Many of the HR technology trends of 2021 began or accelerated this year as the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how and where we work.
HR technology will continue to emphasize productivity and efficiency as companies manage remote workforces and position themselves for future change with a focus on the shift to human experience management (HXM).
Nine of 10 HR leaders consider themselves strategic partners in their organizations, especially with regard to addressing regulatory challenges intensified by the pandemic, according to the 2020 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey. This is a significant change from only a year ago when “strategic partner” was just the fourth-most common self-described role.
Eight of 10 HR leaders say technology supports their role as a strategic contributor to their business, Paychex says. Another 79% say technology enables their workforce to be more efficient and productive.
“In today’s world of knowledge workers, the biggest factor for success is the productivity of your workforce,” PossibleWorks wrote in a Human Resources Today column about top HR technology trends for 2021. “In other words, emerging technologies are now going beyond existing HR functions to actually re-imagine areas like people management, talent management, employee engagement, and performance management.”
Advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence in HR and cloud-based HR will fuel improvements across organizations as they adapt to the future of work, PossibleWorks noted. “A definite commonality across all the HR tech trends — whether that’s AI or gig economy or virtual reality — is that they will help to power this transformation.”
Collaboration tools help employees keep up with the information they need to work effectively—regardless of where they work. This can include anything from training documents to regulatory filings, LaborSoft wrote in a Human Resources Today column about employee relations trends and technology for 2021.
“Your HR software should include employee document repositories and expanded methods for collaboration between teams and HR, so that nothing slips through the cracks due to broken lines of communication,” LaborSoft wrote.
“Along the same lines, you also need to be able to easily communicate changes in workplace status to workers. If — for example — a particular employee came down with COVID-19, you'd need to be able to instantly track and notify other workers they'd come into contact with.”
Out-of-site does not necessarily mean out-of-mind for employers when it comes to remote workers. Companies are turning to next-generation workforce management and employee productivity monitoring to evaluate how employees spend their time.
Workforce management (WFM) solutions include software, services, and hardware that help organizations manage hourly-paid workers—from time and attendance to scheduling, absence, and task management, Gartner explains in assessing human capital management trends.
“Next-gen WFM has been impacted by trends such as employee experience, virtual assistants and, more notably, the flexible workplace.”
Similarly, employee productivity monitoring technology uses automated data collection and analytics to report on employees’ activities—such as how they spend their time and where they work from, Gartner explains.
“The digitalization of work has accelerated the ability to automatically track and monitor work activities. And the shift to employees working remotely has significantly increased the level of interest in employee productivity monitoring technologies.”
Gartner also notes that companies increasingly use HR technology for workforce planning and modeling. This “helps organizations be nimble in how they align talent efficiently and effectively,” analysts wrote.
“Workforce planning and modeling technology includes tools that enable HR professionals to plan and monitor the evolution of their organization by aligning talent supply and demand to various business scenarios. It has been a critical element for navigating the impact of COVID-19.”
Internal talent marketplaces give companies similar flexibility. Such technologies help companies match internal employees or contingent workers to short-term projects and work opportunities without the involvement of a recruiter. This is helpful in today’s “gig economy.”
“Where large enterprises can have trouble pivoting quickly and driving innovation due to heavy management and control structures, internal talent marketplaces have the potential to change that. They establish trust through feedback mechanisms and allow for worker-led innovation that helps workers take full control of their careers,” Gartner wrote.
Learning and Development
Virtual learning opportunities have become increasingly important to workers and companies alike as the pandemic has caused in-person training to be canceled or modified. “Learning management software can be a solution to providing remote access to online courses that enable businesses to achieve their performance management and continued learning objectives,” Paychex noted in predicting technology trends in HR for 2021.
Learning management systems (LMS) commonly includes features like advanced digital user interfaces, training course libraries for specific industry or workplace demands, and enhanced content such as videos, Paychex noted.
“HR technology that reinforces employee training as a top priority can help ensure that all employees, regardless of their physical location, remain engaged, focused, and are continually honing their skills. This in turn often leads to improved employee retention for a business,” Paychex wrote.
Companies are also collecting employee feedback in real-time so that they can help workers during the pandemic. “All of this data feeds into the decision-making process around improving workplace conditions and making smarter hiring decisions,” according to a Beekeeper blog post on top human resource trends to watch in 2021.
“COVID-19 has forced HR departments to rely even more heavily on data-driven insights to guide their decisions. In 2021, one of the driving HR technology trends will likely involve HR leaders combining multiple monitoring tools to gather data and turn it into actionable insights,” Beekeeper wrote.
The pandemic has permanently transformed how and where we work. The HR technology trends for 2021 will reflect how companies and employees continue to adapt to the new normal and merge with Human Experience Management (HXM).
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