Unleashing Excitement in Vegas: EVERYONE Can Innovate

Unleashing Excitement in Vegas: EVERYONE Can Innovate

As usual, the Unleash conference series (formerly HR Tech World) got attendees’ workplace technology juices flowing. Unleash America, held at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas from May 14-16th (the second of its kind held on US soil), saw a clear theme emerge of “innovation by everyone, from anywhere.”

The value of the conference can be broken down into 3 categories:

  1. Expo hall and vendors
  2. Content and exciting presenters
  3. Networking with old and new connections

Expo hall and vendors

The expo hall generated a lot of great traffic and conversations, and our booth was no exception. From existing and prospective clients looking for advice to vendors looking for partnerships, a positive ROI was quickly realized.

Well-positioned near the Start-up area, we were able to watch the Start-up competition between 5 vendors, eventually won by ClickBoarding.

Jess Von Bank (right) presenting for Clickboarding and Laurie Ruettimann hosting

Another interesting company in the competition with whom we had follow-up discussions was Boston-based Avrio. They believe that the hiring process is broken (yeah, who doesn’t), and have built intelligent automation (via their chatbot, “Rio”) to quickly remove bias and increase talent sources to attract, engage and hire diverse talent.

Other vendor highlights:

  • Small Improvements, our neighbor, highlighted some new performance management functionality. We actually use them at Hive Tech, and recently implemented a new approach to removing manager bias from our reviews. Stay tuned for more info on that as well as an interview Linda Jonas of SI conducted of me
  • Sent by a client in search of vendors incorporating gamification in the learning space, we met with SumTotal/Skillsoft, Ultimate Software and Cornerstone who appear to be doing the most in gamification from an integrated suite standpoint. A company called Codefights was also using an innovative approach of incorporating competition to compare and improve employee skills.
  • Our clients were also exploring talent acquisition solutions and were able to catch up with some of the industry leaders, Lever, iCIMS and SmartRecruiters, among others.

Content and Exciting Presenters

Content both inside and out of the expo hall, as usual, was spot on. Here are a few sessions worth highlighting.

  • Goodwall. This session actually partially inspired our decision to attend NACE in New Orleans next week. More on that in a bit. Goodwall’s focus is on empowering potential employees, rather than herding them to a job listing. Their focus is on candidate experience, continuous follow ups and personal interactions
  • William Tincup. Shout out to our friend William Tincup on his talk about recruiter texting etiquette. He focused on how it’s OK to text a candidate/vice versa but only if you always keep these six things in mind: Timing, Length, Tone, Content, Conversion, Driving
  • Pinterest. The well-known social media company talked about innovating hiring and leadership and creating “pathways to recruiting.”
  • Mo Gawdat. Mo delivered an exceptional closing keynote where he highlighted how technology is changing business in an exponential way. As the title of this post states, the theme is that everyone can innovate – there’s really no excuse not to at this point.

  • Kathryn Minshew. Again sticking with the talent acquisition theme, the CEO/Founder of The Muse (finding dream jobs and career advice) talked about her successes as a founder, as well as her early mistakes.


Networking with old and new connections

There was an amazing gathering of people at Unleash. Such a robust collection of buyers, vendors, influencers and analysts led to random collisions with great industry people like Kevin Grossman, Stacey Harris and Meghan Biro, and vendor CEO’s like Mark Barlow (AppLearn). We were also able to bring along a cadre of current and former clients such as White Castle, Winston & Strawn and WisdomTree (quite an alliteration). It was great to spend time with each of them.

Sticking with the “W” theme, WCN, a leading company in Talent Acquisition hosted an entertaining happy hour at the Aria. What a collection of colleagues, from Robin Schooling to the aforementioned William Tincup to Maren Hogan and others – we all had a great time catching up with each other.

The team at WCN told us about their mission of helping clients  remove bias and unleashing recruiting potential by breaking the sources of talent wide open. The theme of innovation carried over when they talked about “breaking the rules, shaking off tired assumptions and ignoring ‘the way we’ve always done it.'” They too will be at NACE next week where they’ll be hosting a party related to a “major announcement.”

CultureAmp also threw an social event at Brooklyn Bowl full of food, drinks and, of course, bowling. I personally horrified my clients by bowling a turkey (3 strikes) in the first 3 throws. The night wrapped up at OMNIA dance club in Caesar’s Palace, where we danced into the wee hours.

Wrapping Things Up

In sum, the attendees we spoke to left with a lot of great ideas for instilling more innovation in their respective organizations. We become the benefactors of that energy with both clients we’re working with and with the industry overall wanting to push the needle even further. My colleague Stu and I were even able to get some great ideas to bring back to our fellow employees as well.

In keeping with the theme, the biggest observation was that, FINALLY, we’re seeing somewhat stale buzzwords like “Engagement” truly embedded in solutions, and fresher ones like “AI and bots” creeping into product as well. That innovation could be found  not just in the point solutions (those that cover one specific piece of the People Management spectrum) but in full suite vendors as well.

Also, an unexpected bonus was being convinced to attend NACE, where we’ll be revisiting the exciting connection between colleges and employers. That fire was lit back at the eHRM conference in New York when Lexy Martin presented a statistical analysis of the Sierra-Cedar survey results alongside a member of academia, Dr. Janet Marler. We expect that it may become Hive Tech’s our own version of continued learning, and ability to impact continued learning itself. So, keep an eye out for our observations from New Orleans!

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