3 Takeaways from HR Tech World

Last week, I attended the HR Tech World conference in San Francisco during a beautiful couple of days—a nice break from the “June gloom” we typically experience here. Between catching up with friends in the industry, exchanging ideas on the burning issues HR practitioners face on a daily basis, and listening to our own Leighanne Levensaler give a great keynote on how HR technology can be used for good, I observed three key themes that are very much top-of-mind in our industry:

Improving the Worker Experience

Engagement, as expected, is a hot topic. It affects more areas of the business than many might realize—employees who are not invested in their jobs lead to lower productivity and, ultimately, impact business outcomes. Instead of identifying and addressing engagement issues well into an employee’s tenure, we need to start with those first touchpoints, like the onboarding experience, and continue to support career and personal growth with learning opportunities, performance and feedback practices, and smarter compensation models. This “always-on” engagement model is woven into the fabric of our culture here at Workday, as well as into our products. We strive to help our customers use our applications to do the same.

In the past year, we’ve talked a lot about the use of targeted learning to elevate the employee experience, and the message resonated with HR practitioners. The more we know about our workforce, the more personalized learning opportunities we can offer. For example, when employees take on a new role, their manager can connect them with a mentor equipped to help them build the skills they’ll need for the job. Even simpler, suggestions can help employees find that connection themselves. It’s exciting to hear how personalized recommendations will take shape as advances in artificial intelligence pick up steam.

The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion

We can lean on today’s HR systems to help support our culture initiatives, but technology alone won’t solve a lack of diversity. Companies need to set a precedent for good culture by leading with their values and trying to eliminate unconscious bias.

We heard a great example of a long-standing diversity effort in the Combating Workplace Bias Panel Discussion, where Shariq Yosufzai, VP of global diversity and university affairs at Chevron, shared how many orchestras host blind auditions. Musicians trying out for a spot on the orchestra perform behind a screen with their shoes off so there is no indication whether a man or woman is playing—an effort to eliminate unconscious bias. While this interview style wouldn’t work in most workplaces, it is an indicator that industries are identifying the areas where unconscious bias comes into play and taking steps to address it.

It’s no accident that some of the world’s top-performing companies lead many “best places to work” lists.

Another panelist, Heidi Spirgi, SVP of product and services at The Marcus Buckingham Company, noted that when evaluating HR technology, Gartner now looks at how well diversity and inclusion are supported, further evidence that this is quickly becoming a business issue, not just an HR issue.

There is no shortage of research that indicates a correlation between a company’s performance and the diversity of their workforce. Whether it’s classical music or the tech industry, it’s in our own best interest as HR practitioners to make our companies highly inclusive.

Individual Purpose Drives Corporate Impact

Leighanne’s keynote underlined the idea that companies dedicated to the greater good are also companies where people want to work, invest, and partner. It’s no accident that some of the world’s top-performing companies lead many “best places to work” lists. By considering company values and the impact we have on customers and communities at large, we can inspire employees to take action.

While leaders must actively encourage their employees to give their time and expertise to worthy causes, technology can make the process easier by enabling volunteer opportunities. For example, at Workday we use a tool called Benevity, which drives our Giving & Doing efforts by enabling our employees to track their volunteer hours, create a community service opportunity, or make a donation.

For me, the best part about attending an industry conference like HR Tech World is exchanging ideas with my peers. While we may represent different companies, we all believe in helping one another work towards a better, more rewarding experience for our employees. We enjoyed being a part of the first HR Tech World in the U.S. and look forward to attending sister events in EMEA later this year.