting times in my career.

HRE: Learning has long been at the core of your work. How do you think the pandemic will impact the value organizations place on L&D?

Bersin: There’s no question that learning is going through explosive growth, so L&D teams are getting more investment, more focus and longer to-do lists. Not only do employees want to learn about wellbeing, public health and resilience, they also need to learn about how the company is responding, how to manage people remotely, and dozens of new protocols and programs in their company. So there is an abundance of topics to learn, and I’d say L&D leaders and teams are as busy as I’ve ever seen them.

HRE: How have the events of the last six months shaped your own future professional focus?

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Bersin: I’m working hard and spend hours a day on video calls. But I’m also finding this to be one of the most rewarding periods in my career. In my particular case, the need for what I do is greater than ever, and I am thrilled to be learning, sharing and teaching all at the same time. We have developed a new methodology for research (The Big Reset), and we’re now adding value in new and faster ways than ever before, and that’s a thrill for me. Luckily, my family is all healthy and we all live close together, so my professional and personal lives are all going well, despite the fact that vacations, travel and recreation have changed a lot.

HRE: What is your advice to HR leaders who may be struggling with the seemingly competing priorities they’re facing today—what can they do to stay focused on their people?

Bersin: I would suggest that the ONLY thing they should do is focus on their people. Right now, every HR leader’s priority is the wellbeing, productivity, alignment, development and transformation of people, jobs and roles. Every company is going through massive transformation of some type as a result of the pandemic, so taking care of people is the top priority. So whether it’s D&I, onboarding, the summer intern program or returning to the workplace—all of these challenges are about people and, therefore, part of HR’s responsibility.

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 hreletters@lrp.com.