It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas. I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference. I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available. It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for). But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.
I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed. You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint. In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place. So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge. But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space. So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective. And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.
You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference. And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well. Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective. Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”
Think about that. What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology. We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations. And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space. Is all of right for every organization? No, of course not. Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations? You bet.
Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
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I think you’re spot on, #hrtech is a massive, overwhelming conference that is difficult to fully appreciate in just a week. I attended this year, after a few years hiatus (the last time I attended was in Chicago in 2009) and it has changed dramatically!
One aspect of your post that truly resonated with me was the fact that HR leaders have an obligation to attend. All too often, we are inundated with our day to day and don’t get a chance to look out towards the horizon to see what can make our lives easier or more efficient. Further, by attending a great conference like HRTech, we can see what others are doing in the space and bring back proven technologies or techniques that may add significant value to the teams we are supporting. Isn’t that the name of the game?
I’ve heard my peers in the HR space complain that they deserve a table seat and then talk about how they can’t do anything strategic or forward looking because they are too mired in the execution of things like compliance. In attending HRTech, I’ve found that I earned the “seat” by looking for ideas to make my teams better (in one way or another) and executing on THESE. Sheds a little different light on the power of HR, right?
Thanks for a great post, I look forward to your next one!
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Michael. It’s often such a delicate balance finding the time to attend to day to day responsibilities and thinking bigger/more strategic. Unfortunately, the nature of some of our jobs and department structures make the strategic part more difficult, so we have to make it our business to find the time. I never realized how easy it was to stay completely out of touch until I started to attend this conference….it has certainly opened my eyes!