The 17th and 18th April 2024 saw the return of the HR and Learning Technologies exhibition back at Excel in London. I was there again to see what was being offered to people professionals and organisations to enhance the people experience and improve productivity in our organisations. The questions I went in with this year were:

  • What is new and different to last year?
  • What are the trends I am seeing?
  • Who caught my eye?

What a last 12 months it has been. Re-reading my blog from HRTech2023 I remembered that the conference was buzzing with the release of ChatGPT with the presentations not mentioning it and the anxious HR professionals firing questions from the audience. Move on only one year and the majority of stands at the exhibition were boasting about the use of AI in their products and solutions. You couldn’t get away from AI. But the question was whether AI was being truly used to add value or was there as a “add-on” sales gimmick.

In most cases, the AI component did add some value, however for many technologies it was there just to speed up low level data investigation to give better user experiences, for example, in curating learning pathways, finding the best content based on your profile, etc. This is fine as it improves the user experience and “stickiness” of technologies in the culture and there has only been 365 days of development time since the last exhibition! Interestingly, it is this data crunching and personalised insight approach that has meant that AI is suitable to quickly enter HR technologies. The fear of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, changing everything did not materialise and many delegates I spoke with are already comfortable in using it to help in report generation, letter writing and course creation in a personal day-to-day basis, not needing it in a new technology.

One technology that stood out here was HowNow who have just released an update on their skills learning experience technology where AI has been harnessed at a more strategic level to automatically generate skills taxonomies based on a simple job description for all the organisation’s roles, searching internally and externally to benchmark. The AI then creates a skills framework and uses in-built 360 feedback to create the “learning gap” and then the learning pathway is created. This was quite impressive as the skills taxonomy and framework is a laborious manual process and needs regularly updating that can now be done by AI using HowNow.

So, who caught my eye this time round?

Well, there were the usual swathes of LMS systems, content providers etc. What I’ve tried to do is look for outliers to the norm who are looking at things with a new angle.

Scotty AI was in the start-up zone with an innovative employee journey tool. These are not new but I was impressed by the addition of a voice to data text element that potentially improves the employee experience and speeds up the journey. For example, a candidate applies for a job and sifting needs to happen. You could send an e-mail questionnaire, link to a portal, etc, but Scotty AI’s technology will phone the candidate and ask them the screening questions and the candidates answers can be validated in real time. The theory is that you are more likely to answer your phone and have the conversation before you find the time to open an e-mail and manually visit a website. This can also be used in onboarding etc to ensure your people are happy so far and they can raise an issue that the automation can then flag. I can see this really catching on with other technologies.

Huler were there with a Hub that draws through all your HR tech interfaces into a slick interactive portal. What I liked from their approach was their passion about the employee experience as the way to increase the impact of internal communication. It was about not changing your tech but to layer Huler over the top for a better experience. It is designed to assist the HR leader to be able to communicate as much of the organisation’s message as clearly as they can to each employee. The goal is engagement within a dispersed world. How can we learn from marketing and comms to deliver an engaging personal journey for our people? And there’s HulerJournals on the way which is a personal journalling tool to give an informal approach to learning, setting goals and having line manager conversations.

ARuVR (formally VRTUOSO) were there as the prominent provider of virtual reality. They were focused on explaining the difference between Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality and how it complements with face-to-face learning and e-learning. With Apple calling this new technology “spatial computing,” I think this will be a technology that is here to stay, even if we just adopt it as bitesize Augmented Reality learning on mobile devices and don’t invest in the headsets etc. It has the advantage of holding attention when passive learning, like reading or watching a video, can bore us and we get distracted. impressed me with their attempt to replicate the learning style of the average employee outside of work. They are in the crowded market of the learning content provider but their ethos was very much mobile-first and bitesize learning. They even had the strapline of “The TikTok of Workplace Learning” on their brochure. Micro-learning only works alongside other forms of learning. The idea of micro-learning on demand is not new but this was done well. It definitely has a central place in most organisations learning strategy going forward, if not already. It was the little touches, like the only stand I could see where they had rotated their monitors by 90 degrees so the visual impression was a large mobile screen to talk you through.

– And, as mentioned before, I am still impressed by HowNow and how they are releasing updates to their employee experience learning technology and seem to be slightly in front of the curve whenever I see them at these events. They are a great technology to watch to see what “sticks” when there are so many possibilities for AI in HR technology.

My takeaway from the last couple of days is that we are in a period of rapid change in our HR and Learning technologies. The difference between last year’s offer and this year is stark. AI is moving the goalposts rapidly now. Any technology not looking to AI to automate and improve the employee and HR tech owner’s experience I think will rapidly fall by the wayside and, as HR professionals, we need to be all over this to not be left behind in the conversations ourselves. AI is not the future of HR or work – it is definitely now the present and business as usual!