Key Takeaways from the HR Tech Conference 2022


Companies are waking up to the importance of the employee experience and its meaning for employee retention and growing their business. Leaders are looking for insight into strengthening company culture and psychological safety to improve employee relatedness at work, says Kirsi Nuotto, CHRO and executive leadership team member at VTT.

Last month, ten thousand people descended on Las Vegas for HR Executive’s annual HR Tech Conference and Exhibition. The HR technology market continues to grow at breakneck speed, and several non-traditional HR companies are joining the HR tech fray. This conference was an excellent opportunity for HR leaders to connect after the pandemic and learn from other experienced solution providers.

Yet, while a myriad of sophisticated tech solutions was on display, the theme of people really took center stage. In contrast to previous HR Tech events, keynotes didn’t discuss themes of automation nearly as much as they covered the employee experience.

Finally, after a global pandemic, the great resignation, quiet quitting, and the cost of living crisis, companies are waking up to the importance of the employee experience and what it means for employee retention and growing their business. Listen to any keynote speaker, and you would have heard them discussing how to strengthen your company culture and psychological safety to improve employee relatedness at work. And it’s not just targeted at HR – everyone from C-level executives to line managers were clamoring to prioritize people and the culture of care in their organization.

With this in mind, here are my top three takeaways from the HR Tech Conference and Exhibition 2022.

Establishing psychological safety is essential.

Did you know that just 24% of hybrid and remote workers feel connected to their company’s culture? Or that 54% feel burned out, and just 14% think their feedback drives change? That’s according to GarterOpens a new window , Employment HeroOpens a new window , and TivianOpens a new window .

Companies are shifting to the hybrid model for the long term and find it difficult to maintain strong company culture, keep the employee experience high, and have teams performing at their best. 

According to Amy EdmonsonOpens a new window , psychological safety – the level to which employees feel comfortable voicing their ideas and opinions and how likely they are to be received and heard – is the most important factor in strong cultures and, in turn, high-performing teams.

Organizations with high levels of psychological safety encourage team members to express opinions, offer new ideas, challenge the status quo, question decisions, take risks, and admit mistakes. Essentially, people are free to speak up about their feelings without fear of humiliation or punishment.

If an organization isn’t prepared to take risks, it won’t innovate. Companies that don’t innovate get left behind. But ultimately, organizations don’t take risks; people do. If employees fear failure and believe they will be punished or humiliated, companies will lose their top talent, who could take their business to the next level.

Leaders at the conference were adamant that caring about your people should be an explicit cross-organization strategy. Leaders now need to recognize and allow for the diversity of emotions related to changes in the company. 

To build a psychologically safe culture, every team leader at every level of the company has to display this behavior and act as a role model consistently. If this doesn’t happen publicly through their language and actions, team members won’t adopt or support this behavior or support others who do.

Practical examples of building psychological safety at work include; checking in with your employees and demonstrating your concern and interest in them as people, owning up to mistakes, showing that you value new ideas and perspectives through reciprocal feedback, encouraging open feedback, and providing multiple ways for employees to share their thoughts.

Not only does a psychologically safe company culture help people feel engaged and improve the feeling of relatedness to their work, but it also attracts and retains the best talent and drives an organization’s bottom line.

Companies that emphasize employee experience outperform.

Making the decision to put employee experience first and become a great place to work requires the buy-in from every single leader and employee to make it happen. Leaders hope we’ll get excited by the company’s new strategy and mission, but if people haven’t taken part in the decision-making process, they won’t feel connected or engaged with that strategy.

Leaders need to have the guts to talk about what’s happening and then show it in their daily actions. People need to see that you have their fears and concerns in your true interests.

In the past three years, people have faced uncertainty at every turn – whether it’s the pandemic, geopolitical events, meteorological disasters, or the cost of living crisis, people are more stressed and burned out than ever. And that has a huge direct impact on an organization’s financial performance. According to a report from Employment Hero, 54% of UK workers are feeling work burnout, with more than half feel that they have an average or poor work-life balance.

Providing a good employee experience boosts productivity and engagement while lowering attrition and employee turnover. By communicating and committing to a culture and company vision that puts employees first on every level of the business, employees work harder and more enthusiastically to reach their goals.

See More: Building a Millennial-Friendly Company Culture

Tech enables change  

Previously, tech has been considered as the driving force behind organizational change – putting the digital in digital transformation. Yet, digital savviness is not at the level many organizations would like, and digital transformation can’t happen without a people-first approach.

Technology is now considered as an enabler for change. Organizations aren’t driven by tech, they’re driven by people. And with people, developing emotional agency and psychological safety is key to change transformation.

Looking forward, people and tech will go hand in hand. When walking down the expo hall and seeing the solution providers, it was clear that employee listening is a massive area of tech and is expanding rapidly. As leaders become more participative and incorporate a wider range of diverse opinions in their decision-making, gathering data and providing two-way feedback to employees using these solutions will be critical. 


What do emotions and technological innovations have in common? Without emotional agency, we can’t build psychological safety. Without psychological safety, we can’t innovate solutions for the future.

Ultimately, no matter how great or fancy your strategy powerpoints are, people need to feel connected to the company’s overall purpose, values, and culture. I was honored to participate in a panel discussion at the HR Tech conference led by Jeanne Meister. I underlined the importance of emotional agency and talked about the successful experiment we conducted at VTT. With the help of training our 200 leaders to emotional awareness and developing our organizational practices, 12 out of 14 psychological markers improved, including psychological safety and commitment to the organization. Understanding emotions truly matters.

Which best practices have you considered to strengthen company culture and improve the psychological safety of employees? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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