HRTechEurope: less US, more Europe please

20131107-093846.jpgTwo weeks ago, I attended HRTechEurope. Marc Coleman and his team have done a wonderful job getting this event off the ground and I enjoyed myself tremendously. Interesting seminars, lots of new technology and eminent speakers.

But just like last year, some of the sessions left me feeling a bit, well, disappointed, especially when I listen to US analysts discussing the European HRTech space without a European in sight. Don’t get me wrong, I admire US analysts and think they are excellent, but as anyone who has worked in the European HR space can tell you, Europe is different. And I don’t mean mentioning Kirchensteuer in Germany or lunch vouchers in Belgium in your talk – that’s too easy. Understanding European HR goes beyond that.

Where else can you drive just 50 kilometers and be in a totally different HR space: different legislation, different processes and policies, ways of working, benefits, cultural habits etc. And because it’s a regulated market, you must know the details in order to be compliant. It’s not just understanding compliance, it’s knowing how to put that into practice. Even a European directive, like the one on data privacy, is implemented differently in jurisdictions within the EU.

So here’s the challenge I’ve given myself: I’m going to create an overview of Europeans in the HR Tech space. I have set up 2 Twitter lists: if you work in HRTech in Europe, you can add yourself to the list by sending a tweet to @let_anita using the #hrtech hashtag. And inspired by a question from @InFullBloomUs I’ll also be setting up a list for European HRTech analysts. If you want to be on that list, tweet me a link to your LinkedIn profile. And hopefully, next year at HRTechEurope, we will see more Europeans taking the stage!

  3 comments for “HRTechEurope: less US, more Europe please

  1. November 7, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Hi Anita,

    Thanks and point taken and my lunch break lost to replying. Some reasoning below despite our biggest and most successful production to date and overwhelmingly positive feedback since, we do need to hear this to keep ourselves grounded and on our toes.

    I am our biggest critic when we come back to the office from an event and my team hate me for it as it can dampen celebrations. It quickly sets the bar for next year.

    With events, you are not going to keep all the people happy all the time – air conditioning, heat, food, drink, natural daylight …. most especially speakers – session was too short, too long, too technical, I know this already, too HR not technical enough, future v now, no project milestones, accent was too German was the best 1 last year! not as exciting as speaker before (talking about integration challenges!). We need to have Pan European speakers so people need perspective on the realities of that …. its always going to be a mix, we vet it to find quality speakers and companies that have something new to say …. some of them are willing to give away lots of competitive intel and others not as much. We have a “no bullshit” policy so we keep the buzzword speakers and we do our best to keep out the speakers selling the same story each year. A good example is our London event earlier in the year – one of our speakers had a bodyguard guarding over the presentation material!

    This year our biggest “complaint” is – there is too much going on and we tried to do too much too soon which is fine feedback, however realities of business we couldn’t have doubled the number and increased the quality of the delegates had we not executed our strategy. Complaints in previous years when we were starting out is not enough scope or not big enough ;). This year – “there are too many good speakers speaking at the same time” – in fairness our biggest complaint is a good problem to have, especially considering HR Tech Europe was born in a recession!

    Regarding the European issue – even though I did not attend I “felt” this as well, it is a feeling. The plenary probably felt dominated but there was an equal balance and we played our strongest cards available for the dates. Co-located events were mostly European dominated.

    Fact. +70% (+60) of the speakers were European v Total of 16 US speakers. Half of the 16 US speakers were in the product demos so lets call it 8.

    Our best speaker was European/Cypriot – Costas and why we had him to kick off the show to what was supposedly a perfect start.

    The following panel was moderated by someone from US but 2 Europeans in Diageo (UK) and HP (Leader is from France).

    Naomi was first of US speakers – was loved again this year and hopefully we will have back again next year.

    Mark Hurd followed having one of the World’s top 25 most influential CEO at the show in our 3rd year was impressive – just Mark’s presence helped us raise the bar and profile this year and I believe for 2014. Our biggest sales and marketing tool has always been word of mouth. Sends a great message to our other sponsors and customers.

    Talking Heads – as everyone commented on twitter (I was reading and laughing from my hospital bed!) “Wow you do not see these 3 fierce competitors on stage together very often … ever!”. We wanted a European to moderate – we burnt over 5 good nominations and none could be used as each had their alliances or history with one of the top 3 and I believe we talked to everyone who could have done the job to the standard we needed. Thankfully, given that predicament Josh saved us and the only person strong enough plus with strong history and clientele in Europe. We have been working with Josh ever before HR Tech Europe was born. He did a great job by all accounts considering the difficulty of the role. I know some people probably wanted him to have a go and start a scrap on stage but where would that have gotten us, especially for us as these are the companies that have helped build HR Tech Europe each year. The World is Global – we had the “3 global heads” on stage – what more would our audience want? Nothing less. 1 South African and 2 US – there just happened to be no European in the role.

    On Analysts – this is something I highlight each year. Thomas Otter was the best European Analyst, and therefore most respected analyst in Europe. I know because I did the research – no other name came up in that research on Europe. I believe Gartner have only found someone to fill the role 2-3 months ago, she is American. There is no other European Analyst in HR Tech/HCM that I know that could take to the plenary stage and do what Thomas did in 2011 and 2012. Thomas is now on the Vendor side and because of that we lost that opening keynote neutrality that we need each year and there is/was nobody to even play in the same league as Thomas …. from Gartner, IDC, Forrester, etc. on Europe.

    Thomas is dearly missed from the opening keynote, he knows and he also felt it this year, Peter and I felt the pain when he told us! I remember a chat with Vincenz Kremer that goes back to my initial research in 2011 – “Marc the best HCM analyst in Europe is Thomas – anyone who was/is working as an HCM Analyst in Europe is now working for Vendor/Consulting/Integrator firms. I also know this from conversations with our enterprise clients – everyone knows there is a hole. All the Analysts are being picked up by the vendors or consultants. At Gartner – Jim went to Workday, Thomas went to SFSF …

    We closed with Dan Pink to hold the crowd and he did that. Dan Pink is not usually a closing keynote πŸ˜‰

    So less is more and I think our competitive advantage is Europe because it is a different beast with culture complexities, management models and styles, languages, etc ever before you get to Tech – whereas US is a more homogenous marketplace.

    Anita as you are spurring us on each year πŸ˜‰ we will look to be more adventurous next year not just US and Europe. The team worked hard this year to have more women on stage in male dominated area – we have done alot in 2.5 yrs and will raise our game again for next year. We know next years expectations will be even higher – scary! Marc.

  2. November 11, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Not sure, whether I have any knowledge on the nuances between #HRtech space Europe vs US, but following you people on twitter is amazing. Trying my best to know insights on this largest HR events and a sheer joy in reading this post. Thanks Anita.

  3. November 11, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    Sorry Anita above type O in my message. I was a bold and sent without proofing … we keep “OUT” the buzzword maniacs/speakers from our podium …. here is more on our selection process and history – and also provides a medium for reaching me directly if anyone wants to make strong speaker or analyst recommendations. Marc.

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