2020 digital technology trends in HR operations

By Georgia Wilson
Business Chief gains insight into the HR digital technology trends of 2020 and digital transformation benefits they provide organisations...

Over the last five years, digital transformation has redefined the ways in which organisations operate and seen an increasing number of companies deploy digital solutions rapidly and at scale. As a result of this shift in mindset towards a digitally led culture, talent management and the need for new skills is changing how ‘traditional’ HR systems operate.

“In a recent survey, two-thirds of business leaders told us that if their company does not digitalise more by 2020, it will no longer be competitive. But in HR, digitalisation is changing everything, from core functions like the way we hire and develop talent, to introducing new burdens such as raising performance. We found that 88% of chief HR officers say they need to invest in three or more technologies over the next two years. It’s a huge undertaking and it’s no surprise many executives feel completely lost,” says Brian Kropp, Group Vice President at Gartner.

With organisations facing being left behind if they do not ramp up their efforts to digitally transform, here are the top HR technology trends that could help them do so. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA)

Whilst it may sound conflicting to suggest that implementing more technology can make operations increasingly human, Emily He, SVP of Global Marketing at Oracle, states that “the fascinating part of this AI revolution, is how automation is actually pushing the workforce to become less techy and more human.” Agreeing with He, Ben Eubanks, an HR industry analyst and influencer believes that “Every time work has been automated in the past, the resulting jobs and tasks have been more human in nature as we automate the less human aspects. These core human skills are important today, but they’ll matter even more in the future.”

Key areas within HR that have benefited from AI include analysis of employee surveys - known as voice of employee (VOE) analytics - and removing human bias. “Our new research shows that AI tools are better than humans at analysing employee surveys,” comments Eubanks, while IBM states that “as we work to develop AI systems we can trust, it’s critical to develop and train these systems with data that is unbiased and to develop algorithms that can be easily explained.”

When it comes to robotic process automation (RPA) the technology encompasses the likes of chatbots, natural language processing (NPL), machine learning, and AI. These capabilities can improve communications and increase productivity via access to the right data at the right time. Future trends for RPA within the HR sector include chatbots, with predictions that HR chatbots will be implemented at more than 50% of companies by 2022.

Common questions asked to chatbots relate to payment, holiday leaves, social benefits and employee general rights. By having the technology answer these simple questions companies can help to alleviate the burden on HR departments. “These bots can act as self-service platforms that allow the HR personnel to focus on responding to more complex and urgent questions that warrant their attention,” comments Jeremy Nunn, Forbes Council Member.

Virtual and augmented reality and wearable technology

One technology gaining momentum in the HR sector is the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The technology can help recruiting and onboarding processes by establishing simulated environments that test a candidate’s job-specific skills, sharing a virtual tour of your office space and bolstering recruitment efforts.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Candice Lanius of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), Dr. Lanius recorded more than 140 students' speeches while monitoring their heart rate via wearable technology. Based on the data, Dr. Lanius adjusted the curriculums to better prepare students to combat public speaking anxiety. This trend is predicted to emerge within HR to track the heart rate, body temperature, pupil dilation and other factors to provide an insight into employee stressors. 

Employee experience, HR guidance and real time performance feedback

It was reported by Gartner that among HR professionals in 2019, employee experience was one of the most important aspects of their initiatives, and will remain as a top priority through 2020 as they look to drive engagement and foster employee-centric cultures.

“Put systems, tools, and processes in place that enhance, not limit, their employees’ daily tasks and schedule but beyond the tools the most important is the value of the relationship and the respect to your people. Your employee is your first customer,” noted François Bornibus, the President of Lenovo. Such tools can include the use of real time performance feedback to allow employees and employers to receive regular, consistent feedback in real-time. This allows managers to have meaningful forward-looking conversations relating to employee development, which can increase engagement and productivity. 

he concept of HR guidance via an Organisation Guidance System (OGS) is also predicted to grow. Dave Ulrich, speaker, author, professor and thought partner on HR, leadership, and organisation sees “HR delivering value by offering more ‘guidance’ rather than simply scorecards, dashboards or predictive analytics.” Such systems would identify not only the desired outcomes of organisation investments but the roadmap to reach the outcomes and the requirements for sustainable progression. An OGS allows an organisation to identify desired outcomes relating to talent, organisation, leadership and human resources allowing HR professionals to provide a framework for solutions.

New working models and Generation-Z

ew working models are changing the way in which organisations adopt technology. While more flexible working environments and remote working is not a new concept with the outbreak of COVID-19, the increase in remote working has been exponential. As a result, organisations are looking to rapidly adopt remote working capabilities such as cloud and digital communication technologies such as zoom and microsoft teams; as well as ensuring they have the correct policies in place to effectively support their remote workers. This new style of working is only further being driven by the technologically savvy, Generation-Z which are beginning to enter the workforce.

Integrated systems and cloud technology

With the average HR function using 11 different systems just for recruiting, and the continued rise of digital transformation, the importance of integrated systems to maintain accuracy and efficiency continues to grow. In addition to integrated systems, high quality software is also critical. The ability to process large amounts of data via the integrated system is a valuable capability for HR professionals in order to save time and resources. This capability is driven by having a robust and reliable software solution that is adaptable as the company grows, which will ultimately improve a HR team's reporting and analytics capabilities.

However, “from an HR perspective, any changes to existing systems must be carefully considered and skillfully executed,” highlighted Venky Seshadri, Senior Sales Director and Product Manager at Accenture. While some capabilities will be more critical than others and will vary depending on the business, one thing is for certain, that when digital technologies are effectively adopted the capabilities bring value to organisations to drive sustainable and efficient operations.

Within HR innovative technologies can help to better deliver an organisation’s HR services. “Digital technologies remove some of the mystery behind HR processes,” adds Seshadri, by involving the workforce in recruitment, onboarding, performance review, learning and career development procedures, as well as opening up the ‘anytime-anywhere’ services with the use of mobility, social media platforms and smartphones.

While HR platforms can be built in-house, utilising a cloud platform is a more cost and time effective solution. The technology also provides flexibility and control for HR professionals to effectively customise applications to suit requirements, as well as the ability to make better decisions, improve efficiency, improve employee experiences, and improve HR compliance.


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