HR Tech 2019 was my 10th HR Tech in just about as many years, and Marty’s first, which put us in a unique position as a company to suss out both long-term trends in the industry and some “surprise” observations from a first time attendee.
While we’re not shocked by the growing number of vendors (we heard 429 attended this year?), the conference did feel lighter on the client side. We make a living in large part cultivating a robust ecosystem of trusted vendor partners, and in a typical week connect with a dozen of our partner vendors. But we can’t imagine how overwhelmed wandering in the HR Tech Expo Hall can be for folks newer to the recruitment space. Even for us, we found ourselves engaging with newer startups we haven’t heard of—or companies who’ve seen hyper growth over the past 12-24 months.
To see so many new players, many with giant overhead banners, only confirms what we’ve long been saying—the HR tech space is becoming increasingly crowded, and stakes are high: with the talent market as competitive as its been in recent memory, it’s easier than ever to be ‘sold’ on marketing hype and polished screenshots. Having the wrong technology in place can cost talent teams dearly in terms of candidate experience and lower conversion rates across the candidate to employee journey.
We also confirmed that although “employer branding” is indeed a hot topic in the industry, there seems to be a wide array of opinions about what employer branding actually is and how it should be managed within an organization. We believe employer brands are living, breathing organisms and are not “owed” by an organization, but more aptly, curated among the universe of an organization’s prospective talent, employees, and even alumni. Said another way—your employer brand is what your employees and prospective talent think it is, not the polished marketing copy you feature on your career site.
The strongest employer brands are those whose splashy marketing copy (itself an expression of the EVP) actually communicates what it’s like to work for you, warts and all. Maximizing the appeal of your employer brand messages may be good for the short term game of generating applications (and even hires), but for the larger health of your organization’s talent ecosystem, we encourage our clients to maximize authenticity instead.
Color us disappointed, especially Marty, to not see more vendors focused on the importance of your employer brand at HR Tech. Remember, your employees are the ones responsible for creating your consumer brand after all.
And speaking of splashy marketing copy…holy buzzwords, Batman! We came expecting them, but nonetheless we were finding ourselves increasingly numb to the terms “AI” and “machine-learning” within a couple hours of walking around the expo floor. Which is kind of a shame, because there are many cool vendors doing great things with these technologies. Our fear is that the words have become so overused as to be meaningless, and always appreciate vendors who communicate in terms of ROI and end benefits to the clients they serve. At the end of the day, better outcomes are what we all care about, and not every client needs to know about what’s under the hood.