I write this bleary eyed after a busy but brilliant couple of days at the HR Tech Europe event, London edition. Between the conference sessions, keynotes, exhibition and valuable conversations had, there is a lot to reflect on and my brain is still trying to process a lot of it. I am aiming to reflect on specific sessions here over the next few days.In terms of overall themes, it wasn’t as glaring as the October event in Amsterdam (moving to Paris this year). 6 months ago, the theme of employee engagement smacked every attendee in the face like a giant kipper. You literally couldn’t escape it in every single session. In London, there was less of an obvious stand out theme from my perspective and this isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s good when the conversation moves forward. One of the most interesting things for me was the fact that there wasn’t really any ‘new’ technology being discussed. None of the exhibitors were trying to dress up their wares as earth shatteringly new inventions (although there was some cool stuff to see). And in the opening keynote, Peter Hinssen talked about the fact that technology isn’t what’s new today, rather it is our behaviour and our usage of tech that is evolving. This resonates with me because most organisations aren’t in a position to adopt groundbreaking tech anyway (some exceptions like Zurich using Augmented Reality!) I had a number of conversations where people are still needing to work off seemingly ancient tech (IE6 anyone?) So what is useful is an exploration of how organisations can make use of what is already available rather than looking ahead to shiny new things they simply aren’t ready for. It’s not that I don’t believe in innovation, of course I do, but I am a bigger believer in being pragmatic.
So what was being shown at the exhibition you ask? Well there was loads to see! The swag was seriously impressive and is better covered by Andy Swann in his post. But as a marketing person I am never sucked in by just cool giveaways. I am always keen to have a chat with people and try to take a look at their tech where I can. From a learning perspective, the enthusiastic team at Pluralsight have got an exciting proposition around a huge library of IT and creative training online. Our CTO has used some of their courses already and was impressed (no mean feat) so it was good to see their offering in action.
Recruitment is not my area of expertise but there were some pretty funky jobs platforms on show with Indeed possibly being the glossiest. Workday is obviously a company you cannot miss and I heard it was standing room only at their breakout session. A lady I met on day one was at the beginning of a project to roll it out to 35,000 people worldwide. They are certainly a force to be reckoned with! Interestingly, because the platform doesn’t really have learning functionality, there is now a two way connector with Saba who were also in attendance. Their new Saba Cloud software is about much more than learning and includes talent management, performance and succession planning. But it is good to see a market leader like Workday recognising the importance of learning and partnering with another provider that has real expertise in L&D and is moving that agenda forward with functionality like machine learning.
On that note, I was reminded of how L&D is just one part of the puzzle during a panel session on day two. It was a sort of summary session from track chairs to reflect on the key themes and highlights from the content they had chaired during the conference. As the Future of Workforce Learning stream was summarised (track chair Fiona Leteney couldn’t be there unfortunately) both TinCan API and 70:20:10 were mentioned. And hardly anybody knew what they meant! It was left to analyst David Wilson to explain 70:20:10 which people seem to have at least heard of but TinCan appeared to be a brand new term! This demonstrates what we talk about a lot in L&D – and that is needing to speak in language the rest of the business understands without descending into jargon.
I also attended sessions on global learning, augmented reality, gamification, cloud technology, millennials (don’t get me started!) and a number of talks on the ‘future’ and ‘tomorrow’s world’ which had varying degrees of resonance for me. Collaboration and sharing as the future of work was another theme that emerged over the two days, culminating with Rachel Botsman’s closing keynote. This was a talk that threw up all sorts of reaction for me (good and bad) so I am going to try and dig into that in a separate post.
The closing keynote on day one from Heidi Spirgi was a particular highlight for me. Spirgi has been in and around the world of HR technology for 18 years and by her own admission was jaded. But then she met Marcus Buckingham and what has emerged for her is a focus not on the technology (again, mirroring my earlier observations) and his view is that ‘There are no great organisations, only great teams. So goes the team, so goes the organisation’. And this set the tone for a session that explored the need to focus on team leaders (or line managers if you prefer) as a stakeholder group. They are often neglected but so important if organisations are to really engage their employees and harness their potential. I loved this because it was practical advice and we *all* know the difference a great manager can make to our performance (not to mention happiness) at work.
I am going to sift through all the great takeaways zinging around in my head over the next few days, but suffice to say HR Tech Europe has once again been thoroughly worthwhile. The calibre of attendees is at a really high level and I enjoyed the breadth of conversation from gamification to global payroll. It was great to meet so many new people and see some lovely old faces too. I even got to finally meet Euan Semple and be a geeky fangirl (which I suspect I probably enjoyed more than him). I hear Sir Richard Branson is the opening keynote at the next one in October which should be fascinating – so I will hopefully see you in Paris!