I didn’t give much thought to flying to Las Vegas on 9/11 for this year’s HR Technology Conference and Expo.
Oh, I knew what day it was. And when there was no wait to check bags or pass through security at Midway Airport on Tuesday morning it occurred to me that there there’s a residual hesitancy to fly on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Completely understandable.
I don’t think it really struck me until we neared McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and I was watching an ESPN special presentation on the healing role sports played in the aftermath of the attacks.
It became eerie as memories came rushing back. As we landed I recalled that I was supposed to pick up my mother from the Vegas airport the week after the attacks. Naturally she was grounded until flights resumed. When she finally landed, the airport was a ghost town. Fast-forward 17 years and the mood was definitely subdued.
If you’ve ever taken a taxi from McCarran you know about the infinitely lengthy waits. Not on Tuesday. Like Midway, no waiting. Same at the hotel registration.
So perhaps that’s why the opening evening welcome party in the Sands exhibit hall at HR Tech felt more subdued. I mean, we’re talking Vegas here, where there’s normally a roulette wheel or Elvis impersonator at every fifth vendor booth. It seemed like there was more coffee than booze, despite the pub crawl through the hall.
Maybe I’m mistaking subdued for getting down to business. Because it seemed like there was more talk and less action.
I know I got my gab on. I joined in Entelo’s “Hiring on All Cylinders” podcast to talk recruiting with Entelo Chief Marketing Officer Mike Trigg and host Sean Simerly. The podcast could have easily veered to Bears-Packers rivalry talk, given my pre-podcast chat with Trigg. But we stayed on topic, took a stroll down recruiting’s memory lane and made a few bold predictions to the future. It was a fun chat and if you get a chance, check out Trigg’s quick-read book, “Recruiting Automation for Dummies.”
Two Cool CEOs: My experience with CEOs, and a lot of people from the C-suite for that matter, is the air that they put on. Pretentious is putting it mildly.
That’s why it was so refreshing to spend time with two CEOs who were genuinely nice people. I only got to spend 15-20 minutes with ADP’s CEO Carlos Rodriguez, but it was an incredibly engaging and wide-ranging chat.
Rodriguez, who joined ADP in 1999 after his company was acquired and became CEO in 2011, admitted that being the face of an organization can be a challenge. We touched on how he’s reshaping ADP’s evolution as a legacy HR company to a more tech-centric organization. We also came to the conclusion that we are both introverts, but talking to people is part and parcel to what we do. And he’s pretty good at it.
Fun fact about Rodriguez: He once spent time as a magazine publisher.
While Monster CEO Scott Gutz doesn’t have a background publishing — I don’t think — but he has a deep background in travel and tourism technology. Gutz said he’s doing a lot of listening and observation as he settles into his new gig as Monster’s boss. Gutz and Chief Product Officer Chris Cho also spelled out how Monster is incorporating video capabilities for employers to visually tell their story.
Companies have been touting video as part of the recruiting process for at least a decade with little success. With 99 percent of companies lacking a video presence perhaps they’ve found a way to succeed where others have failed.
Quote of the conference: It came from iCIMS CMO Susan Vitale in a panel discussion moderated by Workforce columnist Kris Dunn. Toward the end of “Two Decades (and two years) Later — Why Is Recruiting Still So Hard?” that also featured Monster’s Cho and Jobvite’s Matt Singer, a question that invariably pops up at every conference surfaced again. Despite all the high-level conversation around technology, and AI, and machine learning, there are those in the workforce who are still struggling to find a way to modernize their paper-based recruiting.
A woman in the public sector in Kansas admitted they are a decade behind times and wants to convert their recruiting for the court system from manual to electronic. “How do we begin when want to invite a diverse group of candidates into organization?” She continued, asking if there is AI or other software to help eliminate bias they now deal with because of the “human factor” in their current recruiting process.
“Technology won’t fix bias,” Vitale responded. “Don’t ever let anyone try to sell you that.”
Great catching up: One of my favorite things of conference is renewing the relationships developed over the years.
The people at Bridge are fast becoming some of my favorite people on the conference trail. Their after-show reception was a great opportunity to talk all things L&D, conferences and … running. I enjoyed spending time with Senior Director of Product Marketing David Williams, while Director of Marketing Eric Fairbanks not only detailed his attempt to run the Wasatch 100 – that’s 100 miles at 9,000 feet elevation – but showed me how to lace my shoes to cope with running downhill. So THAT’s what that eyelet is for. It was also good to see Matt Bingham, who was still recovering from a previous day’s flight from Australia.
And I want to give a shout-out to the guys at Workspend who were in the booth next us at Human Capital Media. Dominic Furina, we still need to wrap up our conference observations chat.
About the conversations I had regarding our HR influencer story: Nahhhh, I’m not gonna go there. Even though I should.
Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.