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4 powerful HR tech marketer lessons learned at Unleash World 2022

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Ten years of Unleash (with a slight two-year hiccup) — long live Unleash. Last week saw us back for the 10th edition of Unleash World primed with all you would expect — beautiful stands, dancing figurines, reception DJs and the very best of technology and content tailored for the European HR Community.

Inspiring first impressions of Unleash World 2022 Paris

Day one started with a sense of nostalgia, familiarity and excitement to see what had changed, who would be there, what would they be speaking about/showing and what would I learn over the next couple of action-packed days.

As the first mainstage opened, David Green did a customary show of hands. I was astonished to see so many hands raised as first-time attendees to the long-standing exhibition — a new audience was born.

A supporting and thematic keynote

The opening keynotes set the scene beautifully for themes that rang right through every vendor pitch, every customer session and every tech demonstration. The world has changed. It has not stopped yet, and it is unlikely to anytime soon (it may actually speed up). We all need to be ready, to be agile, to adapt and for the first time, technology is not the only answer. It’s about supporting and unleashing the human too!

While Costas Markides focused on how you support humans in times of change (I agree, as he noted it’s more than the odd rousing speech), Peter Hinssen, self-confessed owner of the “Apple Chapple” spoke of what organizations can do to address the VUCA in front of them! These sessions, while hitting many of the same themes (and guess what, they are the things we are all experiencing), beautifully balanced the dichotomy of people and business as we approach the modern world of work.

Cornerstone customer session

Next up for me, from the mainstage and busy exhibition hall to an altogether more intimate setting — the HR transformation break-out, hosted by our very own Cornerstar and Unleash favorite Mike Bollinger. Here we heard from Cornerstone Customer ASML (probably the biggest company you’ve never heard of) and specifically Laureen Rwatirera, their chief learning officer, as she shared an inspirational journey of transformation and building global alignment to help engage and grow the multitude of roles and profiles their highly innovative organization has. One thing that stood out was the elevation in the role of learning in this business, as demonstrated through a comprehensive yet agile learning operating model. (Eat your heart out, COOs everywhere.)

Influencers, pitches and the grand prize

Following a Cornerstone stand coffee and a quick pastry at Paul’s, my next destination was the Influencers stage for the start-up award. The prize: $150,000 investment in their business. The challenge: Five founders/representatives from start-ups pitch for 10 minutes to a glittering panel of experts (new and old) put together by Unleash.

The pitches featured a range of featured tech, including job sharing, automated job architectures and fluid-structure collaboration. The topic of the day centered on frontline workers, with two of the five solutions pitched aimed at delivering better employee experiences for those often-forgotten employee communities. In a shootout between Oneteam and Blink (both excellent pitches), Ruben Wieman from Oneteam emerged victorious. Congratulations, and good luck to him and the Oneteam team!

Riverboat cruise with a splendid view of the Eifel Tower

As day one drew to a close, we saw champagne and cocktails on stands as vendors came alive with invites to soirees across the beautiful city that is Paris. As the industry came together to share food and drinks, alongside learnings from the day — some things felt incredibly “normal” again. Cornerstone was no different, as we passed the evening on a beautiful riverboat cruise through the Seine, joined by more than 40 customers and prospects!

Day two favorites from Unleash World Paris

Day two kicked off slowly, as it always does, with vendors and visitors shaking off the drinks and dancing of the evening to fire up demo pods and begin the day’s speaking agenda. The main stage was kicked off by an Unleash veteran and personal favorite of mine, Erin Meyer. I saw her in 2019 as she talked about the invisible Culture Map that influences how we interact at work — a useful session for any global citizen.

This time up, she doubled down on the importance of feedback in building culture and showed how organizations like Netflix were ripping up the playbook when it came to employee motivation and performance.

Creating a future-ready workforce

Day two also saw our very own Vincent Belliveau join long-standing customer Monica Rui Huang (Danone) to talk about the blueprint organizations can follow when creating a future-ready workforce. In a mix of big-picture and practical examples, they covered:

  • The pace of change businesses and people are facing (covering again this crucial level-set them, like so many before them over the two days)
  • The importance of skills — referencing the skills confidence gap between employers and employees and the positive impact skills can bring to organizational performance found in our 2022 Global Skills Report.
  • How organizations are using technology to solve the YouMe and We in their people strategy — balancing corporate priorities with individual empowerment and adaptively aligning for the greater good!
  • Some guidance on the barriers right now when it comes to tech choices. As you could see around the expo hall, there was a tool for every problem. The challenge is how talent leaders navigate what they can do versus what they need to do.

Lastly, one final session I loved during the event and was linked to the above tech choices in the market comment was Fosway’s “Don’t believe the hype” with David Wilson. Now, as a marketer, I love a concept and a model, but sometimes you love it when an analyst brings data, clarity and pragmatism to their viewpoint.

Conclusions and closing reflections

The world is changing faster than ever, and it’s not going to stop. The number of new jobs emerging due to advancements in technology is greater than ever before, as is the need for people to learn new skills quickly. Skills are still the big topic that just won’t go away. As we scratch the surface, we have even more questions and see more and more potential — the answer, more often than not, is how?

Organizations must find ways of continually adapting. The focus of organizations should be on investing in people to learn new skills in order to keep up with these changes. Data-driven approaches to the problem of employee skills and accelerating plans for skill development are crucial for survival. Organizations already rely on Cornerstone as a trusted partner throughout their skills journey, and we are deepening our understanding of the impact that we can deliver every day.

Thriving in the global skills shortage in partnership with UNLEASH

  • Discover five practical ways to improve your organization’s approach to skills development
  • Get access to regional-specific results from Cornerstone’s recent study
  • Understand the state of skills development in other organizations across the world, including how high-performing organizations are leading the way
  • Explore the employer versus employee confidence gap

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