Citi’s Search for Innovation

There are plenty of tried and true ways to identify hot new HR technologies for your organization. Of course, you can attend events thinkstockphotos-489083454such as the HR Technology Conference and Expo, where this year more than 400 companies are demonstrating and sharing their solutions. Or you can read HRE, which regularly covers innovative new human resource tools, including its annual Top HR Products Awards.

But as attendees at an HR Tech Conference session titled “The Smarter Worklife Challenge: Transforming Software Selection to Drive Innovation” learned yesterday, HR leaders can also take a less traditional path.

Last fall, New York-based Citi, with the help of PwC, launched its first-ever Smarter Worklife Challenge, a competition aimed at uncovering innovative digital HR solutions, particularly those being developed by smaller entities that might not be on Citi’s radar.

As PwC Global Head of HR Disruptive Technology Bryon Abramowitz explained, Citi cast as wide a net as possible with the goal of identifying eight innovative solutions in eight different HR categories: recruitment, onboarding, real-time feedback and career development, training and mobility, connecting/social, predictive analytics, executive management and undetermined (essentially, anything else that didn’t fall in the other categories).

A total of 231 companies entered the competition by sending in a short three-to-five-minute video that explained the benefits and value of their solution. Judges reviewed the entries and selected 19 they felt deserved to go to the next step, which was to demo their solution at a one-day event held on Feb. 11 in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. All of them were assigned a coach, who helped them prepare their pitch.

“Many of the participants were small vendors,” Jeff Bienstock, global head of HR technology at Citi, pointed out. “But they were very innovative and creative.”

The competition gave these companies the rare opportunity to make their pitch in front of a company the size of Citi. Teams that made the final cut shared a cash award of up to $50,000, but as Abramowitz noted, the real prize was a contract with Citi, along with the feedback and experience they received as a result of going through the process.

To arrive at the final eight, Citi live-streamed the demos to potential users, who, along with those present in the room, rated them in real time.

Each winning vendor was also given an internal executive sponsor to help ensure funding and provide direction.

According to a press release issued by Citi, the Smarter Worklife Challenge award recipients included: Rocketrip (an employee-rewards solution), Infolio (a digital-workplace solution), Cooleaf (an employee-connectivity solution), Agolo (a business-intelligence solution), Butterfly (an employee-feedback solution), Yandiki (a people-management solution), HRIZONS (a career-information-management solution), GamEffective (an employee-gamification solution) and Starmind (an employee-choice award).

Of the final eight, Bienstock said, two decided not to move forward, two are currently in contract and the remainder are at other stages of the process.