Chicago, or the Windy City to its friends, has a lot going for it. Deep dish pizzas, great live music, the panoramic view from the Hancock tower to name a few. Last week Chicago added the HR Tech Conference 2016 to it’s list of attractions. This was my second time attending the conference and once again I found it to be a hugely engaging event and a great learning and networking experience.
The conference is a who’s who of the HR Industry, with a collection of international HR vendors showcasing their latest technologies, keynote and break-out sessions from industry thought leaders in the Human Resources community and ample opportunity to broaden my network within the HR community.
For those of you that know me, you’ll recall that Workforce Management (WFM) is an area I’m particularly passionate about, so I thought I’d take a moment to share my WFM highlights from last week’s conference:
- Employee Experience: It’s going to be all about the employee experience moving forward. As an employer it will be your job to sell your benefits to your prospective candidates. You need to think about areas like community, environment, mobility, personalisation, recognition, benefits, wellness and more. This places HR at the very core of every business moving forward.
- Strong Leadership: Leadership at every level of the business, had become more important than ever before. Statistics suggest that if an employee has a poor leader they will be significantly more likely disengage from their job, which may ultimately result in turnover or worse still, sub-par performance which can drag down the moral of the entire team.
- Millennials: The Millennial challenge has been coming for some time now and this topic was raised consistently during the conference. The traditional ways of thinking and acting in a corporate environment preceded this new group within the workforce and they aren’t too keen to play by those antiquated rules.
- The rapid rise of Digital: We are now at the epicenter of the digital network age. Everything revolves around connections facilitated by platforms. High profile examples are Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, LinkedIn, but these connected platforms are cropping up across every industry, geography and virtual community. We will need to fundamentally re-think the power and influence of digital network moving forward.
- The Gig economy (where temporary positions are common and organizations contract independent workers for short-term engagements) is on the rise. It currently makes up approx. 4.2% of the workforce but is on an exponential growth curve.
- Big Data/Small Data: Data is everywhere and growing at an exponential rate. Rest assured this growth is not going to slow in the near future, in fact one statistic suggests that 90% of the world’s data was collected over the last two years alone!
- AI and Robotics are on the rise, but… don’t forget these systems only learn from what is already correct. For example, we can only predict what is the right profile of a perfect employee if we can define initially what this profile is. It’s not an excuse for ignorance.
- Analytics is coming of age and can be both predictive (this employee is going to leave) and prescriptive (this employee is going to leave and you should take a defined course of action). Both forms of analytics will have an important role to play in the future of WFM.
Each year at the HR Tech Conference, an award is presented to the next Great HR Technology company. In 2016, the award was presented to the team at Lifeworks an employee centric solution that cleverly stitches together Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Work Wellness and Financial Wellness. An employer can subscribe to this service and their employees are immediately entitled to benefits such as discounts at participating stores, EAP programs, Fitness Programs etc. I can see immediate relevance of this technology in this part of the world, especially in light of employers needing to take a more employee centric approach into the future.
The exhibition floor was awash with more than 400 different HR vendors, the largest showcase of vendors in the conferences 19 year history. Due to the speed at which technology is developed and disruption occurs, new vendors are emerging quickly with excellent functionality using current technology.
That said, just because a new vendor has great technology doesn’t mean that they are right for you. Factors like functional fit, size of vendor, support structures, global reach, financial viability etc still remain valid. Here’s my quick analysis on the WFM vendors I crossed paths with last week:
- Deputy. Australian company formed off the back of airline below the wing scheduling. This product caught my eye due to the simple and effective approach to marketing. I first saw their brand approx. 2 years ago. The cloud organisation was established in 2008. The organisation has recently created a local USA presence and is looking to grow globally. My Analysis: On the move
- Zuus (formally Roster with Ross) – Australian company established in South Australia. Again simple approach to marketing. Strong schedule optimisation engine along with T&A. Large number of clients in AU especially in the franchise / hospitality space. I spent time with founder and CEO Rachel Skinner who was very practical and WFM knowledgeable. Recently moved to the USA and local office established for global expansion. My Analysis: On the move
- Humanity (formally Shift Logic). This company caught my eye because I liked the way it articulated its brand promise, very simple, but effective. Established in 2010 and backed with VC My Analysis: One to watch
- Workforce Software (WFS) – The first thing I noticed was that the product had been rebranded and again has a very simple engagement and marketing approach. I had a demo of the EmpCentre system as I hadn’t see it for a couple of years. The UI is aging but is functionally strong. WFS recently acquired Workplace Systems which allows them to move into the schedule optimisation market, particularly retail. WFS also had a recent funding injection and continues its strong ties to SAP. WFS will continue to consolidate and grow. My Analysis: Mature Player
- Ceridian. The is a complete integrated solution across HR, Onboarding, Performance, WFM and Payroll (note Payroll not full integration in all geographies). Employee profiling was available in the product (akin to DISC profiling) which was integrated around engagement functions. I also spent some time with CEO David Ossip and his commitment to and knowledge of the HCM space was apparent. I anticipate this product will continue to take market share. The technology was called also out by an expert panel of Bill Kutik, Naomi Bloom and Brian Sommer as one of only three end to end HCM technologies that had a true single object model. Of interest the other two vendors were Workday and Ramco (although I don't think they were represented at the show). This technology was impressive. My Analysis: Industry Leader
- Kronos – All the talk was on the true cloud product Workforce Ready which is gaining significant traction. This product is still the 400 pound gorilla and has the funding and structure to see it move well forward into the future. Some of the previously mentioned WFM vendors are simplifying the engagement, sales, marketing and implementation approach so let’s keep watching this space closely. My Analysis: Industry Leader
I would like to give a special mention to Visier. The organisation provides true data analytics. I was first exposed to them in 2012 at my first HRTech when it was called out as a hot new technology. I have been following them for the last few years and was pleased to get some time with founder Jan Schwarz. We spoke about the organisations solid growth and continued market penetration in this hot and growing space. I attended an Analytics Panel session where Dave Weisbeck (CSO) spoke about his visions for analytics. One big call out he made was the need to tie productivity data to HR which was very refreshing to hear. I will continue to watch this technology closely. My Analysis: One to watch
Finally, I note that in the HR Tech Conference show guide that WFM is classified under Time and Attendance (T&A) which I don’t believe is the correct classification. WFM is all about Productivity and Optimisation. Refer to my recent articles on WFM Productivity and Why is WFM so misunderstood? Hopefully we can continue to raise the profile of WFM and perhaps consider having this reclassified next year.
A great event, I look forward to next year.
As always, comments welcome!
First Published on Linkedin, October 10, 2016