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3 Key Takeaways from the 2021 HR Tech Conference

Oct 7, 2021| Reading time: 9min

BY Olivia Berger

Principal Product Marketing Manager

The 2021 HR Tech Conference was unlike any other. After a year and half that fundamentally changed HR functions in organizations of all kinds, the excitement of bringing HR professionals together in person was palpable.

Most importantly, the chance to meet with industry leaders, analysts, and peers gave HR teams the much-needed opportunity to hear from one another about lessons learned and to understand the biggest trends shaping the new world of HR.

Whether or not you had the opportunity to join the action in Las Vegas, here are the top three takeaways from the HR Tech Conference that you need to know as we dive head first into planning for 2022.

1) We’re starting to see the real impact of the Great Resignation

For months we’ve heard nonstop about the Great Resignation. And most businesses have seen firsthand how exactly this is playing out. At the highest level, we’ve all been part of conversations about how retaining top talent has become more difficult and what HR teams can do to respond.

But now we’re starting to see the deeper cultural impact of what’s been going on. According to Randstad CEO Rebecca Henderson, one of the biggest impacts of the Great Resignation is a “She-cession.”

Data reveals that women lost $800 billion globally (which totals more than the combined GDP of 98 countries) as a result of leaving the workforce during the pandemic. This number is only one of the many outcomes of the female presence in the workforce going down for the first time in years.

Overall, Henderson highlighted that we can expect to see even more women making career changes to prioritize work-life balance. This includes switching to lower-title jobs and taking longer to re-enter the workforce once they leave it.

She concludes: “Working women face an uphill battle in this recovery phase, and we need to support their career progress and personal needs so they remain a strong and contributing part of the workforce. We can do this with job flexibility, reskilling, and assistance programs that alleviate stress and provide a brighter future.”

2) We can’t underestimate the power of learning and development

All of the leaders at HR Tech made one thing abundantly clear: Training, upskilling, and mentorship have never been more important.

First, this focus on learning and development is critical to getting key groups (particularly women) back into the workforce. Second, it will go a long way toward helping companies retain existing employees and attract new talent in the face of the Great Resignation.

Analyst Josh Bersin summed it up neatly: “If you don’t think about learning and recruiting, you will be left behind.” He shared research from the Josh Bersin Academy that two-thirds of employees say it’s easier to find a job externally versus within their current company, noting that the most progressive companies view this as an opportunity to revamp how they cultivate talent from within their existing employee base. For instance, Allstate now fills 60% of its open roles from within its ranks — an approach that has helped increase employee retention.

PwC echoes this sentiment, but points to a gap in achieving it, noting that few organizations have taken action to help employees with skill development.

Going forward, it will be critical for HR teams to think deeply about their people, including what they ultimately want to do in their career and how the organization can help them get there. That mindset will not only keep people growing with the company, but it will also create a more meaningful and engaging employee experience.

3) We need to keep improving organizational health and the employee experience for a hybrid world

The hybrid world is here to stay, and companies must respond accordingly. Two of the biggest areas that require attention are improving organizational health and enhancing the employee experience — neither of which is an easy undertaking.

ChartHop CEO Ian White spoke during an HR Tech Talk about the importance of organizational health, especially in a distributed work environment. He stressed that this can’t be a one-time exercise; rather, it’s a critical, long term responsibility of every HR team. And when done correctly — largely through agility, accountability, and alignment — improving organizational health can give employees a greater sense of belonging, drive faster growth, and increase retention.

Making these types of improvements requires continued investment in HR technology. Fortunately, this trend is already underway and shows no signs of slowing down, as Sapient Insights notes that organizations have found investing in the right HR systems critical to helping them manage employees during the pandemic. Sapient Chief Research Officer and HR Tech keynoter Stacey Harris adds: “There is a much more general understanding that HR technology was adding more value than [organizations] may have given it credit for.”

That makes it no surprise that a recent Sapient Insights survey found organizations’ tech spending has increased 57% since 2020, especially when it comes to HR analytics, learning, skills management, and benefits and wellness.

We’re Entering a New Era of HR for Teams Everywhere

The contents of the 2021 HR Tech Conference were unlike those in any year prior. They reflected the enormous shift we’ve experienced since 2020 and the pressure HR teams everywhere are facing to respond.

But throughout it all, the tone was optimistic: Everything might have changed, but there are clear opportunities for HR to take the lead and bring their organizations out stronger on the other side.

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