What’s going on in HR tech around the world? What are global leaders doing to unleash the full potential of their people?

When I’m thinking about big-picture questions affecting senior leaders, I know who to turn to: my friend China Gorman. You probably know her as the former COO and interim CEO at SHRM, or as the former CEO of Great Places to Work. These days, China’s spending her days helping smaller companies liberate their power. One of those companies is UNLEASH. UNLEASH puts on the event formerly known as HR Tech World. This year is their second year in Vegas, and as managing director of UNLEASH America, China and the team are in preparations to bring some of the most innovative business leaders in the world together at the Aria on May 15 and 16.

I talked to China and Bri Vellis, chief marketing officer of UNLEASH, about what people-management trends they’re seeing across the world, and how they’re bringing those themes to UNLEASH America in Vegas.

What You Learn from Working at a Global Company

Bri has an up-close view of how people work differently around the world. She recently moved from San Francisco to Budapest, where UNLEASH is based. Plus, when she was in the U.S., she worked for a German company where she could immerse herself in different cultures and conversations about HR tech.

“People get into their geography bubbles,” she says. But everyone can really learn from other cultures — Americans could learn from Brits, Brits could learn from Germans, and so on.

“I always hear how Americans don’t want to work so many hours. Especially in the tech industry. They wish they worked more like Europeans,” she says. “Europeans are just more cognizant of their time. Americans can learn from that.”

China has run global organizations, and she says she’s always struck more by different cultures’ similarities than their differences. “I am always astonished by how alike we are, and how, at the end of the day, people are people. People in organizations have similar wants and needs, and are motivated by similar kinds of things. I am always reassured, I am always motivated, and always reminded that our similarities are always far more than our differences. No matter where you go around the world.”

What’s Happening in HR Tech Around the World

So, what new developments are happening in HR technology, and where are the current centers of innovation in the industry? China is excited by the startups that are popping up to help leaders manage emerging challenges.

“People in HR, and leaders in particular, have lots of challenges in terms of managing different generations in the workplace. In being more global. Having different laws, different customs, different languages.”

The HR tech community is responding with solutions, she says. “The creativity, the focus, and frankly the amount of investment going into the HR tech startup world is astonishing.” She points to regional hotspots like Toronto, Tel Aviv, Budapest and Berlin.

China is encouraged by what she sees. “What I take from this is that, as we head into an organizational world of artificial intelligence and robotics, the focus on people is actually growing, not diminishing.”

While some jobs might be done by robots in the future, China sees organizational leaders who want to get a handle on people talent: How do we get it? Where are the best people? How do we deploy talent? How do we engage and develop them? How do we make sure we have the kinds of people and skills where we need them, when we need them?

The answer, she says, is technology. “Technology becomes sort of the great liberator and educator, and profit enhancer. I really believe this in my heart, that leaders are not making decisions to replace people with technology just because it is cheaper, just because it is new. I talk to leaders not about the price of people, but … how do we use people? How do we unleash the people part of our workforce so that we keep moving forward to a better world?

“I really think leaders and technology are trying to do the same thing. They are trying to make the world a better place, for the greater good.”

Because there’s so much startup activity in HR tech, UNLEASH has added a startup and innovation group as a core element of their upcoming event.

What to Expect from UNLEASH America

“The name change from HR Tech World to UNLEASH is really about expanding the focus from being an HR tech conference — the best one in the world — to really unleashing the power of people and the future of work through technology,” China says. “We are expanding our remit. We are really getting into the heart of the matter, which is, ‘How do we use technology in an HR application to really unleash the potential of our people in an organization?’

“It’s not going to be like any HR tech conference you’ve ever been to,” she says. UNLEASH will bring together not just HR leaders, but leaders of every stripe. China says attendees can expect “real-world stories from real-world leaders, from organizations we all know. This is going to be the event to be at.”

During our conversation, Bri and China announced a major keynote: Mo Gawdat, chief business officer at Google X, will be doing his first public address outside the world of Google X. Other speakers include leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, GE Digital and Microsoft.

I can’t wait to be a part of all of these interesting conversations! You can find out more about UNLEASH America and how to join us in Vegas by visiting http://www.unleashgroup.io/america/index or following the #UNLEASH18 conversation on Twitter.

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