The HR Technology Conference 2018, happening this year from Sept. 11 to 14 in Las Vegas, continues to be the biggest conference for the HR technology and services industry. HR practitioners, vendors, analysts, thought leaders, and just about anyone associated with HR, do not want to miss it. Here are five themes that I think will dominate the conversation this year:
I expect AI to be, by far, the hottest topic at the conference. And why not? AI has the potential to dramatically improve HR effectiveness, whether it be by matching people with job opportunities, recommending relevant employee learning programs, or improving HR service delivery through smart chatbots or conversational user interfaces.
However, if not adopted with care, AI can defeat its own purpose or potentially even create new challenges. For instance, how do you ensure that AI is not replicating existing biases, or AI’s decisions have accountability? I expect this dichotomy to be a big talking point.
Many organizations have crossed the pilot phase of people analytics, and are planning scaled deployments of powerful forms of people analytics, such as predictive and benchmarking analytics, embedded analytics, Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), etc.
Now is the time to think of new challenges for companies that have adopted people analytics – how can they upskill the HR team to maximize gains from analytics (such as asking the right questions, interpreting results accurately, etc.)? How can they make sure that overheads (e.g. obtaining and cleaning data) do not inordinately burden the team? How can they measure return on investment (ROI) for business? I expect these questions to dominate conversations.
Employee engagement has truly become the holy grail of the HR world. Engagement has steadily become an ultimate objective for HR, as there’s a wealth of research that has connected engagement with better productivity and hence, better business results. However, with different studies and think pieces using different definitions for employee engagement, there’s ambiguity in the industry around this term. I expect this conference to be an opportunity for HR aficionados to debate and determine what exactly constitutes employee engagement.
Is it about making employees happy, making them more efficient, or something else? And how do you measure and improve this nebulous metric – what tools, technologies, or processes should you use for that? And finally, how do you correlate employee engagement with business results?
Talent management is most powerful when all its constituents – recruiting, performance, compensation, succession, and learning management – work in tandem. For instance, recruiting effectiveness should be measured by new hire performance (quality of hire). Compensation should be commensurate with performance. Succession planning and career pathing should be based on performance and enabled by learning programs.
These applications of integrated talent management are possible only if the underlying HR technology can enable them through a single database, comprehensive analytics, depth in functionality, etc. I expect discussions to focus on taking a holistic view of talent management.
In today’s world, fairness is top of mind for HR professionals. Closing the gender wage gap, ensuring diversity in recruitment, and driving inclusion for all are high priority tasks for HR leaders not only because they are ethical imperatives, but also because they improve workforce effectiveness and efficiency, and keep companies compliant.
Moreover, HR has clearly realized that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. So, employee wellness and well-being programs are also high on the agenda for HR leaders. I expect the growing role for technology in making the workplace fairer and more human to be a major discussion topic at the conference.
This year’s HR Tech Conference will be a great opportunity to discuss these and other trends fundamentally shaping HR of the future. I look forward to four days of fun and stimulating conversations!