Predicting HR technology trends in any given year is a daunting task. Doing it while the world remains in the grip of a global pandemic makes it even more of a high-wire act. Having said that, I have some thoughts on what I believe will unfold in this space in 2021. Of course, any 2021 predictions are dependent on the efficacy of emerging vaccines, their successful deployment and Covid-19’s ongoing economic impact. With that, these are the four HR technology trends I expect to take shape in the coming year.
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1. A shift from merely piloting people analytics to truly operationalizing them
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, research firm IDC reported that workforce analytics was responsible for about $600 million annually in software spending. Factor in Gartner’s finding that 70 percent of organizations expect to spend more on talent analytics over the next several years, and you have the table set. The appetite for investment is strong, but how does that translate into the adoption of people analytics within organizations?
While pilot programs play a highly beneficial role, HR teams truly get buy-in for their analytics initiatives when positive ROI metrics start kicking in. That’s when operationalizing the investment bears fruit.
Some of the operational outcomes I expect we’ll see in 2021 as people analytics permeates the mainstream include:
- Predicting flight risk and flight triggers to reduce employee turnover, especially by engaging top talent
- Knowing how and when to engage employees in general through effective workforce planning
- Knowing where an organization achieves a close-to-perfect staffing balance by identifying talent gaps, as well as pinpointing its exact talent attributes and recruiting needs
- Finding the right talent quickly — a signficant challenge until today’s analytics entered the scene
- Identifying high-performing employees, activating what had been a typically dormant talent pool, and committing to accurately measure the impact of people decisions and initiatives
2. HR tech adapting to account for a growing remote workforce
Of all the workforce changes brought about by the ongoing pandemic, the exponential growth of the remote workforce easily sits at the top of the list. What does it mean for technology within the HR universe? For one, tech apps and platforms will need to continue to innovate ways to support the sudden, dramatic shift to a global remote workforce. In 2021, accurate new algorithms will focus on critical and often elusive HR initiatives, including issues such as performance assessment, productivity data and other metrics. Until now, those metrics have been almost impossible to measure in a remote work landscape. Plus, in the coming year, HR tech must uncover gaps in critical areas such as talent reskilling, upskilling or training. By smartly taking advantage of HR tech products and services, employers will enjoy a sharp competitive edge.
Some of the most advanced people analytics will even be able identify the employees who are the most successful remote workers. HR can then use data analysis to learn the attributes that make them successful and find ways to impart those attributes onto others.
These tools also will help employers access global talent without geographical limitations and, at the same time, help manage remote teams by offering virtual offices, augmented and virtual reality work environments, and advanced multimedia communication tools.
3. An expanded talent management role for AI and ML
I’m confident that we’ll see artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to have a major impact on transforming talent management. For one, they will determine active from passive candidates immediately after a job is posted – a major advantage. They will also more accurately predict how well a candidate might perform in a certain role. From a workplace culture perspective, AI and ML will help employees root out internal jobs they never considered applying for. Finally, the holy grail of talent acquisition – successful “blind” hiring – can finally become the rule, not the exception. Hiring decisions will be based on merit and performance, and little else.
AI and ML will continue to offer a powerful combination within the talent management sphere, all in the context of today’s growing remote workforce. Along those lines, in 2021, organizations will take advantage of AI and ML as they continue to improve the employee experience and determine how to measure productivity and engagement outside of an in-person, office-based environment.
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4. A rise of DE&I analytics
Finally, the ongoing, intense focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) will continue apace in the coming year. How will HR technology help reach those goals? For one, it will offer new ways of combining demographic data with performance, learning and compensation data. Plus, there will be improvements in the way hiring and recruitment data is analyzed alongside turnover rates to uncover biases or gaps in process. Other areas for meeting DE&I challenges include AI helping to analyze the diversity of a talent pipeline, along with strong advances in job posting analytics that can help employers realize their DE&I objectives.
While there are more ways HR technology will continue its clear impact on the changing workforce in 2021, to me, these four trends look to be among the most critical in driving talent management success.
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