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November 4, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

Myths and Learnings at #HRTechEurope

Euan slide

Latest stop on my Autumn Tour of Discovery (previous stop Vegas, next stop Manchester) was Amsterdam for HRTech Europe, a two day HR Technology exhibition plus conference with content stretching from talent management, data analytics and technology to building social businesses and the future of work and learning. The event attracted upward of 1500 delegates across the two days and logistically was focused around a central exhibition hall with auditorium attached and breakout rooms upstairs. The networking sessions and coffee breaks also took place around the central hall which created a lot of buzz and energy, rippling through the whole event.

There were some top notch speakers from the US as well as a few from Europe – I have some sympathy with those who feel that we could have done with stronger representation from Europe on the main platform, but the important thing for me is that the speakers have something to say that makes me think and can back that up with research, case study or some clear rationale.

Here are four of the main talking points that got me thinking…

Organisational Nakedness

I’ve used the expression before but, just as in Don Tapscott’s opening at HRTech in Vegas, this was a noticeable thread running through many of the main sessions dealing with collaboration, sharing, connectivity and the new social openness, particularly those from Prof Costas Markides (London Business School) and Euan Semple. The talk was very much about people not processes. However much a business may try to resist the urge to embrace social collaborative platforms, their employees, customers and partners – their advocates – are almost certainly using it…and will expect to communicate openly. This exposes the organisation, its structure and values, to wider scrutiny – are they ready for it?

We’re all Technologists, Sales Professionals, Marketers and Recruiters Now!

Jason Averbook said that we’re all technologists. Daniel Pink said that we’re all sales people with everyone having persuasion somewhere in their role. And we’ve known for some time that every employee is potential marketer, recruiter and source of referrals – they represent the company, its internal culture and proposition, to everyone who knows them. In the new world of work we’re all ambassadors for our business, role, skills, products and services – having said that we probably always have been, but now we’re much more visible. There is also an expectation of multi-skills, adaptability and resourcefulness that will drive the future workforce.

The Importance of Mobile is UNDER Hyped

For possibly the first time our customers/clients and our current and future employees have better technology than the business…and this leads to greater expectations. ‘The importance of mobile is UNDER hyped‘ said Dan Pink at the start of his masterclass. Most people keep their smartphone within 3 feet all day and night and expect to communicate through variety of channels at all times. If you lose their luggage they’ll write a song and/or make a video. If you treat them badly they’ll resign in a spectacular way.

When they interact with technology they expect it to do what they want it to do in the easiest, simplest and quickest way – ‘solve my problem and make me feel good‘ as my old boss Felix Wetzel used to say – and they have little time for a process that is difficult, obtrusive or leaves them in the dark about what’s happening.

Customer and employee expectations are heightened. Whether they are using it to apply for a job, or book leave, or to buy your latest product, the technology we use in our businesses needs to deliver an experience to the end user that matches theses greater expectations.

The Manager of the Future

I had two really interesting and insightful conversations with Dr Katherine Jones from Bersin by Deloitte about management, the future of work and the future of HR. I’ll write more about them in a different post, but one thing that really intrigued me was when she talked about the opportunity for managers to take over many of HRs responsibilities.

Currently we tend to promote people who do a good job to manager level, but what if employees are empowered and responsible for their own workloads and careers? Then we would be looking for people who could develop, counsel and manage – different competencies requiring different promotion criteria. I remember Daniel Pink saying ‘human beings don’t engage by being managed or controlled but by self-direction‘ and also how ‘control leads to compliance whilst autonomy leads to engagement‘ implying that a different approach to management was required. I could also sense this need for a shift in emphasis when he spoke of how cognitive skills were becoming increasingly important – ‘Analytical skills are necessary but not sufficient. Artistry, empathy, imagination and conceptual now more important‘.

Costas Markides also spoke of the need to embed your values in the hearts of your workers, much like a family. Tomorrow’s managers will need to inspire as well as develop.

Many of the conversations that I had around the event indicated a clear shift for job seekers from looking for jobs to looking for work. People who may be joining your team or business may not be doing so for long term prospects but to help you complete a task or project. This will require a different kind of management and engagement.

So what about the HR myths?

Well, they came from Josh Bersin, during his session on the datafication of HR. During the section ‘Applying Science to People Decisions‘ he debunked 5 Workplace myths. Each one solid gold!

  1. People from top universities with good grades are high performers
  2. Training and education reduces loss and fraud
  3. Customer service will increase client retention
  4. People will leave their jobs if we don’t pay them enough
  5. Our leadership development process will work around the world

I was blogging from the event on behalf of RC Euro – check out the posts that I wrote for them…

Once again I noticed an increasingly important role at the event for bloggers – there were more than 20 – encompassing vendors and speakers in an attempt to reflect the full range of content and solutions available and give some insight behind both. With 61% of HR professionals seemingly looking to change their technology within the next 18 months practitioners, vendors and bloggers are very much part of the same conversation.

There is an appetite for a richer and more in-depth level of online event coverage – will be interesting to see how this develops at other events over the coming months, and how it translates to UK conferences. The HRTech Europe event moves on to London in March 2014 and will be back in Amsterdam for October 2014 – I’m looking forward to seeing how the conversations develop.

(Image from Euan Semple presentation)

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