Our Recap of HR Tech 2018: Employee Experience Is Everything

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Industry Buzz

Our Recap of HR Tech 2018: Employee Experience Is Everything

Well, we are back from a fabulous experience at the HR Technology Conference and Exposition! The Saba team had the opportunity to connect with attendees in the awesome-as-ever Expo Hall:


But we also sent members of our team out to attend several conference sessions. Two key themes that surfaced repeatedly in the sessions they attended are the concepts of value and trust. And not just in the context of the HR team and tech vendor relationship.

Yes, that relationship was discussed, and yes, it's important. But the employee experience, combined with how employees largely value and trust the HR systems that their organization invests in and expects them to use, was discussed as a critical driver of success with technology investments.

It's an interesting point to explore because, really, if your employees don't value and trust your HR tech stack, there's no real, credible way to realize a true return on investment in the form of performance, productivity and agility.

To create an environment where people want to come to work each day you must offer a differentiated employee experience. That experience is driven by what your organization prioritizes, including your leadership practices, your coaching and development programs, and your organizational culture (to name a few!).

Here's our recap of some of our favorite conference moments and session takeaways that reinforce this message.

HR in the flow of work

In his Thursday keynote, HR in the Flow of Work, Josh Bersin shared how this concept of "flow" is surfacing within the industry but also within the workforce too. Some takeaways from Josh's session:

  • No HR program today will survive unless it positively impacts revenue, customer service or some other key business measure
  • Employees need to trust their HR tech - transparency is the new black
  • The best companies today have a talent model that allows every individual to pursue their personal purpose
  • Everything is being automated, yet everything is still about people
  • Making work meaningful isn't easy; it's not the amount of tech that drives engagement, its employers and teams spending more time thinking about the people and their work FIRST

Josh, the principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, shared how ongoing performance management, learning and well-being practices are converging to create and support employee experiences that connect people and teams, and support and empower their success. And he acknowledged that there are so many vendors and tools out there, it's overwhelming.

But the only way your business can gain value from your HR systems - such as moving the needle on employee performance and providing data that prove the ROI of your talent development strategies - is if your employees see value in using these systems. And that means you need to make work better:

Josh's advice: Partner with vendors who can help you make that experience personalized, collaborative and all about growth. For more on Josh's perspective, read his keynote recap.

Sharlyn Lauby on why offboarding is just as important as onboarding

Sharlyn's session on Wednesday centered on this key piece of advice: Reject the idea that when someone leaves the company they're no longer relevant to your company.

People leave jobs for many reasons. And, more often than not, their reasons for leaving aren't because they no longer love your company - so do your due diligence to uncover why they're leaving. Sharlyn shared that managers and HR both have some work to do on this front!

Managers should use this offboarding time to continue working with employees on reaching goals, discussing goal progress and milestones. Business doesn't stop just because an employee is leaving so coaching shouldn't stop either! These one-on-one meetings are incredibly valuable for transferring knowledge so that intellectual capital stays in your organization.

Sharlyn also noted that the exit interview is perhaps the most important one-on-one conversation a manager can have. When done right, it can uncover not only why the employee is leaving the company - but also why they started thinking about leaving in the first place. Oftentimes an exiting employee will provide frank feedback on team or organizational issues. Listen, take note of the feedback, and treat it as a gift.


Key takeaway: It's important to remember that exiting employees are still brand ambassadors who can possibly provide referrals and references. Or, in the new world of work, become a future consultant or "boomerang" (return) employee. For all of these reasons, there is value in ensuring their exit from your organization is well managed.

Heather Bussing on trouble metrics: how to effectively use your HR data

Our friend Heather Bussing gave a rapid-fire HR Tech Talk all about using data to identify potential trouble metrics in your organization. She covered: what data to track and why, as well as ideas on how to use data to improve engagement and retention or uncover compliance and power issues such as bias and sexual harassment.


It was one of the most relevant and practical discussions on the topic of data we've heard in a long time.

In our past work with Heather and in this talk, she encouraged HR pros to start using the copious amounts of data they already collect - regardless of the format - to identify patterns or trends that might indicate a trouble spot.

The more data you have, the better. But it's important to remember that data is not absolute fact. It's a representation of information that allows you, as an HR pro, to start asking better questions about the trends the data reveals to you.

Here are Heather's key points on how to use your metrics to identify problems in your organization:

  • Dig into your data and narrow the scope by location, department, managers and other employee demographics to begin isolating the issue
  • Ask yourself: What's changing, what's missing and what else do you need to know?
  • Be open and curious - go talk to people!
  • Ask yourself: What explanations about these trends are most likely, and why?
  • Understand what you can influence and what you can't... and then, most importantly...
  • Do something!

Key takeaway: When you take action on your HR data to identify trouble metrics, the results are a better employee experience and, ultimately, better business outcomes.

Brian Sommer's key tips for moving HCM technology to the HR cloud

This session with software industry analyst Brian Sommer and David Essex of TechTarget firmly reinforced the message that HR systems and technology need to support employees - not HR.

Brian explained that we're at an inflection point when it comes to HR technology: The user focus has shifted beyond the HR team. The old guard of HR systems designed products to serve the HR department. But as we move to the next generation of cloud-based solutions, HR buyers need to ensure that the solution architecture from their chosen vendor meets tomorrow's workforce needs. As Brian said in his session, "Nostalgia is not a strategy."


Final words of advice: HR technology buyers need to know where they are and where they are going. Have a plan. Recognize what your organization can and can't do. Ensure that your selected vendor's solution architecture meets tomorrow's needs, not yesteryear's.

21st annual Sierra-Cedar HR systems survey findings show deep need for organizations to deliver value in their tech investments

This session presented by Stacey Harris, vice president of research at Sierra-Cedar, uncovered some interesting statistics about the use and value of HR systems. For example:

  • 42 percent of organizations plan to increase HR system spending, with a 57 percent spending increase in talent management technology
  • But only 10 percent of organizations are measuring their people's HR technology adoption
  • Organizations that do measure technology adoption see a 10 percent boost in talent, HR and business outcomes
  • HR technology is 10 times more likely to be viewed by all levels of management as contributing strategic value when change management practices are implemented - compared to when it's not implemented
  • 51 percent of organizations are using mobile-enabled HR solutions
  • The top three ways that organizations capture employee data: annual surveys (54 percent), followed by time clocks (35 percent) and pulse surveys (27 percent)
  • Good service and support (36 percent) followed by the relationship organizations have with vendors (34 percent) are the top two benefits correlated to high vendor satisfaction
  • For the second year in a row, high cost (32 percent) is the top challenge correlated with low vendor satisfaction


Key takeaway: "There is no return on investment with HR technology... but there is a return on value." Alongside change management practices, the importance of personas and journey maps (not roles) to roll out solutions is critical to ensuring your organization sees value in your HR technology investment.

Why is hiring still so hard?


We sat in on a panel led by Kris Dunn, CHRO of Kinetix, focused on why hiring talent is so difficult.

Kris, the folks at Jobvite, Monster and iCIMS, and Tim Sackett, the president of HRU Technical Resources, shared great insight on how to address the talent shortage in a good economy, improve the talent acquisition process, and balance and optimize both candidate and recruiter experiences.

A good economy in North America, low unemployment rates, and a rise in new types of jobs have converged to create a structural talent shortage.

Some of the most interesting ideas and sound bites shared in this panel to address this ever-present war for talent:

Focus on better employer branding. Not only should organizations focus on improving their employer brand and authentically become a company people want to work for, but HR and recruiting need to get even more focused on occupational branding and recruitment marketing. Make every job post a real and compelling description of the position in order to segment and target an ideal candidate pool.

Think like a marketer. Recruiters also have to think like marketers by reviewing every stage of the recruitment "funnel" and analyzing where there's leakage and why. It's the most effective way for recruiters to continuously improve their effectiveness.

Embrace search engine optimization (SEO). The launch of Google Jobs last year has led to a significant jump in candidate traffic coming directly from Google. Which means yet another marketing tip for recruiting teams: Consider SEO schemas in your postings so that the jobs you need to be filled are at the top of a Google search result.

AI can't do all the recruitment work for you

One other key takeaway was about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in talent acquisition. In the never-ending search to make the recruiting process more efficient using advanced technology, talent acquisition teams should remember that recruiting is both art and science.

Bottom line: Yes, advances in AI can help facilitate and accelerate the hiring cycle. But there will always be certain aspects of hiring that should be done by people who build human connections between the company and the candidate.

It all comes down to trust: Trish McFarlane on succeeding with HR technology


Trish's session focused on the vendor-client relationship as key to success, and she offered some insights to HR professionals on how to create that success. Here are a few key tips:

  • Find a vendor solution to match YOUR needs - conduct a robust needs assessment to determine exactly what those needs are, then find a vendor that can help
  • Ensure your culture and values align with those of your selected vendor - this alignment supports a strong, open relationship
  • Use data to lead to the desired outcomes - does your selected provider allow you to measure what you need to measure?
  • Stay on time and budget!
  • Choose a usable solution: If you want your employees to embrace this new technology make it useful to them

Trish, the CEO and principal analyst for H3 HR Advisors, also shared sage advice on what makes a good HR technology vendor. These vendors always:

  • Spend tons of time seeking to understand your specific needs; engaging them in this dialogue is important (they can't help you with problems they don't know about)
  • Communicate regularly; they want to know if you're seeing outcomes!
  • Ask for feedback: They don't want you struggling with their solution so they'll regularly ask for feedback on your successes and challenges (give it to them!)
  • They bring expertise you don't have on your team: They can help you avoid pitfalls and offer creative ideas on how to improve processes so your people see value in the system

Key takeaway: "It all comes down to trust - your purchasing, implementation and usability success are all based on trust with your technology partners."


Building a better employee experience starts with a solid talent development strategy

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth to say hello! 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.


It's refreshing to see that so many of the conversations taking place at #HRTechConf 2018 centered on people first rather than technology. Find out what your people need to be successful, and then invest in talent tech that can help you create that environment.

At Saba, we can help you transform your talent development strategy to give your people the personalized, interactive and collaborative experiences they need to feel valued, and create value for your business. If you're interested in learning more, we'd love to hear from you!

Talent Strategy Playbook

People aren't assets, they're the core of your business. Don't take that for granted.


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Talent Strategy Playbook

People aren't assets, they're the core of your business. Don't take that for granted.


Download Now


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