What’s Coming Up at HR Tech?

During my welcoming remarks at the HR Technology Conference a few years ago, I made an observation along the lines of “If every company is a technology company (which was a common idea floating around the business world at the time), then every HR leader has to become a technology leader, too.”

My thought process was simple: Organizations succeed, ultimately, only through and because of their people. And as technology capability, acumen and innovation were increasing conditions and even prerequisites for any kind of business success, and that success had to be effected through people, then the “people” leaders in the organization–CHROs and their teams–would also need to become “tech” leaders. That was my thinking back then–and it still is today.

The elements of organizational success are varied, and they can seem very complex at times. The right product or service, a favorable economic climate, connection to a real customer need, slick marketing, rigorous and efficient process control, a highly optimized supply chain and perfect execution are all requirements for an organization’s ability to succeed. These elements are so important and complex in their own right that they’re all subjects for study, have their own professional organizations and conferences, and have been analyzed for decades. But each has one thing in common, one unifying thread that stitches them together to form what becomes, hopefully, a highly functioning whole–and that is people.

Organizational success, then, is really about the success of people, and it’s up to CHROs and their teams to create, shape, support and maintain the conditions, environments, opportunities and even cultures to help people succeed. So for us at HR Tech, the belief that HR’s most critical contribution is in helping people succeed in the organization–coupled with the idea that technology is an essential component of the HR playbook for success–inform what we do, including this year, when the conference returns to Las Vegas in October.

Read on for highlights of what we have planned for HR Tech:

Market Landscape Sessions

Over the years, the HR-technology marketplace and the HR Tech Conference Expo have continued to grow at an almost astonishing pace. In 2018, more than 400 HR-tech providers participated in the expo, and I expect that record to be surpassed this year. I don’t have to tell experienced conference attendees that navigating the HR Tech Expo can be a challenge–with a growing number of providers, new categories emerging in the market and both large, established companies as well as a bumper crop of start-ups pushing the innovation agenda forward. We realize that, for most HR leaders, keeping up with this fast-moving and changing market can be daunting.

We want to help you make better sense of it all, so this year we will continue with our important Market Landscape sessions–informative presentations designed to help you understand individual categories of the HR-tech market, learn about the most significant developments and trends in each, and better plan not only your HR Tech Conference experience. The series can also aid in the development of research, strategy development and technology-purchase plans. These sessions, developed by industry experts, will cover subject domains like payroll, learning, analytics, talent acquisition and artificial intelligence (more on AI below). If you’re in the market for solutions in these areas, or just need to learn more about what is out there, the Market Landscape sessions are designed for you.

Artificial Intelligence

Yes, even if you are a casual observer of the HR-technology world, you’ve probably heard plenty about artificial intelligence and its emergence in this space–from Amazon’s early (and unsuccessful) attempts to use AI to improve diversity hiring to the more recent claims from IBM that it can predict retention and employee flight risk with 95% accuracy.

These are just two popular examples of AI in HR tech, but they illustrate some of the current challenges: Reputable (and positive) use cases are sometimes hard to find and verify, and even the purportedly successful ones, like in IBM’s case, still have a shroud of “black-box” technology to them. We think AI has helped the organization meet its objectives, but we’re just not sure how it did, or how it really works.

So at HR Tech in 2019, we’ll attempt to shed more light on this issue and provide insight into the rapidly developing world of AI in HR technology. We’ll do this with an eye toward presenting verifiable, successful real-world applications of AI as well as helping HR and HRIT leaders better understand some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of AI.

Some sessions of note that will benefit HR leaders–both those who are somewhat experienced with AI as well as those thinking about the topic for the first time this year–include an executive panel, “Reimagining HR in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” moderated by AI thought leader Jeanne Meister and featuring leaders from Delta Air Lines, TIAA and Hilton; sessions on the successful application of AI technology for recruiting at Facebook, Accenture and Google; and two educational sessions from noted AI researcher John Sumser. These, as well as the above-mentioned Market Landscape session for AI presented by author and expert Ben Eubanks, will help HR leaders understand how AI can help their businesses meet today’s talent challenges.

Future of Work

While a majority of the content at HR Tech is focused on understanding technology, succeeding with technology and learning from actual applications of HR tech in leading organizations, we also strive to create opportunities for attendees to think deeply about the future, and provide HR leaders with ideas about how technology will evolve. Being able to understand how work and the workplace may change in the next two, three or five years might be the competitive advantage your organization needs to get ahead of new trends and technologies–rather than having to play catch-up and being forced to adapt.

With that in mind, this year at HR Tech we’ve invited a stellar collection of leading HR and HR-technology product and thought leaders from organizations like Oracle, ServiceNow, Saba, Ceridian and more to share their visions and even some conceptual HR-technology developments that may one day play a major role in the organizations and workplaces of the future. And since we think this “future of work” theme is so interesting and important for HR and HR tech, we will close the conference with a keynote presentation from author and future of work expert Ravin Jesuthasan on “Reinventing Jobs: Automation and the Future of Work.”

Bonus Content and Fun

An HR Tech Conference preview would not be complete without mentioning a few of the featured sessions and activities that have come to make the event such an essential part of the HR calendar each year. Once more, the first day of the conference will feature our popular Women in HR Technology Summit, with a half-day of sessions focusing on diversity, inclusion and professional development. The first day concludes with a keynote presentation by Barbara Corcoran, noted entrepreneur and a star of TV’s Shark Tank–a keynote that is sure to be informative, inspirational and entertaining.

Additional keynote presentations are planned from author and speaker Marcus Buckingham, HR-industry analyst and expert Josh Bersin and an executive panel featuring CHROs and CEOs from some of the world’s most admired companies.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out a few more elements of the expo that make it such a standout. The record number of exhibitors will all be there to showcase their solutions, connect with HR leaders, and share their insights and plans for future developments. In addition to all the major HR-tech providers, our expo will once again host the largest collection of HR-tech start-ups in our Start-up Pavilion. Roam the aisles of the Pavilion, meet some of the up-and-coming HR-tech providers and perhaps find that new and innovative tool your organization is looking for.

Once again, we’ll also stage the HR Tech Pitchfest in the expo hall, where 30 HR-tech start-ups will demonstrate live to compete for a fantastic prize. The Pitchfest Demo Theater proved to be one of the most popular spaces in the expo last year. Plus, the HR Tech Talks Theater will feature a series of short-form, TED-style talks on a range of HR, workplace and technology topics–perfect for maximizing your time in the expo.

At the top of this piece, I referenced an observation I make at the beginning of an HR Tech Conference a few years ago, so I think it makes sense to close with a call-out to something I say at the end of every HR Tech Conference: “This year’s conference was our absolute best ever.” Every year I say that, every year I mean that and, now that we’ve released the details of the agenda for 2019, I am 100% confident I will both make that statement and believe it heartily at the conclusion of this year’s event. Please make your plans to join us at the event–as always, it will be not only the largest HR-tech event ever, but the one that solely focuses on what matters most to HR leaders: organizational success through people.

See you in Las Vegas!

The HR Technology Conference & Exposition® will be held Oct. 1 through Oct. 4 at the Venetian in
Las Vegas.

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.