Top HR Technology Trends for 2018

By Aliah D. Wright Dec 29, 2017
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Artificial intelligence. Bots. Predictive software. Apps that regulate and manage nearly all aspects of life at home, on the go and at work. These tools will dominate how work gets done—both inside and outside the office—in 2018, experts say.

"The way we interact with technology will undergo a radical transformation over the next five to 10 years," according to findings in the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018 report published by the research firm Gartner. "Conversational platforms, augmented reality, virtual reality … will provide more natural and immersive interactions with the digital world."

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a greater role in the workplace—especially as intelligent systems learn how to adapt to users' needs "rather than us needing to learn the software," said Rephael Sweary, president and co-founder of the technology company WalkMe, based in Raleigh, N.C. "AI is already learning more about our individual roles, behaviors and actions to personalize how we use HR and other business software. With greater advancements in 2018, HR will significantly reduce learning and development budgets and resources, as technologies can contextually guide people on how to use any system."

Gartner predicts that while the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018 will create a competitive advantage, "enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders must evaluate these top trends to identify opportunities that their organizations can exploit."

Here are the trends affecting HR in 2018:

Blockchain

For recruiters hoping to verify candidates faster and more efficiently and payroll managers hoping to make international payroll less costly and more timely, blockchain technology cannot come fast enough. Blockchain is an encrypted, digital ledger of public records structured into clusters of data called blocks and dispersed over networks. Gartner said it is a powerful tool for digital businesses because it is easy to use and trustworthy. Experts predict HR professionals will begin using blockchain within the next 18-24 months.

AI

Making systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously will be a major opportunity for technology vendors through at least 2020, the report states. Using AI to improve how decisions are made, reinventing how work gets done, and revamping the customer experience will drive the payoff for digital plans through 2025.

Intelligent Apps and Analytics

Companies are using AI practices to make new app categories, such as virtual customer assistants and bots that improve common applications such as worker performance analysis, sales and marketing, and security. Intelligent apps have the potential to change the nature of work and the structure of the workplace. "When building or buying an AI-powered app, consider where its impact will be: in the process of how things get done, analysis, or to improve a users' experience," the report advises.

Intelligent Things Come to Work

AI is driving advances for new smart machines, such as autonomous vehicles, robots and drones, and is providing enhanced capability to many existing networks, such as Internet-of-things (IoT)-connected consumer and industrial systems. HR will need to be prepared to hire employees who can man drones, monitor drone safety and be mindful of Federal Aviation Agency regulations. "Autonomous drones and robots will undergo significant technical evolution powered by new machine-learning models and algorithms," the report states.

Conversational Platforms

Think of digital assistants Alexa and Siri. Within HR, such programs could be applied to improve employee self-service. Instead of going to the intranet and typing in a request, employees could "talk" to HR through its conversational platform. These tools will drive the next big paradigm shift in how humans interact with the digital world. "As the technology matures," the report states, "extremely complex requests will be possible, resulting in highly complex results. For example, the conversational platform may be able to collect oral testimony from crime witnesses, resulting in the creation of a suspect's image."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to HR Technology]

 HRIT Steps to Take

As a result, Gartner recommends that HRIT leaders:

  • Devise business scenarios using AI as the enabler for new business designs. "Do so by engaging, educating and ideating with senior business leaders about their strategically relevant priorities."
  • Create a more natural and immersive user experience by using, where effective, conversational platforms and augmented reality.
  • Support IoT initiatives by developing and prioritizing targeted, high-value business cases to build digital twins and exploit cloud and edge computing synergistically.
  • Adopt a strategic approach for security and risk that continuously adapts based on risk and trust. 

"IT leaders must factor these technology trends into their innovation strategies or risk losing ground to those that do," said David Cearley, who is a vice president and Gartner Fellow. "Multiple constituencies including data scientists, developers and business process owners will need to work together," he said.

Sweary added that "2018 will be a watershed year for HR, as continual changes to the workforce and technology advancements will give HR teams an overt opportunity to be strategic advisors in their organizations."

He said the successful adoption of new platforms by organizations will hinge on HR involvement.

"Digital transformation starts with understanding your employees," for example, "how they use mobile apps. HR will play a pivotal role in aligning company culture, talent, structure and processes to make sure that businesses select the right tools for delivering the best employee digital experience."

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