The New Wave of Change in the HR Space

Jason Gowlett, Director of HR Operations, Direct Line Group

Jason Gowlett, Director of HR Operations, Direct Line Group

Technology has advanced considerably in the last few years and HR related technology is no exception with new players joining the market regularly across several different HR related disciplines. Innovation and the user experience are now the key drivers of change. The way we engage with HR Tech is no longer just the domain of HR as now every employee and each people manager want access to information and data at the touch of a button.

Technology in the Cloud

Cloud technology that a decade ago was new and risky is now the norm, and we are seeing on-premise functionality dying out. Providers have moved their core business to cloud-based offerings and whilst continuing to support existing on-premise customers, there is a key drive to move away from this kind of computing.

The benefits of cloud technology are widely known. It is relatively simple to implement and update compared to on-premise bespoke solutions with customers always on the latest version of software and with new functionality regularly being dropped into planned upgrades. There is also an added bonus to this for the customers of suppliers who support a user network—a problem shared is a problem halved. The downside of cloud technology is that business can’t have totally bespoke offerings and often need to reinvent processes.

Better User Experience

Advancement has also resulted in an increase in competitiveness in the HR technology space recently with people-related apps and engagement tools now being used more widely— discounts, recognition, learning and training, and engagement, to name a few. This means we are spoilt for choice when it comes to supplier offerings. It now becomes important for us in HR to understand the strategic direction of the suppliers and to fully understand the roadmap for product development.

"The progression of mobile/appbased self-service is a focus for many of the big HCM players, and the use of AI in the form of bots is becoming a more common feature"

New technology has made it much easier to integrate different apps and software, meaning, the big players can no longer assume you will use them as a one stop shop. Core HR systems do everything you want them to do now and it’s relatively easy to do things such as linking tasks together and building workflows. Changing providers has also become easier, with integration tools which are relatively quick and easy to set up meaning suppliers need to be much more customer focused, offer a good user experience and build long term relationships.

The ease of use and build has meant efficiencies within HR shared services as people’s time is moved away from non-value-added tasks to tasks that enhance the employee experience and wellbeing agenda. People Managers can now manage their teams with similar systems to what they use at home meaning learning to use these systems no longer requires expensive courses and help lines.

By far, the biggest single shift in HR Tech over the last 10 years has been moving away from company networks onto mobile networks, whether this is for learning, engagement, performance, selfservice admin, or pay- and benefits-related activity for employees, people managers, and HR professionals.

There is also an app for everything, and with most employees managing their lives on smart phones, it’s no big leap for this expectation to also shift to work related activities too. The progression of mobile/app-based self-service is a focus for many of the big HCM players, and the use of AI in the form of bots is becoming a more common feature.

We have noticed a significant uptick on our mobile app usage with every functional release that supports ease–of-access to employee, HR-related transactions such as performance, expenses, pay slips, holidays, etc.

Learning is an area for me where their big players risk losing out to more specialist suppliers, who focus more on the user experience and interface. Key processes and simplicity should be a given now, and needs to be the core to any learning system, the winning systems will be those that support people and enable them to learn the same way they would consume media at home.

Learning systems also need to use technology that can offer people learning recommendations before they even know they need it, similar to how Amazon does this in retail and Netflix for films, and in a way that is presented in an easy to use interface across all platforms.

The Importance of Data

Another area that has increased in focus in the last year and which will be even more important in 2020 is data and AI. We have so much data from recruitment to exit that it can now help us predict anything from how likely someone will be successful in a role, to who are the most likely people to leave.

The future of HR technology is leaning strongly towards enterprise activity; with suppliers either developing their own analytics and integrated platforms or partnering with data analytics tools to present key and complex metrics easily to HR professionals and stakeholders. This change, and the integration of data central with other business functions is driving us towards greater data driven decision making, putting HR in the driver’s seat when it comes to partnering strategically with business leaders. The trend is now firmly moving away from analysis towards predictive analytics, building on what we have, to forecast and understand the potential future.

As with all good strategic alignments, it’s important to use information and analysis to monitor and measure progress which will help improve timings on interventions and enable course corrections. 

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