Blog post

HR rocks up to the Docks: 3 trends from HR Technologies 2024

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4 minutes

HR leaders gathered in London Docklands this week for HR Technologies UK. We summarise the key talking points from the agenda, including tech efficiency and skills thinking.

The UK's HR community assembled in the capital this week as ExCeL London played host to HR Technologies UK. 

Away from the busy exhibition floor, the event was brimming with inspirational keynotes and insightful seminars. 

During these sessions, thought leaders and HR heavyweights shared valuable advice on technology's role in supporting people-centric strategies. 

Here, we highlight 3 themes that characterised the agenda. 

1. Focus on the end user

Numerous sessions reminded attendees of the importance of always considering the end user, whether candidates, employees, HR teams, or wider stakeholders. 

In a joint seminar, HR Consultant Debra Corey and HiBob's Talent Acquisition Manager Marc Douch revealed the staggering cost of overlooking the candidate experience when hiring. 

  • Despite candidate experience being the priority for talent acquisition teams, 70% of candidates report frustration with the hiring process.
  • The impact of this is particularly acute for B2C companies, where candidates are also customers. 
  • For one large media company, cancelled subscriptions due to poor candidate experience were estimated to have resulted in £4.5m in lost revenue.

The speakers noted that recruiting teams are turning to technology in response. They highlighted data from Lighthouse Research revealing that 68% of recruiters believe technology investment is the best way to improve hiring practices over the next 5 years. 

Technology can enhance the candidate experience, streamlining processes from initial recruitment stages to pre- and onboarding, fostering a more engaging journey for prospective hires.

However, attendees were warned that while technology can improve the hiring process, it must be used responsibly - or the candidate experience will suffer. Douch and Corey recommended:

  • Apply for a position at your own company to understand the experience. 
  • Automate processes to ease the burden on TA teams. 
  • Let technology do the mundane tasks so recruiters can focus on more important things, such as candidate experience. 

Elsewhere at the show, representatives from Microsoft discussed the importance of improving employee experiences. 

Ben Gibbs, Employee Experience Specialist at Microsoft UK, highlighted the plethora of employee experience problems facing employers today, including:

  • The Great Resignation - employees are rethinking what they want from their careers.
  • The Hybrid paradox - employees simultaneously want flexible work and in-person connections.
  • Productivity paranoia - 87% of employees feel productive, but only 12% of leaders believe they are.

However, while there is tension between engagement and productivity cultures, organisations with highly-engaged workforces are 2x more financially resilient than their peers during challenging economic times. 

The session concluded that the combination of productivity and engagement is achievable. 

Gibbs proposed that AI could be the key to unlocking this. Employees can delegate work to AI to lessen their workload, enabling staff to be more productive but not at the cost of employee experience. 

2. Improving the effectiveness of technology

According to Gartner research quoted by Becky Statham, HR Tech & Transformation Director at Veran Performance, 83% of HR software buyers regret their choice. 

It's a grim statistic, but one that Statham said results from:

  • Poor preparation.
  • Too much focus on the technology piece alone.
  • No accompanying behaviour/culture changes. 

So, how do HR leaders ensure they invest in the right technology to deliver on the promise of HR transformation? It's a question that permeated many sessions at HR Technologies. However, it was explicitly the topic of discussion for a panel of cross-industry HR leaders in an 'Ask The Experts' seminar. 

Pulling on their own experiences, panellists provided valuable recommendations, including: 

  • During vendor selection, look for a good culture fit to ensure alignment. Martin O'Donnell, Global HR Digital Director at NEC, said that trust and openness were critical, as you must be able to voice concerns and move through the more challenging parts of the transformation process. 
  • Do your process design upfront, and don't let the business move that design too much. You must avoid 'death by committee' added O'Donnell.
  • If you're working with an ecosystem of partners, ensure they work together. Sara Pinnington, Director of People Operations at Cambridge University Press, recommended creating alignment through joint objectives. 
  • Avoid going too bespoke. Suzanne Carolan, Global Head of People Services Delivery at Clifford Chance, suggested that while a tailored approach is often coveted, it can complicate the globalisation and centralisation of processes. Particularly when your processes change in the future, and you need new custom pieces.

3. Start thinking like a skills-based organisation

Skills was another popular topic across the HR Technologies agenda. An afternoon roundtable discussion shed light on the changing approach to skills and how this is impacting hiring and talent management. 

One of the panellists, Ciprian Arhire, Global Head of People Experience & HR Transformation at Entain, discussed the depth at which his organisation is using skills to influence HR decision-making. 

  • Shifting from thinking about 'jobs' to 'skills' and placing more emphasis on skills during recruitment and resourcing.
  • Identifying candidate skills before they join, to help making the hiring process a more accurate, impartial system, based on what a candidate can do versus who they know. 
  • Prioritising people based on the skills they possess and those they want to develop. 

Additionally, he predicted that within the next 5 years, the organisation would base its reward and recognition programmes on skills too, and this would encourage talent to become more skills focused.

Elsewhere on the panel, Gregg Hutchings, Programme Director at the Financial Service Skills Commission (FSSC), discussed the urgency underpinning the shift in skills thinking. 

Elaborating on recent FSSC research, he noted that:

  • 13 skill areas critical to the future of the financial services sector had been identified, and finance companies lacked some of them (7 of them technical hard skills, and 6 soft skills).
  • Upskilling and reskilling are critical in financial services as they look to develop their workforce. 
  • Financial services businesses want more agile workforces, and focusing on skills enables agility. 

Hutchings concluded by emphasising that the skills discussion transcended HR. He stressed that all leaders now want to know about the skills within their businesses. Therefore, all leaders need to be able to assess and understand their workforce's skills and proficiencies to better facilitate skills. 

If you'd like to review your strategic workforce plan, our experts are available for a Skills Strategy Lunch and Learn. Click here to learn more and reserve a session for you and your team.