HR Tech Europe 2013 – Big Data, Robots and Cycle Paths

 
Andy Spence discusses Future of HR with a Robot at HR Tech Europe 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have always found Amsterdam an inspiring place to be.   As you walk by the canals you experience the artistic and technological ambition of its residents with its rich history as the hub of a global trading empire.
 
The reason Amsterdam is still a thriving global hub in oil, diamonds, flowers and ideas is not because of its location or wealth but to it's engineering excellence and vision.  
 
Nearly one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level and prone to floods. In the 1950s, a series of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees and storm surge barriers were constructed to radically reduce the change of flooding. The American Society of Civil Engineers called it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
 
Just like the engineers who enabled Amsterdam to survive, and flourish, many delegates at the HR Technology Europe Conference have goals to provide the technology infrastructure required for their organisations to thrive.  They provide the right technology and tools in candidate selection, training, collaboration, productivity or basic workforce management.
 
The conference chatter and tweets was about psychopaths, psychos on cycle-paths (a hazard in Holland!), robots, the jargon of behavioural science, big data and predictions about the future of work.
 
Some facts and figures :-
 
• 1439 delegates attended
• 42 nations were represented
• 1 cute robot attended
• 8,245 tweets using hashtag  #HRTechEurope
82 tweets by myself plus 125 mentions – not bad as I was in listening mode this year – thanks to HRMarketer for the analysis
• 57%  of male vendors wore brown shoes (Thanks to @AndyHeadworth but you should always check your data source!).
 
Whether you were there or not, Download Presentations from HR Tech Europe 2013 and View some fantastic photos from Heather Bussing and others.
 
As I have written before, in Why HR Need to be Technology Champions, this is an exciting time to be working in HR, Technology and Org Development.  There are some important strategic choices to be made about the future of technology in our organisations.
 
Here are some themes for buyers and vendors of HR Technology that emerged for me in conferences sessions, conversations and tweets.
 
Its all about the strategy 
In Professor Costas Markides session, “Make your Strategy process democratic” he demonstrated why the first stage of the development of ideas needs to be democratic.
A question for HR Directors, is how widely did you cast your net for ideas into your HR Strategy ?
As Naomi Bloom outlined in her keynote,"Poirot's Order And Method: Making the business case for HR Technology" the starting point for any business case should be “what is the vision, metrics, value targets that matter?”
 
There is no point buying HR Systems that do not support the HR Strategy that in turn does not support your business strategy and goals.  Naomi in a later session also provided some useful historical context of HR systems and data requirements which have changed completely over the years. Put bluntly, the code and data structures that supported our organisations yesterday will not do so in the future.
 
The end of the HR enterprise software era
John Sumser took the historical perspective further in his session, "Re-engineering The Human Resources Function" in his view we are at the end of the HR enterprise software era, in terms of maturity.  The HR Technology industry has done its job well and provided automated solutions for most HR processes and in John’s view we should not expect much innovation at this phase.
 
However, very quickly we will move to a new exciting phase which will include integration of new data sets from outside HR from aggregate health care data, labour market data and actual work measures.  This really has the potential to transform workforce management, and provide competitive advantage to organisations who adopt early. Imagine the possibilities of predicting peaks and troughs in employee performance by merging HR and performance data with health indicators?  Of course there would be a few privacy concerns to iron out in this brave new world.
 
Talent minus Big Data = Unsubstantiated Rubbish
On the topic of data, there was lots of talk of Big Data, Nick Holley from Henley Business School gave a very interesting presentation on “Talent minus Big Data = Unsubstantiated Rubbish”  and also won the prize for best session title.  Nick gave good examples of using data analysis to solve business problems and told delegates that one of the most successful talent tactics is to identify and manage out the narcissists & psychopaths in your organisation.
 
Josh Bersin, in his session “The Datafication of HR” also demonstrated how HR Analytics could smash some organisational myths such as “people from top universities with good grades are high performers”.  Josh illustrated how HR has been evolving big data solutions for years and presented some great pointers in building this capability into your HR Operating Model.  We need to look at the current capabilities we have in HR and recruit people who are comfortable with data. 
 
One of the iHR Award 2013 finalists, MacroMicro, showcased a tool that sits on top of your HR data providing visualisations of your organisation (just don’t let the CEO get their hands on it until you have done a bit of data cleansing).
 
Visualising and playing with data is fun but this all needs to link back to your strategy, we need to start with the Business Problem we are trying to solve.
 
HR Technology Buyers are at a crossroads
‘61% of HR Professionals are changing their HR Technology in the next 18 months’ – with all the workforce and technology changes out there, there is understandably some hesitation in making long-term buying commitments.   In his presentation to industry analysts the day before the conference, Adel Al Saleh, the newish CEO at NGA HR (used to be Northgate Arinso)  gave his view that ”More HR Technology options has created inertia as organisations take time to review their technology and services landscape”.
 
I can understand why, and demonstrates why this is a good time to ask yourself, “Is your HR Operating Model Fit for the Future?”.
 
Congratulations to Appical who won the iHR Awards 2013 with a successful product and an innovative pitch.  They made the case for turning onboarding new employees into something much more fun with cutting-edge technology and social media.
 
The industry behemoth, Oracle, intends to continue to invest heavily in HR Solutions according to Mark Hurd at Oracle.  Mark also brought along his robot, Oscar, who is seen in deep conversation with myself about the future of HR.  After a couple of cocktails, Oscar confided that he planned to deliver a session next year on “The new field of Robotic Resources – RR”.
 
Finally, looking into my Google HR Glass (John Sumser predicted 10% of delegates will be wearing these at the Conference in 2014)  there will be lots of HR Tech contracts signed in 2014.  
 
I am looking forward to the HR Technology Europe Conference in 2014 and seeing how this group of  Workforce Visionaries will be building the technology infrastrucure for our future organisations to thrive.  And through my Google HR Glasses, I will also be watching out for less organisational psychopaths, psychos on the cycle paths and robots doing more HR and the odd keynote speech.

 

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