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Speed dating my way through HR Tech World Amsterdam

date: 04 / 11 / 2017 | written by Jochen Bessemans | comments: 0
Our Community Manager went to HR Tech World in Amsterdam on October 24, 2017. He shares the insights he got, not from attending the many keynotes, but by talking to people at the event.

7 minute read

It has already been well over a week since I attended HR Tech World in Amsterdam on the invitation of HR Tech Valley member Beeple. Unlike most attendees I attended not for the myriad of keynotes, but mainly to meet new and old friends and to dive into the vibe of what’s happening with established and new players in HR Tech.

Over the last week I’ve seen more than enough articles sharing the insights of speakers like Arianna Huffington, Peter Hinssen, Josh Bersin and many others. As we at HR Tech Valley make it part of our daily routine to stay in touch with what’s happening that might influence HR and HR Tech I must say I haven’t read anything that really surprised me. I can only applaud all keynote speakers for getting on stage and make everyone involved in HR understand:

  • how important analytics is becoming.
    HR that can visualize the correlation between HR data, people data and financial data will be a differentiator to both the organization and to the people working within the organization. There is extremely nice tech coming to the rescue here and I would suggest that before you get thrilled by the (imho) rather basic dashboarding of big providers you have a look at CruncHR (present at HR Tech World) or Officient (I met them a couple of weeks ago).
     
  • people are behaving as consumers, even when it comes to HR.
    My encounter with Kris Van Den BoschI recently wrote this article about it. Many HR Tech players are starting to pivot their solutions in order to deal with this evolution, one of them being Lumesse, as Kris Van Den Bosch (the guy on the right in the pic) explained to me at their booth in Amsterdam. So when looking for an HR Tech solutions provider, do ask them where they stand on the subject (and if you are in Europe, don’t underestimate how much the new GDPR legislation will fuell this evolution).
     
  • that digital transformation of HR is a reality.
    Many technologies that are now entering HR Tech already have a certain maturity. This means they will get traction quicker than you might expect. Chatbots are but one example. Looking at e-commerce, chatbots have already been around for some time. Over the past year, I have seen the number of chatbots in HR Tech increase rapidly. In Amsterdam there were at least 4 present in the startup village and you had Talmundo launching the integration of their bot.

So if these weren’t a surprise to me, what then are the insights I got from Amsterdam and where did they come from?

Before going to Amsterdam I had agreed to meet with four people. In the five + hours that I was able to attend HR Tech World I ended up talking to close to 30. Hence my failure to attend any of the keynotes. It is these brief encounters, these speed dates, that inspired five insights/confirmations which I want to share with you.

Insight number 1: big players are proactively reinventing themselves

One of my first stops was at Karel Rabaut (on the right) from Beeple. They have teamed up with Adecco Group X at the beginning of this year and were one of the four companies at the AGX booth. Beeple’s staff management solution is an obvious match with Adecco but it is also intriguing to see what other companies Adecco is investing in and showcased at HR Tech World, namely Yoss (a gig economy platform connecting freelancers and companies) and Adecco Analytics (combining their data with labour market data).

These investments are much more than just an attempt to enlarge the portfolio, as Hans Similon explained. Like other big players in the temping market (Randstad to name one), Adecco is very actively going tech to reinvent itself. Rest assured this will soon start having its effect on companies working with them.

Insight number 2:  innovation is emerging all over the globe

Almost all HR Tech that has emerged over the last 3 to 4 years is SaaS and Cloud-based to the core. This means that someone from Australia can provide you with a solution to use over in Europe. It’s no accident that I take the example of Australia because that’s exactly where Ryan from TalentSwot flew in from to showcase his startup at HR Tech World. By the way: his development team is located in the Ukraine…

I also hooked up with Linda Jonas again, a month after we first met at Zukunft Personal in Cologne. In that month Berlin-based Linda travelled to Canada and the US for her company Small Improvements. Someone else later advised me to have a look at what’s happening in Bulgaria around HR Tech (I haven’t started researching it, so if you have any suggestions, let me know).

In any case, when thinking HR Tech, be prepared to find the best solution to your local needs at the other end of the globe. This means the choice for your solution is even bigger than you often realize, which brings me to my third insight:

Insight number 3: the need for objective advice in navigating HR Tech

Ever since we started doing workshops with HR departments we get the question ‘can you tell us what solution we should use?’ We are not the only ones getting asked to do that, as I learned during my encounter with Oscar Mager. It seems more and more HR people are so at loss by the amount of HR Tech solutions and by the pressure to start using tech that they need independent, objective guides that don’t get rewarded for pushing certain solutions.

At the same time I can only conclude that the group of people having a broad, independent scope on what’s emerging in HR Tech is extremely small – and to be honest, I don’t think I can already claim to be one of them, there is still so much I need to discover. What we are trying to do with HR Tech Valley is to see if we can facilitate this search by setting up peer-to-peer networking for HR and HR Tech people. This would be my advice to you when looking for help in navigating HR Tech: start by talking to your peers.

Insight number 4: distributors of big solutions are looking for new tech to hook up with

This is an insight for which I prefer not to name the people I’ve spoken to because I can imagine they might fear the consequences of sharing this. What I learned is that even distributors of the well-known HR Tech suites are scanning the market. They are realizing that even though these solutions claim to have everything you as an HR need, they don’t deliver on this promise. Mostly big solutions tend to work with privileged partners to amend for this shortfall. I have now met with distributors who want  to scan for and select their partners themselves. It will be interesting to see how this evolves…

Insight number 5: even people in HR Tech don’t always understand what’s happening

When you’re in a business, you should be aware of what’s happening and how your business is evolving, don’t you agree? During my speed dating excursion at HR Tech World it became clear that even many people in HR Tech don’t have a clue of what’s going on.

I feel both HR and HR Tech people need to realize

  • what the impact is of VC’s spending $5.5 billion on US HR Tech startups;
  • what can be learned from observing the many mergers in the sector and acquisitions by non-tech players
  • how HR Tech initiatives by Google, Facebook or SmartRecruiters are taking the HR Tech game to a new level.

There is a storm raging and you need to be aware that you might just be in the eye of it. This awareness prevents you from dosing off in business as usual and enables you to prepare for a future in which you prove your added value to your organization and Career Owners. Need a jumpstart on these insights? Then maybe you should hire our A-Team.

These are in a nutshell my five insights from visiting to HR Tech World in Amsterdam on October 24, 2017. Do get in touch if you want to discuss them with me and feel free to leave your own insights in the comments.

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