A seemingly simple, “softball” question absolutely stumped me. I was walking into the Festival Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco when a vendor in the expo hall approached and inquired, “Hey there – why are you here at HR Tech World?” I responded, “Umm, hmm, well…” until finally coming up with something resembling a coherent response.


Instead of jumping into the typical sales pitch or glancing down at my conference badge to see if I worked for a company that was worth her time, this vendor was genuinely interested in me and my reason for attending HR Tech World. Call me narcissistic but part of the reason I was a bit surprised at the initial question was that I assumed there must be an ulterior motive. Sure, this person asked the question as if they cared but if I gave them a real answer of “not to buy your product or service” they’d certainly shoo me away, right? Not the case.


We ended up having an excellent, engaging chat about my focus on talent acquisition systems and strategies for implementing technology training for recruiters. She shared more about her intended goal to simply make more connections and, hey, if that results in a few sales or leads for her employee engagement platform that would be cool too. We even got into a heated debate about our favorite college basketball teams and the best place for tacos in San Francisco (University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the El Gallo Giro Taco Truck for me, respectively!).


This wasn’t my only interaction that broke the mold from the typical industry conference conversation or connection. Stated simply, HR Tech World is different from the rest. Attendees were exposed to the intersection of organizations and technology. They experienced product demos, disruptive keynotes, think tank sessions, and more product demos. They even partied. I wasn’t surprised to see and hear some of the awesome content – I was surprised by the awesome people.


When I joined the Blog Squad and envisioned the HR Tech World conference, I thought attendees might all be wearing VR goggles or staring down into a laptop or smartphone for entire presentations. While there was still quite a bit of the latter (guilty as charged!) there was even more authentic and genuine personal interaction throughout the course of the past few days. Many of my conversations were focused on the “how,” the “why,” or the impact on people rather than just the “what” of the latest and greatest technology.


In this sense, I walked away truly feeling as though HR technology, and even an HR Technology conference, could actually enable human interaction rather than destroy or replace it. The way traditional and transactional processes have been reinvented with the candidate or employee experience top of mind was impressive. Perhaps even more impressive was the emphasis on pragmatic, low-tech solutions to typical people problems. I was expecting company representatives to be ready to throw money at these problems – with vendors ready to catch and collect it all – but instead, I found thoughtful discussions around ROI and questions about the necessity of disparate solution providers. Most conversations were more about how to really empower people and the organization. It was powerful stuff.


As we go forward from San Francisco, I challenge everyone (attendees, vendors, influencers, speakers, geeks, leaders, and whatever Nancy is) to reflect back on the reason or reasons we came to HR Tech World. Answer the “why?” and bring those answers back to your industry, your organization, and your people. I know I won’t be stumped again if I get asked the same question on the flight home.

About the Author


Dan Cross (SHRM-CP, CSM) is the Talent Acquisition Strategy Manager for Capital One’s Retail & Direct Bank. He is particularly passionate about two things – basketball and human resources. Unfortunately, Dan was never drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA), so he embraced a career in HR instead. Driven by data, Dan challenges conventional Talent & People practices through the use of analytics, human-centered design, and agile methodologies. Dan was recently named to the “30 under 30 HR Professionals” list in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s HR Magazine. Connect with him on Twitter @CrossoverHR.