HR Tech Brings the Human Center Stage
The HR Tech Conference 2023 has come to a close, but this is just the beginning of putting what we learned into practice. While the purpose of the event is to showcase the latest trends, data, and tech in HR, what this year’s conference really highlighted is how the rise of AI and other technological advances offers us the chance to improve the human experience in ways that were never possible before.
Throughout the event, human experience took center stage. Speakers, leaders, vendors, and practitioners alike shared their visions for the future of work and nearly all of it centered on making work easier, faster and safer, or improving life outside of work to drive better outcomes for people, and their employers.
It all started with the pre-conference tracks presented prior to the official kick-off of HR Tech on Tuesday night:
- The Innovation Summit and pre-conference sessions focused on key trends such as skills, employee experience, AI, and talent intelligence. The lens applied to these areas was refreshingly human, with a session specifically focused on how to keep things human-focused amidst the rise in AI. Other sessions focused on how AI can be leveraged to help people realize their full potential, create better experiences for employees, and drive greater fairness into processes like performance reviews. At the heart of each of the use cases shared was the end goal of making things better for the human using or interacting with the technology, shifting the role of HR from policy-and-compliance-driven to strategic and human.
- The Women in HR Tech track tackled key themes around pay transparency and using skills to help level the playing field and drive greater diversity. The opportunity that technology can play in driving greater equity in the workplace is tremendous. The amount of data we can gather today is unprecedented, so combine that with the advanced analytical power of the latest artificial intelligence and we’ve got a recipe for real-time insights. Data is power and the latest advances in large language models make it possible to harness that power more quickly and easily than ever before, which will speed up the rate at which we can close wage and broader gender gaps in the workplace.
- Each track had at least some focus on employee wellbeing as well, with the focus on increasing worker resilience. While wellbeing wasn’t the biggest topic at this year’s conference, it isn’t going away either. Advances in technology can help make the wellbeing journey more personalized and relevant to the individual, which drives adoption and greater worker resilience. And with all the talk of upskilling employees, resilience and employee wellbeing will prove to be important aspects of HR strategy. Attempting to upskill someone who is burned out and unable to focus is more likely to fail than upskilling and investing in someone who has the capacity to fully engage. Wellbeing is crucial to creating an agile business.
The startup competition, Pitchfest, highlighted an array of human experiences that are ripe for innovation:
- The winner was Manifest, a startup that offers a 401(k)-consolidation platform designed to help companies reduce unnecessary costs while helping employees carry over their 401(k) when they leave an employer. Their story was powerful because so many people can relate – taking on a new role comes with enough stress to have to worry about moving your 401(k) which is why many people simply don’t. This causes them to lose out on retirement funds while the company managing the 401(k) plan must pay to maintain the account. Manifest leverages technology to more easily transfer your 401(k), saving money for you and your former employer. This use case is a great example of tapping into pain we didn’t realize was so bad by looking at an often-neglected part of the workforce experience. Nearly every worker will change jobs at some point in their career, yet our archaic processes make it difficult for them to collect what they’ve earned. We wouldn’t accept this experience in our consumer lives (imagine your bank telling you they’re going to tax you every time you withdraw from your account), so why accept it in the workplace?
- CollabWORK took home the prize for the best use of AI in a startup with their community-powered hiring platform. Their unique approach to crowdsourcing candidates through trusted channels like professional groups, is a great use case for how AI can work behind the scenes to just get stuff done. Inspired by her own network’s impact on her career, Summer Delaney, CEO & founder of CollabWORK, uses AI to intelligently tap into the right online networks to help surface high quality candidates for open roles. Something that might take a recruiter or hiring manager hours or even days to do, the AI can do in minutes, freeing up the hiring team to focus on more human-oriented needs.
- Other finalists include Aragorn who streamlines integrations across the HR tech stack, VirgilHR who automates employment and labor law compliance, HR Geckos who offers a CoPilot for small and mid-sized HR Operations teams, and Sholder who is tackling the ongoing burnout epidemic through one-to-one emotional support for employees. As you can see, they’re all focused on different problems, but every offering is aimed at improving the human experience by reducing time and complexity, reducing risk, reducing stress and more.
From Marcus Buckingham’s keynote on how to make work more human, to Sapient’s annual systems survey presentation that highlighted HR burnout and the need to ease this burden, almost every session focused on how we can elevate the human experience. Technology is not the answer – it’s just a tool to help you create the experiences you want to drive.
The conference wrapped up with a closing keynote from Jason Averbook and Jess Von Bank, who encouraged us all to rise above the challenges of constant change and look for new ways of thinking to drive collective success. I can’t think of a more fitting way to wrap up a week that was focused on the HR community going on a journey to becoming more modern, while bringing human experience center stage. To learn more about building human-centric enterprises, check out our eBook on the topic.
Overall, I’d say the 2023 HR Technology Conference was a success. But it wasn’t the technology that made the event shine. It was the focus on the people. The vendors that are getting the attention of buyers are those that truly understand the challenges their buyer faces and work to not only solve those challenges but reimagine the workforce experience. The leaders that are on stage sharing their stories are the ones that are in touch with the needs of the business and working to create cultures where people thrive so that business can thrive. The question is not if technology will replace humans…the question is how technology can amplify humans.
ABOUT MERCER | LEAPGEN
Mercer | Leapgen designs and executes innovative digital strategies to transform how HR delivers value to an organization and how people experience work.
While leading the industry in Digital HR Strategy, Transformation, HR Technology, Vendor Selection, and Generative AI, Mercer | Leapgen delivers the vision, thought leadership, and design needed to transform and evolve from doing technology projects to being a digital function.
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