I was so excited when I heard that HR Tech World was having its first US coming-out conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco. As a California native, I’ve been playing there since I was a flower child in the sixties and have seen the facility morph into an exciting venue. I’ve strolled the 1,200 acres gazing out at Alcatraz, flown kites in view of the Golden Gate Bridge, attended seminars on Buddhism as well as collaborative technologies, bought amazing jewelry at craft fairs, and eaten at Green’s restaurant countless times. Green’s was perhaps the first “upscale” vegetarian restaurant back in the late seventies, with absolutely, hands down the best bread I have ever eaten and food grown at Green Gulch that you know makes you healthier and smarter. But I digress on memories….


This conference is important for me as it covers HR technologies, organizational thinking, disruptive technologies, the future of work, the future of HR, and my favorite topic of people analytics. A quick glance through the agenda is worth your time, but let me use my lens to navigate through some highlights for you.


Main Stage Highlights


The Main Stage opening keynote, “The Day After Tomorrow” with Peter Hinssen, who recognizes the value of networks vs. hierarchy in organizations, will discuss the right model of operations, structure, and culture to maximize your chances for survival. It will get you thinking about the future and not just today. Later, Josh Bersin will present “The HR Software Market Reinvents Itself,” covering the new industry of tools for team management, agile (and disruptive) performance management, digital learning, cognitive recruiting, and productivity improvement.


Think Tank Highlight


Near and dear to my heart is the session by Stacey Harris and John Sumser on “HR Tech’s Future: The Ethics of Human Machine Interaction,” on how HR technology vendors, administrators, and the people who use technology should be preparing for the next generation of workforce and productivity applications. This session is especially dear to me as Stacey succeeded me as the head of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey that I ran for its first 16 years. Stacey and John will make the hype of technology understandable and be incredibly provocative on this important topic, getting into the ethics of people/technology interaction. (And, by the way, be sure to participate in this year’s survey – the 20th annual.)


Exclusive Workshops


Long-time friend and younger mentor Jason Averbook, in conjunction with HRN, is doing a one-day workshop on the “Consumerization of HR.” Jason and HRN promise to infuse knowledge and develop skills of HR and IT people serving the workers of today and tomorrow. Attendees will get frameworks and ideas in a collaborative and contextual way. You will leave with lessons to apply on the job immediately.


But you will have to choose between that pre-event and the Unleash sessions, which gather over 200 Talent and Recruitment leaders, investors and startup executives to look at where organization leaders are investing their time and budgets on one side of the historic General’s Residence. Of key importance is a session by Ian Cook, on “What your ATS Cannot Tell You.” Recruiting is incredibly important today across every organization, given the need to fill key roles. But your ATS covers just one part of the life cycle of an applicant. Ian will emphasize that recruiters and leaders need to apply analytics that cover the entire life of applicants as they become employees and make a contribution within their organizations. So, you need an analytics approach that provides a people strategy platform encompassing data not just from the ATS, but from the HRMS, talent management, business outcomes, and more. During this session, Chase Rowbotham from leading biopharmaceutical Genentech will highlight how it uses talent analytics to ensure it can entice the best and brightest to come to work there.


On the other side of the General’s Residence is the Startup Hub, where the hot new kids on the technology front will highlight what disruption is about in HR tech. VCs, investors, and the talent community will gather for panels. One is on what VCs look for. There will also be “Show and Tell” sessions from leading startups to show what innovation really looks like. By the way, the General’s Residence has a more illustrious history of residents than any other single house in all of San Francisco. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes were entertained there and I’ve heard some naughty stories whispered by other natives.


People analytics is where I currently hang my hat, and I’m looking forward to hearing not just Ian Cook but two other speakers, among others. First is David Green, who will be covering “People Analytics: Market Trends and Innovations.” He will describe main trends and give examples of leading and innovating organizations. Madhura Chakrabarti of Bersin will present on “Making People Analytics Part of the Organizational DNA.” Madhura’s research on people analytics speaks to what it means to go beyond building data literacy among the HR population to make it part of the organizational DNA. This more enterprise-wide usage was a key finding from the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey while I managed it. The most advanced data-driven organizations had a high percentage of people managers actually using data and resulting insights to drive decisions about the workforce. I’m also interested in finding out more about a session titled “Maximizing your Return on People with Longer-term Metrics” by Barbie Graver from Netflix.


This conference has a high-energy format, with many sessions lasting just 20 to 30 minutes. This means the speakers must distil the essence of what they know to deliver important concepts and leave you with the knowledge to use in your daily lives. Going to one of these conferences is a real gift which will leave you drunk with knowledge. And going to a venue like Fort Mason will make you want to make it a destination, again and again. I’m happy to give a personal tour and share my memories and my musings on people analytics.


About the Author


Lexy Martin is Principal, Research and Customer Value, at Visier Inc. She is a respected thought leader and researcher on HR technology adoption and value achieved as well as builder of ROI models. Long-known as the originator of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, Lexy is now at Visier where she works closely with customers to support them in their HR transformation to become data-driven organizations. You can follow her on Twitter @lexymartin.