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Advances in HR Tech: The View from The Strip


This past week, I attended two HR events at opposite ends of the Las Vegas strip: HR Technology conference and SuccessFactors’ SuccessConnect client event. Together, they attracted ~14k HR leaders, practitioners, vendors, analysts, thought leaders, and clients, and had the common theme and purpose of showcasing the latest HR technologies and innovations that are enabling employers to compete for, engage with, and maximize the impact of today’s top talent – in a vastly different workplace than we knew just five years ago. 

Here are my key takeaways on the HR technology trends showcased during the past week.

Advances in employee UI/UX

Not only is the employment market starving for skilled workers and top talent, there is a sharp focus on bringing about innovations that fundamentally reshape the way HR manages its human capital and engages with employees. HR applications are being developed with a ‘user first’ focus, whereby the employee experience is heavily influencing and shaping roadmaps for future enhancements.

At both events, the drive toward more consumer grade HR applications came through consistently. Each vendor I spoke with is laser focused on delivering robust HR capability, but also a world class UI/UX that will provide employees with experiences that match their personal life experiences and offer preferred channels of connection to the organization (particularly mobile).

HR tech vendors remain steadfast in their efforts to create a simplified, guided, and prescriptive user experience. AI, machine learning, NLP, and prescriptive analytics have become table stakes in today’s HR tech, and are driving advancements in UX design and performance.


SAP introduced a new digital assistant for SuccessFactors. Leveraging the SAP CoPilot Web application bot framework and SAP Leonardo machine learning, the digital assistant learns and comprehends user needs and acts accordingly. The digital assistant is further enabled to support conversational interaction with the HCM platform by leveraging NLP, allowing users to engage the platform through verbal commands. Further, the assistant integrates with popular collaboration apps Slack and Microsoft Teams and is mobile-enabled through Apple and Android apps.

Talent management technology

Without doubt, the key priority for many organizations today is competing for, acquiring, developing, and retaining top talent, in what has become a highly competitive marketplace. Thus, organizations are focused on boosting their talent management technology, with an emphasis on talent acquisition, performance management, and learning management. Providers are bringing to market broader, more capable talent management solutions and insights into their platforms and offerings.


  • Paychex launched a new LMS (Learning Management System) module, further deepening the talent suite of their Flex HCM platform. In addition to hundreds of pre-loaded learning modules, clients can upload their own learning content, create new content, and import content or materials from external sources (e.g. YouTube). Further, the learning application is available in full native form by mobile
  • Infor introduced an update to its Talent Science solution and Predictive Talent Analytics, which supports recruiters and managers in sourcing top candidates by leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics. By leveraging behavioral and performance data, the application uses a data-driven process to identify success drivers within the business and identifies internal and external candidates who share those success drivers.

App marketplaces are rapidly expanding

While all modern HCM platforms currently offer robust APIs (integrations) which connect critical business applications to the HCM platform and extend its capability, the demand for more robust options for connecting solutions, services, and applications is in high demand. 

Open platform approaches are becoming standard with HCM providers, allowing for clients, partners, and third parities to connect APIs for consumption through a marketplace/app store-style delivery system. This open approach is allowing for integrations to a deep pool of external solutions that extend the power of the HCM platform, allowing clients to connect the apps that make the most sense for their unique business needs and user population.


  • SuccessFactors announced that it intends to triple its marketplace apps in the near term. Additionally, it launched a new HR community which builds on its existing SAP App Center and offers connected partner solutions around six key areas: well-being, pay equity, real-time feedback, unbiased recruiting, predictive performance, and internal mobility 
  • Namely launched the Namely Connect Marketplace, which offers its clients access to partner solutions for recruiting, learning management, employee feedback, identity management, etc. and includes vendors such as Okta (identity management), Greenhouse (applicant tracking), CultureAmp (employee feedback platform), and Vestwell (401k).

Not everyone is sprinting to the cloud

Throughout the week, I spoke to companies of different sizes and complexities, and from various industries. Most were either in the process of moving their HR to the cloud or were planning the move in the next 12 months.  

However, what stood out is just how many companies still haven’t made a move to a cloud-based HR solution or are doing so with a modular approach (but are not starting with core HR). For example, I spoke with a handful of mid- and large-sized enterprise employers who said they had deployed a mix of cloud-based modules across their landscape, most commonly talent-focused modules. When asked what they use for core HR, the response was often “a leading on-premise platform”. When I asked why they hadn’t done so for core HR or payroll, the response was often “I’m not sure” or “We plan to get there… eventually.” 

This is consistent with findings in NelsonHall’s recently published market analysis, Cloud & Multi-Process HR Services: Journey to the Cloud and Beyond, which reveals that only ~40% of the multi-process HR services market is operating in a cloud environment. This could be attributed to client apprehension, but also to vendor solutions being geared to incremental moves to the cloud rather than a single shift. For example, SuccessFactors’ Upgrade2Sucess targets its on-premise customer base, enabling a move to the cloud, but as and when it makes sense for the business. This modular approach allows the client to reduce risk and realize ROI incrementally along their transformation journey.

HR innovation is no longer just for “HR companies”

Human capital management has become a very profitable market in the past several years, and only seems poised to continue its growth as organizations become more talent-focused. Historically, innovation in the HR space was left up to the HR vendors and tech providers themselves (e.g. ADP, Ceridian, Kronos, etc.) – i.e. those directly serving the HR practitioners with services and solutions.

However, this has changed as the largest, richest, and most capable software companies in the world (e.g. Google, Facebook, Microsoft) are targeting, developing, and selling human capital management solutions and stepping up the competition across the industry. 


  • Google Hire: an AI-enabled talent acquisition platform for G-Suite
  • Workplace by Facebook: Mobile-enabled tool for workplace communication, collaboration, including groups, chat, and video call capability. With integration to HR platforms including, ADP, Kronos, and Paychex Flex
  • Microsoft Teams: Workplace collaboration tool which combines chat, meetings, notes, and attachments with integration to Office 365 and leading HCMs (e.g. SuccessFactors)
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365: cloud-based ERP and CRM solution with HCM capabilities, including Core HR, talent acquisition, and onboarding.

Comments to this post:

  • Great information Pete. Very useful.

    Sep 25, 2018, by Catherine A Gliebe

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