Dusting Off the HR Tech Crystal Ball

It’s the beginning of a new year—and you know what that means. It’s time for folks to come out of the woodwork offering up their predictions for 2016.

ThinkstockPhotos-57451523Yesterday, Josh Bersin, principal at Bersin by Deloitte, joined the club with his report titled “Predictions for 2016: A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership and HR Technology Ahead.” As you might expect, it included a pretty strong bent toward technology.

I suggest you take a few minutes to read Bersin by Deloitte’s nicely crafted report. But before you do, I’d like to take a moment to share a brief conversation I had with the author earlier this week about his vision of the future.

Specifically, I asked him what he thought was the boldest prediction among the group.

In response, he was quick to point to the first item on his list: “Digital HR arrives!” In certain ways, he explained, digital HR runs through each of his nine other predictions.

“If you look at the evidence of what’s going on in the spheres of HR and talent management,  the challenges include engagement, culture, employment brand, dealing with millennials [and] skills development,” he said. “ If you add these up and throw them into a bucket, you would have to say everything in HR has to happen faster … . But the reality is it can’t. HR isn’t going to be twice as big and it’s not going to become twice as productive in solving these problems. So how [does it happen]. Well, the answer is that just as businesses are becoming more disruptive, HR is [starting to] disrupt itself through digital technologies.”

Today, he explained, everything is now being done through digital technology—“people learn, they’re recruited, they get information, they manage their time, they schedule their vacations”—and that is only going to continue to grow. “Unlike the computer, the phone knows where you are, it might even know your heart rate, and it interacts with you in a much more dynamic way than email or a form on a computer.”

Bersin pointed to the concept “design thinking”—an approach that’s used in other parts of the organization and is beginning to creep into HR. In solving a talent, recruiting or learning problem, he explained, you no longer just buy a solution, but you think about the user and change his or her experience.

He cited a recent trip he took to India, where he visited a company that was doing all of its recruiting through mobile phones. “People took a photograph of their citizenship documentation and emailed it into the recruiting process … .”

It represents just one of many examples of how HR is disrupting itself, he said.

As for the other nine predictions, here’s a quick, edited summary from the  press release …

  • The stampede to replace dated HR systems will accelerate. As HR organizations strive to build true ‘”systems of engagement” (versus systems of record), look for ease of use, integrated data and analytics to drive a massive transformational shift—away from traditional licensed HR software to a new breed of integrated HR and talent tools in the cloud.

  • New models of talent management breed a new generation of talent management systems. For example, the redesign of performance management to an often rating-less model is driving the need for talent management software built around feedback-centric systems.

  • The rush to replace and re-engineer performance management will accelerate globally. Many organizations around the world are moving away from top-down annual performance processes.

  • Engagement, retention, and culture will remain top priorities as new feedback tools come to market. As the competition for talent remains fierce, we expect the topics of culture and engagement will remain high on the list of concerns. Look for new tools, techniques and analytics methods to encourage and collect employee feedback and help leaders understand where culture and management should change.

  • Global leadership development, coupled with career and talent mobility, will take on a fresh new focus. Mentoring and coaching will grow rapidly. Our high-impact talent management research shows that coaching and mentoring are the most valuable talent practices to develop in an organization. These activities should be built into an organization’s culture, rewarded and include the use of technology tools to bring in external coaches.

  • The revolution in corporate learning will continue as a new model evolves. Our research … shows the most effective learning involves education (formal training), experiences (developmental assignments and projects), environment (a culture and work environment that facilitates learning), and exposure (connections and relationships with great people).

  • Diversity and inclusion will move beyond compliance and become a strategic part of business and talent management. Organizations that align diversity and inclusion practices to business objectives are more likely to perform well on financial outcomes.

  • People analytics likely will evolve to become a mainstream program in the HR function. Using new data streams coming from mobile, engagement, and feedback applications and network analysis, organizations are building valuable databases about what people are doing, their history, experiences at work and career progress.

  • The HR profession leaps forward as a new breed of HR leaders emerges. Companies are investing heavily in innovation and analytics, organizations are sharing creative solutions more openly and HR’s alignment with business is improving dramatically. Look for 2016 to be a year of positive changes in multiple areas of HR and for a new breed of innovative and strategic HR and L&D leaders to come to the forefront.

Twelve months from now we can revisit Josh Bersin’s list of predictions to see how many have come to pass. But at least for now, we might want to consider which of these deserve further consideration in our own organizations.

Here’s my prediction: It probably includes more than a few.