12 September 2018

‘HR’s biggest challenge is understanding the technology available to them’

Josh Bersin dissected the macro trends behind tomorrow’s HR tech on day one of the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas


David Richter


Future of Work HR transformation Technology


Josh Bersin dissected the macro trends behind tomorrow’s HR tech on day one of the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas

Regardless of whether presenters have focused on artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, or blockchain, a common thread running through day one (11 September) of the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas is that HR needs to avoid being dazzled by the latest shiny new technology. Instead, HR needs to take a deep breath, define the outcome it’s aiming for, and then determine if and how a technology can help achieve that goal.

While most of the speakers on day one applied this approach at an organisational level, renowned industry analyst Josh Bersin analysed the macro forces behind the trends in HR technology as he presented interim findings of the HR Technology Market Report 2019.

One of the major challenges organisations are facing is the slowdown in productivity growth, said Bersin. Despite all the advanced technology being deployed in the workplace, the rate at which the productivity of the workforce is improving is getting slower. Modern jobs are difficult and often complex, he noted. Technology can even be a hindrance, said Bersin, citing a study that found that the average US worker spends 25% of their time reading or responding to emails. At the same time, the skills required by workers to succeed in their roles is changing quickly: 70% of the technical skills a job requires become obsolete within five years.

Aside from the impact of these factors on productivity, engagement and training requirements, the expectations of employees for their relationships with managers have changed significantly, said Bersin. He challenged HR professionals to ask themselves, when considering introducing new software or technology, if that particular tool is going to help them get to a ‘green future space’ or if it is simply automating the way things are done already.

The tools required to support an increasingly agile workforce, which is assembled to work on multiple projects at a time, are incredibly varied, he said. Previously, there had been a drive by HCM vendors towards vertical integration. And yes, it’s nice to only deal with one vendor and a small number of contracts – but that’s not the be all and end all, especially if choosing a mix of best-of-breed vendors is more beneficial for the engagement, development and performance of your workforce.

Bersin also highlighted the new generation of HR software that’s being created by small vendors to help organisations manage their workers as a network of teams rather than as a hierarchical or centrally controlled corporation. The availability of these new tools is being aided by low barriers to market entry; it’s possible for software developers to build prototype SaaS solutions, take them to market, develop the products based on user feedback, receive investment and create profitable businesses.

Some of these new vendors are able to differentiate themselves from established enterprise resource planning (ERP) providers by incorporating AI into their products. The ‘old guard’ is struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation that the wave of new HR tech companies is delivering, said Bersin.

All these macro influences and trends points towards a growth in organisations adopting more and more specialist HR applications, which they have determined are the best tools for their particular organisations, concluded Bersin. The biggest challenge for HR professionals will be to understand the wealth of technology that’s available to them, and make sure their workers are able to find and use them effectively, he said.

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