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Thinking at HR Technology 2009

Posted by Mark Bennett on October 6, 2009

134943545_730adff787_mWhat HR Technology 2009 provided best and better than most conferences was convergence of much of the diverse thinking that’s going on in our industry, and it was energizing. Bill Kutik deserves huge props for balancing expectations with the unexpected, which for the most part kept HR Tech lively and provocative.

Naturally, HR Technology 2009 had a lot of the standard offerings, as always, “table stakes” as it were, including vendors touting their wares, industry rumors, informative sessions, and so on. Of course, the “Shoot Out” is viewed as a major differentiator and it is an interesting exercise to watch. As many have already pointed out, it’s a difficult challenge to provide a head-to-head comparison that covers “real world” scenarios that interest a broad range of customers, in a fair and balanced manner among the competitors, fit it all into a very short period of time, and not have it all appear extremely scripted (and fast!). Kudos to Bill and Leighanne Levensaler for working on developing a great set of scenarios and to Bill for continuing to experiment with the formula in an effort to address the issues people have expressed.

Here’s some standout thinking that was shared regarding getting real business results from HR technology, which will be further explored in upcoming posts:

  • Suite Thinking: This is recognizing the emerging power of an integrated talent management suite. It’s about the challenge of how to have a stable, secure system of record that supports core HR transactions yet also provide dynamic innovation around achieving strategic success through talent. The industry analyst panel with Josh Bersin, Naomi Bloom, Jim Holincheck, and Lisa Rowan, and Leighanne Levensaler’s session in particular raised important thinking about how integration can impact strategic success, what are the key objectives, what are the required components, as well as what are the challenges and tradeoffs (e.g. extracting data vs. initiating HR processes.)
  • Social Thinking: This is accepting and adopting social media’s value and learning its various features, implementations, policies, and practices. It’s also about understanding how compliance and governance issues must be addressed not by banning and rejection, but by promoting purpose and accountability. Once those basics are in place, it’s about how to ignite gains in productivity, innovation and employee engagement. Don Tapscott’s keynote showed how the digital natives coming into the workforce are not a threat or distraction, but rather a source of learning and new, more effective approaches to creating value from talent. Nokia’s session shared real-world examples of how that happens.
  • Business Thinking: This is knowing that while technology is a key component of solving business problems, and some technologies are more capable than others, it’s only if companies are ready and can commit to make the necessary substantive organizational changes and then actually do it, that they’ll reap the full return on their technology investment. The corollary is that technology itself does not cause the ill effects experienced by companies that don’t make the right changes, but it can certainly amplify those effects to the point of getting everyone’s attention. Great points were made by both Josh Bersin and Naomi Bloom in the industry analyst panel and by Naomi again in her closing keynote about how learning and applying key business skills and language like statistics and finance as well as really understanding how your particular business makes a profit and how that affects your workforce strategy are essential for HR if it really wants to play a strategic role.
  • Community Thinking: This is having unity of purpose in improving the effectiveness of human capital, even while participants still pursue their goals and contribute their particular strengths. This is not a re-hash of Social Thinking, but it’s a meta-level of thinking that leverages social thinking. Much of what stalls progress is about people and organizations getting overloaded, which not only “jams the gears” but can also trigger a fear and rejection reflex. Finding sources you can trust who can help process the flood of information and innovation goes a long way to help overcome that fear and rejection, which social networking tools can help address. This takes us back to the initial point about the major value that HR Tech provided us: a way in which folks with all their varied agendas and priorities can gather together and share their experiences, their products, their vision, and even their disagreements, to that major purpose that we all share.

If you haven’t seen them already, here are some excellent observations made by some really terrific folks:

If you want to learn more, have your voice heard by those who would listen, and contribute to this purpose, then join us in whatever way you can that suits you. Comment on our blogs or start your own, create a Twitter account if you haven’t already and follow us. Whatever way works for you. We look forward to getting to know you!

Photo by florriebassingbourn

19 Responses to “Thinking at HR Technology 2009”

  1. Hey, be my friend on Facebook and you can see our pictures!

  2. Louise Barnfield said

    Hey Mark, thanks for an excellent summary!
    I quickly changed from being envious (well, maybe I am…still…a bit!) that I couldn’t be there, to being very grateful that you were! 🙂 I’m looking forward to catching up on all the great links you’ve provided.

  3. Meg Bear said

    agree with Louise, thanks for making us feel like we were there Mark. Excellent summary.

  4. Hi Mark- Thanks for the mention. It’s nice to see the conference summary since I only had the opportunity to attend the last day. Wonderful to meet you.

  5. Mark – Fantastic meeting you at the show, and thanks for this excellent review of the key themes heard at the conference. And many thanks for participating on the HR Happy Hour show, you were a huge asset to the conversation.

  6. Amy Wilson said


  7. First rate write up, best I’ve seen recently.

  8. Thanks for making us feel about it

  9. Mark – Excellent review and it was wonderful to meet you. I like how you broke out your post into the 4 thinking categories. Thanks for including my blog post. By the way, you did great under pressure when Naomi Bloom and I were talking to you about Fusion. LOL.

  10. @Laurie – Great meeting you finally and thanks for posting the pictures. They’re great!

    @Louise, @Meg – I’m glad you enjoyed the post; I was hoping it would be useful.

    @hrringleader – Likewise. I’m glad the summary helped.

    @Steve – You have done so much for our community with the HRHappyHour. My regret is not having made the time sooner!

    @Amy, @Working Girl – Thank you! That means a lot.

    @Michael – I’m glad the theme approach worked. Re: Naomi and your questions – yes, you two were good 🙂

  11. Bill Kutik said

    Mark, thanks for the kind words. But I will never forgive you for making some people feel as though they were there when they did not buy a ticket! Terrific synthesis of the sessions with original thinking. Others too often write only one or the other. Sorry for leaving you off the Conference home page blogger links. Failed to keep up with my tweets. You’ll be added by Monday.

    • Bill, My sincere apologies! My intent was to whet the appetite of readers so that they would be eager to buy a ticket for next year’s conference. I’m glad you liked my approach and if you think that was awesome, you should see my presentation skills…how about a speaking slot at HR Tech next year?

      • Bill Kutik said

        No one who writes it “HR Tech” ever gets invited to speak at it, Mark. The name is the HR Technology(R) Conference. On second reference, HR Technology will do just fine.

    • I am mortified, Bill – I promise to write “HR Technology(R) Conference” always from now on and never again sully the brand! Thank you for alerting me to my blunder.

  12. […] Thinking at HR Technology 2009 […]

  13. […] Bennett discusses (social and community) Thinking at HR Technology 2009 on […]

  14. […] and learning about the numbers (as  Josh Bersin and Naomi Bloom said at last month’s HR Technology 2009 Conference(r) Talent Management analyst panel and Naomi’s closing […]

  15. […] conference and expo and the observations made by many bloggers that attended (including mine), Bill has put together a very good column summarizing his takeaway of the important issues […]

  16. […] out to create and build stronger ties, what else is happening? As mentioned in this earlier post on last month’s HR Technology® Conference, Nokia’s Matthew Hanwell related how his company […]

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