Making Sense of It All: How Technology Is Shaping the New HR Agenda

Oct 7, 2019 4:57:25 PM / by Mary Kaylor

HR Tech Large LettersRichard Branson is famous for the quote, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” This belief in the value of caring for employees is a prominent theme running through all the sessions at the 2019 Human Resources Executive HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas this week.

HR technology continues to change at a rapid pace, and it’s important that HR professionals recognize the drivers that are transforming this market. Understanding trends, and using this knowledge to innovate, will enable HR to position their organization for success in a world where finding and keeping the best talent has become the greatest challenge.

Josh Bersin, a global technology analyst and influencer, presented the keynote session Making Sense of It All: How Technology Is Shaping the New HR Agenda on Wednesday, October 2, and it was jam-packed with information about the latest movements in HR technology.

Bersin studies the global talent market and the challenges and trends impacting businesses around the world. He also examines how these trends impact the world of work, HR and leadership practices, and the broad talent technology market. 

What management philosophies are trending? Growth, development, job mobility, developmental performance management, highly diverse and inclusive talent practices, transparency, and the “network effect.” This is what CEOs and CHROs are talking about.

What else are they talking about?

Engagement 3.0 is all about the employee experience. In a world of incredibly rapid creativity and innovation, organizations will need to protect the employee experience layer. The trend is shifting from "talent management" to "work experience," and it's re-segmenting the market in a way that incumbent core HR vendors are scrambling to transition into this space. 

We are getting a little less work done per hour than the economy is growing. This gap is being born by increased stress and a lack of work-life balance, and it’s impacting employee health and productivity. Employers will need to reduce the level of pressure in their organizations. Implementing technology that is easy to use and that improves the employee experience is becoming increasingly important. The problem with all tech vendors today is that even they can't keep up with the pace of change. And since employers can only realistically replace core HR technology roughly every seven to ten years, they will need to look at how to layer emerging technologies on top of it. 

Complexity is out – simplicity is in. Every time you buy a new product, you create complexity in your organization. Employees are overwhelmed. Employers that simplify technology and focus on the employee experience will encourage greater levels of productivity and success.  

Wellbeing technology is a very significant market and growing. It allows you to run your company in a resilient way by providing information and opportunities for employees to rest and refresh. It’s about taking good care of your employees' physical and emotional health. And there’s a huge new market for engagement and retention technology that will help employers to do this.  

Curiosity is becoming a competency. It's a way of describing a growth mindset, and it’s a trend you will see emerging in 2020. CEOs will increase their focus on developing this competency to encourage more innovation. 

Emphasis on analytics in HR strategy. Employers will need to figure out how to use data in a positive way. It's not just about turnover and retention, but relationships and communication. Do you have the right privacy policy and is it secure? Is there bias in any of your talent acquisition or talent management practices? These are some of the questions leaders should be asking. 

The old career model is over. Generalists are going to rule the world. Generalists in every industry are becoming increasingly important because they see and do everything and have a broad perspective. They see the larger patterns. Employers will need to create opportunities for all employees to move around within their organizations and to share and develop different skill sets. 

Behavioral skills are in high demand. Candidates have good digital skills coming out of school but are lacking the soft skills. Organizations are looking for candidates with complex problem solving, communication, interpersonal, teamwork, flexibility, and critical thinking skills. This is a really big deal now and managers don't know how to build these skills in their employees. 

Employers will need to determine which behavioral skills are most needed to compete and grow, and develop internal learning academies that will build the capabilities that are most strategic to their organization. Additionally, they will need to accommodate opportunities for personalized micro-learning. 

Employees want to learn with you. Candidates are now telling employers, “If I'm going to join your company, I want to know what I'm going to learn and how it will help my career.” This has created a new set of demands for continuous learning. The Learning Management System (LMS) market -- and learning and skills -- are the keys to the future of work, but the LMS market is a messy space. There are hundreds of tools and explosive growth in the micro-learning space. Employers will need to investigate solutions to provide employees with the best tools to learn - and the time to do it.

Engagement 3.0 is also moving to "employee voice," NLP (Natural Language Processing) and continuous listening for everything from improving business processes to identifying safety issues. It's about building a transparent interconnected, data-driven organization – and it’s an operational issue – not solely HR’s. It's an entire feedback system, and companies like Survey Monkey are pouring money into the development of the employee voice market. We need to think about these not as HR tools but as action platforms. They allow managers to take action on the information to ensure their teams are highly functional and operating at their best.  

Everyone is in the recruiting business now and AI is most mature in the recruiting tech space. Replacing an ATS is as hard, if not harder, than replacing a core HR system due to the large amounts of data, but AI is becoming incredibly important in this space. You can now use AI to do things such as identify biased sourcing and interviewing practices. However, technology buyers can no longer differentiate products as "this vendor has AI, and that vendor doesn't.” All have it now, so buyers will need to evaluate the tech, based on the maturity of its AI and how applicable it is to their workforce.

A technology that is still immature, but in high demand, is gig work platforms. Companies will need a way to store and organize this data. “Every company is dealing with the gig economy and 88 percent of companies don't know who those gig workers are,” said Bersin. We need tech that can keep up with this new world of management. 

The overall theme that ties all aspects of the future of HR technology together is care. Employers who implement the technology that will assist in protecting and promoting the physical and mental health of employees, while providing continual opportunities for learning and development, will be the winners in the future. 

How are you caring for your employees?

Topics: HR Tech Conference

Mary Kaylor

Written by Mary Kaylor

Mary Kaylor is the Public Affairs Lead for the Society for Human Resource Management. She is the Managing Editor of the SHRM Blog and the creator and producer of #Nextchat, a leading global Twitter chat on the HR trends and all things work. Her career in communications spans from technology and workforce management in the telecommunications industry to external affairs and public relations. An HR Technology conference blogger since 2015, you can find her on Twitter at @SHRMKaylor.

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