I recorded this video call with the irrepressible Bill Kutik, HR tech conference impresario, columnist, internet 'radio show' host and industry analyst this morning. Our chat on what's top of mind for HR professionals is a bit of an annual tradition.
Bill has the same ancient Lenovo laptop running XP (like many enterprise employees incidentally) as last time around and his built in video camera makes him look like a sage in a dark cave, but thankfully his microphone worked perfectly!
Quickly transcribing the high points of our conversation: Software as a Service is predictably the big topic, partially in the HR space because of the huge success of Workday, and Oracles' Fusion offerings, SAP's moves and Salesforce's efforts around Talent Management under John Wookey are all being taken very seriously indeed by Human Resources professionals.
The gestalt of the Human Resources world is a much tighter focus on talent management: identifying good players, finding them the right work to do, keeping them engaged and aligning them with the goals of the organization. These are fairly timeless qualities which could be done without technology but as Bill says it's 'a hell of a lot easier' with the new generation of tools.
Despite the 25 million plus unemployed in the USA there are shortages of good people in many areas and the competition has never been fiercer. Last time Bill and I chatted he commented there was a "lot of talk about collaboration, but not a lot of doing" in the space - clearly this has changed but I asked Bill for his impressions, as I still see a lot of 'check the box' lip service to greater collaboration in firms.
Kutik cited ' very conservative insurance broker' Marsh & Mclennan's efforts as a good example of what's changing but cautions that the Andy Rooney, Julie Garland 'Let's Do a Show' approach of encouraging everyone to share their goals so everyone will run to help them is nonsense.
US corporate culture success is principally judged on how many reports you have, how big a budget, what you know that others don't as measures of success and backstabbing to get ahead is a huge part of getting ahead believes Bill, who has been self employed for over twenty years. ( I commented that there are many different types of businesses and that not all corporate cultures have been designed to encourage competition…).
The HR Tech Conference is happening in Chicago October 8th through 10th this year and promises to be busy, given the continued spend on IT infrastructure, which has come at the expense of around 10% of corporate jobs by Bil's estimate. Although corporate financial health is back to around the point they were at in 2007 just before the bank credit collapse, the global economy is very fragile and could grind to a halt very quickly as we are all aware.
A final very important point in our increasingly global business society is that the '50 year old lie' endlessly trotted out in annual reports that 'people are our most important assets' is finally being taken seriously with the abilities of workforce increasingly seen as an essential competitive advantage.