10 things I learned in 1 day at the 2016 #HRTechConf: Part 1

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Greetings from Chicago! We’ve spent this week at the 2016 HR Executive Technology Conference & Exposition.

The annual event brings together Human Resources leaders, practitioners, and experts from all over the world to discuss how technology influences the HR function and the way employees interact with their organizations. This is the 19th year of the event but it’s our first time here and we couldn’t be more excited.

While my colleagues were on booth duty, I had the privilege of walking around, attending sessions, talking with HR folks, and hearing about some of the latest trends in HR.

I came away with so many great notes and ideas, I busted my list into two parts. Here are the first five of 10 of the most interesting, thought-provoking, important things I learned from just one day at the conference.

1. HR is the future of work.

The “Future of Work” is an omnipresent buzzword in HR, but the definition is less clear. The future of work is fast, agile, knowledge-based, and changing, according to Jason Averbrook.

“Every day HR’s job is to define the future of work,” says Averbrook.

HR owns all the data and programs that keep employees working and engaged, so it’s HR’s responsibility to put in place systems and processes that enable agility and adaptability as the workforce and organization changes. If HR departments are working with monolithic technology systems that are difficult to configure, change, or upgrade, it can be nearly impossible to build processes that support the future of work.

2. Human capital is more than just your employees.

We live in an increasingly networked and interconnected world, and HR is at the epicenter, according to Barry Libert, CEO of Open Matters, LLC. In a networked society, it’s not just your employees that create value.

Think of Facebook’s $360 billion valuation. Is it solely the employees that create that value, or is it also the 1.6 billion users, advertisers, and content generators whose contributions create the value of the experience for all users (nasty comments aside)?

The suppliers, customers, and our employees are all human capital that organizations can leverage to create value. HR should be thinking about how they can use technology to harness the collective power, thoughts, and insights of the network in and outside the walls of the organization.

3. Keep it real when it comes to change management.  

“Change is hard. It’s gonna hurt,” said Marjorie Boursiquot, AVP of Business Process Integration at Georgetown University, when talking about transitioning to a new HCM software system.

Organizations should take a realistic approach to their expectations when implementing a new system – as in, don’t promise full ROI tomorrow – and understand that people receive value from change at different paces. At Georgetown, those who were in the weeds, passing paper, and running around campus collecting hand-written signatures, saw value from the new system and processes immediately.

But employees who have been there for 20 – 30 years have seen their jobs completely changed, so adapting and adopting has been more difficult. And that’s OK, Boursiquot says. A few years into the change, she remains confident that improving Georgetown’s HR technology and processes will bring value to the university in the long-run.

4. You need a business case to build a business case.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I was surprised to hear that many organizations still struggle with this. When seeking organizational or leadership buy-in for new technology initiatives, too many HR leaders don’t focus on the business case for HR.

You need to prove a new system will help your department become more efficient, able to better engage employees, and empowered to glean insights from employee data. HR leaders need to expand their scopes when building a business case and make sure their technology proposal demonstrates value (financially or otherwise) for the business or organization as a whole.

5. The HRIS function is dead – or should be.

We should no longer have any functions or roles exclusively dedicated to entering or managing employee files and data and processing transactional HR tasks. Just walking through the conference expo hall, I was astounded and overwhelmed by the technology solutions available to HR departments today.

These solutions can provide unprecedented access to employee data and enable HR departments to shift their people and processes from administrative positions to strategic partners for the business. But these solutions also require new skills.

Averbook says HR departments should look for “storytellers” – people who can not only read data, but tell a prescriptive story with it to advise the organization on what to do.

So there you have it, the first five insightful things I learned at the 2016 HR Executive Technology Conference & Exposition. Did you attend and learn something new? Leave a comment below!

In Part 2, we’ll talk more about digital strategies in HR.

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate paper-based processes and improve operations across accounting and finance, human resources, and contract management. Danielle joined Hyland after more than six years with a research and advisory firm devoted to helping senior executives manage their departments and teams more effectively. She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

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