What is the future of HR tech?

These emerging trends will go beyond automating HR’s mundane tasks and transform the world of work

What is the future of HR tech?

Predictive analytics, automating mundane tasks and pushing HR into a strategic role, all-in-one apps dedicated to the employee experience – we’ve heard it all repeated across numerous platforms over the last few years.

HR tech has bombarded our lives and we’re almost drowning in endless variations of one product that promises to drastically improve our day-to-day. The challenges that bog leaders down remains the same: budget constraints, top leadership buy-in and change management.

Cutting through the noise and the repetitive answers to common questions around HR tech, we sought to find out what emerging trends can change the game for HR.

Key technology disrupting HR
The short answer to the key technology that will truly transform the world of work is probably this: artificial intelligence. AI-based products will change everything from recruitment to talent acquisition and performance management. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Recruitment: Eliminating hiring bias with AI
The problem of bias is time immemorial. With heightened awareness and countless studies answering the “why” around the crucial need for diversity and inclusion at work, the question left to answer is “how”. A hot contender for that – AI-based recruitment.

We’ve tried almost everything with inconsistent results. How can HR overcome hiring bias?

Amazon.com Inc made the bold move of testing out an AI recruiting tool that would focus on the heart of the matter: skills. Despite their best efforts, machine-learning specialists found that it wasn’t good enough and the tech needed refinement, so the project was put on hold. Undoubtedly, the tech giant can’t be the only one tinkering with a bias-free recruitment tool.

“If you have the money and resources, invest in an AI tool because that will completely eliminate the cognitive bias you have at the moment,” Jessica Dourcy, chief happiness officer at Palo IT told HRD.

“It will find people your HR team would definitely not have found because the CV doesn’t look perfect, so you as an HR, you’re probably going to say no [to the candidate]. But the AI tool will see things you don’t see and actually help bring CVs to the top and help you interview people who would have never emerged.”

Besides using HR tech that can screen CVs, HR can also tap on digital-based tests for interviews, where vital data from questions aimed at finding out a candidate’s fit and experience level can be collected and sifted through.

“Gender is not a question anymore. Age is not a question anymore. Education is irrelevant,” Dourcy said. “All of those points that used to be important in recruitment turn out to be those irrelevant questions we don’t ask anymore because the system can capture you answer and has some data entry points.”

Performance management: AI for all productivity problems
Maybe you’ve seen the stats around our shrinking attention spans, with constant pinging from our tech-crazed world taking the blame. A Microsoft Canada study in 2015 reported that the average attention span of 12 seconds in the year 2000 has gone down to just eight seconds.

Is technology a productivity killer at work? HRD finds out.

To be fair, the study was debunked by the BBC, which found that the idea of an “average attention span” is meaningless. Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, said that attention spans are “very much task-dependent”.

She added that how much attention someone gives to a task is also dependent on their frame of mind – how they view the task, their expectations and varied experiences.

But the myth-buster doesn’t consider one troubling sign of our times: information overload. As much as attention spans are task-dependent, most jobs entail handling multiple tasks at one go. How can AI help us boost productivity and ensure optimal performance?

AI-based analytics tools and other HR tech can monitor all the apps you use through a typical day and how long you spend on each one can determine the best way for employees to manage their time. Such technology can help us link performance to actual behaviour and identify the habits that you can learn and pick up, Melanie Sharpe Nseir, HR lead at Microsoft told HRD.

“For example, the technology even tells you, ‘You were in 12 hours of meetings, yet you were on email 50% of the time that you were in those meetings’,” Nseir said. “It can give you advice like, ‘You should consider declining meetings if you know that you’re not going to be a critical participant.’

“This is another way how we’re embedding artificial intelligence into our employees’ day-to-day to help shift their mindset and behaviours and become better.

“I think that in the next five years, we're going to see more and more emphasis within each company on how the best workers work, to help enable the rest of their workforce and really help them understand what their talent and their workforce really need to do.”

Bonus: Enhancing talent acquisition through VR
Virtual reality (VR) is technically not AI but VR-based HR technologies can also be a game-changer for HR – particularly for talent acquisition. The rapidly changing talent landscape demands a focus on things like strong employer branding and employee value proposition. What can VR do for HR?

“We all know that recruiting today is getting more and more competitive,” Dourcy told HRD. “You go to the universities and you have the top few companies all clamouring after those few talents or a few top scorers, right?

“And the younger folks, I believe, focus a lot on work-life balance. They focus a lot on workplace experience, so these are the things that you want to offer them right from the beginning. Let them experience it [through VR] even before they join you.”

For instance, she shared that Palo IT had a new office in Helsinki, Finland. But how do you bring this attractive point across to potential candidates without flying them to the location?

“We actually did a demo of the new office,” she said. “When we go to the universities, we let them put on VR headsets and they could walk around in the office and see how beautiful it is – where all the cosy spots are, the pantry, the games room and all that. From there, they are like, ‘oh, okay, this is the environment I want to work in’.

“There are a lot of tools that can help gamify the recruitment process. And instead of one-on-ones, you can even have a group and see how they pit their skills against each other…So I believe that all these new tools are very, very relevant.”

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