7 takeaways from HR Tech World Amsterdam

Jess Fuhl
Last updated on 2nd September 2020
4 min read

The stages are being dismantled, and the stands taken down – it’s come to the end of another HR Tech World event.

This week’s HR Tech World show in Amsterdam saw attendees visit 150 sessions across 12 stages in two days.

Didn’t have time to catch them all, or didn’t make the event? We roundup the main takeaways for you.

1. It’s not just the world of work that’s changing – it’s the world itself

This wasn’t just the message of Dr. Daniel Thorniley’s session on day two, but a common theme that stood out throughout the event overall.

For example, did you know that 50% of work today will be automated in the near future? Or that Facebook shut down their artificial intelligence robots after they started talking to each other in their own language? Or that approximately a third of European adults between the ages of 27 and 31 are still living at home?

New technologies and recent shifts in the global economic landscape have meant that the world today is facing risks, Dr. Daniel Thorniley explained in his session ‘The end of work as we know it? (The robots are coming to get you!)’

No teams know this more than the HR and People department – and how these risks will be navigated will be key. For, as Arianna Huffington said, ‘The future of work is important because it’s the future of humanity’. (So, no pressure then!)

2. Artificial intelligence is this year’s hot topic

There’s no doubt consumers are using AI in their personal life, and there was a lot of discussion over the two days of the event on the possibilities this opens for the workforce. For example, we ourselves demoed how Alexa can be used by employees to book paid time off.

What was more debated, however, was the long-term impact of AI on the workforce. David Wilson, Founder and CEO at Fosway group, explained in a panel session on HR tech during day two that AI is just a name – and, in fact, different people mean different things by it. We need to be collectively clear on what we’re talking about, he said.

More widely, over the whole two days there was lots of anecdotal evidence across many sessions on how companies and vendors are using AI – all with different plans, visions and interpretations on its impact on the workforce. Stay tuned next year to see how this one develops over the next 12 months, because it’s certainly not going away.

3. ‘People analytics has gone mainstream’

People analytics a couple of years ago meant a small handful of Data Scientists in a dark room – not anymore. That was Deloitte’s Josh Bersin’s view at the conference, and there were a lot of nodding heads.

This was reflected in the number of times analytics was referenced in sessions, in demos, and featured on the agenda. No longer is it good enough to work from gut feel and spreadsheets; HR and people teams need to use data more effectively to get better insight into their workforces.

Where companies are on this, however, differed greatly. For us at Sage People, though, it’s not just about people analytics, but People Science. This means not just mining data and reporting it – but analyzing it, and gaining actionable insights to test hypotheses, identify solutions and develop stronger and predictive insights about your people and their motivations.

4. It’s finally being recognized that great employee experiences are vital

We’ve been talking about great workforce experiences for a while; they’re vital to attract and retain the best. When it comes to it, it’s also quite simple –everybody wants their employees to love coming to work. It’s a no brainer that will create a more engaged and productive workforce. (We’ve also published brand new research on this, which you can check out on our website).

This year we weren’t alone in saying this, as more and more companies are recognizing the role experiences at work play in engaging their workforce. It was the brilliant Jason Averbrook who made the most pertinent point about this, however, in his session ‘Where do we go from here?’. Want to deliver better experiences, he asked. The right platform will help you deliver this – but it won’t do it for you. It’s a vehicle to execute your strategy and deliver it – and shouldn’t be the strategy itself.

5. Companies shouldn’t just play lip service to wellbeing at work

‘How do you feel after you don’t get enough sleep,’ asked Arianna Huffington. ‘I don’t know about you, but I feel like laundry that comes out too early. Who wants to feel like wet and dirty laundry when they wake up and go to work?’

The former Editor-in-Chief at Huffington Post and now CEO and Founder of Thrive Global Arianna Huffington received one of the best receptions at the event overall across the two days for her advocacy of sleep, and distancing ourselves from our phones out of work.

Her message was eloquently clear: you only get one life – and no one quotes the share percentage increase you gain for your company at your eulogy after you’ve gone.

6. The stand-out sessions at this year’s event had a common theme – supporting women in tech

We blogged about this after the first day of the event, but one of best things about this year’s event was the storming sessions delivered by brilliant leaders on diversity and supporting women in tech.

The tech sector needs to do more to support women. Having more speakers such as the likes of Sarah Wood (Founder and CEO of video ad agency Unruly) and Arianna Huffington is a good place to not only inspire best practice, but simply inspire full stop.

7. Finally, the future of work isn’t just HR and People teams’ responsibility

Engaging your workforce, increasing productivity and boosting performance isn’t just the responsibility of HR and People teams. We need the CEO, CTO and many others too. We all know this – but do the CEOs and CTOs?

That’s why we’re not surprised HRN is re-branding HR Tech World to become ‘Unleash’ for this very reason ahead of their next event next year.

We look forward to seeing you – and your CEOs and CTOs – there!

Find out more about employee experiences and what your workforce really wants – download our latest research today. Or, missed us at HR Tech World? Request a demo of our global cloud HR and People System today.

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