HR Tech Conference 2013: Reflections and Images

Summary: As evidenced by the vendors and service providers who participated in the 2013 HR Tech Conference Expo Hall in Las Vegas earlier this month, the HR industry continues to make significant progress developing and leveraging social and digital technologies. This post shares my impressions from the event and includes a slide deck that illustrates some of the current offerings available to facilitate the management of human capital in organizations. (from the Denovati SMART Blog)

I have been to the HR Tech Conference every year except one since 2009. I spend virtually all my time in the Expo Hall because I’m most interested in learning about how various vendors and service providers are incorporating social and digital technologies into their offerings. I considered the 2012 HR Tech Expo the best I’ve ever participated in – and that’s speaking from decades of experience as a buyer, seller and observer at a variety of trade shows.

I captured my perceptions of last year’s HR Tech Conference in a post entitled At the 2012 HR Tech Conference, Old School Met New School, which included this photo essay.

Although last year’s photos/photo essay were spontaneous, this year I decided to be intentional about capturing what I saw and documenting my take-aways from the conversations I had with folks. Interestingly, although some of the details have varied, much of what I shared last year was still valid this year, especially with respect to how the conference folks themselves leveraged social and digital technology. So, rather than repeat those ideas and examples, I encourage you to review my reflections from last year in addition to reading my thoughts about this year’s HR Tech Conference.

Reflections on the 2013 HR Tech Conference Expo Hall

Once again the HR Tech Conference Expo Hall was impressive. If I remember correctly, I think it was the biggest one in their 16-year history. Two days was definitely not enough time for in-depth exploration for someone like me, but more time would have probably been too much. I was exhausted at the end of each day, and my brain was overloaded by the time I left!

In spite of its size, it didn’t feel too overwhelming. In fact, it was almost low-key. It was definitely nothing like 2010, when a carnival atmosphere prevailed, and seemed to have fewer interactive bells and whistles than 2012. Personally, I liked that. Instead of flash and dazzle and swag grabbing, the focus appeared to be on facilitating real conversations about offerings, with lots of demo stations and comfy seating areas. Could these be further signs of a maturing approach to the transformation of HR technology solutions?

The interpersonal energy seemed to match the physical energy. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had at all the booths I was able to spend time at, and even enjoyed the brief interactions I had with folks from others as I was racing through to capture images. I regret that I wasn’t able to talk to more vendors (yes, I really said that – and I mean it!). It was clear when I left that the conversations will continue throughout the rest of the year, and into 2014 as well. Unlike other events, which seem to be isolated moments in time, the HR Tech Conference is a momentary event in a continuous arc of change, learning, and interaction. That’s kind of cool…

A Peek into the 2013 HR Tech Conference Expo Hall

My initial goal this year was to work the entire HR Tech Conference Expo Hall and create a photo essay like the one I made last year. And since I had more time, I thought I could even make it bigger. At the end of the first day, however, after making my way through only an aisle and a half and realizing I barely saw 10% of the vendors and service providers who were exhibiting, I realized that goal was impossible!

So on the second day I changed my strategy. I made sure I covered the entire floor at least once, taking pictures as I went. My revised goal was to try to capture the essence of the hall and convey a sense of the types of human capital technology solutions vendors and service providers are currently offering for folks who were unable to attend. I still only managed to get images from a fraction of the booths, but hopefully the sample is reasonably representative of the overall offerings.* I encourage everyone to review the complete list of exhibitors and their websites.

The slide deck I created is available on SlideShare. A few high-level observations:

  • Whereas cloud computing/SaaS (software as a service) was emphasized as a distinguishing feature of various solutions in past years, that distinction was less evident this year – not because it was less important, but because the idea of cloud-based solutions has virtually become the norm.
  • In contrast to the deemphasis of cloud computing, there was a fairly pronounced emphasis on mobile technology, which indicates to me that it’s still considered somewhat novel. I expect that emphasis to fade as the need for multi-device solutions, like cloud computing, becomes the norm.
  • Recruiting solutions appeared to dominate the offerings, but other applications were catching up in terms of how they leveraged newer social and digital technologies. I especially appreciated the emphasis on technology integration throughout all phases of the employee life cycle.
  • I don’t recall any booths focused on big data and analytics in previous years, but I was glad to see a number of solutions providers with this focus. And the valuae of visualizations also seemed more evident this year than before.
  • Probably my personal favorite offerings were the biometric solutions. I really liked that there were hardware-based offerings, and that the hall wasn’t just about software. Our ideas of “HR technology” should be broad indeed. I wonder if there were any kiosk vendors? That would have been a nice complement as well.

*Caveats: I generally focused on smaller booths and exhibitors who may not be as familiar as larger and better known companies like ADP, Workday, Taleo, SilkRoad, Cornerstone, Jobvite, etc. Also, as noted in the intro, I tried to focus on vendors and products (e.g., video interviewing) I hadn’t featured in my 2012 HR Tech Conference photo essay.

2014 HR Tech Conference

The 2014 HR Tech Conference will be in Las Vegas again, October 10-14. And the organizers have wasted no time setting up their website to help speakers, vendors, and attendees start planning for next year.

If you’re able to, I strongly encourage you to go – at least to the Expo. I can’t imagine a better way to get a sense of the trends in HR technology, plus you’ll get to meet lots of nice and interesting people from companies that are truly committed to leveraging technology to improve organizations and the work lives and experiences of employees.

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