Technology has revolutionized the way HR processes and services are developed, delivered and evaluated. From sourcing, selecting and hiring to organizational design, network, teams and collaboration to employee experience and sentiment measures, innovative solutions have spread across every aspect of HR. To separate the noise from the news, we asked an assortment of HR tech experts to share their thoughts on the most important trends for HR leaders to be following as the year unfolds.
Trend #1: Employee-centric Products
While most people analytics projects to date have supported the business, there is an emerging shift towards using such products to provide value to the employee, according to David Green, executive director of Insight222, a London-based networking, consulting and learning business focused on people analytics. This is manifesting itself in personalized recommendations in areas such as learning and internal opportunities, along with individualized “nudge-based tips” to support better decision-making by managers and workers in areas such as productivity, collaboration, team management, and wellbeing.
Indeed, learning and development is the area where HR tech developments have been lagging so far, according to Tom Haak, director of the Amsterdam-based HR Trend Institute. “Most of what we see is old wine in new bottles, like making online learning solutions accessible,” he says. “To really enable learning in the flow of work, we need HR tech solutions that monitor and evaluate the work people are doing, and then offer personalized learning solutions, when required.”
As employees increasingly recognize HR tech solutions are designed primarily with the needs of the organization in mind, Haak expects to see a degree of resistance, as they ask, “What are the benefits for me?”
Trend #2: AI Technologies and Workforce Complexity
The increasingly pervasive deployment of AI-powered technologies is driving “the inevitable bifurcation of key HR functions into tactical versus strategic,” according to Jeanne Achille, CEO of The Devon Group and program chair for the Women in HR Tech Summit at the upcoming HR Technology Conference & Exposition. As the tactical aspects of recruiting, learning, and compensation are more easily automated through AI, Achille urges HR executives to watch the trend closely, as she believes there will be a new emphasis on people-enabled strategic relationship management. She predicts solutions such as organizational network analytics will help identify and calibrate the intensity and range of an employee’s internal and external influence and this valuable data will be used to inform hiring, succession planning, leadership development, and talent mobility.
While many would like to believe that artificial intelligence, algorithms, and machine learning are going to be the panacea that fixes all that ails HR, Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics at Sierra-Cedar, cautions that people are going to make missteps in those areas because they assume their organizations are simpler than they are. “We are going to come back around by the end of this year talking about the idea that workforce complexity is really the challenge that we have to address,” says Harris. “To do that, we have to really look at the technologies that capture that complexity.”
Trend #3: The Need to Humanize the Technology
As organizations increasingly rely on data sets and algorithms to guide their decision-making, Harris says HR needs to keep in mind that workers are “human beings with feelings and different approaches to how they are motivated.” While modern technologies allow an organization to determine how many hours someone should spend on each task and even how long they should take for a bathroom break, Harris stresses that factors such as how much time that same individual takes to voluntarily show a new person the ropes isn’t taken into consideration. As a result, that employee may find the time previously utilized for such valuable—but undocumented—activities has been cut. Thus, “optimizing the workforce to the greatest extent” will require HR to look past the algorithm into what’s really going on in the workplace.
Trend #4: Improvements in Tech- and Data-Savvy HR Talent
Investments in HR tech will continue to be massive, yet there remains a huge gap between these innovative new solutions and the competencies required to implement them, according to Littal Shemer Haim, an Israel-based people-analytics consultant and HR data strategist. She believes this will be the year in which HR practitioners embrace a data-driven mindset to adapt to the era of AI and analytics. This shift has already begun in large organizations, which are accustomed to storing an enormous amount of data and have the resources to invest in “technology and data-savvy talent within the HR profession,” she says, but this year, it will be embedded in small and medium companies as well. As a result, HR as a profession will change for good.
“Someone in the organization will have to deeply understand both business needs and people needs and find the best technological solutions that suit each of them,” says Shemer Haim. “Someone will have to take care of data integrity and privacy, to meet the expectations of different stakeholders, both executives, and employees. Who could do this better than HR people? It is their job, their duty, and in 2019, we will see them starting to close the gap between the new horizons that HR tech offers and their competencies to adopt it.”