The 1987 Personnel Technology Conference #HRTechConf

Imagine, if you will, that the HR Tech Conference had not held its inaugural event 20 years ago but had, instead, started up thirty years ago in 1987. 

I don’t know about y’all but I was working in an office in 1987; a recruitment agency to be exact. Our fanciest “technology” consisted of the ability to transfer our phones from our suburban branch office to the downtown Milwaukee HQ office when we were going to have a meeting or whatever. This was, to our minds, the most magical thing ever!  And, somehow, we always needed to transfer the phones every Friday about 3pm. Coincidental that this was also when we locked the doors and mixed cocktails like the gang at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce? Maybe. 

Oh we had some other technology at our disposal; a green screen DOS database that served as our system of record for client information; candidate information was saved via paper resumes and note cards with cryptic codes and abbreviations. We had a very expensive and newfangled fax machine that churned out an endless cascade of shiny paper and necessitated a scissors be nearby to cut the pages apart.  Job orders were handwritten (triplicate; carbon paper) and stored in a filing cabinet once a candidate was placed. Invoicing after that placement was done via mail…US mail. With stamps and everything.  

So what would the Personnel Technology Conference have been like in 1987? What would the vendors have been selling? Floppy disks? Bigger and better fax machines? Mechanical pencils? 

Some of the slogans and marketing messages we hear today could just have easily been uttered to an HR Gal/Guy in 1987:

  • “this will solve all your problems”
  • “we’re changing the way you work”
  • “transformation”

Oh…and by the way? It may be incredibly unhip and tragically uncool to admit it but MY Human Resources team still sends and receives faxes every day; doctor’s offices, benefits providers, government agencies and financial institutions and lenders.  Every day.  #Flashback 1987 


Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf #nextchat

Today is the start of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas; it’s the 20th annual event and we’re kicking off with the 2nd Annual Women in HR Tech pre-conference event today. Sessions include:

and many more.

The blended topics at the intersection of gender, technology and workplace inclusion make regular headlines and they’re important conversations. Yet, for many HR practitioners who either don’t work in tech or live here with me in “flyover country” the discussions are seen as much ado about nothing. Admittedly, I’m not basing that opinion on anything other than my own anecdotal experiences. To wit: within the last few months I spoke to two separate HR audiences, a thousand miles apart, and when I asked these several hundred HR practitioners/leaders who had heard of James Damore’s “google manifesto” the vast majority were unfamiliar. Which made me sad. This is important for human resources leaders to discuss and it’s not just about “women in tech;” there are bigger issues surrounding gender inclusion and ongoing stereotypes in any workplace/industry.

So yeah…I’m quite thrilled that for the second year the team the #HRTechConf is providing an opportunity for us to have these conversations.

In addition, SHRM will be running this week’s #nextchat live from the conference; join Conference presenter Cecile Alper-Leroux @cecilehcm; and members of the HR Tech Insiders Blogger Team: Dawn Burke @DawnHBurke, Heather Bussing @HeatherBussing, Heather Kinzie @HeatherKinzie, Jennifer Payne @JennyJensHR, (and me!) as we discuss “Women in HR Tech” live on the twitterz at 3 PM/ET on Wednesday (tomorrow).

p.s. check out this great post “Women and Tech – The Pace of Change” from Heather Bussing.


image: Wikipedia: About 8,000 women worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Women constituted roughly 75% of the workforce there


HR and the Digital Bubble

old-typewriterI’m looking forward to attending the HR Technology Conference & Exposition (##HRTechConf) next week where, once again, I’ll be a member of the HR Tech Insiders team. This post, Digital Readiness and Matters of HR, originally appeared on the #HRTechConf site.

I’m an HR practitioner with technology needs (and dreams) for my organization. So next week, as I’m wandering the Expo Hall or chatting it up at an after-hours social event, I’ll be seeking information about innovative technology and finding out what problems the solution providers tell me they can solve.

But, and this is a big piece of what I try to accomplish each year, I’ll also aim to educate the vendors. I’ll make sure to share some real-world day-to-day true stories from the world of human resources with the sales guys, developers, and start up CEOs as we nibble on a canapé and sip a craft cocktail. I’ll explain to them what, precisely, HR professionals struggle with on a regular basis. I’ll show them pictures of the stacks of paper waiting to be filed (I literally have done this; find me and I’ll show you the picture on my phone) by my HR team.  Yup; HR is not all glamorous and sexy despite what many seem to think. (note: I even made myself laugh with that one).

I think these are important conversations to have. I’ve found that over the numerous years I’ve been chatting with tech creators they tend to develop and market their technology solutions from within a bubble; a bubble that encases San Francisco, NYC, London, Austin or whatever other ‘tech’ city in which they launched their startup.

Many of these guys and gals seem to think that every workforce is like theirs: a bunch of people sitting around using updated devices, hanging out on Slack and collaborating, working from home, and completing one-click pulse surveys to track their own engagement. Whenever I tell people that lots of HR teams are (believe it or not!) still sending and receiving faxes and posting paper notices on bulletin boards, they think I’m making it up.

I am not making it up.

There are challenges faced by numerous HR professionals (far more than the purveyors of products realize) who employ blue-collar (ugh how I hate that term), service, and entry-level workers.  Millions of people are employed in these jobs and millions more apply for these jobs; the wheels of commerce pivot on these jobs.  Yet many of these individuals are not, in 2016, in a state of digital readiness.

I interact with these candidates, job seekers, and employees every day.  They don’t have email addresses, they don’t have a computer at home or have broadband access, and, while they may have a smartphone, it’s primarily used for text messaging, taking pictures, chatting on Facebook, and playing Candy Crush.

That is real.

For many years we’ve talked about the “digital divide” which was our way of discussing access to digital technologies. While that is still part of the conversation, there is heightened awareness, as in this excellent article from the Pew Research Center, about the “digital readiness gap” – specifically how it relates to readiness for online learning.

Pew provides this operational definition of digital readiness:

  • Digital skills, that is, the skills necessary to initiate an online session, surf the internet and share content online.
  • Trust, that is, people’s beliefs about their capacity to determine the trustworthiness of information online and safeguard personal information.
  • These two factors express themselves in the third dimension of digital readiness, namely use – the degree to which people use digital tools in the course of carrying out online tasks.

There are employees and candidates who are unable to navigate using a keyboard and a mouse. There are candidates who don’t want to enter their social security number into your online reference checking system because they don’t trust your ability to safeguard their data (heck – they don’t even know you yet!). There are individuals who are unable to navigate to a website unless you specifically tell them “OK; now that I’ve gotten you to the internet you can type h-t-t-p…..”.  And this is not an age/generational thing in my experience; so don’t even go there.

The Pew study classified 5 distinct groups of users:

  • Digitally Ready (17% of adults) – confident in their online skill and have technology assets
  • Cautious Clickers (31%) – confident in their digital skills, nearly 90% have home broadband or a smartphone
  • The Reluctant (33%) – below average confidence with computers and electronic devices, relatively low levels of internet use for learning purposes
  • Traditional Learners (5%) – active learners but don’t use technology to do so, 74% of them need help getting new devices to work, and 90% say they worry about trust factors with online information
  • The Unprepared (14% of adults) – not confident in their digital skills, low level of tech assets.(this group is considered the most digitally wary as they rank low in all measures of skills, trust, and use).

I found this data fascinating – and realistic.

I dare say that many of the people I will speak to next week at the #HRTechConf will have the belief that all end-users are Digitally Ready and/or Cautious Clickers. Many of us out in the world of day-to-day human resources however have workforces and candidate pools made up of The Reluctant, Traditional Learners and The Unprepared.

It’s a conversation we need to have moving forward yet I also think there are two immediate action items:

  • It’s the responsibility of HR professionals to assist in moving people to digital readiness
  • It’s the responsibility of solution providers to seek a clear understanding of the entire labor market/workforce and, let me be frank, to minimize their condescension when talking about those who are not digitally ready.

It matters for HR.


Make sure to follow the hashtag #HRTechConf for all the news and announcements from Chicago. Still haven’t registered? Use Promo Code SCHOOL16 for a $200.00 discount off the current HR Tech rate.  Or, if you just want to spend some time in the Expo Hall, use the Promo Code EXPO75 to get a “One Day Expo Pass” for only $75 (this offer expires 10/1/16!)


Time for an Upgrade – the HR Technology Experience

coin-laundry-coin-slot-1-1I’m always somewhat amused when a new iPhone (or pick your device) comes out. As soon as the iPhone7 went on sale on September 16th my Facebook timeline was filled with status updates of “I’ve ordered mine!” and “my phone should be shipped by xx date!” The memes quickly followed. Headphone jacks? Anyone?

Pundits and bloggers in the tech world weighed in on the standard upgraded features any new release is expected to give us…thinner, faster, more battery life….you know the drill. (note: while the Schooling household phones are eligible for upgrade, we have, thus far, postponed any activity).

The fanfare. The lines at the stores. The delayed shipment dates. I have yet to speak with anyone in person about their new gadget; therefore I have zero insight on individual satisfaction levels.

It did get me thinking though, as I get ready to head off to the HR Technology Conference & Exposition (#HRTechConf) next week, about the ‘upgrade’ experience for the users of HR technology. And I mean all the users; HR staff and administrators, employees, managers, and candidates. What do they expect from a new system launch or upgrade? When we, as HR practitioners, select a new solution and subsequently go through the planning and implementation phase (whether that be a few months or a few years) are we really looking at the end result through the eyes of our users? The final, full-on, ‘let’s make this go-live” end result?

Quite often I think the answer is no.

When we’re working through the project, as we’re building codes and tables, and when we find ourselves knuckle-deep in migrating data from potentially disparate systems, we tend to focus on our back-end/HR-back-of-house improvements. It’s top of mind, naturally, for us to get excited about how the solution is improving our HR day-to-day; ease of use, reporting, and data integrity come to mind. Move me from four systems (with dozens hundreds of spreadsheet thrown in) that can’t talk-to-each-other to a platform with full connectivity and integration and I’m a happy HR gal. Right?

Oh sure, we may give cursory thought to our end-users, especially as we begin the communication phase and gear up for user adoption. “How we will get our team members to not only use this platform but also love this platform?” we ask ourselves. Well…hopefully we’re asking that question.

But I think the work around user adoption requires a couple key elements we, in HR, often neglect to think about:

  • Our users (employees, applicants, managers) want to replicate the type of experience they have with technology outside-of-work, and
  • Our users want access to all the features

At the end of the day our users aren’t comparing this “new” solution we roll out from the human resources department to the previous solution we’ve provided for them. “Hey wow! We now have electronic workflow approval to sign off on training requests!” (said no manager ever). Rather they’re comparing what we’re giving them to their personal experience and the expectations they have for interacting with technology outside-of-work.

Our average candidate, meanwhile, wonders “If I can apply for a mortgage with one click why in the hell can’t I apply for this damn job with one click?”

What do our system users want?

They want simple sign on, ease of use, instant upgrades and the ability to self-solve. They want to reset their own password and recover their own user ID and sign-in. They want, when they click on an embedded “how to video” link, to be able to watch the training video apparently embedded within.

Our fellow HR users (you know – the people on your HR team?) want access to report writing capabilities, our managers want access to the full manager self-service functionality, and our applicants want to be able to change or update their log-in information without having to track down a phone number in order to place a call (a phone call!) to the HR Department. (note: you may scoff; you mean to tell me HR teams buy these solutions and then keep these basic features turned-off? Yes; that’s exactly what I’m telling you).

Think about it…if you bought a new iPhone7 would you be satisfied with something sort-of easy to use? Somewhat useful? With partial functionality?

I didn’t think so. That’s the headphone jack of HR.


Discovering the Next Great HR Technology Company – #HRTechConf

hrtcHere’s one of the things I like about the HR Technology Conference & Exposition – discovering where the innovation is happening. What solutions are being created? What problems are being solved? How, let’s get down to brass tacks people, does software assist HR leaders (and business leaders) as they look to solve day-to-day business challenges?

If you’re curious, like I am, to find out which startups are shaking up the HR industry then you need to pay attention to the #HRTechConf session “Discovering the Next Great HR Technology Company” (Tuesday, October 4th at 3:45 PM CDT). After working with one of the expert coaches (Steve Boese, Jason Averbook, Kyle Lagunas, George LaRoque, Madeline Laurano, or Trish McFarlane) each company gets to showcase their solution on the big stage … and then the attendees vote for the winner.

The participating startups include:


ClickBoarding is a comprehensive employee onboarding software focused on the new hire experience by not only leveraging cutting-edge cloudtechnology, but also embracing regulatory compliance and providing a Candidate Care services team as an extension of the company. ClickBoarding believes the recruiting process never ends for a candidate, nor does a company get a second chance to make a first impression. A great onboarding solution is more than a software application providing a website to simply manage forms, I-9/E-Verify and workflows.


Clinch is a Recruitment Marketing and CRM platform designed to centralize a company’s career pages, recruitment marketing and talent network initiatives, enabling employers to source, identify, understand, engage and convert the best candidates – including the 90 percent of those who demonstrate an interest in their company, but don’t apply.


HighGround enables organizations to modernize performance development and engagement for a more productive, motivated workforce. The agile and social “people platform” gives organizations invaluable insights into daily interactions by empowering employees to create stretch goals, initiate coaching conversations with their managers, give recognition to peers, and share sentiments and opinions.


InvestiPro is a fully-automated workplace investigation solution designed to simplify the way employers conduct investigations. The InvestiPro online process walks you through every step, start to finish.


LifeWorks will present its industry-first wellness and engagement platform that makes employees Feel Loved in any organization. LifeWorks multi-point platform provides employee assistance, wellness, perks, internal communications and recognition all in one place. Users currently login more than three times a day on average.


Qwalify will present its solution, Talent Dojo: a professional digital networking platform that is the evolution of talent engagement for recruitment. Through brand-building discussions, the solution builds meaningful relationships between customers, candidates and companies. Focusing on character, personality and knowledge, Talent Dojo reveals the true fit of the candidate; delivering actionable insights on company culture, brand alignment and career fit. Talent Dojo helps you find the right candidates before the job application process even begins.


RolePoint will present its leading internal talent mobility tool to deliver a streamlined career progression experience for employees and enable talent development teams to improve retention across their entire organization.

The Chemistry Group

The Chemistry Group believes everyone should have an opportunity to be brilliant at work. The combination of its technology and award-winning intellectual property allows its global clients to predict the future performance of potential and existing employees to an unparalleled level of accuracy. Global organizations such as SAP, Experian, Diageo and Pizza Hut are reducing their operational spend and increasing their productivity by hiring great people and realizing the potential of their existing workforce through their scalable cloud platform.

Still haven’t registered? Use Promo Code SCHOOL16 for a $200.00 discount off the current HR Tech rate.  Or, if you just want to spend some time in the Expo Hall, use the Promo Code EXPO75 to get a “One Day Expo Pass” for only $75 (this offer expires 10/1/16!)

Register here.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word.