HR tech conference

#WorkTrends: What to Expect at HR Tech 2018

This year’s HR Technology Conference will be Sept. 11-14 in Las Vegas. How has the industry changed in the past few years, and what can you expect at this year’s conference?

Steve BoeseSteve Boese is co-chairman of the conference, the world’s largest gathering of the HR technology community. He’s also a writer/editor for Human Resource Executive magazine and he created and co-hosts the HR Happy Hour podcast on Blog Talk Radio.

For over 15 years Boese has been focused on the implementation of technology solutions to solve business problems, working with organizations ranging from telecommunications to consulting to higher education. He also developed a graduate course in HR technology for the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Boese gave us a preview of the conference and talked about industry changes. You can listen to the full episode below or keep reading for a recap of our conversation. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

Companies Are Investing in HR

The HR Tech conference has really grown in the past few years, and Boese attributes that to a number of factors. “In general we’ve seen improving economic and business conditions, certainly here in the U.S. but in a lot of other countries as well, since the end of the recession,” he says. The climate is better and he says organizations are willing to invest again.

“There’s an increased need for organizations to better compete and deploy human capital. With a record number of job openings and near-record highs in the average time to fill a job in the United States, companies are looking toward technologies to help them manage those challenges and opportunities.”

In addition, he says, a lot of investment dollars are being pumped into HR tech, and that’s spurring innovation because a lot of smart people are rushing into the area to build new technologies.

“Also, many companies are finally moving off of older legacy, often installed, systems to choose some of these modern, mobile, cloud-based, consumer-like and increasingly intelligent technologies deployed in the cloud,” he says. “So the pace of innovation has been really, really high in the last five years, and companies have had more money to spend.”

AI Is Piquing Curiosity

Boese says a tiny percentage of companies have deployed AI in HR departments. But through pre-registration surveying, HR Tech organizers know that four of the five sessions generating the most interest are AI sessions. “We’re seeing more and more technology providers — most of the large ones and many smaller ones as well, including startups — trying to deploy AI and smart technologies across a number of processes, whether it’s service delivery, HR help desk stuff, scheduling, recruiting and trying to schedule interviews, even some on trying to help potential candidates find the right job to apply to.”

Boese says there are also interesting developments regarding employee performance and coaching. On the learning and development side, there are systems to help employers understand their employees. “What can we learn from your profile? What can we learn from your preferences? How can we provide intelligent recommendations about the assignments, the job opportunities, the learning and development opportunities that we’d like to present to you that will align with what we think your goals are and where you want to take your career?”

He doesn’t see AI replacing a lot of HR jobs. It will supplement what people do, but not replace them. “I think there’s still lots of great opportunity for people in HR and in other domains to work alongside with, in consultation with and in coordination with these technologies.”

What to Expect at the HR Tech Conference

The conference will have four days of content, in addition to pre-conference activities. There will be several keynote speakers, including one that Boese said will be a surprise. Announced keynote speakers include Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” He’ll be talking about work, the workplace and the value of every job,” Boese says. “We get caught up in what’s happening in tech companies, but not everyone is working on an app in Silicon Valley, and Rowe is going to challenge you to think differently about jobs.”

HR Executive magazine publishes an annual list of the most admired companies for HR, and four or five of the CHROs from those companies will be on the CHRO panel. In addition, there will be about 70 sessions and lots of tech demonstrations.

This year also marks the first startup pitch-fest. “So, we’re going to have 60 startups exhibiting in our startup pavilion,” Boese says. “Thirty of those startups will compete in our pitch-fest, and the winner gets a $30,000 prize.”

The Women in HR Tech Summit will take place on the first day of the conference. “It was designed to showcase and help give a spotlight to so many of the incredibly talented and successful women leaders and founders in the HR technology industry,” Boese says. There’s no additional charge for the summit — it’s included in the conference registration.

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.