HR Tech Conference Day 2: Technology as a Competitive Advantage

If anyone was doubting why he or she made the — somewhat early — trek back to the conference this Tuesday morning (as if those breakfast burritos they’ve been serving aren’t enough of a reason), Steven Miranda, senior vice president of applications development at Oracle, had an immediate answer. Technology is important. Not only that, it’s increasing in importance at a rate that can seem impossible to keep up with.

Miranda was on Tuesday morning’s panel on how to bring HR into the cloud, and the first thing I heard him say was “Technology is now a second language to us, but it is a native language to the next generation.” Because this is true, John Wookey, executive vice president of social applications for, said HR has to be an advocate of giving tools to people where and when they need them — they have to make all tools mobile.

There were no debates on this. There were no debates on anything. There was a general consensus and one strong theme, as Andrew McCarthey tweeted:

@andrew_tech: If there is 1 takeaway from @InFullBloomUS master panel its that Cloud and #SaaS are now the #Hrtechstandard. #hrtechconf

Other points included the importance of remembering that SaaS is software, but also a service, and it doesn’t do anything until people adopt and use it; how cloud technology can make work faster and more up-to-date to manage businesses like never before; and how it allows vendors to see in real time what customers are using and what they aren’t instead of guessing.

I thought it was especially interesting that Wookey said he has seen cloud change culture. Because employees are continually getting new technology, they want to continually do things better. It’s a subtle side effect, but it’s a competitive advantage and allows companies to do their business better.

To embed it into culture, Miranda said it has to be social, and social has to be part of the organization’s fabric, not a separate piece. He went as far as to say recruiting without social doesn’t make sense. It has to be something we don’t even mention anymore, much like we’ve taken self-service HR out of our vocabulary.

My favorite closing comments were from Stan Swete, chief technology officer of Workday, and from Wookey, who said:

“It’s really lucky that Saas came along because we need a model for how fast technology is changing.”— Swete

“If you want to speak the language of business, you have to speak the language of technology. It’s a way to solve business problems, and HR leaders have to become an advocate of this.” — Wookey.

Later on in the day I had the pleasure of meeting with several vendors, and like in Monday’s post, I want to give you a taste of what some companies are doing:

1. Anne Fulton, managing director of Career Engagement Group, and her group from New Zealand introduced careerCENTER to the United States earlier this week, an SaaS-delivered career enablement technology that drives engagement and career acceleration outcomes. Their product facilitates alignment between employee/organizational goals, values and competencies by underpinning every touch-point from pre-hire, on-boarding, performance and learning.

I had the chance to sit down with Fulton and test the product based on what they’ve created for Coke and was impressed with how interactive the tool is. I was able to play around with the values component of the tool, which helped me identify personal career values and how they would align with those of Coke. In a time of record low engagement, this can help unlock the key to motivation, engagement and productivity by identifying each employee’s motivators and personal drivers.

2. I’m fascinated with online dating. Ever since I signed my roommate up on OkCupid, my biggest hobby has been filtering through her messages and seeing just how right her matches are for her after they’ve met. The site tells you how compatible you are with a prospective love by giving you a few matching percentages based on questions you answer when creating your application. It’s remarkable how precise it is. My obsession with this is what made meeting with One Wire especially interesting.

Employers use OneWire to source and recruit top finance candidates, and hundreds of thousands of job seekers use OneWire to get matched to relevant job opportunities and connect directly with hiring companies. It’s truly the online dating of recruitment. Its matching technology will connect candidates only to relevant jobs based on background and career preferences. As a candidate, you have nothing to lose. As an employer, would you use it?

Brinn McCagg, OneWire’s president, told me the company’s trying to be like Instagram is to Facebook and the online-only version of Heidrick and Struggles. He thinks sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn try to do too much, and because of that, they’re losing their following. All OneWire does is match. While there are some messaging capabilities, it is up to employers to contact their picks and grow the relationship.

McCagg also said 75 percent of candidates who join the site already have a job. Seems like a good way to get the best fish in the sea to me.

3.  The best thing a breakroom can have is free food, and nothing will ever top that, but Hughes Breakroom TV Solutions is trying to complement that well. The product is an integrated video communications and employee information system that allows companies to deliver customized company content and infotainment, including live TV. They can cultivate employee loyalty by showcasing their contributions to meeting company goals and to the local community. And they can improve employee expertise by keeping them up-to-date about new products, services and other training knowledge.

In the example I checked out, the company had a news broadcast, like CNN, playing on half of the screen, a rotating slideshow with performance measures specific to a site on a fourth of the screen and announcements scrolling along the bottom informing employees of upcoming meetings and events.

This gives employees an opportunity to stay informed, get nuggets of news and interact with each other. I think it would go well with a box of doughnuts in the breakroom.

While the event’s almost over, we’re not done talking about it. Be sure to follow @HRTechConf and participants’ reactions and coverage by monitoring the #HRTechConf stream. There’s still a lot left to cover.