Harris Williams professionals regularly attend industry conferences and events. On the flight home, they share three key takeaways to help shape your strategy.
Event: HR Tech
Report by: Mike Wilkins, Managing Director, and Erik Szyndlar, Director, Technology, Media & Telecom Group; Derek Lewis, Managing Director, Business Services Group
Why is this an important event for professionals active in this industry?
Szyndlar: HR Tech is the annual “go-to” event for people and products related to technology and tech-enabled services designed for the human resources market. It is the place to be for those who want to see the latest technology in the industry, from the large technology solutions to those entrepreneurial offerings disrupting the space. It also provides a great executive networking opportunity.
Wilkins: HR Tech gives you a good sense of the industry and where it’s going; the event draws companies who are seeking to accelerate growth of their business or potential partners and investors who are looking for great investment ideas.
Which trends, companies or business models were top of mind at the event?
Lewis: Unemployment is at historic lows. There is a lot of focus on solutions that help identify the right people for jobs in a cost-effective manner and get them up to speed more quickly. With the tight labor market, companies also recognize the importance of keeping employees satisfied and engaged rather than facing turnover costs. For example, identifying current employees that could develop new skills to fill open positions may be a better and less costly alternative than seeking talent from outside of the organization. So, there are a lot of interesting developments in technology focused on helping employers keep workers engaged.
Wilkins: There’s also a push toward creating a more seamless, personal and consumer-friendly experience when it comes to how employees interact with their employer. Technology can help employees more efficiently access the benefits available to them, or engage with HR tools for training, performance feedback and career progression. In fact, the entire experience can be facilitated through technology.
Szyndlar: Overall, there’s an emerging view that the HR function can be more strategic. This makes sense, considering a company’s workforce is often viewed as its most valuable asset. This “HR as a strategy” view is developing rapidly. Rather than the historical cost-center perspective, organizations are taking a proactive posture toward HR and investing in solutions that will help them better engage their workforce and provide a more rewarding employee experience.
What opportunities are these dynamics creating for strategic buyers and private equity investors?
Wilkins: Maximizing employee engagement and, by extension, workforce productivity requires a combination of software and services. There is now and will continue to be a need for both types of solutions, and the opportunity in the HR market is delivering these at scale.
Szyndlar: There is also a big opportunity to develop solutions that address different aspects of the employee journey. Companies with solutions that are best of breed for a given part of the employee journey should see disproportionate growth and represent solid investment opportunities.
Published November 2019