Recently I was lucky enough to be invited by IBM to attend the HR Tech World conference in Amsterdam. Compared to other conferences I had been to recently this one seemed to draw out more of the “big players” but also a large number of start-ups in to the HR Technology space. The range of speakers were just as variable with up to 9 speakers to choose from at any one time.Recently I was lucky enough to be invited by IBM to attend the HR Tech World conference in Amsterdam. Compared to other conferences I had been to recently this one seemed to draw out more of the “big players” but also a large number of start-ups in to the HR Technology space. The range of speakers were just as variable with up to 9 speakers to choose from at any one time.

Over the two days I drew together some insights and themes. These centre around what is emerging now and will be centre to HR Leadership activity in 2018. Here’s a summary of my thoughts:

1)  Recruitment is THE battleground for 2018

It is interesting that the acceptance that the modern workforce is more transient than before is resulting in a shift in what are the drivers for creating the best experience for your people. In the last 5-10 years the focus has been on developing your internal talent and ensuring that people know their career pathways in your business. However, with average tenure now around 2 years, there is a shift in time and financial investment into attraction, recruitment, selection and onboarding activities. Skills and behaviour development is still important of course but the pressure and therefore focus is much more around seeing results this year rather than investing for next year.

I have written a lot recently around employee engagement. However, while listening to a great talk by Charu Malhotra she summarised the three experiences that people have that are critical to finding and retaining the best:

  1. The Candidate Experience
  2. The Onboarding Experience
  3. The Employee Experience

My takeaway is that a person’s understanding and opinion of an organisation’s culture will be defined before the traditional internal engagement team makes contact. A broader view of the “experience lifecycle” is now much more central to my thinking. More focus needs to be placed at these earliest days of candidate interaction.

2)  Automation and Autonomy
I’m always on the lookout for simple phrases or analogies that helps explain the myriad of technology that is emerging in our industry. At the end of the second day, the closing keynote speaker, Henrik Scharfe PhD, gave an insightful talk on where is all this going. How can we predict and plan for the future of tech in the workplace? Henrik summarised this as Automation and Autonomy.

With Automation the goal is to take a task that a human completes and release the human’s time by completing the task without human involvement. Henrik likened this to the manual gears in the car being automated so we don’t have to worry about changing gear in traffic so we can concentrate more on the road.

Autonomy is totally different and is where the latest technology is heading. The goal is to remove the human entirely, not just the task but the thinking as well. He gave the example of the driverless car which is starting to hit our roads right now. The role of the driver becomes totally redundant. The concept of “dark manufacturing” is becoming a reality. “Dark” because there are no lights in the building as the machines do not need them and there are no humans!

Key stat: An estimated 50% of roles will disappear through automation/autonomy in the next 10 years – a recent survey by Henrik showed that 85% of people thought that automation would NOT affect their job – our people are not prepared for this change!

Again, what I learned was we concentrate too much at the moment on piecemeal implementation of automation. As HR Leaders we should be stepping right back and working with the exec to plan for the 50% of the workforce that will be redundant and will need to evolve into new roles we have not yet identified. 

3)  The rapid rise of BOTS into the mainstream

Probably the most significant change I have seen during 2017 is the rise of Bots. Futuristic in HR in January and now a common technology within the “start-up” part of the exhibition hall.  Chris Wray from Anchor Trust (care home industry) demoed his “self-made” bot within Facebook Messenger that has drastically improved his recruitment hit rate while reducing cost at the same time.

His last slide was great: if this is what we can do in the care home industry, imagine what you can do in your business. I see this as a great “call to action” for our industry.

Bots seem to be emerging initially in the recruitment space, linking back to thinking in point 1 above that recruitment being the key focus in 2018. Other places that bots are appearing in are in HR Shared Services. Both look to speed up and enhance the service offer while saving cost at the same time.

My takeaway? If you haven’t already, start thinking about the use of bots for simple human interaction today as this tech will be everywhere in HR soon. And the great thing is that the tech is fairly simple, it’s the application that we all can be thinking of.

4)  Analytics investment vs a new Core HR System

In recent years there has been a huge drive for organisations to move towards the big end-to-end HR systems – you all know the names. Taking up to two years and being a great distraction to the business. Recent conversations with HR leaders have a common theme – there are integration issues, reporting issues, time delays. In essence, not the utopia they were promised.

I sense things might be changing….

There is a plethora of innovative new cloud solutions out there. Most are keen to give you greater insight than you have had before. The way they win your business is by demonstrating they can work with your other systems in a hassle-free way. The ability to connect systems together is becoming easier and easier (check out for example). In addition, Analytics software can pull together data sources and give you a visually pleasing and easy to interpret output.

Finally, the speed and pace of change in HR tech is accelerating. Analytics has come of age. Bots have become mainstream. True AI is just around the corner – estimations are from 6 to 12 months away. End to end systems give you great data organisation and reporting. Looking forward to 2018, is your CEO looking for great data organisation from capital expenditure or new and deeper insight to create better results?

My takeaway here is a question to you, the reader. Is it now worth the price, effort and distraction for one provider to give you an end-to-end system when you can personalise the people insight software you need for your business by using systems from experts in their field?

So, in summary, things to start planning for in 2018:

  • Optimal Recruitment and Selection processes will be the lifeblood of your future talent
  • Think where automation can directly improve productivity now while planning for autonomous technology in the next 1-2 years
  • Where can Bots take the strain within your wider business? Think internal customers and external customers. Where can you predict questions and responses?
  • Tech is evolving to your needs. What was right tech last year is not the right tech next year. What are the problems you need to solve and what specifically do you need to fix this?

As always, reach out if you want to discuss further.