More Mindshare for Accessibility: A Dispatch from the HR Tech Conference

Stage featuring HR Tech Hackathon speakers and banners.For three years running, PEAT has made the HR Technology Conference & Exposition a regular stop on our conference circuit. Given their focus on technology tools and trends shaping the field of human resources, it’s an essential event for us. We use it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the link between accessible workplace tools and the employment success of workers and job seekers with disabilities, from eRecruiting to human capital management (HCM).

This year’s HR Tech Conference took place in Chicago last month, and we left the event feeling more excited and energized than ever. Why? Because the topic of accessibility is finally starting to take hold in the hearts and minds of HR Tech stakeholders!

Accessible Tech Efforts on the Rise

It’s been incredible to watch this transition take place. In 2014, most of the conference attendees we spoke with didn’t understand what we meant by the term “accessible technology,” much less its connection to the employment of people with disabilities. The following year, we noticed some baby steps, with a few attendees and exhibitors expressing interest in the topic. That’s why 2016 was so refreshing. We witnessed much more knowledge around accessibility, and even some concerted accessibility-related efforts by HR technology providers.

Take, for example, the high profile announcement made by AudioEye, Inc. and ADP during the conference. These two companies are working together to enrich the user experience of ADP's human capital management (HCM) solution by making it digitally accessible to clients’ employees with disabilities. PEAT was excited to take in a demonstration of the solution, and to be cited in some of the companies’ promotional tweets.

Then there was the designer from enterprise software company Workday, who referenced accessibility in his presentation about user-centered design. “The user is the employee,” he reminded us, and technology providers need to give these users the tools they need to do their job. One of his key take-aways was the importance of planning ahead for accessibility, which can, of course, save technology providers time and money down the line. We loved hearing this message coming from the stage.   

Our team also had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from Oracle who demonstrated a strong understanding of the accessibility features in their products. They were quick to share public statements about Oracle’s commitment to accessibility, and to discuss accessible product features without prodding from PEAT.

PEAT’s 2016 Takeaways

Josh Christianson wears Virtual Reality goggles while using the ADP Virtual Reality exhibitOf course, attending HR Tech also always help PEAT to stay apprised of workplace technology trends. Here are some of our major takeaways, all of which have implications for accessibility:

  • Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are on the rise in HR. Leaders in the industry are learning how to use data to target their messages to specific groups and individualize their recruiting interactions.
  • So called “wearables,” such as watches and headsets, are enabling today’s employees and managers to provide real-time, on-the-job feedback.
  • Technology innovations and the prevalence of cloud-based applications are allowing for frequent system updates, which is one more reason that accessibility should be built-in to products from the start and not “bolted on” later.
  • Companies are increasingly considering employees to be key stakeholders—and using traditionally external, customer-facing tools to treat them as such. Firms are recognizing these to be differentiators that can enhance retention.          
  • In more and more of the companies represented at HR Tech, accessibility is being positioned as a key differentiator.

This last point is incredibly encouraging, and more than likely a result of market demand for accessible products and services—those that can help all employees and job seekers succeed. So hats off to the notable progress we’ve witnessed lately in the HR technology arena! PEAT looks forward to working together toward future progress in the years to come.      

About the Author

Josh Christianson photo

Josh Christianson

Josh Christianson is Co-Director of PEAT, overseeing its day-to-day activities and strategic initiatives. Prior to his role with PEAT, Josh worked at Deloitte Consulting, leading change management, technology and human capital initiatives at the Department of Health & Human Services as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs. While at Deloitte, Josh was a lead author of the report "Opening the Federal Talent Economy." Prior to Deloitte, Josh served as Career Program Manager for the Posse Foundation, a college access program focused on diversity and inclusion.