ruettimann robot monkeyOh man. I’m just back from HR Tech 2015. Some of you are new to this website, so let me tell you about the event: it’s a conference where a bunch of nerds talk about technology in the human resources industry.

I had a cold before I even left my home in Raleigh. In my free time, I played roulette and blackjack with my buddy Jennifer McClure. I hung out with a bunch of sketchy dudes friends from Fistful of Talent. I spent a fortune on taxi cabs.

Thankfully, I survived.

What, exactly, is HR technology?

Well, it’s the systems and platforms that get people to work all over the globe. Did you visit a job board during your job search? Did you have a background check before you started a job? Do you clock into a system, or do get a paycheck and health insurance? That’s HR technology.

Should HR technology be called something else?

This industry is an amalgamation of tech that was once administered and managed by human resources ladies. Now it’s finding its way to front-line supervisors and managers without HR’s approval. That means you don’t need a human resources department to use HR tech, which is not a bad thing.

And here’s another twist: your company’s finance team may purchase a system for itself and HR might be thrown in there so your CFO has an understanding of the company’s entire spend on labor from acquire to fire.

It’s not really HR tech, but it’s not not HR tech.

Why does HR tech matter?

Susan LaMotte made the case for not going to HR Tech 2015 because the event didn’t represent a useful vision for the future of human resources or work.

I believe the future of work is mostly automated. Robot-monkeys will do the tough stuff. What’s left are two classes of workers: highly skilled, heavily compensated knowledge workers and then a slurry of contingent workers who are employed by a third-party entity for short-term contracts.

Robot-monkeys don’t need HR, so I’m not sure it matters in the long run.

I attend HR Tech to challenge my dystopian thinking of the future of work.

Whenever I walk the expo floor, I see companies out there who are committed to people, not robots and algorithms. So I force myself to attend this event, every year, because I want to learn more about the corporations that want to make work better.

Who’s doing it right?

Lots of people. Let me tell you about some of my friends and clients.

I spent time with Castlight Health, a new client, and I like their ethos. For example, they write about how the cost of a mammogram varies by city and state. I love that kind of transparency in the health care system. We need more of it.

Then I met the team at Benevity, a company built on the act of corporate social responsibility and employee giving. They let me donate cash to my favorite charity from the expo floor, which was a nice touch. Then we talked about their product. No heavy sales pitch. No buzzwords or jargon.

I hung out with my friends and clients at CareerBuilder, who are a recruitment technology company and a job board, and we had geeky conversations about economic modeling and making life easier for my friends and colleagues in talent acquisition. Nobody on that team has time to be sarcastic when they’re committed to doing good work.

And I spent a ton of time with my beloved at friends at Globoforce who truly believe that technology can help you recognize your workforce and yield better financial results.

HR technology is okay. Well, it’s not horrible.

It’s not all pessimism, disruption and bitterness in the world of HR technology. There are good people who think critically about the global workforce. They fight the good fight. And attending HR Tech reminds me that not everybody hates human resources. Just Deloitte.

(I kid! I kid!)

I am looking forward to the conference’s return to Chicago in 2016. I think you produce a better level of conversation (and have a better ROI on an event) when you get people out of the cesspool of Las Vegas and into the middle of America where real work happens.

See you next year. Hopefully without the robot-monkeys.


  1. Hi Laurie, I see your FOT bio still mentions that you blog at The Cynical Girl. I used to follow you there but am under the impression you signed off to focus on this blog under your name. Just noticing and curious if that’s a thing that needs updating. Thanks for keeping us thinking.

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