Technology is infusing every aspect of our lives from smart doorbells to artificial intelligence fueled hiring. Wise businesses pay attention to the ongoing shifts in tech to try and stay ahead of the competition and incorporate the best tools as they become available. But no one has a crystal ball and it's often hard to know what trends will last and which will quickly fade away. As we head into the second half of 2019, it's worth taking stock of the significant changes that businesses have, and will, encounter when it comes to HR technology. The big one is likely no surprise. The last five years have seen a dramatic rise in the accessibility and usefulness of AI. The 2018 HR Tech conference in Las Vegas saw pretty much all the vendors screaming from the rafters about their AI-enabled suites. That led to the idea that HR is now a “product business,” which is increasingly true, and that having AI in your suite of products is now “table stakes.” AI is still a major tech trend for the HR space, but right now, average employees are likely seeing its execution mostly in scheduling and perhaps benefits enrollment. It’s not necessarily at “scale” for the overall employee experience in terms of feeling it every day. So when moving beyond the impact of AI, what other HR tech trends should we be thinking about in the final quarters of 2019 and beyond?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
No, RPA isn't the robot uprising quite yet but you'd be right in thinking that it's about improving automation via software or AI robot workers. Michael Moon, the Director of People Insights at ADP, sums this up nicely:
Robotic Process Automation can be used to automate high-volume transactional processes that are repetitive in nature. This can help improve efficiencies resulting in lower labor costs and improve the overall quality of data in HR. When RPA is used HR Shared Services can shift their focus from the transactional elements of their role and instead handle exceptions, while HR Business Partners can get faster access to data and insights while having more confidence in the accuracy of the data due to reduction in processing errors.
Basically, the key with most emerging technology is “faster access with less mistakes.” Technology is a force multiplier. The goal is to do things faster and better while minimizing errors or compliance issues. RPA plays right into that and will likely be a concept we continue to hear more about as HR professionals look for new tools to help them.
Increasingly-scalable cloud computing, i.e. SaaS
Data, data, data. There are about 128 million full-time workers in the United States, and about 15.17 million full-time employees in Canada. Somewhere around 1.5 billion people work full-time globally. Most of these individuals are working between 30 and 60 hours a week. Think of all the data that could be gathered during that time on audiences of those numbers? It’s actually an overwhelming amount to even consider processing, which is why very little has been done with employee data for most of the last 30 years. Yes, there have been engagement surveys, collection of assessment data, and some companies are even excellent at understanding turnover costs and the like. But as the cloud becomes more scalable, there’s so much potential to collect, sort, analyze and act upon various levels of employee information and company information. We’ll increasingly see “data” become “action,” which right now doesn’t happen most of the time. Tech that helps gather, analyze, and clean this kind of data will become invaluable to HR and is no doubt an inescapable trend of the future.
The rise of wellness
It’s admittedly become something of a buzzword at one level, but wellness programs are increasingly important to organizations. Lance Haun, a notable “HR influencer,” recently did a whole newsletter on this. Remember: one of the reasons for flat wage growth is the corresponding insurance premium growth. It might be possible for employers to pay more in salary/incentives if the insurance side can be managed better, and effective wellness programs can help with that. “Wellness” itself is not technology, but there's a lot of technology approaches that touch the idea of wellness, notably gamification programs -- think about step challenges among employees as one basic iteration of that. As the focus on the employee experience increases, the need for strong wellness programs will grow as well. Companies can that get ahead of this trend may find themselves edging out the competition in the war for talent.
Direct sourcing platforms
One of the great ideas of recruiting in the last 5-10 years has been “bring great talent directly to you,” i.e. reduce the time on screening and what’s essentially “guesswork” about how good a person might be in your organization. What’s risen up is the direct sourcing platform, where preloaded resumes and employment histories help deliver quality candidates and referrals directly to you. Sourcing and screening are huge uses of recruiter time, as is scheduling interviews and rescheduling those same interviews. If you get a combination of direct sourcing platforms to reduce sourcing and AI to help make scheduling instant, recruiters -- and HR as a whole -- will have more time to focus on the broader strategy of the department, the approach to people, and more effective onboarding programs.
Have you applied for a job recently? It seems like every organization uses a different ATS. Whereas once there were 3-4 main players, there are now over 100. Same goes with different ways to measure engagement, different assessment tools, different platforms for freelancers, different benefits enrollment tools, etc. It all leads to noted HR technology analyst Josh Bersin saying “the market is a little out of control.” As he logically notes in that article:
Not only is productivity the theme, but simplicity. People are just too distracted and busy with their phones, emails, and messages – so we need HR tools that operate “in the flow of work.” Vendors have to rethink their solutions as “experiences” that integrate into Office 365, Teams, Slack and other tools – and operate flawlessly. We can’t send people to any more “destination apps” unless they are really fun, enjoyable, and valuable to use.
To his point, these days there's an app or solution for anything if you do a little digging. The key to this surge in available tech is to pick solutions that actually work with your business, instead of options that require a sizable shift in daily roles. No matter how interesting a new tool is, remember the power of simplicity. The coolest strategy in the world is useless if no one can or wants to use it.
HR tech is here to stay
At the end of the day, that one fact is inescapable. There is no putting tech back in a bottle. It's here to stay as is its impact on the landscape of work. And remember, your shiny HR technology competes directly with Instagram or LinkedIn for employee time and head space. So it needs to be intuitive but also seamlessly integrate with the other work they’re doing. Talent management will increasingly be about finding that balance in order to allow HR departments to be both efficient and relevant. While machine learning is valuable, remember not everything is about chatbots and AI robots. Keep the human element in mind when selecting tech and keep an eye on the HR trends of the future to make sure you, and your employees, aren't caught off guard.