Two Things I Learned about HR Technology in 2017

Guest Written by Andy Yen, Director of Product Marketing, Oracle HCM Cloud

This past October, I attended two of the most prominent technology conferences in the industry – Oracle Openworld and HR Technology. I had the opportunity to hear from HR and technology thought leaders in keynotes, breakout sessions, and spoke with customers and partners who visited our demo booths and hands on labs sessions. Rather than providing a recap right after the event, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time to reflect on what I learned before writing a blog. Here is my summary of two trends that really stood out to me from HR Tech and Oracle Openworld in 2017.

1. The User Experience Is All About the Employee Experience
HR technology vendors have invested significant time and resources to improve the user experience of their software; by making their screens prettier, making transactions guided and simpler with fewer clicks, and extending the user experiences to include mobile, chatbots and analytics. Many of these enhancements are designed to make the experience more seamless for every employee, regardless of their role in the organization. Lazlo Bock, ex CHRO at Google referred to this trend as “delivering the smooth buttery experiences of consumer apps”.

A lot has been written about delivering a better employee experience in 2017, and several HR tech companies have marketed themselves to “focus on the employee experience”. But when you think about the approach that many of these companies are taking, they’re only focused around a SINGLE aspect of the employee experience. Take for example of the winner of the “Next Great HR Technology Company” at HR Tech:

Blueboard is rethinking how organizations reward and recognize their employees, by substituting personalized experiences for gift cards.
While I agree that receiving an award for a cooking class, is more personal than receiving an Amazon gift card – I’d honestly be happy with both. Rewards are just one aspect of my job. What about all of the other experiences employees have from when they are hired, to when they leave the organization? This is where I’m really excited to be a part of Oracle, where we can leverage our broad and deep product portfolio to solve questions such as “How do we completely redesign the employee experience so that people and organizations they work for better understand one another?

This is where the Oracle UX and Innovation team has been working closely with customers and partners to reimagine how employees go through their day.

The launch of several new products across the Oracle HCM Cloud suite including HR Help Desk, Workforce Health and Safety Incidents and the Oracle Recruiting Cloud will introduce new ways to create a personal and enriching complete employee experience.

2. AI is still new, but has started to gain traction in HR
In 2016, many HR technology vendors and analysts claimed that AI would change the future of work, and that jobs that consisted of repetitive tasks were at risk of being lost to AI while other jobs could be enhanced by AI. This was marketing hype to me. It would be similar to if I made the following statement today, “the new camera on the iPhone X is going to change photography forever! Some photographers may lose their jobs, while some photographers will use the new camera on the iPhone X and find ways to take better photos.” The introduction of any new technology has the potential to create change in people’s daily lives. It’s up to people to define IF the technology will be adopted and HOW the technology can be used.

Fast forward to the end of 2017, after another year of development, R&D, pilots, and implementation of AI in HR and we’ve seen the following use cases come to fruition:

Chatbots have become popular in how customers interact with brands. Now, we’re starting to see chatbots introduced into our daily work lives. HR technology vendors are moving from rules-based chatbots that respond to basic employee inquiries, such as “how much vacation do I have left, and “what are my benefits” to more intelligent chatbots that can facilitate conversations with employees – providing them with continuous feedback, or finding new ways to engage with job candidates on career websites.

The most prevalent use cases of AI in HR that I have seen are across talent acquisition processes. At HR Tech this year, about half of the companies in the Startup Pavilion were embedding AI across their talent acquisition processes to drive new benefits for candidates and recruiters. The challenge for these startups is when it comes to AI is the lack of access to enterprise data. Naturally, the talent acquisition process uses the most external data (ie: social, background checks providers, tests for certain roles) that don’t sit within an organization’s firewall. However, even as startups can build low-cost, analytic solutions that can process large amounts of data – it also takes time and effort to access, gather, and organize highly sensitive people data that delivers relevant recommendations.

While I admire the talent and the effort that goes into many of these point solutions – I’m also really thankful to be at the forefront of Adaptive Intelligence at Oracle, where we have no shortage of access to enterprise data, and the opportunity to bring AI in HR to prime-time.


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