hybrid coaching platform wins Pitchfest top prize.

Does your organization’s culture really lead to success? What about its leadership – how much of an advantage does it provide? And does aligning your people’s goals matter as much as aligning their sense of purpose? These are just some of the disruptive thoughts of noted author Marcus Buckingham, who delivered the keynote address on the third day of the annual HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas on October 3.

Buckingham, who recently published the book “Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World” with co-author Ashley Goodall, challenged conventional thinking around organization performance and human capital in his presentation. As talent scarcity grows, how organizations acquire, nurture and retain their best people should be realistically examined rather than adhere to conventional wisdom, according to the author. He contends that companies should assess for themselves whether broadly accepted business concepts are really truthful. And if not, how can employers rise above convention and choose different paths?

Buckingham followed a number of influential HR industry speakers at this year’s conference, which featured a number of presentations on how transformative forces are tugging at every aspect of human capital practices. From creating a better experience for workers to embedding AI into many new HR tools to funneling enterprise technologies down to the SMB level, a myriad of topics demonstrated that the industry is moving faster than ever, which may further solidify Buckingham’s argument that an abundance of “noise” can distract organizations from discovering truths about innovation and human capital practices.

While his presentation attracted a crowd, the highlight of the day’s events was the announcement of the winners at this year’s Pitchfest, a competition among emerging companies in the HR technology industry sponsored by the Randstad Innovation Fund. After three rounds held in the previous two days that narrowed 30 competitors to the final six, it was PILOT that won the top prize of $25,000. Founded by executive coach Ben Brooks, the company is a hybrid online coaching platform that uses both digital coaching exercises and human coaches who connect with users online.

Ilonka Jankovich, one of this year’s Pitchfest judges and the head of the Randstad Innovation Fund, said PILOT’s hybrid approach is an exciting platform that optimizes the delivery of coaching services through the efficiencies of a 24/7 self-service platform paired with experienced coaches that check the progress of users and provide feedback and mentoring support. She explained that PILOT’s unique value proposition is timely because more than ever workers need help with advancing their careers.

“We need to give them what they really want, and that’s coaching, well-being and a career path. That’s why I’m happy that PILOT won,” she said. The winner “is really interesting because it is a hybrid model.”

The product includes online exercises that users will spend 10 minutes weekly to perform. This is supplemented by a bimonthly group session joined by other users and facilitated by an experienced career coach. Brooks pointed out that the platform requires no integration, is highly intuitive and allows workers to perform the weekly exercises at their convenience.

A secondary $5,000 prize awarded by the Randstad Innovation Fund was created to recognize unique solutions for the gig economy. Icon Savings Plan emerged as the winner among multiple entries after demonstrating its unique product aimed at contingent workers in the U.S. Because the world’s largest market is actually ranked 19th in the world in retirement savings, Icon Savings Plan believes it can help independent workers build toward their retirement with a portable plan. 

Unlike traditional American 401(k) plans – which are tax deferred savings sponsored by employers – Icon Savings Plan is available to temporary workers on their own. When a permanent employee participates in a 401(k) plan, those savings are controlled and administered by the employer. Icon allows participants to control their own savings independent of where they work.

“I’m particularly excited about the gig economy prize because we know that the gig workers don’t have the support system around them and not enough. We will see a lot of innovation happening in the space, and the company that won this year is Icon. they are the first one to provide pensions to the gig economy so I’m very excited about that,” said Jankovich.

Icon provides a low-cost solution for workers seeking the tax advantage of a 401(k) plan without having to be permanently employed. By creating a tool and plan to encourage gig talent, the company is helping to reduce that nagging question: am I saving enough? And if not, how can I raise my monthly contributions?

The conference concludes on Friday with sessions discussing future innovations imagined for HR.