Notes from the AHRI national convention (15-16 June).
Colourful industry: Our industry is much larger, varied and colourful than I imagined. Every conceivable workforce issue or process is addressed by one or more solution providers. Have you heard of Wise? Staffed mostly by ex-federal police members, they investigate and eliminate workplace bullying. NIDA, employing famous actors, brings a performance art approach to corporate training. ECE International provide remuneration solutions exclusively for Australian expats. Autopia will plant 17 trees for every new vehicle bought in a salary packaging deal. GraduateOpportunites offer all you can eat statistics on graduates. Loyalty programmes, reward management, training houses, recruitment firms, job boards, talent management software, payroll solutions, the list goes on and on. The ingenuity on show was impressive.
Training & Education: Increasingly important and apt for our turbulent times, the issue of training and development of staff stood out. When times are bad, educational institutions seems to thrive. Business schools, in particular, are heavily represented. It is interesting to see AHRI (the conference host) competing directly with many of its customers. E-learning is making a lot of impressive noise. It seems online delivery of training is fast becoming a preferred choice. How to maximise talent already recruited seems to be the flavour of the conference. I learnt onboarding management, retention, staff development and performance management are key concerns of businesses and growth area for suppliers.
Software vendors (talent management): The software landscape is noisy (You may recall the noisy Talent/recruitment management marketplace ). Vendors at the convention comes in all shapes and sizes. For the casual observer, it is a struggle to differentiate one from the other. For the discerning observer, it is still a daunting task. Look deeper and each of them have uniquely different journeys. CV Mail started life as a graduate mailing list, and now offers an ATS. SageMicropay have early roots in payroll now their product includes a recruitment module. Mindset founders have recruitment background, and they now tackle talent management. MYOB is synonymous with accounting software, but offer a whole range of workforce management tools. It is interesting how different vendors are shaped by their roots. I thought there is a marked difference in how a listed company and a family owned operation, view their business, their clients and their overall raison d’etre.
Overall, I am impressed by the advances in technology (Awed by the audacity of firms who try to address the entire life-cycle of an employee). End-to-end, all-in-one, seamless, integration and other geeky jargons dominates the conversations. While vendors cannot be faulted for parroting the virtues of their products, I wonder what tilts a customer to choose one vendor from another. Does telling the right story matters? Empathy to clients problems? Does the enthusiasm of those who manned the stall make a difference? What about the role of the ubiquitous brochures? The make-up of the staff? Perhaps, advances in technology may not be the main deal breaker that many (including the vendors) thought it is.
HR : I had the chance to meet a few HR professionals. Over coffee, Sarah Nguyen, shared about life at one Australia’s most intriguing technology companies – Atlassian. A predominantly Gen Y company, Atlassian staff blog and tweet profusely. Openness, independence and dissent (work related) is a way of life. Anne Ridgway, Head of HR, Australian Synchrotron, sourced skills that barely exist in Australia, and manages a workforce that is global in nature. Which talent management software will suit an open and innovative software company like Atlassian? Which particular solution paraded by the 100 or so vendors will address the staffing problem of Australian Synchrotron? While vendors made great strides, companies’ workforce challenges seems to always stay a step ahead.
Social media: Many of the vendors seems to be blissfully unaware of social media. Do you tweet? I’d begin a conversation. It seems many vendors go about their daily lives without (We have 100+ clients without using Twitter. Thank you very much) using any form of social media. If the status quo will or can be maintained is an altogether different matter. It seems HR folks in Australia do not tweet, yet. There is very little mention or use of Twitter, or social media for that matter (compare the relative quietness of #AHRI compared to #ATC09, a much smaller event). I later learnt Wifi access cost $100. It amazes me that in this day and age Internet access would be an issue at conferences. AHRI could easily increase its worth by making it easy for fans to spread their experiences.
Bottom line: Both the HR community and the vendors who serves them have a lot to learn from each other. I had many interesting discussions with a lots of interesting people. More post in the coming coming days. Photos.