This month, in what has become an annual exercise for me, I take a look at the emerging HR, HR technology, and workplace themes and trends that surface from my early planning for the HR Technology Conference in October. While some of these themes or trends are just extensions and evolutions of ideas and concepts we have been talking about for a while, (mobile, analytics, engagement), some others like the field of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, seem really fresh and new. I like to think that reviewing hundreds of HR Tech speaking submissions and having dozens of calls with leading HR tech providers and thought leaders provides me kind of a unique perspective on what is really happening with modern HR technologies inside organizations.
In this month's HR Executive column I take a look at a few of these initial themes or trends that I am seeing in HR, HR Tech, and the workplace, and how these trends will help inform and shape the discussions in 2017, and the program for the HR Technology Conference in October. This is always a fun exercise for me, and I hope you get some ideas and insights from this review as you plan out your year.
From the HRE piece:
I have started the planning process for the 20th annual HR Technology® Conference and Exposition (Oct. 10 through 13, 2017, and back in Las Vegas after a quick detour through Chicago last year). To date, the most common question I am asked from individuals and organizations interested in attending and/or speaking at the conference is what the main themes will be this year.
Granted, the annual event covers an ever-broadening spectrum of technologies, business processes and topics and, over time, many of the primary challenges facing HR and business leaders have grown, changed and evolved as well. Five years ago, the word "analytics" would likely not have popped up in an HR leader's job description. Today, analytics is high on almost every HR leader's list of strategic priorities. And the main themes of HR Tech have evolved as well, along with these ever-changing business challenges and technology-driven opportunities.
But to get back to the question, here is my very preliminary swing at the answer:
Artificial Intelligence and HR
When I initially started brainstorming topics for the column, one thought was to write about the recent Consumer Electronics Show and look for parallels and extensions from the new and emerging consumer tools to how these technologies might manifest in the workplace. While I decided not to do an entire column on that topic, there was one clear "winner" of CES this year, and that was Amazon's Alexa platform. Alexa, via Amazon's Echo device, is a voice-activated, intelligent digital assistant that can perform a wide variety of useful tasks, primarily in the home. The big story from CES was how Alexa is already being leveraged by numerous other devices -- such as in cars, on refrigerators and directly integrated in smartphones. The big takeaway from this, and a trend I am seeing reflected in many of the HR Tech proposals I have reviewed, is the increasing comfort level and capability individuals are developing with intelligent and responsive technologies, in addition to their increasing reliance on them. As these intelligent technologies proliferate in our personal lives (often accompanied by voice-interface capability), we can expect to see them emerge in HR and workplace technology as well. I expect "AI for HR" will be an important topic at HR Tech 2017 and beyond.
The Employee Experience
Last year in this space I talked about the evolution of employee engagement as an important topic for 2016. Now that a full year has passed, I think this evolution from the idea of "engagement" to something that has become known as the employee "experience" has made significant progress. More organizations have begun looking past the focus on the "end result," i.e., the engagement score, and have launched initiatives (and looked to supporting HR technologies) that more directly impact the key components of an employee's experience with the organization -- components that ultimately drive what we measure as engagement. A look through my inbox of pitches for HR Tech 2017 reveals topics such as career development, employee well-being, corporate social responsibility and personalized employee learning -- all topics that speak to organizational efforts to enhance their employees' positive experience.
Platforms and Integration
Like most technology trends, there is a lag between the introduction of a new technology, the identification and emergence of that technology as a "trend," and the more widespread acceptance and adoption of the technology by providers and organizations. At the 2015 conference, we began to look more closely at the importance of HR-technology platforms, ecosystems and application marketplaces. No matter the specific terminology, the main idea was that organizations of all sizes had adopted numerous and often disparate HR-tech solutions, and were facing the daunting challenge of integrating these diverse solutions both for process efficiency and productivity, as well as for consolidated reporting and business intelligence. Fast forward to early 2017, and HR-tech platforms, application interoperability, and the "marketplace" or app store concept is now being more fully realized and adopted by providers and customers. At the upcoming HR Tech Conference, I expect we will see and hear stories about some important and early organizational successes that have resulted from applying these technologies and approaches to harmonize their divergent sets of HR solutions.
Read the rest at HR Executive online...
If you liked the piece you can sign up over at HRE to get the Inside HR Tech Column emailed to you each month. There is no cost to subscribe, in fact, I may even come over and shovel the snow off your driveway, take your dog for a walk, or help you plan your summer vacation.
Have a great weekend!