Top Trends from the 2016 HR Technology Conference & Exposition

HR Technology Conference & ExpositionLast week’s Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition was the typical gathering of “who’s who” in the HR space, bringing together the industry’s brightest minds to share, collaborate and dream together about the newest innovations and future of the HR industry. Through my conversations with employers, analysts, vendors and other attendees, here are my top takeaways from 2016’s show:

Everyone’s talking about Artificial Intelligence, but it’s mostly talk

Every year there seems to be a “hot” item – in 2014 it was predictive analytics, in 2015 it was engagement, and this year, Artificial Intelligence was the topic du jour. Given the popularity of consumer tools such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, that’s not much of a surprise. Most of the tools are centered on chatbots, which have garnered lots of tech press throughout 2016. Many of the companies looking to score big on chatbots were either brand new (’s Olivia launched at the conference) or were formed from a strategic pivot (LeoForce’s ARYA or Webspider’s custom chatbots). That didn’t leave much way for proven results, as it remains to be seen if chatbots will be a strategic force or just this year’s fad.

Platformization continues

The march toward the complete HR Suite continues forward with enterprise players such as SAP, Oracle, Workday and Cornerstone taking up the prime real-estate with mega presence at the conference. It’s for good reason – as those products mature, more buyers are pushing toward holistic platforms for talent in all lifecyles of the organization, choosing platform integration over standalone featuresets.

Talent Acquisition no longer owns innovation

For many years, talent acquisition has been the hotbed of innovation in HR. That appears to be changing, as many new vendors focus on performance management, rewards, recognition and employee engagement. While talent acquisition has a long way to go, the gains there seem incremental versus the giant leaps made in other areas of HR over the past few years. While it wasn’t long ago that organizations were doing annual performance reviews with a straight face, that’s now a completely laughable idea in HR tech circles, with impressive tools available for performance and engagement.

The slow rise of gigs

While we consistently hear about changes in the employment contract with more people seeking and taking contract, freelance or gig work, only a handful of gig marketplaces made it to this year’s show. It seems that corporate HR doesn’t quite know what to do with these tools or how to organize themselves around anything but the full-time worker. While these platforms incubate in small and medium businesses, large corporations will need to recognize the talent they’re missing before it’s too late.

Challenges still abound

Despite more than 400 booths at the conference, many attendees lamented seeing so many vendors doing similar things while other needs continue to go unmet. Scheduling interviews with managers is still far too difficult. Analytics aren’t accessible enough for most HR departments. Our candidate engagement in recruitment is still too rote and boring. While time will pare down the copycats, there are certainly some exciting challenges for next year’s hot topics.

If you’ve never been to the HR Technology Conference, it’s a terrific learning opportunity to network with others in the industry, hear from interesting speakers and check out the latest trends. I hope to see you there next year!


Post contributed by Adam Godson, Vice President, Global Technology Solutions. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn.


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Clifford Seaton 10/16/2016 6:09:02 PM

10/16/2016 6:09:02 PM

Thanks for the update Adam. It will be interesting to see how freelance work makes its way into typical administrative functions like HR. Also AI has definitely continued to be a hot topic with companies like Xerox and others with regards to process automation.
Adam Godson 10/17/2016 1:18:53 PM

10/17/2016 1:18:53 PM

You're right, Clifford, freelance work is well established with small businesses, but corporations have a really difficult time handling it thus far, so I think seeing how that plays out will be very interesting. And AI is a big topic - on the business process side, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) will be the first step there until AI and cognitive mature some. We'll start to see some "light" AI on the consumer side sooner, but it won't be nearly as transformative as AI in the back office,