HR Tech World 2017: our highlights

For a two day conference, HR Tech World sure packed a lot in.

It’s practically impossible to cover all of the challenging keynotes, informative presentations, and engaging debates that happened over the two days, so here is our hand-picked selection of highlights and key takeaways.

Were you at HR Tech World? If so, email your personal highlights to editor@convertedmedia.com and we’ll do our best to include as many as possible.

1. There’s been a rebrand

First things first, HR Tech World has announced that it is rebranding as UNLEASH. They explain:

“UNLEASH your people has been our motto for the last 5 years and embodies everything about our show and the powerful community we have carefully nurtured. UNLEASH allows us to open the community to leadership teams in enterprises across the world who understand that products and industries are being entirely disrupted. All job functions are going to undergo radical transformation over the next 5-10 years.”

An entirely fitting time to announce this, as one of this year’s major themes was technological disruption to the workplace and how we deal with it (more below). Meanwhile, here’s their full video announcement, featuring some stunning visuals:

2. The robots are coming!

If there’s anything that has shifted perceptions of HR from ‘back office function’ to ‘key strategic center’, it’s the very tangible possibility that 50% of the work carried out today could be automated in the near future.

AI in the workplace has been somewhat of a divisive topic of late, with some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs weighing in on whether it will result in more efficient workplaces and increased leisure time or humanity being enslaved to cold, unfeeling robot overlords.

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The debate continued during the conference - is workforce automation being callously imposed on us by hedge funds as suggested by Dr Daniel Thorniley. If so, is HR the only function that can stop it?

Or is the Future of Work rosier thanks to AI? Henrik Scharfe was a little more upbeat about everything, suggesting that it would give us an opportunity to make the world a better place and laying out ‘the case for automation’ in his well-received second-day keynote.

It is refreshing to see thoughts on workforce automation addressed from an HR perspective - all too often mainstream debate on the topic centers around big names (Hawking, Musk, Zuckerburg etc) at the expense of opinions of those on the ground. Regardless of how workforce automation progresses, HR professionals will be at the center of one of the biggest social and cultural shifts of our time - this needs recognizing. 

3. We take better care of our technology than we do of ourselves

...and yet despite our darkest fears about dystopian futures and being slaves to the machine, we treat our technology considerably better than we treat the people using it.

This point was eloquently raised by Arianna Huffington in her keynote speech, which focused on reconfiguring how we use technology to counter exhausting expectations of 24/7 availability. Whilst we recharge our smartphones when the battery runs low, we run ourselves to the ground trying to keep up with demands placed on us by “Brilliant Jerks” - corporate higher-ups promoting a hard and fast culture of overwork and excessive risk taking. It was interesting to see technology touted as both one of the main causes and as key antidote to this culture.

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Kathryn Beeson

About the author…

Kathryn is the editor of hrmsworld.com. Whilst she spends a lot of her time coordinating and editing content from the HRMS World writing team, she sometimes finds time to write articles herself. Outside of work she can usually be found running, bouldering or playing squash

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Kathryn Beeson