SHRM Tech 2015 Mumbai; WE Did IT

SHRM Tech 2015 Mumbai; WE Did IT

the it factor

We pulled it off. I didn’t even know that “we” were a “WE” until the final event of the evening. And I wasn’t sure that the “it” from my keynote was a global “IT” until I met and spoke to attendees. What I do know is that the meaning of each word turned into something bigger than any of us had initially suspected.

Let me take you on a quick tour through some aspects of SHRM Tech 15, a tech conference organized by SHRM India which had 40+ local and global speakers and close to 500 attendees – both rare for a one day event. Lots to cover, so let’s get started.

The Right Way to Kick Things Off

SHRM India made the great decision to start the day with an invitation-only session for executives, which they called the CXO Breakfast Session. Attendees were buzzing about this one going in, and it didn’t disappoint. 100+ executives from firms around India and the rest of the world crowded into the large breakfast room. Among the big-time attendees was TV Rao, widely regarded as “”The Father of Indian HR.” He received a standing ovation as proof.

The session was kicked off by Achal Khanna, CEO of SHRM India and Mr. Prabhir Jha –  President & Group CHRO of Reliance Industries. Then, Jamie Notter, author of ‘When Millennials Take Over’ and I led a session whereby we would each present a two-threaded trend; first me from a technology standpoint, then Jamie tying in the organizational culture component. For example, I began with “Learning,” specifically learning management systems, and then Jamie followed that up with a cultural blurb on “Experimentation.” After that, the best part happened. We let this audience of senior leaders react. They asked questions, added insights, and clarified how those topics either differed or were the same as the slightly North American slant we’d put on them. Jamie and I could then react to what was said. We iterated through the four trend pairings, and voila, Conference Gold. The recording of that session should go into the annals of Global HR for the collaboration and idea sharing that took place. Here is at least a basic rundown of the key areas:

  1.  Learning (Experimentation) – I described this, just as I had in pre-conference blogs, as one of the hottest trends, fueled by a decade of neglect. (I’m actually backing up those statements by heading on a plane right now to Cornerstone Convergence). Let’s just say the audience backed that up, repeatedly, in this session, and throughout the day.
  2. Performance (Transparency) – I took the audience through a quick recap of the past 3 years. The 2013 bashing of the annual performance review, an initial move in 2014 by both vendors and employers to move into more ongoing feedback, and in 2015, just as we’re just realizing some of those changes, there’s a trend to dispatch the performance rating altogether. The audience’s reaction was mixed, but I got the sense that the traditional review is still the norm in India.
  3. Workforce ROI (Decentralization) – I focused on the move for employers to figure out the components of their biggest cost: their employees. I cited Sapience, an Indian Tech firm that measures how employees spend their productive time. I also grouped big data and analytics into this category. Not surprisingly, there was a big, positive reaction to this topic.
  4. One Global (Collaboration) – For this fitting trend I focused on the need to turn a global presence into a competitive advantage through HR Technology. I talked about creating consistencies in global processes, streamlining and cutting down on system waste. The best audience interaction dealt with the question “how do you know which global approach to technology to employ?” My answer; “it depends.” OK, a bit vague, but at least I went on to explain exactly which factors make it depend and the impact of each.

A Touching Moment

To begin the main part of the conference, the Indian Silent National Anthem was performed by a group of deaf students. I caught them in the hall and snapped this picture.

silent anthem (1)

International Speakers

Following that moment, Jamie Notter spoke about “Cultures that work in a Digital Age,” producing such nuggets as “”HR should think like a start up. Focus on ‘validated learning’ and not vanity metrics.”

Subsequently, Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst from the Brandon Hall group, presented information about the HR Technology vendor landscape in his session on “Order from Chaos: Navigating the HR Technology Landscape.”

More on the Global Flair

 Let’s take a moment to commend SHRM India for adding such global flair to the conference. There was a natural fit, given the fact that SHRM itself is an organization based in the US and with a large global footprint. However, SHRM India could have gone the easy route and stuck to its local roots. Instead, from the first moment Kirat Dhillon approached me at my booth at SHRM National in Orlando last year, they went the more comprehensive, insightful route, thereby opening a new door in Indian – US collaboration. I was more than happy to step through.

 kyle and jeremy

 New Products and Product Demos

The next two sessions allowed me to set the industry context for two important areas of HR Technology – Talent Acquisition and Workforce Analytics.

First, I spoke about the important role of referrals in the Recruiting space. Employees are not, themselves, recruiters, so to ask them to play the role of recruiter when attracting their own personal network is extremely inefficient. Combine that with the fact that there is a shrinking talent pool at a time when workforce talent is at such a premium, and referrals become more critical in the success of employers. The last fact that I highlighted was that tenure increases more than 200% with referred employees versus non-referred.

That introduction set the stage for Sumit Gupta, CEO of Grown Out, a conference sponsor to do his own presentation, which was tied to their new product launch.

Next, I replicated a presentation on Workforce Analytics I had done at the LEHRN Conference in April in Minneapolis and have since conducted for  That presentation talked about the importance of incorporating workforce analytics in decision making. I worked to dispel some myths about big data and workforce analytics and talk about how you move past just listening about how important it is and move on to execution.

My discussion was followed up by a product demo by Sudhir Rao of IBM on their Talent Analytics product. The jam-packed audience seemed genuinely impressed with his walk through of making organizational decisions based on performance management data.


 At US conferences, where boxed lunches have become more the norm than the exception, attendees rarely look forward to lunch as much as they do the food at the evening receptions. Not at SHRM Tech.  This spread was RIDICULOUS…and delicious. It was also a welcomed reminder of where I was in the world.


Afternoon and Expo

The afternoon continued with many sessions. I was stuck in interviews and helped out my colleague Vanessa at our Hive Tech HR booth, so while I missed a few sessions I do look forward to watching some of the recordings of the sessions. In particular interesting ones like “Game On! Gamed based learning and gamification” caught the attention of attendees.

We had fantastic conversations with companies looking for new systems or people like Gaynelle whose organization was eager to get more out of their HR systems. We also met other talented consultants like Subramanian, and visited other booths like ZingHR and Cornerstone On Demand. We heard from attendees that India, while a technology powerhouse, is a bit behind in HR Technology adoption. Of course, the most amusing conversation was one which concluded with “So, you’re saying that you make water bottles?”


The Closing Keynote

My closing keynote was entitled “#TheITFactor – Transforming the Workspace Through Technology.” After making the audience – which was somewhat fried after a long day – stand up and do stretches, we discussed the 5 components of #TheITFactor. I explained that the time had come for companies to either differentiate or die, and that HR Technology could actually be an asset in achieving the former. In the end, if HR can simply focus on applying the 5 components of #TheITFactor to the 3 domains they control – attracting, managing and retaining talent – then they will be adding immeasurable value to their organizations. The greatest commonality in all of my conversations in Mumbai was that Indian companies also are sensing the need to achieve this “IT factor.” Differentiation is key, and HR Tech is one tool to achieving IT.

jeremy presenting plus audience

After a long day, the audience warmed up and appeared to look on in awe…or disdain, depending on your perspective.

Following this session, I was given the honor of introducing SHRM India’s announcement of the Top 25 HR Influencers by SHRM India. It was thrilling to be alongside 8 of the 25 influencers who were in attendance.

A Final Curtain Call

As the cocktail hour was winding down, most of us thought the day was over. We were wrong. Next door, the SHRM India crew had assembled an impromptu dance party, complete with DJ and all. The hours of dancing and laughing that followed will never be forgotten by any of those in attendance. Between the months of preparation the SHRM India crew had put in, the hours of collaboration I’d shared with them in preparing for the sessions, and the intense work throughout the day, it was a time of catharsis and bonding.

Most importantly, it was when we realized what IT was WE had achieved. When thanking the SHRM India crew after my keynote, I’d singled out Archana, who had shepherded me around the conference, but it was really about all of the people that put it together, including the speakers. IT was also about the attendees that were a part of it. Achal, Kirat, Archana, Sreemayee, Puneet, Perzine, Rekha, Petula and everyone else at SHRM India, volunteers, sponsors, as well as me, Kyle, Jamie and other speakers. WE had collaborated globally to pull off a successful event. IT had crossed boarders in a new way of educating and entertaining attendees. I had learned many valuable pieces of information about the HR and Technology markets in India. Along the way, WE had all made many new colleagues and friends.

jeremy and shrm india



Jeremy enjoys exploring the HR Tech market, domestically and internationally. He is CEO of Hive Tech HR, which helps its clients find and implement HR technology. He was CFO and Board Member of IHRIM, which also throws a technology conference (September in Atlanta). He also sits on SHRM’s HR Management and Technology Expertise Panel.

Email him at

Follow Jeremy @jeremyallynames

Follow Hive Tech HR @hivetechhr

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