HR Tech 2022: All About Change Management and the Employee
Author: Laci Loew, XpertHR Senior Global Analyst, HR Strategy and Insights
September 20, 2022
With more than 400 providers dotting the Expo Hall in Las Vegas and 8,000+ conference-goers navigating what felt like miles of hallway to join in discussions at panels and keynotes, HR Tech 2022 was all abuzz last week with HR professionals eager to collaborate in-person again.
Not only was the quantity of attendees impressive, but the HR technology investment community is charging ahead as well. Last quarter alone, nearly $7 million was invested in HR technology and M&A is likely to accelerate over the coming months.
With this type of attention in the market, there is plenty of opportunity - and need - for investors, providers and organizations alike to invest in and leverage technology to advance the impact of people strategies.
So where to start?
Conference-goers heard keynotes and vendor pitches ranging across every area of HR - acquisition, compliance, core HR and payroll, onboarding, performance improvement, rewards, talent and workforce management. However, there were three clear trends that seemed to make their way into all conversations during the week:
- The Employee Experience;
- Data, Analytics, and AI; and
- The Future of Work.
The Employee Experience
HR technology trends showcased at the Conference varied widely but those getting the most attention shared one theme - a clear focus on the employee experience (EX). Employee experience represents every interaction between employer and employee. In organizations where EX is taken seriously, people are no longer considered a commodity to be managed but rather unique individuals with new expectations.
As HR Influencer Josh Bersin said in his keynote, stepping up to these new employee expectations is at the core of how the most successful organizations are designing their human capital technology strategy.
So how is the employee experience reflected in today's HR technology trends? Last week highlighted at least three mega-trends:
1. Well-being: The pandemic brought personal challenges emotionally, financially and socially, causing workers' stress levels to rise affecting relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Employees are even rethinking their relationship with work particularly focused on work-life balance. As a result, the Conference's Expo Hall housed plenty of providers showing off their digital tools to provide for a supportive employee experience.
These technology solutions included:
- Mental health e-services;
- Digital coaching tools; and
- Meditation apps.
All of these solutions intend to help employees avoid burnout, support personal happiness and connect socially with co-workers when at work wherever that may be.
2. DEI: Creating an equitable and inclusive culture is requisite to a positive employee experience. HR technology has a key role to play. Most vendors last week were demonstrating solutions that in some way served DEI, including tools that:
- Eliminate bias during the talent acquisition process;
- Inform pay equity decisions when making total rewards decisions; and
- Audit succession decisions to ensure talent democratization.
Many of the panels and keynotes also emphasized the criticality of DEI strategies and enabling technologies. The XpertHR panel led by Sabina Mehmood and the keynote led by Cynt Marshall, the first black female CEO of an NBA team (Dallas Mavericks), focused on respecting differences, treating each fairly, honoring individualism and acting inclusively.
3. Agile HR: With the pandemic came a new learning for HR: HR functions need to act swiftly when change sets in. In fact, the ability of HR professionals and leaders to be agile was make or break during the pandemic. Essentially without notice, HR leaders were called upon to accommodate remote working arrangements for entire workforces, to handle severe staffing shortages amidst talent illness and resignation, to support employees during times of personal breakdowns, and to move the entire employee experience to digital.
To facilitate the requisite ability of agile HR, legacy HR technology has not been enough. Single sign-on, self-service systems with curated personalized experiences driven by data, analytics and AI are today's new HR technology currency.
Data, Analytics and AI
Solutions showcased at the conference were designed to leverage the intelligent use of data delivering actionable information to managers and employees with the goal of facilitating transformation efforts and enhancing the employee experience.
These data tools and technologies replace traditional workforce planning spreadsheets, clunky onboarding systems, archaic job descriptions, one-size-fits-all learning courseware, and old systems of pay with evidence-based insights derived from data, analytics, and AI allowing HR leaders to make better decisions faster:
- Time to hire;
- Readiness of high potentials;
- Elimination of pay gaps;
- Creation of internal mobility opportunities;
- Skill-preparation of a future-ready workforce;
- Reduction of talent churn;
- Improvement of employee wellness; and
- Enhancement of core HR activities.
People analytics strategies and enabling data and AI technologies create dual and measurable business value by empowering managers and leaders to connect employee data with business goals thus strengthening worker-employer relationships while personalizing the employee experience. With employee experience now top of mind for leaders, using data, analytics and AI technologies to inform people decisions with evidence is paramount in the future of work.
Future of Work
The "Future of Work" is a phenomenon that took root with the arrival of the pandemic. The changes it implicates are likely here to stay: remote working, wellness, workforce agility, fair pay practices, and a prioritization of the worker in every way. To create a purposeful environment and win the hearts and minds of every worker with a true people-first mentality, there were a few key practices shared last week that will help organizations go on record as a great place to work:
Seek the voice of the employee: To truly understand who employees are and what needs they have, listening always, communicating transparently and answering their questions are musts. CEOs and other executive leaders described their commitment to new communication practices:
- Fireside chats;
- Q&A time;
- Town Halls;
- "Here to Help" talks and other such forums.
It is through these opportunities that leadership authentically demonstrates their dedication to the employee and collect qualitative "voice of the employee" data to inform key people actions and changes to work processes that are necessary to create and sustain a second-to-none employee experience.
Pivot to new ways of working: During this time of rapid change, becoming an employment brand of choice mandates a wholesale shift in how work gets done. The business needs to think differently about how it is organized and its relationship with the employee; workers need to be aligned with meaningful work leveraging internal talent mobility and up- and re-skilling at will; and new and existing technologies need to be leveraged to strengthen connections with employees, identify skill needs and gaps and close them, and accommodate a working from anywhere arrangement.
The need for HR leaders to respond quickly to these new workplace and workforce issues is urgent. At HR Tech, passionate HR leaders shared how they are wasting no time acting on these opportunities and pain points.
Enable HR leaders: Workplace and workforce turbulence brought forward by the pandemic has implicated a similar tumultuous and stressful time for HR. HR leaders have worked tirelessly for the last 24-to-30 months to revolutionize people practices that line up with new employee expectations, make workplace changes instigated by new remote working arrangements and address the "Great Resignation" that has caused talent attraction and retention challenges amidst economic uncertainty driving workforce wellness issues.
At no other time in history have HR leaders been looked to by their business leader colleagues to step up and take accountability for creating purposeful workplaces and successful workforces in such a dramatic, new way - all without notice.
As such, skills required of HR professionals today are not the same as those in the past. As shared by the CHROs on Jeanne Meister's mega-panel "How CHROs are Preparing for the New World of Work" and as reported in the CHRO of the Future research released this week at HR Tech conducted by Executive Networks and sponsored by XpertHR, re-skilling HR professionals is a business imperative. The top three skills that HR needs now are:
- Business acumen;
- Change management; and
- Data analytics.
Skill gaps exist in many HR functions. Deploying new learning and coaching tools demonstrated this week will be helpful in facilitating the urgent skill-building that is needed in nearly all HR functions regardless of industry, organizational size or geography.
Summing It Up
Today, successful employers and HR departments are navigating change with agility with the goal of improving the employee experience. To support the employee-led work environment, the HR technology market has shifted too.
At HR Tech, we saw 400+ vendors show off their new or newly redesigned solutions that rely on data and AI to drive a better employee experience and an agile HR. Leading organizations and high-performing HR leaders are fast-adopting the new people and HR technology trends that marked the conference.