The 2012 marcus evans HR Technology Summit, which took place at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 12-13, offered a host of valuable insights to the company delegates in attendance, but two messages were given particular emphasis: starting HRIT with a strong data warehouse as a foundation and keeping HRIT goals aligned with overall organizational goals. Regardless of individual presentation focus, these points were fundamental throughout.
From the opening keynote delivered by conference chairman Jeff Carlsen, SVP and Chief Human Capital Officer for Reyes Holdings LLC, it was clear that a foundation for HRIT starts with a strong global data warehousing process that acts as a reliable hub for other HRIT efforts. Without a data warehouse stocked with validated and secure human capital intelligence, the ability to coordinate and integrate other HRIT strategies and platforms is stunted, requiring multiple data entry points that make integration and alignment of HRIT applications clumsy at best and futile at worst.
Several delegates attending the conference had either just completed a data warehousing project or were in various stages of implementation. Others had their plates full managing global HRIT system rollouts, with efforts focused on unifying platforms to ensure company-wide standardization in human capital reporting. Another resounding message of the conference was that global consistency is no mean feat when considering the plethora of regulations governing employee data security—let alone languages—with EU countries (looking at you, Germany) singled out as requiring the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer to navigate. Several organizations had dealt with (or were still dealing with) issues that arose through years of acquisitions, requiring the aggregation of employee data from dozens of disconnected systems that ranged from the robust-but-not-compatible to simple Excel spreadsheets.
Other messages worthy of highlight, spanning both strategic and tactical levels of HRIT system decisions and implementation, were discussed in-depth over the two very full days of presentations. While specific vendors were bantered around, with pros and cons for each, those comparisons were a bit too granular and company-specific for inclusion here. Overriding themes for sessions, however, included the following:
- Michael Canter, HR Director, Compensation, Benefits and HRIS for Easton-Bell Sports proffered several valuable messages in his presentation focused on change management. First was the seminal rule that technology alone can’t solve HR problems; a message that i4cp research has consistently reinforced. Second were some valuable insights into the mindset of employees when it comes to rolling out new technology and the importance of moving people from resisters to adopters by clearly articulating the value of the new technology to their work processes.
- Vana Matte, VP, IT Portfolio and Delivery for Dollar & Thrifty Automotive Group went back to a main theme with her presentation on building alignment between HRIT and business goals. This presentation was strong on building the proper perspective, affirming that successful HRIT is not about technology; it’s about business relevance and achieving organizational goals. One good take away from this presentation was that having business leaders take ownership and having them make the case to the CEO for an HRIT initiative helps to not only build buy-in, but also grounds the efforts in what business leaders themselves indentify as their top needs and priorities.
- Randy Goldberg, VP Recruiting for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, switched things up a bit in his presentation, which focused on getting the most out of social media when it comes to talent acquisition. Aside from some great insights on the importance of mobile applications and accessibility, this presentation drove home the imperative of messaging that supports the culture and brand when looking for good employee fit. Conveyed also was that, good or bad, organizations need to embrace social media and have policies to manage those interactions. Oh, and there was a cool Gangnam Style video spoof (Jinan style) done completely by Hyatt employees. Priceless PR.
- Anna Langford, SPHR, GPHR, GPR, CCP, PMP, Director, Total Rewards for AAF International followed with another presentation on the value of alignment with business goals. Top take away: don’t identify yourself as an HR person with HR goals, identify as having your businesses goals first, with your route to achieving them coming through human capital management or HRIT implementation. It’s an important perspective shift if you want to keep your thinking relevant to the business.
- Sean Newcomb, SVP of Global HR Management Information Systems for Bank of America came next with a discussion of mitigating legal risk in HRIT management. On top of being rich in information supporting the need for a strong foundation (with plenty of detail on the importance of employee data privacy), this presentation was designed to take HR from being risk averse to positioning as effective risk managers.
- Erin Govednik, SVP of Global HR Management, HR Technology for Cox Communications shared her company’s journey in HR analytics, predominately discussing the lengthy processes of establishing data management to feed robust analytics. Erin echoed something seen frequently in i4cp research: the need for greater analytics skills in HR to fully realize the business critical nature of the information collected.
- Leigh Dunn, Director, ITS Business Partner, HR and Legal for the Kimberly-Clark Corporation led a lively discussion on moving from an on-premise to a SaaS HCM system. This was mostly a Q&A session, with lots of details being shared on implementation timeframes, hurdles, keeping up with new functionality, managing rollouts and some of the more important aspects of vendor management. In general there was no lack of participation throughout the conference, so the roundtable was a good format for interactive learning.
- Michelle Smith, CPIM, CRP, VP of Business Development for O.C. Tanner came next with a slightly different focus: employee enrichment. This was more of a general leadership presentation, focused on enriching the lives and working experiences of employees as opposed to simply engaging or aligning them―a next step in the process of developing well-rounded employees that went beyond the work environment.
- Karen Sansone, Global HR Process and Technology Leader for Becton, Dickinson & Company was up next with her presentation on globalizing HR shared services with enabling technology. Besides reasserting the main themes of foundation and alignment, Karen talked us through the establishment of a global service center model with tiered levels of complexity, all beginning with a web portal that looks the same for BD employees around the world.
- Jason Grover, HR Director, Global Technology for General Mills kept with the themes of aligning to business strategy and having a strong foundation in data. His hierarchy for HRIS is to start with the business strategy, build the data to inform decisions, use the information to feed analysis, use the analysis to gain insights and to use insights to improve decision making. The basic take away here was to not be distracted by the shiny objects when deciding on HRIT systems. You may want a Ferrari but what you really need is a truck, so focus on what gets the job done for the business.
- Tiffanie Lewis, HR International Business Technology Manager for General Motors followed with a presentation on managing a global HCM system rollout. In conveying how completely complex this process can be, Tiffanie provided us with a plan that involved: finishing what was ongoing, developing a plan (business needs, language needs, etc.), developing a team, collaborating with IT and then tweaking based on feedback from each deployment. This last step is important for making each rollout smoother than the last. Again, knowledge of global data privacy regulations was emphasized as critical.
- Craig Hurty, VP Human Resources for Aetna, rounded out the presentations with a practical discussion on the impact of technology in driving the future of HR. So far, most HRIT has been about reducing headcounts and costs associated with HR, but the future will need to see HR focusing on identifying and exploiting opportunities to drive strategy through human capital. A good take away was that best practices are not strategy; best practices are implementing someone else’s strategy. Also, HRIT should be accessible and useful to everyone, not just HR.
As a final note, this was my first marcus evans event and―though i4cp does not vet or endorse vendors―I have to say that it delivered what was promised. It was an intimate event for high-level HRIT professionals in a top-class venue (although the casino ended up with way too much of my money!). The presentations were excellent and well-focused, and the solution providers (vendors) that were invited had valuable services that meshed well with the needs of attendees. Many fellow attendees commented to me on the great networking opportunities, and while there was a lot of valuable information sharing in the open forums I could tell that a lot of great connections were made to keep that sharing going in the future.
Kudos and thanks to the marcus evans staff for an all-around worthwhile event!