4 Takeaways From The HR Tech Conference

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Sep 18, 2018

The HR Technology Conference has become one of the must-attend HR conferences for many industry veterans, including yours truly. The trade show floor is a who’s who of vendor startups, has-beens, wannabes, and haves, which make it a very important event for keeping up with the times and maybe even looking around corners.

While it took a little creativity to get into the show this year, I made it into Vegas for a few days of the expo. There was, as usual, a good dose of been-there, done-that, but quite a few things caught my interest as a roamed the floor. Here’s the shortlist:

  • Business is good. For an industry that thrives when the economy is good and literally falls apart when things go south, the conference was proof that the economic party is alive and well. I’ve lived through two recessions in this business, and now is the opposite of those periods. By the looks of things, we’re years away from seeing a downturn, barring the unforeseen. Whispers of 2020 being the year of correction can be heard from a handful of know it alls, but for now, let’s party.
  • Apps 2.0 is here. Remember when the coolest companies in our space were being built on platforms like Facebook and Twitter? Remember Branchout, Tweet My Job, BeKnown, and others? These companies thrived until the API rules changed. Things may or may not be different this time, but some of the most interesting companies at this year’s show are leveraging a new generation of platforms to grow. Slack in particular is a favorite, with apps like Disco and making waves. New Monster CEO Scott Gutz says it’d be slowly getting into the app game as well.
  • Chatbots are apparently for real. I’ve called them commodities, but for now business looks good for the chatbot players. Mya and Olivia both had impressive booths at the show and both looked to be drawing a good crowd without relying on clever giveaways or free booze. The aforementioned relies on chatbot technology as well. In short, automation is in.
  • Who wasn’t there was very telling. As much as the expo hall was about companies who showed up, in some ways it was about who took a pass. Newly acquired Glassdoor wasn’t there, for example, which in my conspiratorial mind means Indeed, who was there, will be the only brand at some point. Also, the companies I talk about the most — Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Slack — were nowhere to be found. Must be nice.

In an era of so many must-see corporate recruiting shows, the general conference business must be challenging. There’s only so much budget and time away from the office to go around. As such, HR Tech struck me as an event for insiders, focused on partnerships and deal-making instead of sales.

Long term, that seems like a tough business model, especially with the premiums the event commands. There’s an opening for another conference to deliver actual leads and prospects. But for now at least, the HR Tech remains a must-attend for many vendors and thought leaders.

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