HR Technology Conference: Key Trends and Providers to Watch

HR Technology Conference 2021 Review.

The HR Technology market is not slowing down. Companies are increasing their budgets, providers are launching new products, and investors are looking for their next opportunity. But, the landscape has changed overnight, and keeping up with the latest trends is not easy. Last week’s HR Technology Conference brought this community back together to bring clarity on the key trends, celebrate a year of resilience, and plan for what’s next.

New providers, new categories, and new opportunities were all represented at this year’s event. It was enough to get even the most traditional of HR buyers excited about innovation.

I was fortunate to meet with many providers, and a few themes stood out this year:

AI Matching and Talent Intelligence

It’s hard to find a conversation in TA tech that does not include AI matching. Every TA startup seems to be looking at this space, investors are interested, and companies want a better way to match candidates to jobs and jobs to candidates. Matching is the space to watch right now. ATS providers are enhancing their capabilities, but the two providers to watch are HiredScore and Eightfold. We found that 34% of companies stated that they are using some matching, and they are two times more likely to improve diverse sources and three times more likely to improve quality of hire.

HiredScore: One of the most impressive products and teams in talent acquisition today. HiredScore is committed to using ethical AI standards to help companies find and manage talent. In addition, it provides recruiters with a more efficient way to identify talent (both internal and external) and candidates with a fair and equitable hiring process.

Eightfold: Eightfold is a talent intelligence platform that includes talent acquisition, talent management, and talent flex (contingent workforce) solutions. It has grown significantly over the past year with 400 employees, 3 patents, and FedRAMP ready status.

Jobvite: Jobvite won an HR Top Product of the Year Award for its Zero Click Intelligent Sourcing. It automates sourcing efforts when a job requisition is first opened. The solution saves recruiters time while surfacing and activating qualified candidates from their CRM, Talemetry. Talemetry by Jobvite leverages AI-powered candidate matching to identify a list of top prospects found in a client’s CRM based on the requirements in the job description and reviewing previous hires from similar positions.

Assessments and Talent Intelligence

The assessment market is heating up again, and companies have better options today. Employee and candidate-friendly assessments that are still backed by science are the future of this market. It was exciting to see all of the assessment innovations at this year’s event. One provider that presented with Whirlpool was Plum. Plum empowers people to use their full potential at work. By looking at human potential data, they provide value to both recruitment and retention strategies. Its universal assessment is 25 minutes and supports the full talent lifecycle. As a result, Whirlpool experienced a 78% increase in the hiring of unrepresented minorities.

High-Volume Recruitment

Traditional recruitment technology and applicant tracking systems (ATS) are not designed for high-volume candidates. So, it is no surprise that 65% of high-volume recruitment needs are not satisfied with their current ATS. Most traditional ATS systems are designed for traditional corporate hiring and lack capabilities to support high-volume recruitment such as programmatic advertising, scheduling, or communication. High-volume recruitment technology must be simple, intuitive, and mobile-responsive. The fewer systems that companies need to manage, the better. Eighty-two percent (82%) of companies with high-volume hiring needs are increasing their investment in technology this year. Two providers to check out in high-volume are AMS Hourly and Fountain.

Hiring (Interview to Offer)

Hiring is one of the most critical and most neglected areas of talent acquisition. Companies invest significantly in recruitment marketing, sourcing, and ATS solutions but often ignore the experience and decision-making that begins during the interview and hiring process. Several companies are dedicated to creating a new category of hiring solutions. These providers offer innovative solutions in areas such as interviewing, assessments, measurement, and offer.

Wedge: Wedge provides on-demand video interviewing solutions to organizations in the SMB and mid-market. It offers seamless ATS integration, a simple experience, and a great team. It has invested in the product significantly over the past year with 12 new features.

HireVue: With its roots in digital interviewing, HireVue has evolved into a hiring experience platform with products and capabilities that include interviewing, assessments, conversational AI and communication (throughout the candidate lifecycle), and insights. It launched Builder this year, a product to support structured interviews and allow companies the flexibility to add their interview questions in this model. In addition, its Hiring Assistant (through the acquisition of AllyO) includes a recruiter assistant, scheduling assistant, and job search assistant. HireVue has also launched a text-to-apply feature and text-based assessments.

Compa: Compa was a favorite at this year’s event. A strong contender in the Pitchfest, Compa is transforming offer management by giving candidates more transparency around their offers and pay decisions. For any company struggling to find talent or hire talent because of pay, Compa is worth a look. It empowers HR and talent acquisition teams, to get smarter about the offer management process and connect with candidates in a more authentic way. Recruiters can use Compa at any stage in the talent acquisition process.

Conversational AI

If you follow any of our research, then you know how passionate we are about conversational AI. Conversational AI is not as complex or complicated as organizations may think. It is already an integrated part of the consumer experience and personal lives through assistants like Siri, Alexa, and others. It offers the same value and assistance to talent acquisition, and HR and over 40% of enterprise companies are considering this investment this year. The future of conversational AI is not in a point solution but in a platform that improves the employer and employee/candidate experience. Two providers that are doing this well include Paradox and Socrates.

Paradox: Paradox is a leading conversational AI. It continues to be the favorite in this market with its strong product roadmap, exceptional customer support, and vision for the future of TA. While many of its competitors have been acquired this year, Paradox is expanding its use cases beyond talent acquisition and helping build awareness of this category of technology.

Socrates: Socrates is a provider helping to solve the challenges facing HR, IT, and Employees. I was genuinely impressed with this provider and its innovative approach to employee experience through a conversational methodology. It uses technologies such as text, enterprise chat solutions, intranet portals, and voice. is not a bot toolkit or another point solution. Instead, it pulls all your HR and benefits information together into one simplified hub. It cleans and rewrites all content to make it more relevant for employees and integrates with every major HR and communication platform.

Employee Experience and Feedback

My friend, Tim Sackett, wrote about the number of coaching providers at this year’s event. I didn’t realize how big of a category this was becoming but considering the events of the past year, it makes sense. Companies need to be able to provide better coaching opportunities to leaders. Sounding Board is one provider I met with that has a growing network of over 200 coaches and AI-powered admin tools and centralized data insights to deliver coaching at scale.

The other big category in employee experience and candidate experience is feedback. We found that only 1 in 2 candidates receive feedback in the hiring process, and most employees only receive feedback once a year during the performance review.

Joyous: Joyous, founded by Michael Cardin (Sonar6), allows employees to own their feedback and experience. Joyous has a straightforward goal…to make life better at work. Through conversations and building a culture of psychological safety where everyone feels comfortable with getting and sharing feedback. The original vision of Joyous was to support Agile organizations, but every company can benefit from this type of collaboration and communication.

Programmatic Job Advertising

Programmatic buying has changed the face of job advertising. It has helped companies save costs, streamline job advertising, target the right candidates and maximize ROI. While traditional job advertising increases spend, programmatic reduces it. Once companies move to a programmatic model, they are unlikely to go back to a manual one. Programmatic was a HUGE topic of conversation last week, and it is exciting to see more awareness for this growing category of HR Tech. Providers like Appcast, Pandologic, and Vonq are leaders in the space and all had a presence at the event.

Internal Mobility

Companies can provide a fairer hiring process and make smarter hiring decisions to enrich upskilling and internal mobility. Companies can also identify skills gaps across the organization to plan and prepare for the future. As companies look closely at their hiring strategies for 2021 and beyond, skills-based hiring and internal mobility is a priority. Unfortunately, many providers offer basic capabilities in this area that include dedicated career sites and personalized communication to internal hires. Few providers go deeper with skills frameworks and career development. This webinar will include new research on skills-based hiring and internal mobility. It will address the challenges that companies face, the strategies they should consider, and the technology that enables success. Worqdrive was another Pitchfest favorite that is tackling internal mobility and retention.

One other provider taking an innovative approach to HR Tech is GraceBlocks. GraceBlocks is designed for talent operations professionals. It makes it easy to build and deploy systems that work for users including simple HRMS extensions and fully designed tracking systems.

It is an exciting time to be in HR Technology and I am looking forward to 2022!


  • Madeline Laurano

    Madeline Laurano is the founder and chief analyst of Aptitude Research. For over 18 years, Madeline’s primary focus has been on the HCM market, specializing in talent acquisition and employee experience. Her work helps companies both validate and re-evaluate their strategies and understand the role technology can play in driving business outcomes. She has watched HCM transform from a back-office function to a strategic company initiative with a focus on partnerships, experience and efficiency. Before founding Aptitude Research, Madeline held research roles at Aberdeen, Bersin by Deloitte, ERE Media and Brandon Hall Group. She is the co-author of Best Practices in Leading a Global Workforce and is often quoted in leading business publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Yahoo News, The New York Times and The Financial Times. She is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including the HR Technology Conference and Exposition, SHRM, IHRIM, HCI’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference, Unleash, GDS International’s HCM Summit, and HRO Today. In her spare time, she is a runner, an avid sports fan and juggles a house full of boys (where a spontaneous indoor hockey game is not unheard of!).