Explosion of new Technology on display at HR Tech

Explosion of new Technology on display at HR Tech | Mercer 2018

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Explosion of the new technology on display at HR Tech... and the realization that Tech isn't a Panacea
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Explosion of new Technology on display at HR Tech
Calendar06 November 2018

Last month, I was honored to be a speaker and panelist at HR Tech’s annual conference in Las Vegas, and it’s stayed on my mind as I met with colleagues and clients in the weeks since. As you’d expect from an event with “tech” in the name, the wealth of technology tools available for corporate HR professionals was vast – and as an HR Tech conference veteran, I can attest it was more impressive than ever before.

We know the pace of change is accelerating, and new entrants to the HR technology space have begun to disrupt the market. We can see the accelerated pace of change and disruption to the market in increased investments in the HR technology space over the last few years – the market is now nearly $400 billion.

Walking the expo floors, while overwhelming at times, was invigorating to see how far this market has evolved from the days of using technology to simply automate people processes. Here’s a few examples I saw of technology many of us in the HR industry would have thought unimaginable even ten years ago:

  • Augmented writing technology to recruit more diverse candidates. Johnson & Johnson reported an additional 90,000 female applicants in its pipeline last year using Textio to refine job postings (I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that Mercer published some research surveying the landscape of tech applications for Diversity and Inclusion purposes. You can read more here.)

  • Machine learning to drive intelligent recruitment automation, like automated chatbots to screen candidates, candidates’ recommendations, etc.

  • Virtual Reality (VR) for training, like Walmart uses for retail employees

  • Technologies that enable working with freelancers or remote/mobile workforces

  • Well-being tools that nudge and provide data to help employees exercise, stay mindful, and eat/sleep better

Our own Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends study calls this rate of evolution Change@Speed. This means that HR must solve for problems in the future, not just those we’re facing today. Companies that can adapt will stay relevant – and those who cannot, will fade away.

One of the leaders who joined me for our closing keynote session at HR Tech, Skritan (Tan) Moorthy, is Head of Talent at Infosys, and noted that his organization is planning for talent needs 18 months in the future – for skills and requirements that may not be widely available yet. This got me thinking. How can HR recruit, retrain or redeploy employees for business needs that haven’t yet developed?

One way is through workforce strategy and design thinking. What are the drivers of a role in the future, and how might they align with existing segments of the workforce and candidate pool? Do similar indicators of success for a role in your current organization exist for a future role where you have a gap? Then you may be able to reskill and redeploy some parts of your workforce, reducing a need for external talent – and that means your organization will need to embrace a culture of life-long learning at the core.

Do you notice something interesting about this post on technology? I’m talking about human employees more than I’m talking about tech. That’s not an accident – although this was a conference focused on technology, there was a strong recognition that technology is not the solution to solve our people challenges around engagement, learning, collaboration, or whatever business challenge is in the forefront - it is an enabler. This is the future of work – people-centered, enabled by technology.

I had to miss Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global speaking with SAP’s Jennifer Morgan, but I loved the message I heard from other attendees who were there. It’s not a coincidence that SAP has higher engagement scores than their peers – they’ve been thoughtful about designing experiences with the employee at the center, with a focus on thriving, health and wellbeing to create an engaged and productive workforce.

Pat Wadors, CHRO of ServiceNow, also part of our closing keynote, has long been a proponent of putting the human back into technology, since there is no need for technology if the human needs of employees and customers are unmet. Nearly every company at HR Tech voiced a similar challenge. How do you design an experience – and tools – for an inundated and multifaceted workforce?

Burnout, inability to focus, and disaffection are all issues in today’s workforce - email, multiple communication tools, and messaging from many other systems are overwhelming, and we as individuals and as leaders at organizations must choose technology that improves productivity, reduces noise, and helps teams collaborate more effectively together.

The best technology tools are those that become invisible and seamlessly integrate with the human elements of how work is done. Here again, our Global Talent Trends study identified this theme – that’s what we call a Platform for Talent, a smart platform that matches skill supply with work demand while maximizing human creativity and ambition. We know what the C-suite cares about most here:

  • Improving the ability to move jobs to people and people to jobs

  • Enhancing the employee experience

  • Accelerating the time to productivity for new hires

  • Simplifying talent processes

  • So, how do we do it? By leveraging the data, identifying what similarities thriving employees hold at our organization. Our 2018 study found several in common across companies, emphasizing internal mobility, lateral career paths, and exposure to new experiences, so that means either growing those capabilities or instilling them into our culture through conscious, repeated effort – no easy task.

    Are you seeing these trends emerging at your organization? If so, what are you doing to get ahead of the curve? When you think about the talent needs your company will face not today, but months into the future, is there anything that keeps you up at night?