Reflections on HR Tech 2018: The Evolving Learning Landscape

Posted by Julie Hiipakka on September 17, 2018.

The HR Technology Conference is more than a big—some might say the biggest—event for solution providers, tech buyers, bloggers, industry analysts, and HR consultants. The event has the spirit of a college reunion mixed with elements of speed networking: attendees need comfortable shoes, high energy, and the means to connect. If you don’t carry business cards, be prepared to tweet, email, or use other social media channels to remember everyone you meet.

Learning technology had a considerable presence in the expo hall and on the conference agenda, with a number of partnerships announced at the event. Several topics kept coming up in sessions and conversations with learning solution providers:

    • “We are all technical now.” During the Women in HR Tech session, former Bersin analyst Katherine Jones opened by acknowledging how even nontechnologists need to understand the complexity and innovation in the HR tech ecosystem. Solution providers mentioned the number of organizations actively exploring new tools to add to their tech ecosystem. That, along with the mix of HR leaders in attendance, seemed to signify that HR tech is an enabler of the increasingly worker-centered HR environment. Across the week, sessions offered a variety of deep dives and overviews to help less IT-savvy folks understand the space.


    • Listening to customers and watching end users yields innovation. Solution providers are adding features, functionality, and services based directly on what customers ask for, at a speed to market that seems to accelerate as design thinking further permeates HR technology. Given the consumerization of the employee experience that’s already been explored, this trend will likely continue to yield benefits for the agile players in learning and pressure more traditional LMS vendors to evolve.


    • Increasingly complicated learning tech ecosystems require intense configuration and integration—an opportunity for tech vendors and consultants. Multiple solution providers spoke of increased demand for services on top of basic implementation, along with clients’ desire for intense, iterative integration to meet their specific needs. This type of side-by-side technical cocreation is already prevalent in other areas of tech, and as a result, developers have to be more on-point if the client is always in the room. Some firms spoke about adding service revenue goals to their mix, while consulting organizations have continued to see demand for advisory, implementation, connection, and enhancement work. All showed up to cement alliances, both formal and otherwise.


    • For tech vendors, a competitor in one deal is a partner in the next. Collaboration between technology providers in the HR tech ecosystem will become more critical as organizations expect integration across the stack. After all, different customers buy different bits and pieces to meet their needs. We help elevate our industry and enable the success of our clients by collaborating to make it work.


    • It is still an exciting time for learning. The happy hour / reunion vibe only slightly magnified the enthusiasm for learning and the power of innovation to excite, engage, streamline, and improve. People in learning are learning from one another, and the relationships and knowledge shared at events like HR Tech spark ideas we’ll see next year in Vegas and beyond.


  • Chilly conference rooms and lots of walking are core to the HR Tech experience. While there was at least one crowded session where temperatures (and tempers) flared, you could bank on being able to hear small talk about the cold rooms and the amount of steps required to get from one event to the next. Pack sensible shoes if you decide to attend in 2019!

The evolving technology landscape will feature prominently in Bersin’s upcoming research around learning. Earlier this year, we started mapping some of the evolutions in learning technology with our Learning Experience Platforms series, which explores the vendor landscape in that space. In the coming months, look out for new research on the ways technology continues to enable learning in the flow of work. I’m excited to keep exploring the topic—and I’ll have my comfortable shoes packed for the journey!

Julie Hiipakka, studies how organizations create business impact through learning, talent, and organizational change efforts. She has over 20 years of experience in learning and development, talent management, and recruitment in both consulting and in-house roles. She has created global onboarding programs, used peer-created learning within leadership training, led a globally distributed team, and aligned performance and job frameworks following mergers. A certified professional in learning and performance, Julie holds a master’s degree in communication from Florida State University.

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