HR Tech Conference Recap: What We’ve Learned

HR leaders and professionals came together in mid-September for the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Exposition to learn about the latest developments in workforce-related technologies. HR Tech is our industry’s biggest event and the Benefit Technology Resources (BTR) team was there to take it all in so we can best advise your clients on the technologies that are right for their HR administration needs. Here’s a high-level recap of the big themes from HR Tech 2018, along with product insights and updates from our meetings with providers.

“Loved running into “the Mikes” at #HRTechConf!” – via @bentechre on Twitter


Employee Experience…Personalized

Select and implement new technologies with the employee experience in mind. Employees expect more from their employer when it comes to workplace technology… or at least as good as the technology they carry in their pockets. If employees are to use the technology, there must be buy-in and that means employees must see the value. Jason Averbook, CEO & founder of LeapGen, reminded attendees that user experience is not the same as user interface. “The interface facilitates the experience.” Personalization is one way to improve the interface and employee experience.

Today’s technology is creating highly personalized experiences for employees as the technology learns more about the employee using machine learning. The first generation of these platforms are in the market, using images, colors and language to respond to the persona of the user. While this may sound a little touchy-feely, at the end of the day, it’s all about engaging the employee for a productive outcome, which a personalized experience will do.

Put People and Process First

Great technology is only as good as the people and the process it supports. Even the smartest technologies can’t realize their full potential without the employer first investing in sound processes and dedicated team members. With so many cool new technologies, it’s easy to let the tech drive the process. Instead, employers should identify the needed processes (and outcomes) and then identify technology that supports them.

Brokers: help your clients follow the advice of Martin Burns, VP of consulting services at HireClix: “The key to a good RFP is to define your objectives and make them specific to your needs.” We agree — one size does not fit all!

“The Digital Equation For Success from @jasonaverbook at #HRTechConf” via @bentechre on Twitter

Choosing the Right Technology Requires Consulting

The HR technology marketplace is beyond complex and getting more so every day, with $5.5 billion in venture capital invested since 2014. Industry analyst Josh Bersin reported the average number of HRIS platforms used has increased from four to seven in recent years. Big name players (Google, Microsoft, Amazon) are getting into the game. There’s a clear shift in the market, with growing recognition of the need for outside support to not only identify, design or purchase a premium HCM platform that meets the organization’s business needs, but to implement it as well. In our experience, employers look first to their broker for this support.

Managing and Optimizing SaaS

There is still a push to move to the cloud and for good reason. Colin Brennan, EVP of Alight Solutions, shared top lessons learned from cloud deployments, noting, “[The cloud] allows you to spend 30% more time on people and 5% more time on process.” Those who are already there, however, realize the cloud comes with its own sets of challenges — most notably the need to grow with the platform. While automated updates and no data storage issues is great, employers fail to fully take advantage of the updates and, instead, use the solution in the state it was initially purchased. The result is huge gaps in utilization and user satisfaction.

Be Intelligent about Artificial Intelligence

One of our favorite tweets came from talent strategist Mary Faulkner (@mfaulkner43): “When speaking to vendors on AI, grill them on data privacy, what bias they might have burned into the algorithms, and ensure you understand that AI can only IMPROVE decisions, not make them.” AI was a big theme — both in the conference and on the expo floor with a heavy emphasis on recruitment and enrollment (see next item).

The Talent War Rages On

Competition for talent is still strong, evidenced by the large number of talent management providers represented on the exposition floor. Companies are focused on technology to help assess the fit for the position during the recruitment process. Online personality assessments facilitated by AI are big.

“Key Themes from the 2018-2019 @SierraCedar Report #HRTechConf” via @bentechre on Twitter


Vendor Meetings Highlights

When we weren’t hearing from industry speakers, we spent time on the expo floor and in meetings with providers to get the latest product updates.  We were able to connect with over 55 vendors. The following is a recap of some of the key information we learned to help you stay on top of what’s happening in the marketplace:

“Loved running into iCIMs Beth Burnston at #HRTechConf!” via @bentechre on Twitter

Ascentis – Ascentis announced their purchase of NOVAtime at HR Tech this year. This purchase brings their current preferred timekeeping vendor under their corporate umbrella for more seamless implementations.

Ease Central – A new user interface will launch Q1 2019 for this benefits administration platform. Representatives tell us it is ready now, but they want to avoid disruption in the 4Q. Ease Central has invested in the new user interface, looking to resources that have supported other group’s UI such as Slack. Ease Central is focused on creating a carrier-connected platform — delivering seamless communication to carriers. MetLife is the first of a list of carriers coming to the platform in 2019. Look for this company to beef up current functionality and tools, e.g., more in the marketplace, additional communication features, rate quoting, HR, onboarding, etc. Coming new features that got our attention: SMS communication, CRM API, discrepancy management and renewal automation!

Blue Marble – Cloud base global payroll managing employees in 135+ countries.  Aggregated reporting offers real time visibility into payroll costs. Blue Marble offers a hybrid service model through their U.S. operations team and in-country experts.  Blue Marble has accounting services that include corporate tax filing, VAT/GST, statutory accounting, and local language records. They offer consolidated monthly statements.

Saba – Learning management is the bread and butter for Saba’s talent management offering, which competes with Cornerstone and SAP Learning Hub. Saba offers compliance training; its AI and training are all proprietary software. SABA is content agnostic; it does not create content or gather intel (Harvard Management and LinkedIn learning are content partners). Other capabilities include succession planning, onboarding and performance management.

Lumesse – BTR got the latest demo from this talent acquisition and management platform, which has its US base in Austin, Texas (global headquarters in the UK).  They are in over 70 countries with 1 million users.

Namely – We talked with Paul Martin, senior manager, strategic partnerships, to discuss how Namely might be more broker-friendly. Namely has offered to participate in a future BTR quarterly broker webinar to help facilitate a more comfortable relationship between this HR software platform and the BTR broker community. Stay tuned.

GoCo – Our meeting with founder Nir Leibovich revealed GoCo (an all-in-one platform) is focused on the <500 market. The company has ended its partnership with OneDigital. Don’t look for GoCo to provider broker services. “Never” was the word we heard.

Web Benefits Design – This Orlando-based integrated benefits administration platform streamlines many HR administrative tasks and processes through an HR Access solution (real-time updates). The company promotes their strengths as being a full-service model by cleaning up messy data for the client. WBD loves working with blue collar clients and school districts.

iCIMS – Enterprise recruiting company iCIMS limits it focus to talent acquisition (no background checks) and can scale down to 100-life companies. It’s starting an iCIMS “101 training” and offers a certification program. Partner development executive, Beth Burnston tells us that its stand-out feature is customization, which justifies the higher-end pricing. iCIMS growth has all been organic; no venture capital funding. Its offer letter management and tracking uses drag and drop technology. They are also utilizing TextRecruit which leverages text, live chat and AI to retain better job applicants faster.

BCC (Benefit Coordinators Corporation) – BCC specializes in municipalities with consolidated billing and eligibility as a stand-out offering. BCC looks to help solve problems and will underwrite each individual case.

TalentBrew – A recruitment with marketing support platform (front-end applicant tracking system), TalentBrew has 600 clients. Its model is an annual subscription with add-ons (will price per project for creative work beyond a subscription, e.g., marketing plan). TalentBrew engages applicants and pushes candidates to online vehicles you choose (career site, social, web banners, etc.) and drives them to apply by integrated content, customized to the job seeker.

Loxo – Talent acquisition automation platform Loxo seeks to find the best candidate for the position using email, texting and sourcing automation. Business model is $1 per lead and Loxo can do custom integration with onboarding and recruiting. It focuses on fit, not titles, of people through archetype algorithms.

CloudMills – Focuses on integration between platform, e.g., iCIMS to Ultimate. Named one of the 20 most promising technology providers by CIO Review, CloudMills is the exclusive integration provider for CareerBuilder, iCIMS and Fuel50.

Darwin – Benefit management and engagement platform Darwin was acquired by Mercer in 2017 but is a separate entity. Headquartered in the UK, Darwin is used in 97 countries. It focuses on US-based companied with large employee counts outside the US (although it services only US-based employees). Darwin’s technology can help companies manage cross-country regulations.

Talent Guard –A talent management solution specializing in career pathing and performance management. Their career pathing offers coaching and development, gap analysis and career progression.

InFlight – InFlight’s focus is cleaning up backend enterprise systems to modernize and create a desired user experience. The platform is agnostic and can post to multiple systems using one form while maintaining customizations and security. Partners include Oracle, Taleo and PeopleSoft.

Qualtrics – A survey software company and engagement platform specializing in brand product and employee experience. They work with 8,500 customers with 2million active users in 90 countries and over 75% of the fortune 100 companies.

Salary.com – This compensation analysis solution focuses on pay equity, starting with surveys to track and analyze the compensation of more than 2,500 companies. Sales points include eliminating the beat-around-the-bush approach to asking about previous compensation, separating market competitive data from pay equity gaps and adding performance data to justify and analyze pay discrepancies.

Paradox – (Formerly Recruiting AI), Paradox is an AI assistant (Olivia), who meets candidates where they are by using text to prescreen (HIPPA-compliant). All bot language is customizable. Also supports text and e-mail-based automatic scheduling and discussion of benefits (via text) during the recruitment process.

TRI-AD – A reseller of Businessolver, TRI-AD offers a total benefit administration solution. The company recently announced a joint business relationship with Questis, a digital financial wellness platform.

CloudPay – A global payroll platform serving more than 120 countries, CloudPay targets employers needing payroll support in a minimum of three countries. There is no minimum on client size.

Work Partners – Part of UPMC’s global health enterprise, Work Partners is coming under one umbrella in 2019 with its sister company, ebenefits. It has purchased an HCMS for to provide customized data analytics.

AccuSource – Offers customized employment screening with concierge-level care. Services include background checks, drug screening, occupational health and compliance, and are all US-based.

Timeco – A timekeeping (and more) solution that offers a full API and includes integrated expenses reimbursement, “breadcrumb” technology to infer mileage (partners with Google Maps), but no “track-me” type feature for mileage reimbursement. Engages in a lot of white labeling for PEO/payroll, including Certipay.

Wonderlic – This pre-employment testing solution provides businesses with library of assessments and surveys for each phase of the hiring process and supports a number of talent solutions, including iCIMS, BirdDogHR, Jobma and HiringThing. Newton Talent and others. The technology tracks both cognitive and personality data. Wonderlic works with the Dept. of Labor to create job profiles.

Talent On Demand – This project-centric talent management (among other services) platform requires users to build a profile to apply (no resume upload option). Replaces static resumes with smart data-driven profiles. While more cumbersome for candidates (must create essay-style profile), it does eliminate passive lookers.

Zoho – This operating system offers 40+ business applications, supporting worldwide HR and application tracking in seven countries. Headquartered in California, Zoho has 6,000 employees.  Zoho creates hiring workflows with Blueprint feature. They have hiring pipeline offering 360 degree view of openings and applicants associate with any job. All applications are available through the mobile app with ZOHO.AllyO – This end-to-end start-up recruiting platform (backed by multiple VC investors) uses AI to weed out applicants, reportedly saving recruiters as much as two days per week. Co-founder Sahil Sahni is the former senior management consultant with McKinsey & Co.

Wade & Wendy – This conversational AI recruiting platform splits its focus between those looking for talent (Wendy) and those looking for jobs (Wade). Wendy is currently live; Wade is forthcoming. The platform loads questions to scan applicants before moving them forward in the process.

Alight – We met with executives Craig Rosenberg and Bob Tucker who provided an overview of Alight’s HR and financial solutions, including spending account administration. They also now do consumer experience in response to client requests (total rewards, multimedia). Alight targets the 1,000-life market but will go down to 500. Although they have been a player in the market for 20 years, since 2017, there is no longer any association with Aon. Alight’s platform has an AI assistant-Lisa but is available only in English; AI is sensitive to tone and language.


Those interested in learning more product detail can visit their websites via the provided links and request a demo, which are available from most of the providers. If you’d like to discuss what these takeaways and product updates might mean for your organization, give us a call.