Pitchfest finalists selected for showdown on third day of event.

What’s the one thing many organizations are urgently prioritizing today to create a more engaged and productive workforce? If you answered enhancing performance management, reassessing compensation packages or planning career paths, you’d be off the mark. But if you guessed creating a better workplace experience, you certainly have your finger on the pulse of the HR technology industry.

Among the many innovations recently introduced and under development around the world, nearly every developer has an eye towards creating a better user experience, according to noted analyst Josh Bersin. As the keynote speaker on day two of the HR Tech conference in Las Vegas, he delivered a comprehensive and revealing assessment of workforce and technology trends affecting organizations around the world. And chief among the many benefits companies are demanding from their technology stack is the ability to deliver a clean and satisfying employee experience, he said.

“Everybody is talking about the employee experience. We’re not building technology for HR anymore. We’re building them for the employees,” he told a large audience of human capital and industry leaders at the event. 

The driving force behind employers wanting a better experience, Bersin explained, is to better enable their workers to focus on value-added activities rather than on administrative ones. The problem of “distraction overload” is pervasive in today’s digital life, and HR technology shouldn’t make their lives even more complicated, he added. Instead, HR tools are being developed to have a clear talent-centric purpose.  

For example, automation is not displacing workers but making their human skills more valuable. He argued that machine learning, robotic process automation and other technologies are transforming more businesses more into services because it’s the human touch that will differentiate their companies. For instance, automation at banks are turning traditional tellers into customer relationship specialists, which helps to create stronger bonds with their clients. 

Creating a better experience indeed has been on the forefront of talent acquisition in recent years. More employers are simplifying the application process, eliminating the black box syndrome and enhancing communication with applicants post-submission. At the same time, companies are creating a better workplace journey as well by starting with onboarding to providing innovative ways of training, performance evaluation and continuous feedback. By using a variety of tools, workers are empowered and engaged.

Bersin points out that many employers are applying this philosophy to their use of HR. With core systems now acting as an engine in which tools are added and removed much like an app on a phone, companies can easily choose those that best support their needs and offer simple integration while discarding the ones that prove ineffective or difficult to adopt. As a result, traditional core platforms are reinventing themselves to focus on delivering a better experience even as the technology underneath the hood becomes increasingly complex. 

Throughout the second day of the conference, HR technology experts focused on a variety of topics, ranging from eliminating bias in the development of AI to cloud-based services to advances in workforce planning. As the world’s largest conference and exhibition dedicated to HR innovation, HR Tech drew thousands from around the world to discover and to unveil new tools and functionalities.

The proliferation of innovation was especially visible on the second day of the conference’s Pitchfest, an event dedicated to supporting emerging technology businesses. Sponsored by the Randstad Innovation Fund, the second annual event drew more than 100 companies to compete for $30,000 in prizes. The 30 most promising companies were then asked to pitch their offerings before a panel of judges and a live audience. The second day of the conference featured the final two rounds of 20 companies making their pitch, resulting in four finalists who joined two others in the final round on October 3.  

Among the companies presenting for the day were those that provided gamification assessments, AI-driven employee knowledgebase, career progression assistance, a neuroscience-based manager behavioral tool and a wealth of other services, many of which leverage artificial intelligence to make them easier to use. But with just four selected to advance to the final round, the winners included:

  • Icon Savings Plan, a portable employee retirement fund
  • Leena AI, an automated employee resource platform
  • Atlas, a credentials verification service
  • PILOT, an employee development platform

Paul Jacquin, managing partner at the Randstad Innovation Fund and judge of Pitchfest, remarked that this year’s entrants offered a broader selection of HR technologies than last year. “It’s very exciting. There is more diversity in the types of solutions being presented, he said.  “They all tend to be candidate-centric. It speaks to the talent experience mostly.”