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Micah Fairchild The HR Technology Conference: Top Sessions & Vendor Announcements

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 By Micah Fairchild

HR Tech 2012’s Top Speaker Sessions & Product Announcements

We’ve finally wrapped up our stay at the 15th annual HR Technology Conference in Chicago and it’s officially time for a recap of the event. And while we won’t be able to cover everything that happened during our time here, we’re going to do our best to give you an impressive highlight reel of the takeaways from our perspective. That’s why we’ve decided to split this post into 2 different parts. The first will cover our take on the sessions as well as the myriad HR software vendor announcements (of which there were over 40!); while the second will delve into the world of recently-released surveys and research associated with the 2012 HR Tech event. So let’s jump right in with some of the session highlights.

HR Technology Conference Session Highlights

70+ sessions (including concurrent and keynotes) meant that covering everything required more hands than we had at this latest HR Tech event. That said, regardless of our limited resources we had some sessions that simply had to be attended; thanks to the timeliness of the topic or the expert in charge of leading it. And while it was incredibly tough to pick just 2, we did just that.

  • Naomi Bloom’s Master Panel
    You saw it promoted in our recent ebook on the HR Tech Conference, and in hindsight, we probably should have made an even bigger deal than we actually did about this session. After all, when have you ever seen executives from Oracle, SAP, Workday, Ultimate,, and ADP share the same stage at the same time? Seriously, in large part, these are the vendors that are driving the HR technology agenda for millions of employees worldwide; and to have them sharing their thoughts on a panel entitled “Bringing HR Into the Cloud” is a rare opportunity. A fascinating aspect was just how amicable the whole interaction between these competing companies was, but even more so was the shared vision for how cloud computing is influencing their respective product offerings and shaping their customers’ strategies. And whether the topic was on the disruptive nature of Software-as-a-Service, the proliferation of social and mobile, the role of Millennials in the workplace, or the increasing calls for HR business intelligence, there was mostly consensus among these companies about where our industry is headed. Granted, differentiation was still a goal for most of the names that shared the stage (and more than once one of them would speak up about how their company got cloud religion first), but other than Ultimate Software’s Adam Rogers indicating reticence about Social HCM, everyone seemed to be on the same page. In the end though, perhaps the biggest takeaway from this session didn’t come from one of the panelists but from the moderator Naomi Bloom—who addressed the crux of the problem for both customers and providers. Said Bloom, “…everyone that [vendors] go after has to unplug something. That something has a constituency around it”.
  • Expert Panels from Josh Bersin & Thomas Otter
    Okay, okay, you caught us. Technically these were several sessions put together as opposed to a single one, but choosing only one out of this list was simply too hard to do. Aside from the great “unconference” sessions with Knowledge Infusion’s Jason Averbook, IDC’s Lisa Rowan, and Naomi Bloom, Josh Bersin delivered some equally interesting stats for both his mobile and LMS sessions; including the highlight for me that the Learning Management System market is so fragmented that the leading market share is only 8%. Likewise, the venerable Thomas Otter of Gartner brought his considerable expertise to bear on SaaS Contracts and Big Data; of which the former combined research from Alexa Bona and his parent company to give some actual concrete advice on “how not to get ripped off”. All the major topics that were in need of expert coverage (i.e. Mobile, Big Data, Software Deployment, Software Upgrades/Replacements, Talent Management, and Social) were had throughout the conference, but as one practitioner posted in the HR Tech LinkedIn group, “Every minute of the SaaS contract presentation had something valuable to me as a customer”. And that pretty much sums up what you want from a great session.

HR Technology Conference Vendor Announcements

As we mentioned above, in all, 40+ announcements were made by HR software vendors about their solutions at HR Tech this year; ranging from the mundane product update press release to messages about brand new offerings coming into the HR technology fray. Here’s our top 3.

  • Halogen
    Best known for their performance and talent management solutions, Halogen has been a standout point solution for several years running now; even garnering a coveted “Leader” spot in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Employee Performance Management Software. This year’s HR Tech Conference though gave even more reason for customers to short-list Halogen with the announcement of several new product enhancements. And although some of these updates (like an interface that can be branded) failed to pass the “novel” test, the fact is that Halogen is continuing to raise the bar on talent management capabilities. Here’s what we found particularly interesting: a) enhanced reporting tools/templates (like the new Process Flow report) now provide data that can be used to “analyze trends and make adjustments to timelines, redundancies or bottlenecks in the process”; b) Feedback Central, Goal Management, and Talent Profile Directory have finally all been incorporated into Halogen’s mobile app, which now gives managers (and employees) the capability to “share feedback, track and update goals in real time, and search for relevant talent management data via their mobile devices”; and c) newer flexible configuration options have been established for global and distributed workforces—including new language packs for Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Turkish and UK English.
  • RoundPegg
    One of the relatively new additions to the HR technology world that debuted an application at the conference was RoundPegg, Inc.—a “cultural intelligence” company that brings together metrics, psychological assessment, and ROI quantification. As the company puts it, RoundPegg “facilitates data-driven culture discussions through machine learning algorithms that gradually adjust candidate fit over time to progress toward the goal of being a strong, well-aligned culture”. A fairly tall order to be sure, but with a crack team and a host of psychology research at their side, this is an impressive solution that can deliver. Here’s what we like most about the company: a) they bring some much-needed numeric analysis to the world of engagement and culture; b) they provide the tools to take those measurements and actually use them to improve the organization; and c) with CulturePegg (the company’s culture survey tool), HirePegg (the company’s applicant fit tool), TeamPegg (the company’s management style tool), and EngagePegg (the company’s pulse survey/feedback tool) RoundPegg has a comprehensive approach.
  • Cornerstone OnDemand
    Finally, in conjunction with the Candidate Experience Awards (or CandEs), Cornerstone OnDemand (CoD) unveiled enhanced social sourcing for its recruiting cloud. While not nearly as big of an announcement as some of the other product enhancements introduced during the HR Tech Conference, this update by CoD sheds light on the fact that this company is staying on the leading edge of recruitment technologies. The CandEs were all about validating that companies “understand and leverage” social media for their recruiting efforts, and Cornerstone OnDemand has taken this one step further by introducing functionalities for social sourcing (which allows recruiters, employees, and candidates to share jobs across hundreds of social networks, online communities and job boards); job matching (which suggests contacts for specific jobs based on social profile information); and employee referrals (which help engage current employees in the recruiting process and ease the burden of initiating referrals via social networks).

HR Technology Conference Part 1 Wrap-up

To be sure, when it comes to highlighting only 3 out of a possible 40+ vendor announcements there are several notable others that easily could have made the cut if we’d had more time and space for coverage. That same sentiment applies to the 70+ concurrent sessions that the conference held this year. Although we were fans of nearly all of the sessions we were able to attend, there’s just simply no way to cover them all. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, as evidenced by the HR Technology conference’s speakers, exhibitors, and attendees, knowledge is expanding and innovation is continuing to happen—two harbingers for what is sure to be a very bright future for those lucky few who choose to make this industry their home. End

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As evidenced by the HR Technology conference’s speakers, exhibitors, and attendees, knowledge is expanding and innovation is continuing to happen—two harbingers for what is sure to be a very bright future for those lucky few who choose to make this industry their home.


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