Tech Trends: A Look at What’s Ahead for HR Tech

Technology touches everything in our lives today, changing both how we consume and how we work. Our team, for example, recently began to experiment with Cisco Spark, a cloud-based collaboration platform that incorporates file sharing, phone calls, team messaging, video chats, and more. That’s just one example of stakeholders leveraging tech tools to become more efficient—there are plenty more. As the market for enterprise tech continues to boom, one area in particular stands out as having an exceptionally robust year: HR technology. In fact, if 2016 is any indication, the HR technology market is about to undergo one of the most disruptive years in a decade. Let’s explore some of the top HR tech trends to watch in 2017.

Top HR Tech Trends for 2017

Josh Bersin of Deloitte has been following the HR tech market for almost two decades, and he recently produced a perspective-packed report on the state of the market. As you can see from Figure 1 below, Bersin found the evolution of HR systems has been drastic over the years as software has become more sophisticated and cloud tools and apps have become mainstream. I like this graphic because not only does it highlight the change in HR tech tools over the past ten years, but it also offers perspective on how the roles of HR personnel have collectively shifted as technology has become increasingly embedded in our lives.

HR tech
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte

Enough looking back. Now, let’s dive into what you can expect in HR tech in 2017:

  • People data collection turns to predictive analytics. Applying people analytics in HR isn’t a new strategy, but look for HR leaders to take it to a new level this year by incorporating predictive analytics into the equation. As tech gets more sophisticated, so do prediction models that can help HR teams see better hiring outcomes, less employee turnover, and a more efficient distribution of human capital.
  • Employee experience becomes paramount. Employees are expected to use a variety of tools required by HR, including scheduling software, benefits portals, digital feedback platforms, and more. In the past, these tools often lacked integration and had clunky, cluttered user interfaces that made for a poor employee experience. When functionality reigned supreme over experience, though, these challenges often fell to the backburner. Not anymore. Today’s employees want to be treated at work like they’re treated as consumers, expecting their experience with digital tools in the workplace to be seamless in terms of layout, ease of use, time to value, and more. HR tech in 2017 will lean in when it comes to user experience, functionality, and integration.
  • Marketing and HR collaborate to produce better hires. Marketers are known to be a pretty tech-savvy bunch, adept at targeting messaging across multiple platforms to best reach an audience. HR has been tapping into this capability for a few years now, using marketing principles during the recruiting and hiring processes with tools like Candidate Relationship Management systems. Look for this usage to jump in 2017, especially as hiring companies begin to market the employee experience (see above), not just the salary.
  • Performance management takes a backseat to coaching. Performance management has long been a hallmark of many existing HR processes. That, however, may be coming to an end. Of course, it’s still necessary for employees to be evaluated and for that data to be recorded for future use—the approach, though, is what’s about to change. Especially with the continued influx of engagement-driven Millennials in the workforce, look for more organizations to phase-in frequent coaching—a tactic emboldened by collaboration software and the accessibility of mobile apps—instead of traditional, anxiety-inducing reviews delivered from across a boardroom table.

What’s Next?

It’s undeniable that tech shapes your workplace. Today, it’s easy to get caught up talking about things like tools and bottom lines, benefits and timelines. At the end of the day, though, companies are run by teams of real people with real goals and challenges. Culture is an important part of disruption, and HR inherently plays a substantial role in developing and fostering that culture within your organization. Enabling them with the right technology to meet actual human needs is the basis for all the tech trends I mentioned above, and all the ones we’ll see in the future.

Does your HR team have any digital go-tos? Do any of the trends I addressed here sound like something you’d want to explore further? Tell me in the comments.

photo credit: Crestfelt Photography Matrix anyone? via photopin (license)

This article was first published on FOW Media. 

As Long As We’re Still Hiring

“Ain’t that the way that it’s always been?
Standing at the water’s edge waiting for the fog to clear
Tackle or touch, you sink or you swim
And hoping that he’s really got the power to save us from these sins
Everybody sitting around waiting for the sun to come again
They’re waiting for the sun to come again…”

—Brandon Flowers, “The Way It’s Always Been


Mom DispatchThe shift in public safety best practice was dramatic. Prior to early 1983, the Visalia, CA police and fire dispatchers managed a manual process consisting of writing addresses on slips of paper when taking 911 calls. Plus, tracking police officers whereabouts manually via radio communication was tedious work.

My mother, the dispatch supervisor at the time, came home stressed night after night because of the new computer-aided dispatch system being implemented and all the bugs that entailed, especially way back then. Not only that, her stress became compounded and complicated by end-user indifference and resistance – some of the other dispatchers and officers. Every single time there was a glitch; an “I told you so” response was what she usually heard.

But she embraced the changes that did eventually improve public safety delivery. In fact everything she learned about computers, databases and related technology systems were on the job at the police department. This experience led to other technology jobs including Motorola.

While this disruptive technology didn’t displace many if any city employees during my mother’s tenure, and in fact headcount actually grew due to the need to maintain the new technology system, technological advancements today do displace workers. Think of it as the John Henry syndrome, an Industrial Revolution folklore about a steel-driving man who had to compete against a steam-powered hammer in blasting holes in a mountain for a railroad tunnel. He won, but then he died, not the most uplifting tale about progress. This economic metaphor was covered in detail by one of my favorite business podcasts called NPR Planet Money with a “man vs. robot” series.

Good for those who are in-demand and have the skills and experience not yet undermined by a disruptive technology. Or those who have the means to retool and learn marketable tech skills like the trend of liberal arts or social science college graduates going to coding boot camps and spending thousands of dollars for a few months of tech development.

In fact, one of the NPR Planet Money episodes pitted a business news writer against a software algorithm to write a Denny’s restaurant earnings update, and the algorithm won. As a writer, this makes me worry about my own longevity, and according to an Economist article titled “Rise of the machines,” Kensho’s [quant] system is designed to interpret natural-language search queries such as, “What happens to car firms’ share prices if oil drops by $5 a barrel?” It will then scour financial reports, company filings, historical market data and the like, and return replies, also in natural language, in seconds. The firm plans to offer the software to big banks and sophisticated traders. Yseop, a French firm, uses its natural-language software to interpret queries, chug through data looking for answers, and then write them up in English, Spanish, French or German at 3,000 pages a second. Firms such as L’Oréal and already use it for customer support on their websites.

Unfortunately, we are losing more and more jobs to the “machines” – how many in the near future is debatable – although the Economist article references a paper from the Oxford Martin School, published in 2013, that concludes up to half of the job categories tracked by American statisticians might be vulnerable.

Because of all this is why we have disruptive HR technology empowering the adaptive ways we have to recruit and hire. Today’s hiring economy is highly complex, confusing and competitive. It’s like a classic high-performance engine we keep tinkering with, tuning up, swapping out old parts for new, with a lot of sweat and tears, even trying to converting it into a hybrid or an electric-powered vehicle, through every boom and bust cycle, especially the latest.

When I first entered the HR and recruiting technology market over 16 years ago, I went to work for a company called Our pitch was this: sources Interested, Qualified Applicants for software developer, IT, and Asian-language bilingual positions. You pay only for those candidates who you decide meet your specifications and who have agreed to an interview. You’re in control. Sophisticated artificial intelligence quickly predicts the likelihood of a match between interested applicants and a particular position.

It was cool. It was ahead of its time. It was disruptive. And unfortunately it became a demise before it really took off. Time and again we pushed our artificial intelligence proprietary matching system. I’ve seen hundreds companies of the past 16 years who claim their technology will help companies identify and screen the right applicant for the right position quickly and effectively, if not automatically. And there’s truth to that; there are many quality products and services that accelerate sourcing, recruiting and hiring.

Ah, but the humans in HR and recruiting strike back. In most of my previous jobs, I’ve hired dozens and dozens of employees – from higher education to high-tech to HR tech to marketing and PR. I’ve played recruiter, hiring manager and human resources, and it’s always been clear to me that the heart of hiring is a human one, and no amount of technology will permanently displace those involved in HR and recruiting.

It’s true that the next 5-10 years will bring unprecedented change to the workplace and the role of Human Resources. According to Alexandra Levit, a Future of Work speaker, New York Times writer, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, and a recent guest on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, there will be those disruptive HR technologies that will influence the form and function of HR in a myriad of ways including how and where we work today, how we recruit and hire, and how we train and develop the workforce.

Not every technological disruption will be adopted nor will it transform business for the better, but the fact remains that empowering a better workplace and workforce is continuous. And in the midst of all this disruption, there’s been an online dialogue of late about what we call recruiting and HR and how the various iterations are deemed too pretentious, clinical, or even distasteful and aren’t reflective of how the “heart of hiring is human.”

But after all of the above, who cares what we call it as long as we’re still hiring.