HR Tech 2023 marked our first HR Tech since 2019, the same year we launched Change State. As we walked through the arch into the expo center, a wave of nostalgia swept over us, presenting a natural opportunity to reflect on what’s changed (and hasn’t changed) for Change State and the industry at large in the past four years.
- Bootstrapping a start-up through a global pandemic makes for a wild ride. Meandering through the booths at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, we were both struck by just how different our circumstances are today than in 2019. Back then, it was just the two of us. We had no employees, one single client, and we needed a clear strategy for how to pitch ourselves and scale this into a sustainable business. Four years later, we have fifteen employees, several dozen clients, and we have achieved double-digit YOY growth. We couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of our recruitment marketing agency. Had we had a crystal ball at that time and could predict the oncoming global pandemic, we might have taken a different path forward – but due to a mixture of blood, sweat, tears, and naivete, we prevailed. Strolling through the start-up pavilion, we were filled with gratitude to have made it to the other side, and heartened to see all the fresh young faces early in their own entrepreneurial journeys.
- The primary value of HR Tech (for us) is in cultivating our partner relationships. In 2019, we noted that the conference felt a little light on the “client” side, which appeared to be even more true in 2023. Is HR Tech a great place to pitch new business? Maybe not, but it is a great place to connect with vendors and partners, many of whom we hadn’t seen in person in years (if ever). We see our partners as one of our four key stakeholders, and as we continue to grow, our partnerships are increasingly more essential for us and our clients. It was great to have most of them under one roof.
- AI is (still) everyone’s favorite buzzword. In 2019, we noted the prevalence of machine learning and AI in various vendor marketing materials. At the time, it felt more like a buzzword than reality. Coming into HR Tech 2023, a year in which generative AI has entered the public consciousness, we were expecting more “meat” behind these marketing claims. While some partners like Paradox are doing great things using AI to power conversational chatbots, our general takeaway was that the industry still isn’t quite sure how generative AI will shape the HR tech stack of the future.
- Employer brand was conspicuously absent. Employer brand has been a hot topic in TA in recent years, and with good reason – understanding and cultivating a strong employer brand is arguably one of the most significant investments an organization can make. And so we were surprised to see how little it was mentioned in the Expo Hall. We had some tremendous informal chats about employer brand with our friends at The Muse and FairyGodBoss, but in general, it seems the conversation in the HR public square is less about brand and more about AI and DEI these days.
- There is often a big gap between the promises made by sales teams and what engineering teams can actually deliver. Over our two days in Vegas, we sat in on a dozen or so different demos – some from emerging players in the HR Tech ecosystem, and others from established players who are rolling out new features or functionality. While it’s easy to get excited by these flashy demos, our experience reminded us of the importance of thoroughly vetting tools before signing on the dotted line. Many vendors make big promises like “we integrate with XX Applicant Tracking Systems,” yet definitions of “integrate” can vary widely. For clients who may not have the internal resources to ask vendors the right probing questions, it may be worth engaging a recruiting process optimization consultant before making a six- or seven-figure purchase that the organization may have to live with for years.
All in all, we left Vegas with a sense of optimism about the future of HR technology — while the industry has a ways to go in terms of incorporating generative AI, it was exciting to see the momentum and investments being made to create the HR tech stack of the future.