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HR Technology Trends 2015 (Part 1)

Posted by Mathew French

16 December 2014

The HR technology landscape is on fire with new growth and innovation. In this final Blog series before the silly season kicks into high gear, we've brought you an overview of the latest from industry leaders about HR technology trends in 2015. Bersin by Deloitte offers extensive research in this space, and their latest report on the trends in HR technology for 2015 outlines what’s hot for the coming year and beyond. Social and referral recruiting, talent analytics, assessment science, online learning, and core HR systems are leading the way in disrupting and innovating the HR landscape. New tools to help manage employee communications, engagement, recognition, and workplace wellness are garnering significant attention.

As an HR Professional, how do you keep pace with the rapidly evolving HR landscape as technology continues to enhance and remodel what’s possible? In this two-part Blog series, we give you an overview of what Bersin believes will be the top 10 disruptions and innovations in the HR tech landscape.

1. The shift from systems of record to employee systems of engagement

If you’ve been reading our blog this year, you will have heard us refer to the importance of engagement many times. In The Human Era of business, employee engagement will become more important than ever as a way of differentiating your organisation from your competitors.

Going forward, the selection and implementation of HR software will reflect this need for engagement even in the context of HR software uptake. No longer will the functional feature set be the main focus of the desirability of HR software, but rather the ‘degree of user engagement.’

This user engagement will revolve around questions such as:

  • Can people just sit down and use it?
  • Do they use it every day?
  • Is using the software tedious and therefore employees only use it when they have to?

There has been a total shift in the purpose of Human Resource Management and HRIS Software. Initially, they were primarily used by HR managers, but today HR has changed. Now HR systems are used by employees too. They are all 'self-service,' meaning that everyone in your organisation can use the software themselves. So just like all other enterprise software, the success of HR software solutions is dependent on how easy they are to use by employees, managers, and even job candidates.

e-Recruitment software solutions are a great example. Not so long ago these 'applicant tracking systems' were simply electronic filing cabinets used to store and index resumes. Today e-Recruitment systems are much more sophisticated. They run on mobile phones and you can apply for a job with one click and take an online integrated and customised assessment as you apply. The most attractive candidates aren’t likely to write a resume, they’ll probably upload their LinkedIn profile. This is the way of the future.

HR processes, which were once “paper-based HR practices” are now all online, automatable and easy to do. HR processes should be so integrated into daily working lives that switching between what you’re working on and the HR related tasks you need to complete is a seamless process.

What all this means is that the HR systems of the future are now ‘systems of engagement’ that can, and should be used every day, with ease and without much ado. This seismic shift; from ‘system of record’ to ‘system of engagement’ is massive, and not to be underestimated. It is radically disrupting IT and dramatically changing the HR software world.

2.  Mobile is becoming everything: mobile Apps not just mobile-enabled applications

What we used to call 'mobile' is now, essentially becoming 'the Internet.'

According to Kleiner Perkins research, there are now 5.2 billion mobile devices and 1.6 billion smart phones, while only 789 million laptops and 743 million desktop PCs. This means that your employees, most of whom are more than likely to have a smartphone, are 2-5 times more likely to access your HR applications on their phone than they are on their PC.

This is not to say that web applications are going away – but rather that the focus of new applications will be ‘mobile first.’ Vendors have to look at usage mechanics, user interface, and design of mobile apps. In a mobile device we ‘tap and swipe’ rather than ‘click and type,’ HR systems will need to reflect this.

And mobile apps are just that: apps. They are small, interactive, easy to use, single function systems. They look more like SnapChat and less like Outlook. They have red dots, simple swiping mechanisms, lots of feedback, and are fast and efficient. A mobile app should be usable within one or two clicks: many HR applications take dozens of clicks just to get started.

Think about all the typical HR applications that work better on mobile devices. Here is Bersin's list of recommendations:

  • Time and attendance: most hourly and consulting and service workers are mobile. They need a rapid fire mobile app multiple times a day.
  • Online learning: what better time to learn than when standing in line, sitting on a plane, or waiting at the doctor’s office?
  • Employee directory: in most cases employees will phone someone through a mobile device, shouldn’t the directory be there?
  • Goal setting and management: what if you have a great idea for a project or goal over the weekend? Shouldn't you be able to update these on the go, anytime, anywhere?
  • Employee communications: people are more likely to read a newsletter or email on their phone during off hours.
  • Job candidates: more than half all job responses start from a mobile advertisement and the best candidates are usually those who apply from their mobile devices.
  • Feedback and engagement: engagement and feedback surveys, which are becoming more dynamic every day, can be done on a phone in minutes.  

The trend toward mobile apps is only accelerating. With new products now starting to offer ‘sensing’ and ‘the internet of things,’ the mobile device will soon likely be the primary interface to all HR related applications.

3. Analytics-driven, science based solutions: data analysis is now the solution, not the product

HR software systems used to be like giant filing cabinets for masses of people-related data that just sat there, not really doing very much. Now, they do so much more. Bersin’s Talent Analytics research shows that organisations which go through the process of ‘datafying’ their HR function are seeing 2-3x better results in quality of hire, pipelines, and employee turnover.

And in many ways, the whole value proposition of software is shifting – the software itself is more and more like a commodity: it is the data, decision-making, and analytics that drive the value.

The HR analytics problem that most organisations have is simply one of investment. While finance, marketing, and supply chain organisations have been implementing analytics solutions for decades, HR is only just starting to get serious. Bersin’s research shows that only 4% of large organisations have any real ability to “predict” or “model” their workforce. However, more than 90% can model and predict budgets, financial results, and expenses. So the problem is not only one of poor analytics skills in HR, it is also a historic issue. That is; a lack of investment, poor data quality, and old fashioned HR systems.

HR is now beginning to understand this data related need. Bersin has called it ‘The Datafication of HR’ and is convinced that we’re at the beginning of a decade long transition toward data-driven people decisions.

What does this all mean for HR technology? It has profound effects: today organisations purchase buy HR software solutions because of their functionality and ease of use. In the not too distant future, organisations will be purchasing solutions because of their inherent ‘intelligence’ and ‘analytics capabilities.’


4. The science of leadership, assessment, and psychology evolves with Big Data

A large part of HR is dedicated to industrial and organisational psychology. This industry, dominated by statistics, organisational development, and psychology experts, has brought us many of the most powerful assessment solutions and leadership development solutions in the world.

Just as disruption has taken place in Core HR software, a set of disruptive assessment solutions is also emerging. New vendors are building assessment solutions based on “real time big-data,” rather than core psychological models. Many of these companies may start with the big five personality traits, but then quickly build tools to collect social data, peer assessment data, and behavioural data, which expand the world of assessment.

These new vendors are not only smart psychologists, but they are also data scientists – so they may find performance-driving characteristics never considered before. You might remember our blogs earlier in the year talking about the evolution of big data and the necessity for HR Professionals to have competency and a level of comfort with the evolving big data landscape.

Given the tremendous focus on work-life balance and better work environment, new tools that help HR Professionals monitor employee engagement and manage health and work-life balance are emerging as well. Tools which assess culture, fit, personality, and style are being redesigned and are now an exciting new part of HR.

5. Sensing, crowdsourcing, and The Internet of Things: systems become more real-time

As more and more people are using internal HR applications, they become more useful as employee sensing and communications systems. While most HR applications were designed for a top-down organisational structure, today’s business landscape reflects a flatter, more peer-to-peer way of operating. The result: HR systems are now becoming real-time communications systems.

Look at the Learning Management System, for example. Originally designed to be a registration system for training with an online course catalog, today these systems recommend training, connect people to content, people to information, and people to people. There is an influx of new social skills matching and content matching applications changing the way people learn. Rather than only take what training employees have been assigned, everyone is now able to also look at what training is popular. The ability of individuals to look at what courses are their mentors are taking, or are most active, give greater depth to the learning space.

A second category which is expanding at a rate of knots is employee feedback and engagement tools. These systems, which used to be annual surveys, are rapidly becoming real-time feedback, social sensing, and analytics systems that can gauge and measure employee feedback quickly.

Crowdsourcing or social systems are also transforming HR practices. Just the concept of voting up or down for certain ideas has huge power and is a very democratic way of operating. HR Professionals can now get immediate feedback or commentary on any new program, organisational change, or new idea. HR systems that facilitate this transparent sharing of information will likely become more mainstream.

Social recognition is now also popular and only getting bigger. Many vendors offer points-based recognition tools that let employees provide real-time ‘kudos’ and ‘rewards’ to others in their organisation. These tools have a dramatic impact on employee engagement, and engagement has become one of the most important issues on the minds of business leaders.

And finally, as mobile device vendors unleash a new wave of mobile phones and other wearables, we have more location and employee data available than ever before. One vendor’s tools monitor employee location and showed managers that engineers who sit at larger lunch tables are more productive! Bersin believes that most HR solutions should plan to accept and manage real-time data, real-time feedback, and continuous social feeds to provide value to people.

Stay tuned for part two on Thursday, and discover the rest of Bersin's hot picks for HR tech in 2015.

Topics: HRIS, HR technology, hr software

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