HR Tech, Day 3: Technology Capability Greater Than Its Current Usage

The 2015 HR Technology Conference & Exposition is in the books. After three and a half days of briefings with technology vendors, walking the expo floor and listening in on practitioner and thought leader sessions, there's a lot to take away from this year's conference.

As I wrote in by first two posts from the show, technology around contingent labor, benefits administration and recruiting seemed to grab most of the attention from conference goers I spoke with. But in recapping the entire show with Mike Prokopeak, Talent Management's editor in chief, in the airport before our flight home, some other themes stood out.

A lot of the technology on display this year aimed to streamline a lot of the work for the typical HR professional. Some technologies, for instance, allowed for HR to administer pulse surveys to track employee engagement in real time, a tool that could provide HR with insights into when an employee might be a flight risk. A lot of the vendors at this year's show were offering products on this front. And while some may interpret this development as a diminishment of HR, I actually interpret it as a enhancement for those working in talent management. 

Imagine: Instead of an HR practitioner having to produce paperwork, walk through offices, hand out surveys and collect the data manually, technology is now allowing them to streamline the process to a centralized dashboard, where practitioners can then analyze the information and make decisions in real time. Engagement isn't the only area vendors are aiming to address with this sort of technology functionality; products are now out there that collect similar data on interviews, retention and other significant talent management metrics. The HR department of the future is likely not just an administrative function, but a group of talent analysts monitoring multiple screens as information pours in on the organization's talent, allowing them to streamline their decisionmaking and ultimately operate more efficiently. 

However, if there's one thing that constantly sticks out from attending this conference, it's that the vendors in the HR technology space are way ahead of what talent executives are actually doing  and are able to do  in their organizations. In other words, there is a huge gap in the technology available and what companies are actually doing. While some companies, in my observation as editor, have indeed found useful ways to integrate predictive workforce analytics capabilities in their departments, most large enterprise organizations appear to be stuck on clunky, on-premise technology or talent management systems. Others are just moving to the cloud and working through the initial kinks. Some still struggle to use technology to get a basic headcount report.

In short, the actual in-practice side of the HR technology industry still needs to play catch up to the capability of what vendors are providing. This point is also enhanced in my observation by the sheer amount of startups proliferating the HR tech industry, many of which are venture capital funded and unlikely to stick around long term. This prediction is just based on the typical success rate of these types of companies. 

That concludes our Talent Management coverage for this year. I hope you enjoyed reading. And if you were at the show and have additional observations that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts.

Until next time. See you later, Las Vegas.