In the last five years or so, I’ve attended in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 conferences. These include events of all sizes, formats, and subjects in at least six countries that I can remember. I’ve attended everything from small 10-person conferences to large conferences like SHRM, WebSummit, SXSW, and the 160,000-attendee behemoth Dreamforce. I’ve been to conferences that had only coffee and grocery store cookies as refreshments, and I’ve been to events where the food was on par with Michelin Star restaurants and the entertainment included the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Stevie Wonder, The Foo Fighters, and U2, to namedrop a few. However, the size of the conference doesn’t necessarily directly reflect the quality of the content and value I walked away with.
In March, I attended my first Avature Conference with just over 300 attendees, and I was completely blown away. I joined the Avature team last July and have been hearing about the conference ever since. Believe me, whatever I’d heard leading up to the week in Miami didn’t prepare me for my time there with our geographically dispersed internal team and external attendees.
Beyond the sunny location and spectacular venue, here are some of the reasons why I think the Avature Conference is worth attending.
Customer Presentations Steal the Show
In my opinion, the most unique aspect of the Avature Conference is the lineup of customer presentations on the main stage. Sure, most conferences are comprised of organizations talking about their experiences dealing with challenges like hiring and keeping millennials, the future of the workforce, candidate experience, HR transformation, etc. However, I’ve found these presentations mostly consist of study results and statistics, opinions, and theories. I’m not saying these aren’t valuable, but I was constantly scanning the room and could almost see lightbulbs go off above those in attendance as they connected with what the presenters were saying. Given that the crowd was mixed with both current customers and prospects, I couldn’t tell if the lightbulb moments were caused by identifying how their users could use Avature in a way they were previously unaware of or if they realized Avature could solve their recruiting issues in a way their present vendor cannot.
Presentation topics ran the gamut from Cisco’s selection of Avature ATS to satisfy their desire for one united recruiting platform, Siemens’ insight on the importance of communication during the implementation phase, Ford’s use of Avature to engage with young STEAM talent, and much more. Some of the presentations even included live demos of their actual Avature instance. As someone who does Avature demos, I loved to see this!
I won’t describe all the excellent presentations, but here are a few of highlights.
The presentations kicked off with Epic Systems, last year’s winner of the best presentation award. Molly Stiffler and Jeff Sonntag took the stage in their astronaut cat shirts (which they never explained!) and talked about how Avature Onboarding is helping Epic “shoot for the moon” by creating an environment of engagement between internal stakeholders and new hires. Epic shared how they’re using Avature workflows to automate and streamline their onboarding process, while still providing the personal touch that helps build employee satisfaction and loyalty even before new hires walk through the front door.
Another Day 1 highlight was this year’s winner of best presentation, Heather Thomas from Sodexo. Sodexo employs 427,000 people in 80 countries, but still struggles with the same hiring issues that most employers face in today’s environment. Heather discussed Sodexo’s battle against talent scarcity due to low unemployment rates. She also emphasized that high levels of candidate engagement are necessary because of the commoditization of search tools—candidates are visible to everyone. Sodexo also has had to respond to a change in behavior for most job seekers, who now expect a more consumer-like experience. The most interesting aspect of Heather’s presentation for me was the fact that 28 percent of STEM candidates have become “digital deserters” by deleting their social accounts. She ended her presentation by discussing how Sodexo is using Avature CRM workflows, forms, lists, and analytics to engage with prospective candidates to ensure that Sodexo stays top of mind when they are ready to make a career move.
Day 3 had many great moments, and one of my favorites was Jeremy Bloom and Sally Hu discussing Cisco’s choice of Avature to unite all of their talent acquisition efforts. Cisco, a long-time user of Avature CRM, sought to find one system that could replace multiple recruitment technologies with a single platform that they could use across all functions and geographies. During their exhaustive search process, Cisco evaluated over a dozen vendors and used a 300-plus question scorecard to help gather feedback and determine which vendor they should select. Since implementing their Avature platform—consisting of CRM, ATS, Refer, Campus & Events, and Onboarding—Cisco has created over 800,000 person records, interviewed nearly 31,000 candidates, and hired more than 13,000 people.
Power User Track
Those who were part of the standing-room-only crowd in the Power User Track (PUT) room enjoyed hours of training and updates on various parts of the Avature platform, and they had opportunities to ask questions to our Product Marketing and Consulting teams who led the sessions. PUT was emceed by SourceCon Sourcing GrandMaster Jim Schnyder and consisted of presentations, live demos, and workshops. Participants were treated to sessions covering data modeling, automation techniques, and best practices while using Avature for sourcing, building pipelines, email marketing, and other candidate engagement methods. Interactive workshops were often employed during PUT sessions, allowing the audience to brainstorm and solve everyday TA issues together. As an Avaturian, it was amazing to sit at the back of the room watching the crowd log into their Avature instances on their laptops to use the tips and tricks in real time.
On the main stage, a few of the Avature presentations announced new products and capabilities.
Avature and LinkedIn Integrations
Avature Product Marketing Manager Carolina Lewitan joined LinkedIn’s Rohan Verma to discuss how our ATS customers can use LinkedIn and Avature together to optimize the recruiting process. With LinkedIn’s Recruiter System Connect, Avature ATS users will have an unprecedented ability to track candidate communication and stage transparency in both systems, as well as one-click import into Avature.
Contingent Workforce Management (CWM)
We recently announced our Contingent Workforce Management solution, an all-in-one social platform that helps organizations staff their flexible projects using independent or contract workers. The response thus far has been tremendous. The Vice President of Enterprise Talent Solutions at Avature, and Nina Jaksic, Product Marketing Specialist at Avature, took the stage to talk about staying ahead of the game by using Avature CWM to harness the gig economy. They discussed and showed how all stakeholders in the process benefit greatly from a platform that enables end-to-end service delivery, a talent community with enriched profiles and advanced engagement tools, seamless agency management, and a connected workforce.
We should all know by now how important retaining top talent is to an organization. However, if anyone in the main stage audience had any doubts about the value of tapping into their internal workforce, Robin Erickson from Bersin and Bill Cleary from Deloitte removed any doubts. The duo took the stage to discuss their recent study entitled High Impact Talent Acquisition: A Continuing Journey of Change & Complexity. The study reveals the relationship between high performing TA teams and their approach to attracting and retaining talent. Needless to say, internal mobility is a big part of a successful organizations’ tool set. The study provides eye opening statistics between tracking, training, and hiring internal talent and being a high-performance organization.
The Future of Avature
Avature CEO Dimitri Boylan and Director of Product Marketing Agustin Donati closed out the presentations by revealing the Avature roadmap for 2018. Future enhancements include advanced automation, user interface improvements, and enhanced mobile capabilities. I know I’m a bit biased, but I’d gladly put our roadmap up against any competitor. I was excited about working for Avature before seeing what’s ahead, but I’m even more enthusiastic after seeing what our product and development teams have planned for our customers.
Last, but by no means least, is a well-oiled machine better known as the Avature marketing team. Without a top-notch marketing team your chances of running a conference that people will remember, and more importantly that they will want to attend again, are slim.
Seeing our marketing team in action was like watching a flawless performance of a Broadway play. The audience is in awe of the execution of the production. Meanwhile, behind the scenes is a flurry of activity to make sure that everything happens according to plan and stays that way even if something were to go the slightest bit off script.
Of course, all of the Avature employees I met while at the conference are of the highest caliber regardless of their position. I’ve been in the HR technology world for about ten years, and I’d put the Avature team up against any I’ve been a part of, or met for that matter. Across the board, every person has an unparalleled level of knowledge and, better yet, an enthusiasm for the Avature platform. Those who attended the conference benefited greatly from time that they were able to spend with the Avature team.
Our marketing team, conference attendees, and I were all active on Twitter during the conference using #AvatureUpfront to tag our posts. You can check it out for more thoughts and information.
Next year’s US Avature Conference will be in Washington! Will we see you there?