HR Tech, Day 1: Technology for Contingent Labor Gains Popularity

The 2015 HR Technology Conference & Exposition is under way in Las Vegas, Nevada. Throughout the week, I'll have blogs reporting directly from the conference floor, with highlights on the latest coming out of a crowded HR tech industry.

My first meeting on Monday, Oct. 19, was with a young technology company called Work Market, which aims to transform how the contingent labor force model operates within large enterprise organizations. Started in 2010, Work Market is a technology platform that connects large companies like Walgreens to more efficient markets of freelance, part time and contingent labor. "We allow employers to have a direct relationship with every independent worker," Stephen DeWitt, the New York-based company's CEO, told me in an interview. 

Much like Uber and other on-demand software services, Work Market's platform allows users to create markets for freelance labor based on tasks or individual projects companies need to complete. The system manages the complete lifecycle of a job task: from finding the freelancer, to tracking their progress on a specific task, to compensating them, all within one unified software platform.

DeWitt said the target market for the product includes large firms that are currently reliant on costly operating models for contingent labor. He said the goal with Work Market is to streamline the ease with which companies are able to conceptualize their costs around contingent labor needs by helping them turn fixed costs in some areas of their labor into variable ones. Yahoo is an early customer, and DeWitt said the company has been able to reduce its per-task cost by 40 percent since implementing the platform, which Work Market sells as a software-as-a-service subscription.

The company also has a worker side to its platform, where freelancers are able to create profiles and service their skills to companies. DeWitt said the company is growing quickly and has pilots with a few large clients that he declined to name.

As freelance and contingent labor for highly skilled workers becomes a bigger part of the corporate talent management discussion, it's worth keeping an eye on companies like Work Market, LinkedIn and others that are trying to capitalize on making these labor markets efficient for companies and workers alike.

Soft Sell

My second session of the day featured Chris Collins, vice president of global shared services at Delta Air Lines, who was presenting on the company's use of HireVue recruiting software. The session was titled "Delta's Digital Transformation: Modernizing Recruiting to Align With Business Strategy." 

I'm not going to pull any punches here. The session was a massive disappointment.

I went to learn about how Delta implemented and digitized its modern recruiting strategy, thinking that the content might serve a good Talent Management story in the future. What I got was a massive HireVue and Delta commercial, with little in the way of how Delta actually went about implementing this new digital recruiting strategy. Instead, the session was a series of videos  Delta commercials, literally  with testimonials from employees saying how much they love working there. The first 25 minutes features HireVue's CEO showing slides of the company's success. I left early. 

I have little doubt that both Delta and HireVue are doing great things  both independently and as partners  but attendees and readers want to know about how to implement these strategies.

First Day Concluding Thoughts

I still have a few more sessions before the first day wraps up here in Las Vegas, but I want to leave you here with some initial thoughts on what's going on at the conference.

1. It's never been easier to start a company, any company, let alone an HR tech company. There is a steady presence from the big players in the industry here, but there are also a lot of smaller, lesser-known firms.

Funny enough, I think technology is the enabler of this. You don't need a lot of infrastructure to start a company these days, especially when it's tech focused. You don't need a lot of employees, and you certainly don't need much in terms of actual sales. Lots of small players are here on the expo floor, and they are touting streamlined products and are determined to overtake older, clunkier technologies.

2. Recruiting and benefits still reign. Just off my skim observations of the expo floor, there are a lot of companies involved in either helping companies with their recruitment or benefits administration. 

3. Las Vegas remains an ideal location for this event. HR Tech will head to Chicago next year, but this city remains a great draw for this audience. For all its sins, Las Vegas seems to do a great job of getting business-minded individuals to skip out of the office for a week.