HR Technology Conference 2014

IMG_0231.JPGHoled up in the airport waiting for my flight back to Bangalore from my annual pilgrimage to the HR Technology Conference, I am making notes of what this conference was, what it was not and what I should take away with me to work over the next twelve months before we return to Vegas for the 2015 conference.

  • What this conference was not, was small. It keeps getting bigger every year and this year had the largest number of sessions, longest conference hours, largest sold out expo hall and not to mention a huge number of attendees. We didn’t get to hear the roll call of how many attendees have made it from far corners of the world like Bill Kutik usually does, but it was visibly big.
  • The other thing the conference was not is, simple. Talking to some of the fellow attendees, there was a perception that there were too many concurrent break out sessions making it difficult for them to choose from.
    HR is a broad enough topic and when you add Social and Data in the mix, the possible topics are endless. With a large number of attendees, I could see that it made sense to break them up into smaller crowds to make the sessions more focused.
    If that is a problem, then it is a good problem to have!
  • The last thing, this was not Naomi Bloom’s year. A tooth abscess kept her in the hotel room while the much awaited sessions had to proceed without her.
  • But then, the conference was, as it usually is, a great place to learn and exchange ideas. First timers and loyal attendees, all gave a resounding affirmation to that and the value they were getting from listening to the speakers. It was refreshing chatting with strangers about what systems they have and to discuss what we heard in the sessions during the breaks.
  • The general sessions were all very relevant and just fantastic. Rahaf Farhoush, Andrew McAfee, David Gergen, Ahu Yildimarz, Steven Cochrane, Steven Rice, John Boudreau, Ray Wang – all engaging speakers with a lot of content.
  • New this year was a special section for start ups in the expo hall. Kudos to the confrerence for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship through such a gesture.
  • The books! This was a conference of authors. There were Jason Averbook’s book launch (which I sadly missed) and Andrew McAfee’s book signing. I was also fortunate to get a copy of the one in two books in Amazon on Talent Management in South East Asia by Sylvia Varhouser-Smith.

Coming to take aways, there were two reigning themes this year.

  1. Data – big small and everything in between
  2. Robotics, Automation and general invasion on machines into our daily lives

Data was pervasive everywhere, right from the welcome keynote to Ray Wang’s energy filled closing one.
Yvette Cameron had a special session on machines at the workplace and Andrew McAfee’s gave a fascinating account of taking a ride in the Google Car which brought us closer to the reality of increasing levels of automation and the need to rethink our workforce.

Interestingly, for quite a number of participants the take away will be the amazing range of cloud solutions available for HR today. I came across many of them looking to replace their on-premise systems and they all seemed tossed up between the multitude of products they saw in the expo hall.
If they could not just “replace” but “reinvent” the way HR functions in their organisation using any of those solutions, that would be a great win for the conference.

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