Just one year ago, the world of work looked vastly different: The country was experiencing record-low unemployment, HR leaders were focused on retaining employees in a tight labor market and industry forecasters were plotting what the future of work would look like.
Then, the pandemic came—skyrocketing unemployment and prompting widespread economic uncertainty.
“But bigger than all of that is the transformation of companies, the transformation of jobs,” industry analyst Josh Bersin said during his Tuesday keynote address at HR Tech. Bersin noted that, just in the last few months, 40% of workers have changed jobs or roles, and a full 90% of companies have now instated a work-at-home policy.
HR technology is quickly responding to these, and other, changes, Bersin said. In this week’s HR Tech session, Bersin untangled the increasingly complex HR tech market, highlighting emerging trends. In particular, 2021 will see companies—and, in turn, HR tech tools—pivoting to a focus on integrating work and life, he said.
“That’s not novel,” Bersin said, “but it’s harder to do than you would think.”
Here’s how Bersin thinks next year will shake out across the HR tech market:
Core HCM systems are stretched thin, with massive demand and investment in HR tech at an all-time high. “The question is, can core HR tech providers continue to provide the level of innovation and flexibility they need to address the pandemic? The answer is no,” Bersin said. Traditional core providers have no choice but to shift into ecosystem structures—partnering with other providers to allow their solutions to integrate and address the myriad needs HR is looking for in its tech platforms.
Talent management tools are changing because philosophies of management are changing, Bersin noted. Managers are increasingly expected to operate as “chief empathy officers”—demonstrating patience, understanding, active listening.
“Companies that understand the need for belonging, inclusion, diversity, a growth mindset and constant support and collaboration are the ones that are going to thrive through this pandemic,” he said.
As such, the talent management space is among the most competitive corners of the market. New tools are tapping analytics and many are focused on training to drive fairness, diversity and inclusion, while other solutions are designed to help employers gauge and listen to the voices of their workers.
When it comes to the all-important employee engagement, HR tools are shifting from intelligent dashboard models to continuous response-action platforms—generating tons of data and analyzing it in near-real-time. Importantly, this approach also funnels analytics to the people who need the information and can act on it quickly, Bersin said.
“This is exactly the direction (that) the customer experience market moved in,” he added.
Learning & Development
Learning is becoming more like TikTok and less like YouTube—small bits of as-needed, entertainment-driven information, Bersin said. Much of the learning tools to come will focus on helping employees build their collaboration and business capabilities, as well as behavioral skills, which are especially in demand by younger workers. There is room for growth in both macro- and microlearning setups, and virtual reality is on the verge of exploding, Bersin predicted.
With the average large company utilizing a dozen tools for learning, he envisions a shift toward “capability academies.” This model considers learning as a performance problem in the company, so academies can be dedicated to issues like safety, marketing, sales—with learning programs for each.
Related: Click HERE for more information and to register for the free, virtual HR Tech, running through Oct. 30.
In addition to these trends, Bersin said, HR tech will continue to respond to the wider and quickly evolving business landscape. In particular, as flexibility becomes embedded in the way we work, companies are quickly moving from industrial hierarchies to talent marketplaces, and technology will continue to emerge to support that direction.
And, as the pandemic continues to unfold through 2021, technology will play an increasingly important role in addressing the fallout for workers.
“The big theme,” he said, “is figuring out how to reduce stress, anxiety, financial concerns, uncertainty and concerns about productivity when people are working under very, very ambiguous conditions.”
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