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Report from HR Tech: Where talent and tech intersect

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Today’s guest post is by Bradford Thomas, a manager at Development Dimensions International and a global talent management expert. He is a regular contributor on DDI’s blog Talent Management Intelligence.

We’ve turned the page on September. For many of us, this marks the beginning of the (sometimes) tedious autumn “shape-up-the-yard” season. For me this means cutting back hostas, raking a lot of leaves and winterizing my grass so that it is in a serviceable condition next April. If you want a healthy, green lawn next spring, you need to lay the foundation in October.

Coincidentally, this same message was working its way through the halls of the HR Tech Conference in Chicago last week. While many of the sessions focused on integrated talent management strategies and leveraging social media, the attendees themselves were talking about laying the foundation for job growth. They were focused on investing in the backbone technology systems that would enable them to more efficiently source, manage and select candidates.

The people who told me that they were beginning to ramp-up hiring ran the gamut of industries and regions: a high-tech manufacturing company in California, several services companies in the northeast and even a large financial services organization in the Midwest. This is a far cry from the fear — and even despair — that drove the talk at last year’s conference.

More importantly, it’s a great sign that we could be on the verge of a job recovery.

From a technology perspective, the attendees were focusing on upgrading infrastructure — applicant tracking systems, business analytics, employment testing — because they have been seeing a steady increase in the number of job seekers applying for openings. One VP of talent acquisition told me that in the past she would receive 100 or so resumes for open positions, but now she is seeing nearly 1,000.

We all know that the high unemployment rate is the chief culprit of this increase. It has led engineering and marketing professionals to temporarily suspend their careers and apply for any job available. A director of staffing for a hospitality company told me that “we’re getting some really capable people applying for these jobs, but I just know that when the economy turns around, they are going to bolt back to their preferred field.” A recent DDI study found one in every four workers plans to aggressively look for another job when the economy turns around — proof that the glut of readily available candidates is only going to increase as the economy shows more signs of growth.

Although we were at a technology conference, many of the sessions focused on more than technology application, but also on leveraging it into talent strategy. Technology is the means to the end, but the loud-and-clear message was that modern talent issues won’t be solved by technology alone.

Image credit, alexsl, via iStock