A recap on the main HR trends, challenges and changes from Unleash, identified by the largest brands in the industry – but faced by all of us.

I’ve attended the Unleash Exhibition many times, but this year was still a first for me. It was the first year I didn’t feel the need to wear a suit, the first year I opted for trainers over shoes and the first year I attended in the role of MD at Hibob.

Making the decision to leave the senior ranks of SAP SuccessFactors, one of the biggest, corporate organisations dominating the HR industry and move into a tech start-up that was only just making itself known to the HR world wasn’t an easy one, but I’ve never looked back. However, if I was in need of any further reassurance that I’d made the right move – I would certainly have found it at this year’s Unleash conference.

As well as spending time at Hibob’s stand and hearing directly from senior HR professionals, I also spent time with former colleagues, industry influencers, journalists, clients and competitors. Everyone is saying the same thing: people no longer solely require one size fits all, big, global systems!

While there is no question that these systems still cover all the functional aspects of HR, they cover them thinly and just aren’t designed for the way people work today. It’s also worth remembering that the big three or four legacy systems we are all so familiar with, were built over 10 years ago, cost a fortune, take an eon to implement and roll out….and employees just struggle to use them!

Almost every keynote speaker, influencer and industry expert urged HR decision makers to purchase lighter, more agile solutions that integrate easily, are faster to adapt, provide more insight based data – and actually look and feel like the slick consumer engagement apps we use on a day to day basis.

It was noted – and even acknowledged by the brands themselves – that legacy systems haven’t been built with a consumer focused experience in mind. Why would they, the world of work has moved much faster than their technological change. Of course we still need the complex back end of these systems to facilitate must haves like payroll and compensation planning, (the ‘nuts and bolts’ as one expert journalist described it to me) but HR systems now need to be part of the fabric of everyone’s daily working life.

Employees have become much more consumerised and demand is forcing HRIS vendors away from being solely ‘destination platforms’ to ‘platforms of choice’. The employee/consumer expects the ability to interact and communicate in the way they are used to. Which means workplace tech has to catch up. It must be beautiful to the eye, simple to use and integrate with daily lives.

Of course we can’t ignore the functionality gaps between the big, global systems and the innovative, agile, newer systems, which is why integration was certainly the word of the conference! Specialist systems that neatly integrate to the ‘central HR experience platform’ gives the customer more choice, ensuring they have an end to end solution that meets their people needs and processes, but still enables them to grow at lightning speed, whilst retaining the culture that led them to that success in the first place. This new world of integration covers so much more than just HR functions, it allows for the essential use of people analytics (another hot topic of this year’s Unleash).

CEO’s continuously worry about how their people are feeling, but time, logistics and sheer growth factors can make it difficult to get to know and understand the true sentiment of their workforce. As big and small companies scale, only data can provide this level of insight. And this level of data can only be gathered when employees are interacting with HR systems on a daily basis.

Our personal lives are entwined with technology, our professional lives are no different. It’s time to stop thinking traditional HR and start thinking daily HR. That’s where bob comes in. And why I know I was right to leave the legacy systems behind and really champion the new age of HR.

I’m genuinely excited about the future of HR Tech and really proud to be heading up one the organisations that will play a huge role in shaping that future.


from Joel Farrow

Joel Farrow is Managing Director in the UK & Europe of HiBob, the people management platform. Since founding his first company at the age of 20, Joel has co-founded four businesses, and successfully run one of the largest cloud divisions for SAP. He spent more than five years at SAP and leading both SuccessFactors and Concur in the UK to great success. During this time, he also became a British cycling coach and a very proud husband and father of two boys. Joel is now incredibly excited about shaking up the traditional world of HR with his new adventure leading HiBob in the UK and Europe.