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HR Technology Conference 2011

Posted by Chris Wilson on October 17, 2011


I Came, I Saw, I Conquered.

Queen of Kong. Aww yeeaah...

Two of those things happened.  Three if you count owning the high score on Donkey Kong for the duration of a conference of thousands of HR tech geeks – on a single quarter – as “conquering”.  You may be able to guess where I stand on that measurement.

Yes, there was an arcade at the 2011 HR Technology Conference – huge props to the painfully cool gang over at The Starr Conspiracy, who really put on a clinic with their multichannel techno-hipster marketing blitz for this gig.

There were also lots of other opportunities for good times and socializing – real, live conversation with human beings – on topics that matter.  Like whether gamification has a place in enterprise software, how much value is truly being realized from social recruiting efforts, and the appropriate usage of a tequila ice luge in mixed company.  It was a great pleasure to connect and share ideas with so many friends, old and new.

Now, lest you (or the lovely person who pays for you to attend such events) think that HR Tech is all fun and games, yes, there was also plenty of fantastic discussion of the more formal, session variety.  Both new and longstanding concerns in the world of strategic HR were well-represented, and some recurring themes stood out more than others.  The tough part (other than finding cute shoes comfortable enough in which to walk 10 miles a day) is choosing between the variety of valuable presentations and panels offered during the conference’s breakout sessions.  The “divide and conquer” rule works well here if you’re traveling with a group of colleagues.

We all saw some intriguing new products, heard implementation stories, and attended the “Great Debate” (more informed discussion than debate, though worth the price of admission for the ‘K’ socks alone).  Useful, actionable analytics and quality of data remain big challenges.  And yes, we’re still talking a lot about Social and Mobile.  Here’s a sampling of takeaway notes from some of the breakout sessions I attended.  If not all revolutionary concepts, these were reinforced by virtue of the conference experience and respect for the speakers and panelists.


  • Increasing trend toward relationship-based recruiting – referrals were a major theme of discussion.
  • Analytics to optimize recruitment – critical, but suffering from data quality issues like elsewhere, particularly identification of primary source.
  • Social recruiting is gaining traction, but corporate career sites remain by far the most frequent point of entry for candidates and the most effective source for focusing content.

Performance Management (big nod here to recent research by Bersin & Associates)

  • Should stress development, not the appraisal, which is just an artifact of the process.  Frequency of performance discussion has an almost linear relationship with business results, with quarterly or more frequent conversation a dividing line.  A rich process with continous feedback is key.
  • Perceived simplicity of process is important.  Trim your competency list!  This is some of the lowest-hanging fruit that can be cut to realize gains in process and outcomes.
  • Social is perhaps the next/trending differentiator for performance solutions, but the biggest differentiator, and the most lasting one is…


You know how we humans tend to hear what we want to hear in a conversation?  (Is that just me?)  Well, HR Tech was like that, for me.  I heard “usability” everywhere I went, and relished every mention.  All the feature-functionality in the world doesn’t matter a bit if you roll it out to a bewildered employee base who can not or will not spend the extra time needed to learn how to interact with an overbearing UI.  Simplicitly in presentation and experience remains the rule of thumb here, with a nod toward patterns that have become familiar to large user bases – a la Facebook or Amazon – and those that easily lend themselves to mobile platforms.

There’s more, but this post is already far too long.  You probably stopped reading when it got all serious in the middle there.

Kudos/points/badges to Bill Kutik and gang for putting together a fantastic show.  I count myself as lucky to have had the opportunity to attend and would encourage anyone from the HR, vendor, or analyst/blogger community who may be on the fence to make the trip next year when the conference returns to Chicago – October 8-10, 2012.

I think that Bill summed up the value of this event quite neatly for me in his opening address (and I’m paraphrasing liberally here) –

Where else can you get an annual pulse of the state of HR technology, with almost everyone who cares about the same things you do under the same roof at the same time?

Nowhere.  Thus, I loved it.

Lastly, a quick shout out to the HRevolution “un”conference.  While I missed this complementary (if not complimentary) event immediately preceding HR Tech, I heard lots of positive feedback about both the open round-table format and the content, and will be sure not to miss out next time.

One Response to “HR Technology Conference 2011”

  1. […] Wilson (a brilliant mind at Oracle who shares my issues around poor UX) shared her thoughts on a number of sessions and overall event with a nice shout out to my former colleagues at Bersin & Associates for […]

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