A carnival theme and freshly-popped popcorn made the second annual HR TechXpo at Hilton Union Square in San Francisco a great send-off to summer — but thanks to excellent keynote speakers, the conversation got quickly down to business.

Is artificial intelligence (AI) going to take jobs? What is HR’s role in an increasingly digital workplace?

These forward-thinking questions were addressed by experts throughout the day. The event creator, the Northern California Human Resources Organization, planned an excellent agenda, as well as teasing it may be announcing a new name soon. So, stay tuned — and check out our top learnings below.

1. Employee Experience

HR leaders intuitively know that culture impacts productivity, and happy employees do better work.

Analyst George LaRocque spoke on “HR Technology Trends That Will Impact Work The Most” in the first session.

Studies do back up this claim. LaRocque cited Harvard Business School and Altimeter in his presentation.

LaRocque also advised that what works for a 5,000-employee company won’t work for a 100-person company, which is especially true when it comes to feedback programs.

2. AI and Machine Learning

We know AI will take jobs, but will it take MY job, you might ask. If your job is focused on scheduling appointments, then — maybe! But the difficult people-focused conversations that are required of many HR professionals are nowhere near being taken over by a computer.

John Younger from HireMojo shared on “Into the Looking Glass – HR Technology That Can Predict Your Future.”

One of the most welcoming predictions was getting notified that a top performer is at risk of leaving the company, and giving that person’s manager steps to take to address this risk. One of the creepier predictions was an email text analysis that could tell companies which employees were especially productive, or the cause of conflict among teams. Of course, we see the utility.

3. Strategic HR

Digital transformation is happening, but what is HR’s role?

Analyst Charlene Li presented “Leading Digital Transformation: Putting People First.” Whether change is digital or otherwise, change is always about people. Thus, Li makes the case that HR should be at the table and building the strategy, whether a digital transformation affects the whole company or is related to a specific department such as marketing.

Li would like to see HR at front end, pushing the agenda, that puts people first, she said — a digital solution isn’t going to work unless you take human element into account. That’s quite a mandate.

Were you at HR TechXpo? I’d love to hear your top learnings. Tweet with us at @reflektive or email dani@reflektive.com.

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