At this year’s HR Technology Conference in Chicago, Oracle’s Cara Capretta kicked things off with a preconference event, “Women in Technology.” This was a very successful half-day panel session that we’re likely to see added to next year’s agenda.
“Women in Technology” was more about diversity and inclusion than HR technology, a key message also felt across the rest of the conference. The goal for HR is empowerment of people and social networks to drive new definitions of personal and professional engagement, collaboration, performance, and productivity.
Barry Libert, CEO of Open Matters delivered the conference’s opening keynote, which addressed this theme. Emerging HR technologies are focused on shared platforms and social networks. Deeper, more meaningful human interaction is the next logical step in the evolution of workforce technology. Libert sees this progression in our global economy, which moved from agriculture to manufacturing, then from services to information, and is now focusing on people, diversity, and high-touch social networks.
This sentiment was echoed in a session where IBM and Globoforce announced a new globally sourced data index that will let organizations measure human factors of work and suggest key drivers for improvement. Analytics are being used to describe worker environmental preferences, participation, inclusion, belongingness, and other metrics reminiscent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Similar studies are exploring the diversity of human experience in the workplace, such as Oracles recent study, “From Theory to Action: A Practical Look at What Really Drives Employee Engagement.”
Across the Expo Hall, one couldn’t help but notice that simplicity and “ease of use” now seem to be at the heart of every vendor’s message. Many of the latest technology innovations and awards address how people can easily use HR technology. For example, companies are exploring voice-interactive tools, similar to a recent demonstration by Oracle’s Gretchen Alarcon at Open World 2016, as well as the Oracle Usability Labs.
End-user empowerment is also gaining more attention in the area of analytics. Several sessions covered this topic. While there is widespread acknowledgement over the value and power of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics, most companies are struggling to unify data stored across multiple systems. New capabilities are giving individuals and social groups the ability to present data and information in ways that are more contextual and feel more human. There was much conference discussion of how companies, including Netflix and Amazon, use machine learning and graphical images to appeal to the unique needs of individual users with predictive and prescriptive analytics. Released earlier this year, Oracle Cloud “infolets” provide an HR example.
We also see the importance of individual experience and social collaboration in the recent widespread overthrow of the traditional annual performance review. A more human approach, one powered by innovative technology, is being actively applied to foster ongoing, real-time employee performance conversations with managers and social peers. Again, it’s all about context, visibility, and proactive prompting and response.
With the empowerment of individuals and social networks, the need to support and maintain traditional management hierarchies appears to be falling away. In his session on reinventing HR, Josh Bersin of Deloitte suggested that digital disruption is forcing HR leaders to re-evaluate their current practices and approaches. He cited the example of email, and questioned the value of this low-return daily ritual that so many of us spend time on every day. If the direction of HR technology is the empowerment of people and their immediate social networks, the evolving role of HR might lead to leverage greater visibility and data to measure and drive organizational performance and productivity.