I booked late arrangements for HR Tech Chicago at McCormick Place, where my Lumesse colleagues had a booth and additional presence across the immense, yet crowded four-day event. My mission: Focus on the sessions. Hear the key influencers and then offer takeaways to those unable to make the show. My strategy: Distill the most important trends and nuggets of wisdom, and then act as the middleware from technical marketers to business users like you and me. There were parties at night where I spoke with HR professionals, technologists, and even some people representing the interests of the handicapped. I liked nearly everyone I met, including the talented pair of guerilla marketers “hamming it up” with authentic ‘impostering’ of two U.S. presidential candidates. But what I wanted to get at was the information. What issues were filling the giant conference rooms, which pearls of data could I discover when I visited the outliers, and which of these themes would resurface as global in scope at the upcoming HR Tech World Paris?
I have just one shout-out first… The honey sample from Beekeeper was both refreshing and energizing. Yum! We need to save our bees for so many reasons... But without further obsessing about the taste of spiced honey, here are the top five takeaways from the HR Tech Chicago.
1. Information is still paramount
The information coming to you now is from someone who tried to do his homework, attend as many select sessions as he could, and who, most importantly, listened. This enabled me to see patterns emerging across a variety of topics. What became evident by the time I reached Thursday’s sessions was that the ability to get real-time or near-real-time actionable information from your customers, employees, and competitors is critical but largely untapped. You have to plug into the digital business network to listen, communicate, participate and collect business intelligence. This leads to our next key takeaway: The power of these networks.
2. The new business model revolves around networks
As a show attendee, it would have been difficult not to mention leading business consultant Barry Libert, who arrived fresh on the heels of his latest published book, “The Network Imperative: How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models,” coauthored by Megan Beck and Jerry Wind. To sum up Libert’s book and Oct. 5 presentation at HR Tech, in my own words:
We’ve evolved from an Industrial Age to a Digital Business Age, where physical assets and hierarchy matter less. Take lessons from the business models of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and the BlaBlaCar global carpooling networking, which goes on stage at HR Tech World Paris on Oct. 26 to talk about business scaling. The real power comes in the network, where investment is low and shared value is high, where the line between competitors and partners blurs, where physical assets in many cases represent a commodity compared with the value your competitors get from participating in the growing digital network of partners and customers. Play in the Network, or pay the consequences when your competitors “outnetwork” and “outstrategize” you.
Applied to HR practices, participation in the network means easier and less-expensive methods of attracting talent, and the infusion of fresh ideas your company can execute on. Inside your organization, you can reduce siloed thinking through self-development principles (intuitive access to shared information and opportunities at everyone’s fingertips) and more individual network freedom.
3. Digitization, engagement, and network value spur adoption
Network adoption is a challenge when complicated or not fun. The best way to overcome this hurdle is by offering familiarity and authenticity to consumers. If you want to grow your network, then you need to start thinking outside current thought and routines. Embrace the disruption, participate more, and incorporate more unconventional assets into the network… more people, more voices. The importance of talent engagement and employee engagement was cited repeatedly at HR Tech. It’s about encouraging and listening to the voices in and outside your company to help guide decision-making, and about communicating valuable information back across the organization and outside to the network. It’s corporate transparency, within reason, from top to bottom, and all participants bring value. The adoption you achieve will empower you to align efforts efficiently with vetted corporate objectives.
4. Social media isn’t just for goofing off
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram shouldn’t always be viewed as productivity drains. Embrace these and other social media platforms as opportunities, because such widely used communication channels are part of the network that is so valuable to your company’s future. Be authentic and your extra efforts can lead to healthy social interactions from your employees, allowing them to tell their diverse story and spur interest in your brand and culture from areas of the network that you previously could not have reached. Some “guard-rails,” or basic coaching may be necessary to ensure alignment with brand, but that is a small price to pay for the growth of your network community.
5. Diversity is another differentiator
Do you want to engage and recruit more talented women or people of color? Then encourage network community participation among the women and POC in your organization. Today, although I can’t be everywhere, diversity rings as a theme that is impossible to avoid. The call is to embrace diverse ideas and to offer and receive value through the people in the shared network.
Adopt a people-centric approach to your talent management systems and processes, and foster the user adoption your organization needs to innovate and share value in today’s digital network model.