futuristic handEvery year, HR Professionals, marketers, recruiters, vendors, analysts and media professionals converge on one building, filled to the brim with everything HR technology. This year the HR Technology Conference was in Chicago and was the largest conference yet. So what were the hot HR software and tech trends of 2012?

Personalized Automation- Sounds like an oxymoron right? Actually, it’s the trend of creating powerful tools that can analyze huge amounts of incoming data and sort it while still allowing the recruiter, sourcer or HR Professional to set parameters and do their respective jobs. More companies are realizing that social does not have the power to substantially change the talent management process without some amount of automation. Automated personalization systems solve the “drinking from the firehose” problem. Companies like Entelo, Talemetry, and Monster’s See More are all using automation to create faster, more targeted searches, distinctly honed to the organization’s needs.

Recruitment Marketing- While this may not be new, conversations throughout the expo hall hear it coming back into vogue, with an interesting twist. With so many passive candidate tools entering the market, smart companies are training their recruiters on specifically how to reach out to those candidates. Campaigns designed to reach a certain kind of candidate or even one or two very special candidates are proving a significant tool in the HR professional’s arsenal. Broad blasts and unwanted emails are being pushed back in favor of precision drip campaigns, detailed analytics, and data-rich CRM based workflows.

Customized Reports- I spoke with at least 7 HR pros who were frustrated with the lack of custom reports available in their software. It didn’t matter whether or not we were talking about background screening software or time tracking applications, the one gripe was lack of customization. As an increasing number of talent management professionals are learning about big data, software capabilities and (see above) targeted marketing, they are asking the very obvious questions, one of which is: “If we have all this data and all these ways to slice it, why am I still using a spreadsheet and using internal resources to get a report that should be standard?” It’s a smart question. Lots of vendors have multiple reports from which to choose, but more are starting to create dashboard wherein custom reports can be created.

User Interface- It seems like for years, talent acquisition and HR have been paying lip service to UX/UI. In fact, until recently, you could count the number of pretty, easy-to-use applications on one hand. Now true attention is being paid to the user. This may seem like a small thing but when you design for the user rather than a huge long proposal process that nearly NO ONE wants to be a part of, you get a ripple effect on other parts of the business. E-commerce and the buying cycle shift, marketing is changed, operations switches to a slightly different model and your actual target market gets blurry. Companies like SmartRecruiters, Nixia, Wowzer and Cornerstone (with the addition of Sonar6) are changing the way their users buy and interface with their products. It’s a massive and palpable shift.

End to End? Eh Maybe Not: I didn’t speak a single person who wanted to find one end to end solution for their whole talent management cycle. I did see a lot of vendors selling that way though. However, you can purchase a lot of today’s enterprise HR products in a modular fashion, allowing people to pick and choose their perfect solutions. Where this gets a little hairy is that many recruiters and even operations professionals are doing their best to integrate consumer focused solutions that may not integrate really well with tools built specifically for the HR technology market. But again, there are trends on the vendor side that promise a solution to that in the near future. Companies like SumTotal, ADP and SAP are all offering their solutions piecemeal.

That’s what I saw. Did you attend or follow the Twitter stream? Tell me what you think! What HR or recruiting tech trends should be popping this time next year?

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