Technology Is Shaping the New HR Agenda

By Dave Zielinski October 11, 2019
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​LAS VEGAS—Changes in the way people work are making HR leaders and vendors think differently about how they purchase or develop HR technologies, according to thought leader and industry analyst Josh Bersin.

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

Here are some of the key points from Bersin's presentation at the HR Technology Conference and Exposition last week:

HR Tech Moves Within the Flow of Daily Work

Bersin told attendees that innovative tech vendors are designing more of their products to be accessed within the flow of employees' daily work and to integrate with mainstream work platforms. Busy workers don't often have the time or desire to log in to stand-alone systems to complete HR-related tasks.

"Employees are so busy that they won't use a new piece of technology unless they think it is extremely useful to them."

Bersin said vendors and HR leaders should start thinking of platforms not as HR tools but as "action platforms" designed to streamline workflows, deliver data and create actionable insights.

"Line managers want to know what they need to do every week or month to ensure their team is operating at its best," he said. "They no longer just want infrequent HR data or insights for things like end-of-the-year performance reviews."

That means HR technologies need to easily integrate or embed with platforms like Slack or e-mail where they are visible and easily accessible by managers, he said.

Bersin called vendors' fixation on the employee experience "an almost existential thing that has changed the marketplace." Vendors across technology categories are creating products designed to make employees' work lives easier, more efficient and friction-free.

"We are not building software for HR professionals anymore—we are seemingly building it for employees," he said.

Internal Talent Marketplaces Trending Up

One new trend is the use of internal job marketplaces, Bersin said, where companies post internal job openings or project assignments and encourage employees to apply to them, in some cases using artificial intelligence (AI) to match people to opportunities.

He mentioned vendors including Gloat, Catalant and Fuel 50 as among those making inroads in this space. These platforms give managers easier access to in-house talent and, in many cases, allow employees to grow their careers internally rather than having to look outside the company for new opportunities.

Well-Being Tech Is Thriving

Bersin said the market for well-being technologies is exploding, driven in part by the growing stress employees feel from managing work/life balance, health issues or financial challenges.

"Well-being technologies were a sideline 10 years ago but are front and center today," he said. "Ultimately, it's about enabling your people to come to work ready to work."

Lorna Borenstein, founder and CEO of well-being company Grokker, told SHRM Online that she attributed her company's growth in part to the increasing challenges employees are facing in sleeping well, exercising, nutrition, emotional health and financial fitness.

Grokker gives its clients access to a library of 4,000 HD-quality videos from credentialed experts targeted to those issues. Employees can view the short videos as needed from their phones or tablets.

"We recognize that employees can have multifaceted challenges and often prefer short, high-quality videos that connect them to a community rather than reading text when it comes to well-being advice," she said.

A new product by Grokker called Streaks was named a 2019 Top HR Product at the conference. The app uses a combination of digital reminders and daily rewards to keep employees on track and their positive well-being "streaks" alive.

AI Goes Mainstream

Bersin said although AI has become ubiquitous in many HR technologies, buyers should be sure to do their due diligence. "Evaluate AI based on the amount and quality of data underpinning it, on the maturity of the model, and on how applicable it is to your particular HR challenges and company," he said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer in Minneapolis.

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