HR Technology Takeaways from the SHRM23 Expo

Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP By Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP July 13, 2023

Conference attendees in the SHRM 23 Expo Hall on June 12 in Las Vegas. 

In "Making HR Tech Easy," work tech expert Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, makes complex HR technology understandable for all HR professionals, because having a high competency in HR technology is critical to moving your HR career forward.

The SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2023 (SHRM23) once again had a giant Expo Hall filled with every kind of HR technology you can imagine. If you can do it in HR, a technology vendor is out there attempting to sell you a solution to help you do it better and faster. There are probably dozens of vendors out there trying to sell you something.

The average large company HR tech stack has 15-35 different pieces of technology. Even small employers carry 5-12 different technologies across their HR tech stack. It's rare in today's world where any company would only use one technology.

That's why it's critical for every HR professional to take an interest in HR technology, especially in the segments and functions of HR you support. Having a strong competency in HR technology sets HR professionals and leaders apart from their peers, and C-suite executives are taking notice of people leaders who know how to leverage technology to care for the organization's most valuable resource.

After spending time talking with conferencegoers and vendors, here are my top takeaways from the SHRM23 Expo from an HR technology perspective.

The HR professional is confused as a buyer of HR technology. I spoke to dozens of HR professionals and leaders at the Expo who are all buyers of HR technology, and across the board, they talked about how difficult it is to know which vendor does what. Many told me that all the vendors sound the same because they all say they do everything you need, but that just isn't true. Vendors are bleeding into one another's segments and losing their core focus on what they do really well.

Most still don't really understand artificial intelligence or its impact. While vendors want to market their AI-based products, most HR professionals are still fairly early in their education about this technology. Vendors tend to be three steps ahead in their marketing and language and talk over the heads of their buyers. With AI, it would behoove them to slow down and continue to educate. The HR buyer becomes a nonbuyer if they don't understand the risks and rewards. HR vendors are selling all the rewards but few of the risks. "Don't worry about it" is not a successful buyer strategy.

Most early AI products are automation-based efficiencies. While we worry we are going to lose our jobs to robots, that's just not where HR technology is today. Most AI-based HR products will come across to users as digital assistants. These features will be built into the systems we are already using and help us be more efficient in the work we do daily: Helping us craft communications we edit and approve. Helping us create better data representations to share within the organization. Nudging and reminding employees to complete HR tasks that need to be done, but that employees tend to forget to do.

Payroll technology has been purposely moving into the core HCM space. The payroll technology space is one of the two most competitive technology segments in HR. Background-check providers is the other. Why? Because most of the time, payroll services have been considered a commodity. Payroll is payroll, just don't screw it up. But today, the major payroll technologies are becoming full-blown midenterprise HCM suites. Of course, they'll give you great payroll technology, but you'll also get core HCM, onboarding, talent acquisition, learning, etc. Payroll technology has discovered how to make itself "sticky." The more modules you use, the more difficult it is to jump from one provider to the next. I suspect we'll see some consolidation in this space, as it makes more sense to have a few major brands instead of the half-dozen we see today.

The startup community is finding the SHRM audience. More than 21,000 SHRM23 attendees make a compelling buying event for HR technology startups. SHRMLabs is building a community of HR technology startups interested in getting in front of that audience. SHRM has turned a corner with HR technology. Across the organization, you hear the leaders talking about it and espousing its importance. HR leaders need to increase their competency in HR technology, and SHRM is working to be at the forefront of that competency need. In the past, SHRM members put up with HR tech. Currently, we are leveraging HR tech. In the near future, the membership will drive workplace tech like no other time in HR's history.

Many enterprise HR, talent acquisition and learning vendors were absent. Big enterprise HR vendors such as Oracle, SAP and Workday apparently don't believe their core buyers and users are at SHRM conferences. I think they miscalculate this from a brand perspective. I spoke to some enterprise buyers and a bunch of users of the core big three HCM suites. At the very least, I think they should be at SHRM conferences to support those users who come to SHRM but not user conferences. Also, you see a ton of HR leaders who are leveling up to larger companies and taking the big payroll providers (Paycom, Paycor, Paylocity, Paychex, ADP, etc.,) upstream as their core HCM.

I did see some enterprise players, including Ceridian, Cornerstone, iCIMS, Paradox, Qualtrics and UKG, with a presence at the SHRM Expo.

Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, is the CEO of, the author of The Talent Fix (SHRM, 2018) and a popular speaker at HR conferences. You can read his daily newsletter at



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