Part Two of an interview with Steve Boese, Conference Co-Chair HR Technology Conference & Exposition®, Inside HR Tech Columnist for Human Resource Executive® and Host of the HR Happy Hour Show
Steve, when we ended Part One, you were talking about the perfect partnership of human and tech capabilities. What technology do you think will dominate the next era of HR technology?
I’m a big fan of Amazon Alexa, Google Chrome and other types of conversational, interface type technology. Again, these tools are powered by an AI framework and will be the next frontier for sure. It’s the idea of a technology that is accessible almost anywhere and at any time. You can talk to your phone, and if you’re an Apple person, you can say “Hey Siri, I want some pizza” or because I’m an Alexa person, I’m talking to Alexa 15 times a day for a bunch of different reasons. Recently, I did a HR Happy Hour podcast on this topic with Oracle, who happens to be one of the companies pushing AI tech quite significantly. It would really surprise me if most of the major HR technology providers didn’t offer a robust conversational interface or entry point into their technology in five years from now. The conversations could still be text or chatbot based, but I do believe that we’re going to be talking to HR systems more than we do now. It should be something to look for in the years to come.
What will the future workforce look like with this kind of conversational interface technology becoming so readily available?
If it’s done correctly and properly, conversational interface technology is going to better enable the workforce by democratizing information access. For instance, think about an organization that employs hourly workers or a good amount of transient or contingent workers. Traditionally, these groups have less access to computers or technology because they don’t really use them in the workplace. This can also be true of the retail, factory or agriculture employee. But with this new tech, the potential is there for them to ask questions without needing to know commands and interfaces. Now those employees can authenticate their identity on their phones with a fingerprint or retina scan. Suddenly, they have access to everything that everyone else does — lowering the barriers to information and opportunity.
That seems like a pretty remarkable achievement, what else can it do?
Another remarkable aspect about these AI technologies is that they can enable hyper personalized responses. For example, if a shopper, looked at an item on Amazon.com, the “recommendation engine” automatically suggests other items. If you bought this gizmo, then maybe you’re interested in this similar one. Of course, Amazon is doing this to sell more products. But if you abstract it out from that and, say Amazon might have 100 million people log-on in a day, imagine every single one of those visitors having a unique page on their site, personalized just for them. That’s the potential these types of technology have in the HR space too.
Typically, every person in a company, from the entry-level hire on their first day to the president who’s been there 25+ years, has the same technologies provided to them. But these people have different roles, capabilities, aspirations, as well as unique requirements for information. AI and its hyper personalized experience would help deliver the kind of information they need; in the form they require and when they want it. This will ultimately provide a much better overall tech experience. The full impact being organizational success while helping employees succeed too. These technologies enable mass personalization on a scale that an HR department, even the biggest one, would have a very hard time replicating .
What can HR leaders do today to prepare for tomorrow’s work environment?
Most established HR technology providers from the perspective of HR systems, like management learning and employee engagement technologies, are already engaging with these technologies today. Either they’re developing them, or they’ve begun to roll them out to their client base. So, my initial advice to HR leaders would be to see what types of capabilities are out there for you and your current set of providers. Then come up with three things going into next year that you wish you could do better – maybe it’s time or it’s retention, perhaps it’s developing leaders or creating more benchmarks for certain roles. Any good HR tech division should be focused on areas where your organization could grow, and where HR can improve its ability to provide higher caliber talent.
Diversity is also a key component, especially when it comes to improving representation, whether it’s regarding gender or different ethnicities. If inequity is a problem, then what kinds of technology can HR leaders utilize to increase diversity in their organization? There are tools that exist now to reduce bias in the hiring process – all the way from the candidate screening to assessment and evaluation, right down to how the job description is written, measuring the language to ensure you didn’t write the description in a way that would dissuade certain groups from applying. HR professionals should talk to their current list of providers to see what type of capabilities exist to help them improve in these existing areas and then expand from there. For example, the job description tool I mentioned is a powerful tool, but not every company that sells applicant tracking software offers it, so you may have to look to other providers to get it.
Since you mentioned HR technology providers and everything that goes along with it, how will the HR Tech Conference help HR professionals prepare for an uncertain future of work?
I’m a little biased, because I work on HR Tech’s agenda, but there’s so much value there. The HR Technology Conference has always been and will continue to be a showcase of innovation. We have the largest gathering of companies, exhibitors, media, and industry experts from both the product development side and the industry analytic side. These are seasoned professionals who understand the HR technology marketplace and can help organizations navigate it and guide their strategic planning around technology.
In addition to those amazing resources, the enormous expo features important companies with tons of great content designed to help HR leaders understand the marketplace. The conference provides an environment for professionals to hear from similar-sized companies and their peers, as well as being a platform for a wide variety of presentations and content dealing with HR transformations empowered by technologies. This year, there will be several high-profile HR executives sharing their stories of how they evaluated and implemented technology, all while managing change in their organization. HR Tech showcases it all – the providers, the leading thinkers in the space, the top analysts and experts, and as many stories as possible that can be used as learning opportunities for organizations to utilize on their own home field.
Tell us a little about where your insight into HR tech comes from?
Well, I’ve been in this industry a long, long time. And fortunately for me, I’ve had many roles giving me a wonderful perspective on the industry and the market. I started on the corporate side implementing enterprise technologies. I worked in areas like finance technologies along with HR technologies. Eventually, I went to work for one of the larger providers in the space employing technologies for their customers in a consulting capacity. I continued to do that for quite a while. A few years later I went back to the corporate side but as a buyer/user of the HR technologies. I was also utilizing HR technologies for two drastically different organizations; one was a college and the other was a communications company. Finally, I switched back to the vendor side working in technology development for a rather big company. So, I’ve had just about every role in the space – buyer, implementer, vendor and “industry thought leader” which is what I do now. This is my 6th year with the HR Technology Conference and, honestly, it gets better every year! I encourage HR professionals everywhere to stay ahead of the curve and come to HR Tech 2019!