My Week at HR Tech Conference

hr tech conf
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Just sat down at my gate at McCarron and started to reflect on the past week at the HR Technology Conference.

First let me say it was good to be back. Though it was annoying having to wear masks the whole time, the fact that 250 vendors showed up and made an effort was good to see. If I passed you unnoticed, it was because of the mask. Was hard to recognize some people.

If I had to guess, the in person attendance was a fraction of the usual, perhaps 1,000-1,500 people. There were practitioners there. I met a team from a county government agency in Seattle at lunch one day who was looking for a new HRIS and watched a couple of JP Morgan Chase execs grill Adam Godsend from Paradox/Olivia about their conversational AI tool. 

Adam told me that their platform is in use in about 90% of McDonald’s franchises across the country and that it has taken time to hire from 14 days to 3. Pretty impressive. became our industry’s latest unicorn at the conference announcing a $100 million dollar series C. Clearly the golden age of HR tech continues unabated. Gem is an all-in-one recruiting platform that integrates with LinkedIn, Gmail, Outlook, and your ATS. They help recruiters to find, engage, and nurture top talent.

Recruiters use Gem to build lists of people to reach out to, find email, and automate followups. Automation is key these days, especially with a lack of enough recruiting talent at many orgs.

I recorded a bunch of vendor interviews and recorded some of pitchfest so stay tuned for that audio in the coming week or two. If you didn’t get the chance to go, here’s a couple of short B roll clips from days 1,2,3. You can see what you missed.

Abbey Wombach kicked off the event with her keynote and Josh Bersin followed the next day (via Zoom) apparently he couldn’t make it in person. He laid out the state of HR tech and had the quote of the week when he said “HR departments are like a kitchen drawer” …full of underused platforms that every few years needs to be cleaned out and replaced with something new. It was an excellent analogy. 

I spent nearly all of my time in the press room or expo hall. Meeting and greeting current and future clients including some new exces from JoyousHQ (employee feedback) and Luma Teams (interview intelligence) and the latest startup that’s tackling the interview process.

Night-time of course brought parties and dinners and I was treated to two decadent meals by Hiretual and my friends at Phenom. Hiretual treated myself and a who’s who of influencers to Joe’s Seafood where I had my fill of King Crab and conversation. At my table were Tim Sackett, Maren Hogan, Craig Fisher, Jeremy Roberts. It was good to see these folks and engage in what we know best.

Wednesday night I went to a smaller steak dinner with the Phenom marketing crew along with analysts Ben Eubanks and Ryan Leary. I have come to know the Phenom team well and am constantly impressed by their culture and drive to succeed.

They may actually be the best in HR tech at marketing their platform. (If you follow them they are a content machine) In a noisy world of HR technology, those companies that can generate their own attention always stand out above the rest.

In terms of trends, there was no breakthrough startup or tech that I saw. What struck me most though was the lack of any new recruiting technology. The startup pavilion was full of culture/upskilling/coaching/engagement tech which doesn’t do much to address today’s hiring challenges.

The winner of the pitchfest was Onwards HR which helps automate employee terminations for an HR person. The runner up was a startup that helped assess sales people. 

All in all though it was good to finally be back in person and see many of my industry friends in real life once again. Let’s hope it stays that way and I hope to see those of you that didn’t make it in 2022. Back at Mandalay Bay Sept 13-16.

PS…I won a cool $1,000 at the Wheel of Fortune slot. A little cherry on top of a great week.

Chris Russell is the Managing Director of Rec Tech Media

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HR Tech Guy

Let's just say I'm an HR tech news junkie. HR techies unite!


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