4 Takeaways from #HRTechConf 2013

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The Human Resources Technology Conference (aka “HR Tech”) is an event not to be missed by those in the talent acquisition, recruiting or employment branding space. This was my first time attending HRTech as part of the Glassdoor team, and although I spent a great deal of time in meetings, as many of us do at these shows, I did get the chance to walk the expo floor and attend a few sessions. Keeping in mind that my 3-day experience at HR Evolution and HR Tech may have been clouded by drowsy antihistamines thanks to a terrible sinus infection, here are four takeaways I came home with!

#1 Bill Kutik Will Be Missed

Being relatively new to the recruitment space, I had heard of Bill Kutik before, but it wasn’t until I attended HR Tech that I realized the role he played in the evolution of this conference and his overall impact on the industry. What was once a small annual gathering grew to one of the largest conferences in the world focusing on HR software and technology, due largely in part to Bill’s leadership.

After 16 years as Co-Chair of HR Tech, Kutik will step down to become the event’s Chair Emeritus, while continuing to write his monthly HR tech column for Human Resources Executive, moderate the conference’s LinkedIn group, and host his popular radio show.

His contributions to growth and maturation of this conference, and to the evolution of technology in the HR space, and his impact on the people in this industry was evident throughout the conference. From signs from sponsors that read, “Thanks for 16 years, Bill!” and bloggers writing tributes, to a closing party in his honor, Kutik’s influence and impact was felt by even industry newcomers like me. Well-known HR industry influencer host of the popular HR Happy Hour and former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle, Steve Boese, will succeed Kutik.

#2. Big Data: The HR Buzzword That’s Not Going Away

Although I hope we find a new way to reference the younger professional cohort (millennials), intelligent forward thinking (thought leadership), and getting smart people to share ideas (mindshare), one buzzword that’s clearly not going away is ‘Big Data’ it’s everywhere, especially at HRTech.

Walking the trade show floor was like foraging a jungle of reporting dashboards. Downstairs popular sessions were those like Josh Bersin’s “Big Data & Talent Analytics in HR,” or “Analytics Help Draw a Clear Talent Picture at Disney Animation Studios” which they referred to as “Workforce Analytics 301.” The press room held some very fired up industry analysts, eager to pontificate on the ways in which predictive analytics can be used to assess current and future trends in human capital management.

The message is clear: If you want internal resources in the form of budget or headcount; if you’re looking to be strategic in tackling your day-to-day responsibilities rather than reactive; if you want to advance in your HR career, you must start looking at HR as not only a people function but a business one as well, and that starts with getting comfortable with data.

And I’m not just talking about data around attrition/retention, cost-per-hire, or salary benchmarks. I’m talking next-gen data around how you can monitor your brand reputation vs. your competitors, the correlations between sales productivity and investment in training and development, and tracking employee engagement by job type, location, or team.

HRTech reinforced this message by continuing to educate the industry on the importance of looking for valuable data, learning the ways in which to evaluate it, and then aligning it to the organization’s strategic business objectives.

#3:  It’s time to get naked.

Yep, you read that right. Welcome to the era of transparency! Don Tapscott kicked off the conference with a session crafted from the concepts of his book, Radical Openness. He spent his time talking about technology and social trends that support the belief that we are becoming a society built around four principles of openness – Collaboration, Transparency, Sharing, and Empowerment – and it’s up to HR to start embracing this shift inside the workplace as well as in the external message they’re promoting to future candidates in the form of their employment brand.

I watched this trend play out at HR Evolution, an intimate one-day networking event in its fourth year, held the day prior to the start of HRTech. The session, aptly named “Building the Employment Brand” led by Crystal Miller and Teela Jackson, offered participants the chance to break into small groups and work on a case study together. After being assigned a fictitious company facing real-life challenges, each team had to develop a comprehensive employment brand strategy by crafting a unique value proposition, allocating their budget across various online and offline channels, and determining where to message to interested candidates. It was a worthy exercise and I only wished we had more time to hear from all of the teams. The high level of engagement in the room reminded me that HR and talent acquisition leaders are hungry for tactical guidance on how to develop and implement a comprehensive employment brand strategy.

A great place to start: sign up for a Free Employer Account on Glassdoor to make basic edits to your profile online, respond to reviews from current and former employees, and access reports that measure how your company brand and reputation stack up against your talent competitors.

#4: HR Really Loves a Good Party

I debated citing mobile as my final key takeaway from the HRTech Conference but at the end of the day, I think there seemed to be more buzz around the parties!  I witnessed how HR rolls earlier this year at SHRM’s annual conference in Chicago when Glassdoor –co-hosted the annual tweet-up event at the House of Blues. I watched 2,500 HR pros dance their faces off to DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 90s jams decked head-to-toe in green glowing accessories and realized for the first time that HR knows how to party. HRTech was no exception.

Sunday night kicked off with a conference welcome reception followed by a party hosted by Reputation Capital Media and Blogging4Jobs. It felt like a warm-up night as many groups seemed to be out on their own, connecting with friends over dinner at one of Vegas’ many restaurant hotspots, checking out the scene at Mandalay Bay, and if it was anything like my experience, opening up their wallets only to hand over their hard-earned cash to Sin City in the name of ‘gambling’.

Monday night was full of dueling back-to-back parties that I heard took some into the wee hours of the morning. Early evening cocktail parties seemed to be going on everywhere throughout Mandalay Bay at Rick Moonen’s Boiler Room Bar, minus5 Ice Bar, Ri Ra Irish Pub, the House of Blues, and overlooking the strip in the Hospitality Suite on the 60th floor of the hotel. Following happy hour, Eyecandy Lounge was the site of the Candidate Experience Awards VIP Receiption while at the same time, HireVue and Cornerstone OnDemand hosted the official HR Tech 2013 Party at the Foundation Room. Cirque Du Soleil’s LIGHT Nightclub was the after party spot for anyone still standing. .

Tuesday night wrapped up with “Thanks for the Memories,” a tribute party for Bill Kutik and to close out the show, Jobvite, TalentWise and OneSource Virtual hosted the HR Tech After Party up at one of my favorite spots in all of Vegas, MIX at the top of THEHotel at Mandalay Bay.

I love any chance to share all the exciting stuff going on here at Glassdoor at HR events, but this conference gave me the opportunity to have quality interactions with industry influencers, HR heavyweights, analysts, and fellow disruptors all in one spot.

Thank you again, Bill Kutik, for leaving your mark on HR Tech and cheers to Steve Boese for carrying on his legacy in 2014!

Categories: News and Events
Author:  Alison Hadden

Director of Product Marketing at Glassdoor.

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