Inside the HR Technology Conference & Exposition 2017

This was my first year at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas. It is by far one of the biggest events around HR Tech that I have ever attended.

It was also the first time Google participated in an HR Tech event and I am sure this won’t be their last time. With Google coming up with Google For JobsGoogle Hire , and Google Primer (apps that very clearly sit in the HR Tech space) it is very likely we will see an increased engagement of Google in similar events around the world.

400 exhibitors, 35 product categories

As per the official guide, exhibitors were distributed into 35 different categories. The most populated three were Talent Management, Recruitment, and Engagement & Recognition. Not a surprise, considering the interest these categories arouse between buyers and investors, especially in the U.S.

Besides, the fact that the first seven categories (that also included Onboarding, Workforce Planning & Analytics, Applicant Tracking Systems, and Performance Management) represented more than 50% of the exhibitors, indicates that the HR Tech market is consolidating into fewer categories, even if we may see the emergence of new niche categories in the near future.

Notwithstanding, if I had to make a prediction, I would say that next year we will very likely see a higher participation of exhibitors in the Compensation and Employee Well-being categories.

The primary reason for this hypothesis is that Compensation as a category is currently under addressed. On the one hand, players like beqom have come into existence to fill this gap, and considering their success many others are likely to follow suit. On the other hand, today many HCM players do not have a good compensation module in line with the current compensation practices of mid sized and enterprise customers. And this represents a big opportunity for both HR Tech existing players and new entrants.

The other category is Employee Well-being. Companies are increasingly taking a holistic view of this topic and thus the multiple aspects of well-being, such financial, physical, emotional, social, and work environment need to be addressed by HR Tech solution providers (e.g.  Best Money Moves in the case of financial well-being). This hypothesis about well being is further corroborated by the fact that Josh Bersin in his closing keynote did mention that he expects the market for employee well being solutions “will explode” very soon. Companies need solutions that integrate the different dimensions of employee well-being to create engaging platforms that track the impact of company actions on employee well-being as well as the return on investment.

It’s a small world after all

Another finding was that the generic trends in the field of HR Tech are the same in the U.S. and in India. I have been attending HR Tech conferences in India for the past two years and have been a regular at Asia’s biggest HR Technology conference held by People Matters. While the scale of this exhibition is about five times bigger in terms of the number of exhibitors than what I had seen in India, the broad categories and trends I have seen in both places are very similar. For instance:

  • High number of vendors in the Recruitment and Engagement & Recognition spaces
  • Almost everyone talking that they use AI and Analytics in their solutions
  • Presence of local and niche players
  • Use of bots in almost every category
  • Continuous performance management as a must have feature in PMS solutions.

I was also happy to see that many India-based companies were present in the exhibition. Companies like Harbinger Systems, Neeyamo, Glider.Ai, Replicon, HackerRank, PeopleStrong, Ramco HCM, Monjin, and Spadeworx were among the exhibitors. Some of those companies are already successful companies in India, or in other APAC markets, that are looking to extend their base into America. Others are choosing to first tackle the American market before deciding to enter India. In my opinion it is very likely we will see an increased participation of Indian companies in the American market in the years to come.

My personal selection

During my visit I also had the opportunity to sit down with some of the exhibitors to understand in more detail their solutions and value propositions. For example:

Reflektive >> This company aims at improving employee engagement and boosting productivity through real-time feedback. Its product has plug-ins with email providers like Outlook and Gmail, so managers and employees can make sure that what they are doing is aligned with their objectives, and give and receive feedback, without leaving their day to day online work environment. In addition, this player is positioning itself as an expert on PMS and has created a customer success team that helps client companies with PMS implementations. The exciting part is they are working on building insights, using the data generated by the application, that will nudge managers to take decisions.

Emplify >> This service helps an organisation convert employee engagement from an annual exercise into a more regular one via a valid and reliable survey based on 50 years of research. The model is composed of 14 different drivers grouped into 3 categories: Meaning, Safety, and Capacity. This functionality can be complemented with pulse surveys that can be customised. The report thus generated is reviewed with an expert in order to identify specific trends across locations and business units. The expert works with HR or line managers to identify specific actions to address the gaps. They are currently working on building predictive analytics to link the results of their survey with specific metrics like attrition over the next few years.

OutMatch >> If you are looking for a validated library of assessments across multiple industries (typically for high volume hiring), then OutMatch is a good solution. This company claims to have validated assessments for about 900 job profiles across various industries. Thanks to an AI solution coupled with human analysts client companies can customise certain aspects of the assessments to suit their culture so they can identify the right candidates for each vacancy more rapidly and efficiently.

Lever >> An ATS that combines the power of automation, intelligence, and design. In regards automation, it’s basically process automation via tools like Easy Book which powers seamless self-scheduling for candidates, so recruiters can spend less time coordinating high-volume interviews, and more time on strategic talent acquisition. Regarding intelligence it’s the Nurture recommendations, that help recruiting teams to deliver consistent, timely, and personalized communications to passive candidates; and a pipeline prediction feature that tells them, based on their historic data, whether they have enough profiles on hand to fill the vacancy, and other relevant information. Finally, the company prides itself on being a design driven organisation and being committed to build an easy to use, intuitive interface.

Replicon >> This company believes that companies need a new way of tracking, analyzing, understanding and thinking about employees’ time, to understand how to best use that asset today, and in the future. Replicon calls this Time Intelligence. They have observed that time data is currently in multiple systems like payroll, ERPs, project management and others. Their system captures all time related information in a non intrusive manner via web and mobile interfaces and then that information is made available to management and employees for various purposes. Replicon claims to impact business results by simply ensuring that time information is captured accurately.

Zugata >> Here is a company which firmly believes that development should be owned by employees and not by their managers or HR. Hence this solution focuses on providing employees with continuous feedback on various skills required for their job. Employees receive this feedback from the different people they work with. Information is sourced via email, calendar, slack, and other apps. Employees are then fed with relevant T&D programs via their partnership with SkillShare. One of the options is to select coaches inside or outside the company. Internal coaches are recommended based on a ranking of skills while external coaches come at a cost via a partnership with Muse. The available reports help employees see changes in the feedback they receive as a result of those training/coaching intervention. I liked the philosophy and the fact they are closing the feedback loop by tracking skills development.

Sage People >> A company born out of the acquisition of Fairsail by Sage, earlier this year, this is a full stack HCM solution provider built on the Salesforce App Cloud. In this regard, it is interesting to see the Salesforce App Cloud effectively competing with Google App Cloud and in my opinion this will soon become a big differentiation. Especially in the mid-market, where many business applications are likely to be on the cloud, ensuring that all the applications of a company run on the same underlying platform (like Google or Salesforce) could bring additional benefits. Sage People is also one of the few players on the market to offer a compensation module and for me it’s an attractive proposition given its mid-market focus.

In conclusion

This maiden trip to the largest HR Tech event in the world was a great learning experience that provide me with many insights, some of them being:

  • Many HR Tech vendors seem to take a position of “domain experts” armed with a technology solution. Thus they are actively investing in building a deeper understanding of their domain, and associated skills. Something very good to see as most HR Technology vendors started as software providers with very little HR background.
  • As the cases of Reflektive and Zugata exemplify, some solutions are being built based on certain philosophic paradigms so those solutions will work well only if the client organisation is aligned with those beliefs. This is an interesting anchor, as such beliefs are likely to change over time.
  • While the HR Tech space is getting crowded  finding the right match is relatively easy provided the buyer has a clear understanding of its objectives and it is able to take a near term view of their business outlook and processes.
  • For HR technology vendors: it’s critical to know who you are, where you play, and how you win. Those aspects are critical for differentiation and survival in a crowded market. If you try to be everything to everyone, you are likely to get exhausted and burn out soon.

Image Nan Palmero under a Creative Commons license.

Un artículo de
Amol Pawar