It’s taken a week, but the dust has finally settled on the HR Tech Conference. The effects of COVID-19 on HR leaders and the workforce stood front and center for all four days this year as thought leaders and executives alike digested new best practices and insights gained over the year while looking ahead.
If you weren’t able to make it to the conference, you can still catch up by reading our four days of recaps or watch the sessions that are still available at the HR Tech website with free registration.
Here are some of our takeaways:
The traditional days of HR’s role in the organization are over. Such was the message attendees heard repeatedly over the four days of the conference and we would be remiss not to mention it one last time.
Among those ideas thrown out are two to three-year strategies, which have been thrown out in favor of agile strategies, forcing HR leaders to make immediate decisions around workforce health and safety, employee learning, and career development. With layoffs and furloughs impacting all sectors, moving quickly is the difference between competing in uncertain times or becoming completely obsolete.
Perhaps the most notable thought to describe the importance of building an agile HR strategy came from Jason Averbrook at Leapgen, who compared taking care of an HR organization to that of a family pet versus a rock. While humoring, it really illustrates how much more urgent HR transformation is this year than when HR Tech was held last year.
At last year’s HR Tech Conference, the concept of the workplace experience was still new, confined to talent management, employee referral, and multi-generational experiences in the workplace. While each program is valid, these ideas were presented as separate with little connection in the career journey.
Fast forward seven months in a pandemic and the approach to the workforce experience has changed completely, especially with the emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Throughout this year’s HR Tech Conference, attendees heard about the growing call for an end-to-end employee career journey, supported by gig marketplace, digital on-boarding, employee learning, and inclusion initiatives. There was even discussion about the deprecation of the traditional job description into individual projects, which is in-line with the growing interest in the gig economy.
While talk of an improved workplace experience has everyone buzzing, the real change lies in execution and no one put this in a better perspective than Dr. Tolonda Tolbert on the third day when she discussed diversity and inclusion (DEI) strategies. Tolbert believes that the only way for real change to occur is if HR organizations treat DEI as a sustained effort beyond a checkbox.
While the Great Recession eventually became known as an economic event that thrust CFOs into the spotlight, many at HR Tech noted that the COVID-19 pandemic would do the same for CHROs. Given the expansion of the HR function in the past few months, the comparison would be apt.
As the CHRO gains more clout in the c-suite, the industry itself is also growing. As Josh Bersin stated in his opening day keynote, there are many technologies entering the market that would have been pegged as “nice to have” last year but are now very essential. As the pandemic continues to transform the workplace, we expect the solutions market to grow even more.
The final takeaway from HR Tech didn’t have anything to do with technology, but leadership. As organizations navigate the current pandemic, new challenges have emerged that include workforces needing to balance their family and their home lives. As our own AI@Work study has discovered, more employees are feeling stressed than ever and many are turning to technology to address their mental health challenges.
Payroll processor ADP also took another angle, looking at how organizations were navigating current stressors and staying resilient. Their survey included a combination of global leaders and individual contributors around how each was coping across a variety of industries. While their results showed that resilience was low across the board, data was slightly better for those who led others or served as a part of a team—likely because of what was at stake or because of access to a community during these times.
Ultimately, as we noted in our third-day recap, the biggest takeaway was that leaders who championed trust and empathy were the most likely to succeed, showing 42 times more resiliency than those who don’t—proving that while HR technology does lead to success, being human is important too.
Missed us at the virtual HR Tech conference this year? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways for you to engage with us, from upcoming virtual summits to customer webinars. Get in touch with us to be contacted about future events or to speak with one of our experts.
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