Lessons Learned At The Inaugural HR Transform

At Bunker, we’ve been privileged to speak at a variety of events over the past year, from HR and staffing events to insurance and risk management conferences.  This week, we spent time in Las Vegas at the inaugural HR Transform event.  The conference brought together HR professionals and technology thought-leaders for three days of knowledge-sharing.  Here’s what we learned between turns of the roulette table.

  • HR Is Riding The MarTech Wave: As a fly on the wall, I couldn’t tell if I was at a marketing or HR conference.  From the keynote sessions on behavioral analytics and capturing audience attention to pipeline generation and scaling lead qualification, it could have been sponsored by SalesForce.  While many of the buzzwords overlap, the leaders were open about the long road ahead to justify tech budget, deploy technology that meets their needs and hone processes that impact their human capital in a meaningful way.  This openness about their current status was refreshing, compared to many marketers that exaggerate their MarTech evolution and shy away from the learnable failures.  
HR analytics – we track too much! We need to do a better job of identifying the right KPIs that tie people to business results, focus on those and minimize the other noise
— Sjoerd Gehring, VP Talent Acquisition and Employee Experience @ Johnson & Johnson
  • AI, Bots & Blockchain Solve Everything (J/K)!  I couldn’t go through an entire conference without hearing mention of blockchain or the sprinkle of AI dust on talent acquisition or employee engagement.  While some companies (ex. IBM) have used AI and Bots in focused pilots, blockchain was mainly dropped in the final question of “what does the future hold for HR?”.  Overall, the consensus was, while we as consumers enjoy banking online or buying from Amazon, as employees we still like talking to a person about work-related challenges/needs.  If this tech is to make an organization more agile, consumer-grade tech experiences and employee education need to greatly improve.
  • HR Is Hungry For A Tech Buffet:  HR tech is early in its lifecycle, mainly due to historical challenges acquiring budget.  As more companies invest in their employees through the HR business unit, this budget will attract tech investors and innovators.  So, at this stage of the industry lifecycle, many HR leaders mentioned wanting to see what solution options – the exhibitors - were available in the market with the intention to sample/pilot solutions.
The role of current employees in the recruiting and hiring process should go beyond the referral, helping the referred become an evangelist through the hiring process.
— Amber Grewal Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition @ IBM
  • Employee Benefits Made For Millennials:  Speaking of exhibitors, there were two main groups that stood out, employee benefits being one.  Not being from the industry, I was amazed at the niche employee benefit offerings – from childcare and fertility assistance to life coaches, tuition/education assistance and elderly care support – employee benefit startups covered a wide spectrum to solve ‘life’ problems faster, reduce stress and increase workplace productivity.  While most elicit a “oh, that would be nice to have” response, time will tell how effective these benefits are at reducing turnover and improving employee productivity.
  • Job Descriptions Are Transitioning To Project Plans:  The other group of exhibitors that stood out were focused on the rise of the Gig Economy.  From background checks and independent contractor onboarding to staffing marketplaces and freelancer management systems, there was a clear hype about the ‘Future Of Work’.  Some panelist went as far to say job descriptions are a thing of the past and should be re-thought to more short-term, project-based work to truly evaluate if a FTE is necessary or if independent professionals are a better fit for the business need.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast, but without strategy, culture won’t know where to go for lunch.
— A modified Peter Drucker
  • Diversity & Inclusion:  My favorite part of the conference was a simple one-on-one chat between Freada Kapor Klein and Uber Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion Bernard Coleman III.  The setup, our nation’s progress of corporate diversity and inclusion is incredibly slow.  While companies continue to throw money at the problem, effectiveness lags.  The outcome, corporate leaders need to employ deep passion, vehement intention and methodical persistence to drive real results.  This means setting specific D & I goals, aggressively challenging hiring managers on talent acquisition methods and supporting unorthodox ideas for internal training, promotion and employee resource groups (ERGs).  Overall, Kapor Klein’s passion for her craft, success stories and perspective were a joy to listen to.