The Human Touch - #HRTechConf 2016

Oct 17, 2016 2:50:59 PM / by Jennifer Payne

The 2016 HR Technology Conference has now come and gone; another year, another fantastic show.  This year’s iteration offered all that one has come to expect, and then some.  The addition of the Women in HR Technology pre-conference summit was certainly a highlight (but you can read all about that in my previous post).

The one thing I do love about this show is that it seems to continue to reinvent itself, and keeps pushing forward with new ideas and new concepts.  But at its core, it remains true to its purpose: showcasing how technology can improve the HR function, and how it will continue to shape and reshape the function into the future.  And each year, I see certain themes that seem to appear over and over again throughout the week.  Interestingly this year, at a show focused on technology, the themes I picked up on all seemed to center on humans.


What Have You Done For Me Lately?

For a few years now there’s been a focus on the consumerization of HR technology; that in an app based culture where technology drives almost every part of our lives, employees will expect a similar experience with their workplace technology.  That it’s not enough to just have technology available to help our employees do their jobs more effectively, but that technology better function much like what they are used to outside the workplace; it better be quick, intuitive, and easy to use.  Consumerization is certainly still a theme, but it has evolved into a conversation not just about consumerization, but personalization as well.  Call it the Amazon or Netflix experience in HR tech….using data and technology to provide personal recommendations for individual employees, rather than one-size-fits-all offerings.  I heard this discussed related to benefits, learning & development, and even in the context of engagement and wellness; technology that can analyze large amounts of employee data and then present options to individuals based on their needs, interests, and desired career paths.


From Wellness to Well-Being

Wellness has been on the minds of HR professionals for a while, but now I’m starting to see a shift towards more of a concern for employee well-being.  What’s the difference?  To me, wellness has typically focused on physical well-being; programs to keep employees healthy (and of course then help control skyrocketing benefits costs).  Well-being, on the other hand, focuses on the whole employee.  Not just their physical selves, but on all aspects of employees’ lives, whether that be financial well-being, social well-being, mental well-being, or physical well-being.  Employees spend a large portions of their lives at work; some, depending on the profession and industry, may even argue they spend more time at work and with coworkers than with their own families.  So as employers we should care about their overall well-being.  These technologies mentioned above that provide personalization can certainly help to provide options that contribute to overall well-being.  And guess what?  Employees who have a better balance of well-being throughout all aspects of their lives are probably going to be happier, more productive, and more engaged employees.


What does this all mean for HR?

We already know that HR is a function that is evolving, and will continue to evolve.  Technology that provides automation has already facilitated a shift from transactional to more strategic roles and functions.  But we’re now also talking about a shift from automation, data, and insights to a responsibility of HR professionals to now take the technology available and the insights it can provide and put a human touch back on those insights.  In the Thursday morning general session panel “Engaging and Retaining the Talent of Tomorrow,” leaders from IBM, ADP, Cisco, and Starbucks shared their thoughts on shifts in the workforce and HR’s role in that shift.  They discussed how HR will need to becoming more of a “sensing” function; one in which we leverage all of the data available to “listen” to what’s happening in our organizations; in which we take the data and insights available and study what it says about individuals and then consult and advise those individuals.  A function in which we use technology and data to help individuals see their future within the company, whether that future is two years or twenty years out.  It will no longer be about designing overarching programs meant to meet the needs of the masses, it will be about leveraging the data to focus on the individual, to ensure our individual employees are the best that they can be.

It’s a brave new world, isn’t it?

Save the date for HR Tech 2017: Oct 10-13 at The Venetian, Las Vegas 


Topics: Consumerization, Company culture, engagement and wellness, hr tech, personalization, HR Tech Conference

Jennifer Payne

Written by Jennifer Payne

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