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For the past 5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend the HR Technology Conference and be part of the tremendous innovation that is happening within our little slice of the space: Talent Acquisition technology.

To me, HR Tech is always the time to reflect on the trends happening in the space and most importantly, to connect with my friends and colleagues who are bringing efficiency and brain power to solve important problems in how we attract, hire and enrich our employees.

Once again, with one year under his belt, I thought Steve Boese did an awesome job advancing the conference, especially with the infusion of the Startup Pavilion and tons of interesting sessions at the event. Thanks Steve, and enjoy the well earned time off!

The big takeaway from this year’s event is the explosion of Recruitment Marketing as a discipline. It’s obvious that the number of Recruitment Marketing technology providers is growing rapidly and one of the largest emerging product categories in Human Capital Management. I’m very excited for the future and that the work we’ve done at SmashFly is already hitting mainstream (we were #11 in Twitter mentions this year!) See our Storify to get a roundup of the best tweets of the conference this year (including some hysterical photos). Too many great #HRTechConf mentions to count!


To recap the conference from my perspective, here are some quick hits:

The Exhibitors

  • The amount of new entrants in the HR technology space is increasing at a phenomenal rate. HR is a hot space for innovation, and there is a ton of money entering the market from a VC perspective (check out this great blog from Work-Bench). This was not just seen in the Startup Pavilion, but also in the existing vendors that are increasing their presence every year. It’s an exciting time to be in HR technology.
  • The space itself is expanding (it’s a $15 billion market today), with no area growing faster than Recruitment Marketing Platforms and Recruitment Automation (great conversation on Tim Sackett’s post on how teams will evolve with this new technology). And it makes sense. Hiring is becoming more difficult, and the way candidates make decisions to apply has changed drastically in the past 2-3 years. Companies that don’t use best-practice marketing principles in how they recruit will be left behind in the competitive job market.
  • It also was evident with the size of the booths that were present. Besides the massive HCM suite vendors, Recruitment Marketing Platform vendors probably had the second biggest presence on the floor. I also would say from my conversations with practitioners, that most came seeking out a vendor to help them use marketing best practices to build and convert talent pipelines.


The Industry Leaders

  • I’d like to thank the 37 thought leaders that helped SmashFly create our 2015 Recruitment Marketing Ideabook. The insights are invaluable to companies looking to embrace marketing in their talent acquisition strategy. You can download the Ideabook for free here.
  • It was an absolute pleasure speaking to the Godfather of HR Tech, Bill Kutik, at the show. I still remember visiting his home in Westport, CT, back when SmashFly was a small little company with a big idea. Fast forward to now and he offers the same great feedback and expertise on technology in today’s market and provides several insights on how we can make our software better. Thanks Bill!
  • I’ve known Kyle Lagunas for nearly 6 years, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about him starting Lighthouse Research & Advisory to cover the Talent Acquisition space. He already has a huge voice in the market, and I’m confident he will provide a unique analytical perspective with his upcoming Talent Acquisition research, which I can tell you will be very valuable for practitioners. Stay tuned here by signing up for early releases on his site!
  • I had a great conversation on the “HR Technology buyer” with John Sumser and William Tincup (separately actually) at the KeyInterval pre-show. If you have yet to check out their research, you should. It provides a detailed look at HR Technology buying trends based on proprietary data.
  • It’s always a pleasure to talk with Trish McFarlane. As a former practitioner and buyer in various HR disciplines, Trish provides a unique perspective on the trends facing Talent Acquisition and provided some tremendous insights into how to buy and sell software. Definitely worth tuning into HR Happy Hour w/ Steve Boese, the HR Ringleader blog and her blog on post-HR Tech action items.
  • I’m setting up some time with Christa Degnan-Manning to hear about her new advisory firm, Eudemonia. She also wrote a very good blog after HR Tech you should check out called “Technology is Dumb.”
  • I always make time to speak with Kevin Grossman. Kevin is heading up efforts for the Talent Board that runs the Candidate Experience Awards. I can tell you that the Symposium this year in Fort Worth, TX, was one of the best events I went to this year for Talent Acquisition, and the plans for next year are even better. I encourage you to check out the Candidate Experience Awards program and research.
  • If you have yet to check it out, make sure to look at the #HRWins research by George LaRocque. George continuously has his finger on the pulse of HR Technology and it’s great to geek out with him on the next innovations happening in our space.
  • I had an very interesting conversation with Claire Schooley on the evolution happening with the ATS and recruitment marketing technologies and the differing needs of enterprise and mid-market companies in regards to these two technologies. She writes a lot about this constantly evolving area on her blog and in her research.
  • One of the best presentations I attended at the event was Elaine Orler’s “Connecting the Dots: Talent Acquisition Technology in 2015.” I’m a big fan of Elaine’s presentation style and no-nonsense approach to helping practitioners better leverage and understand the technology landscape for talent acquisition. It’s also uncanny in terms of how accurate her predictions have been for the technology trends happening in our space! Definitely reach out to Elaine and the people at TalentFunction if you need to implement talent acquisition technology.
  • Robin Erickson provides some of the best research available on Talent Acquisition. In just over two years, Robin has already delivered compelling insights on the labor market and how organizations are attracting and hiring (check out the 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook from Bersin). As a Bersin subscriber, I only expect the research to get more valuable as it helps us stay informed on global trends happening in Talent Acquisition.
  • Sarah Brennan is the go-to person to have an honest conversation on recruiting CRMs and their evolution in Talent Acquisition. She doesn’t pull punches—follow her on Twitter and check out Accelir.
  • If you ever want to have an interesting intellectual conversation, you need to talk to Brian Sommer. Brian gave me and Lori Sylvia a lesson in how the candidate universe is less linear and more interconnected. Check out his latest insights via his Diginomica blog.
  • Every time we talk with Yvette Cameron and Ron Hanscome of Gartner we get great insight into product positioning and messaging. Yvette and Ron always ask the right questions, and it’s incredible to tap into their expertise during these conversations. Check out their latest research on Talent Management Suites.
  • It was great to catch up with Kara Yarnot and the work she is doing with Moe Hutt over at Meritage Talent. They produce a ton of great content and well worth talking to if you are in need of Talent Acquisition process and strategy advice.
  • I’ve always been a huge fan of Lou Adler’s blog content, and it was great to tap into his immense experience to get his thoughts on Recruitment Marketing Platforms to manage leads before they apply, as well as the evolution happening with sourcing.
  • Zach Lahey has been writing some great content on talent acquisition over at Aberdeen. He launched a new Talent Acquisition survey which I encourage you to participate in. Will be great to see the insights from the data.
  • I must have run into Lance Haun 10 times at the show, and I’m glad I did. He really understands the talent acquisition technology space and our conversations always provide me with a more educated view on the trends … as well as getting my sports talk fix at the event!
  • Very excited about what Lisa Cervenka and Jason Seiden are cooking up at BrandAmper in helping to build and leverage employee stories to provide transparency for candidates. Also, I heard Jason Seiden’s and WilsonHCG’s Kim Pope’s presentation on their new Employer Branding Index was a highlight of the show. Check out the 2015 Employer Branding research here.
  • I greatly enjoyed George LaRocque’s, Martin Burns’s, Kristin McDonald’s and Jillian Moulton’s session on “Selecting the Right HR Technology Vendor.” The overriding theme across the session was the importance of buying not just the technology but the partnership as well. Tech is only as good as the company you keep. Great point!


The Fun

  • It’s amazing how many smiles and laughs we received due to the SmashFly Astronaut moonwalking around the show. You can check out photos here. Also, huge props to our actor, James, who was a champ throughout the event!HR Tech 13
  • Cornerstone OnDemand, HireVue, Aon Hewitt, Bluewater Learning and The Educe Group hosted hosted a super cool event at the House of Blues with the Wallflowers. Just as fun was the great dance party afterward. Thanks for throwing an awesome party and excited to see what 90’s-00’s band you’ll line up for next year.


The Thanks

  • This year’s HR Tech marked the most successful booth in the history of SmashFly. With hundreds of practitioners, technologists, partners and customers stopping by, actively participating in demos and taking a few pictures in the photo booth, it was tremendous affirmation of how far we’ve come in the past five years and the incredible brand equity we have in the market. It definitely cemented for me that recruitment marketing is crucial to modern recruiting organizations and we are well positioned to help organizations optimize their overall talent acquisition results.HR Tech 10
  • A big thanks to our team at SmashFly for making this a great event including Mike Hennessy, Lori Sylvia, Scott Fowle, Rich Post, Josh Jackson, Debbie Tuel, Lynne Foster, Mary Grace Hennessy, Peter Richards, Ted Ruscitti, Natalie Williams and Elyse Schmidt, who supported SmashFly social remotely.
  • And last but not least, THE HUGEST THANKS to Deirdre Pelrin, who made the SmashFly Booth and show experience the best we’ve had to date (we were getting plenty of kudos). She’s crazy awesome!


That’s it for another HR Tech. Lots of innovation, positive momentum and great networking at this year’s event. I look forward to the next one.

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