What We Learned at #HRTechConf 2017

by Connie Costigan | Posted | Industry Buzz

What We Learned at #HRTechConf 2017

The Saba team had a fantastic learning experience at the 2017 HR Technology Conference and Expo. There were several key themes coming out of the conference. From the need to support more women in technology, to the growing investment in employee engagement and employee experience, to how AI, machine learning and analytics should help us make sense and good use of employee data. It was an HR leader's tech dream.

Here are some of our team's key takeaways and highlights from HR Tech covering some of our favorite conference sessions, as well as conversations with Saba experts and some of the talented industry thought leaders we spoke to.

Laszlo Bock keynote – there's no silver bullet to getting innovation right

Conference keynotes are always a highlight at HR Tech. This year's opener, Laszlo Bock, author and former SVP of People Operations for Google/Alphabet, didn't disappoint. He shared a few lessons learned about innovation from his experience at Google and from his peers in the industry.


* image credit to @RecruitingGrace

His key takeaway? It's not a silver bullet but a steady process that moves organizations towards a more innovative culture. It's a journey full of trial and error, passion and perseverance.

Laszlo went through six steps to creating a more innovative culture:

  1. Connect people with a mission. Your company mission drives productivity. So, if you want innovation, give people a purpose to rally around.
  2. Tap into intrinsic motivators. While the badges and monetary rewards may motivate some in the short term, more consistent and intrinsic motivation comes from a sense of honor, and self-esteem, a feeling that they have impact, a voice and can be trusted.
  3. Massively reduce fear. If you want to bring out the best in employees, stimulate them to recognize and embrace failure as part of a learning process.
  4. Build a portfolio of "moonshots and rooftops." Dream big! Moonshots (ambitious goals) are exciting and drive a lot of attention. But don't forget that most people aren't working on moonshots every day. There's power in the smaller goals and work that support the journey to reaching moonshots.
  5. Know your enemy There will always be someone better at some facet of your work, so don't make internal comparisons. Start with the conviction that we are all amazing.
  6. Be lucky. You can't force luck but there are ways to get a bit luckier. Manufacture moments of serendipity and casual collisions. Those are opportunities for innovation to flourish.

All of Laszlo's steps to creating a more innovative culture have a people-centric approach. You need to bring people together with a shared purpose, and make room for learning and growth in order to reach goals.

Saba's people-centric approach to embracing learning as you work

Most progressive companies recognize that employees are continuously learning in different ways. On the go, at the point of need, and in a variety of informal settings. At this year's HR Tech Conference, we announced enhanced micro-learning capabilities and extended gamification to accelerate the modern learning experience, in the latest release of Saba Cloud

In this video Caitlin Bigbsy, Senior Product Expert for Saba, breaks down the opportunities modern learning and gamification present for our customers.

Saba also announced an enhanced partnership with OpenSesame. This partnership further amplifies the value of micro-learning capabilities in Saba Cloud, offering a vast library of mobile and micro-learning content to organizations via our Saba marketplace.

David Meade had a great discussion with our partner Josh Blank, General Manager at OpenSesame about the importance of modern learning.

Reality check with AI and machine learning

This year's conference – as in year's past – was full of buzz around the opportunities for using AI and machine learning to make people's lives easier. Consider how these algorithms can be used to make personalized recommendations to employees and managers based on understanding the employee's associated data and preferences– like recommended learning to support areas of interest and improving performance.

And these algorithms can give HR real-time, actionable insight into the talent programs that drive business outcomes. But there is still some work to do before HR can fully leverage these technologies in truly practical and helpful ways.

David Meade spoke to HR leaders and bloggers Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn about AI and machine learning and the need for HR to understand and create practical applications for this type of technology.

Kris also hosted a panel session on the topic of data, analytics and AI, where our VP of Product Management got to share his take on the subject alongside some other technology vendors in our space.

Kris also hosted a panel session on the topic of data, analytics and AI, where our VP of Product Management got to share his take on the subject alongside some other technology vendors in our space. Check out Ben's video.

Renewed focus on employees and the employee experience

Creating a great employee experience, much like organizations do to create a great customer experience is a theme that surfaced at this year's conference – in our discussions at the booth and in two key breakout sessions we attended, led by Saba customers Cummins and Magellan Health.

In this video Laurie Ruettimann – HR author, blogger and entrepreneur – shares how refreshing it is to see a renewed focus on employee training and career development.

What we learned from our customers - Cummins: "Put yourself in your people's shoes"

Fabio Fukuda, Director, Global HRIS & Business for Cummins discussed his organization's approach to integrated talent management during his breakout session. As a Fortune 200 company and a global manufacturing leader, Cummins needed to simplify its talent processes and centralize its talent data in order to make better and faster talent decisions.

Fukuda shared how Cummins applied design thinking to its talent strategy to understand user behavior and to leverage talent technology in a way that enabled the organization to create programs and experiences that truly meet the needs of employees when and where they need it.

What we learned from our customers - Magellan Health: Helping employees be ready for what's next

Patricia Tourigny, SVP HR Shared Services at Magellan Health, led a breakout session sharing how HR's role in her organization shifted to be one of service rather than of a "help desk" to employees. Magellan is a leading Fortune 1000 company managing the fastest growing, most complex areas of health – special populations, complete pharmacy benefits and other specialty areas. Recognizing the changing nature of work, and technology's impact on it, Magellan wants to ensure its employees have the skills they need for the future.

Tourigny recounted the digital transformation of HR at Magellan, and how her team strategically used technology to become a partner to the business and to respond to employees' needs in seconds, minutes and hours, versus days or weeks. This employee-readiness focus is critical to improving and reimagining the employee experience.

The latest thinking on ongoing performance management

In this video, Laura Roantree from Saba's product marketing team talks about how talent management software can help organizations make ongoing performance practices like regular check-ins, feedback and goal alignment accessible and actionable to people and teams:

Embrace change, don't fear it

Dawn Burke, HR leader, consultant and long-time fan of the HR Tech conference shared some quick takes on a range of HR trends, from the practical tools like visa processing to the more strategic employee development technology enabling a new experience for learners.

Dawn's closing message about the importance of embracing the innovation delivered by HR technology is a great way to summarize the value we took away from the event as well.

That's a wrap of #HRTechConf 2017 – thank you!

We appreciate the time everyone took to stop by to say hello last week. We hope you all learned as much as we did. On behalf of Saba I'd like to extend a big thank you to Steve Boese, Chair of the HR Technology Conference, to Human Resources Executive Magazine and LRP and everyone involved in delivering such a meaningful event for talent leaders.

Even after a conference as compelling as HR Tech, we know that talent management is about much more than technology. In fact, it fails when you focus on technology first rather than your people. Saba is radically different. We focus on your vision and culture first, and then provide the people-centric solutions that help you work, learn and grow together.

If you're ready to have a different kind of conversation about how talent tech can flex around your people, your culture and your business goals, we'd love to hear from you!

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