4 Trends to Consider As You Look Toward 2020

Predictions 2019- 2020

It’s pretty much a rule that come the turn of the year analysts, bloggers and journalists should look ahead and prognosticate about HCM Technology’s Next Big Thing. But, as I said last year, you can’t predict what’s coming up without considering today’s realities.

So, as you mull what decisions you’ll face in 2020, it’s worth bearing in mind the industry’s current landscape, which was shaped by these stories and trends, which I suggest are the most notable of 2019.

As you consider 2020, it’s worth bearing in mind #HRTech's current landscape, which was shaped by these stories and trends. #HR #2020 #HRTribe Share on X

The ‘Experience’ Discussion Began to Shift

For some time, employee and candidate experience has been at the center of HR conversations. In a distressingly tight labor market, the thinking goes, employers must compete for talent by making the hiring process as simple as possible for candidates, then encourage retention by ensuring the work experience is as engaging as possible. Responding to the market, HCM technology vendors have focused on products that are faster, more efficient and easier to use.

In recent months, however, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in conversations with vendors, customer executives and industry observers. While experience remains an industry priority, the reasoning behind it may be evolving. The reason: suspicions that the economy may slow, unemployment may rise and the labor market may loosen.

Rather than focus on recruiting and retention, some vendors and analysts have argued that ease-of-use leads to improved efficiency and engagement, which in turn result in improved financial performance. Put another way, improved user experience may soon be weighed in the context of business performance rather than recruiting and retention.  

This may be more of a messaging issue than a technical one. While vendors will still be expected to improve the usability of their tools, the pain points to solve will be in areas of efficiency rather than worker experience. As one analyst said, the road to efficiency may lead through engagement or experience, but it’s still leading to efficiency and its impact on business results.

HR’s Changing, Except Where it Isn’t

HR leaders at companies of all sizes remain frustrated by their inability to convince leadership that workforce issues really are business issues. That’s not earth-shattering dynamic, by any means. In fact, what’s striking is how little the conversation has changed over the years.

At conferences, presenters urged HR leaders to “learn the language” of business, but few provide concrete ideas about how to go about it—or even what it means. Many encourage CHROs to “reexamine” their role, but relatively few point out that means more than learning to understand the CFO’s vocabulary. The most successful CHROs seem to have two things in common: They’ve immersed themselves in all of their organization’s functions and they work for a forward-looking CEO.

There’s a growing consensus that HR professionals must understand how each worker fits into the company’s operations and financials in the same way production managers understand the cash-value ratio of each piece of equipment on their factory floor. Admittedly, one executive told me, no one in HR wants to speak of workers in the same breath as laptops, forklifts or marketing campaigns. However, HR leaders must change the way they think, as well as the way they speak, if they’re going to become strategic members of the executive team.

Which Way to Usability?

In March, Oracle HCM Cloud launched new features designed to make both the employee and candidate experiences simpler, more personal and more mobile. In September, SAP SuccessFactors said that from now on it will treat the idea of “Human Capital Management” as “Human Experience Management.” Oracle pushes the idea of voice commands and SAP emphasizes conversational interfaces.

Meanwhile, ADP throughout the year launched several products, rebranded and semi-quietly showed off new features to analysts and the media. Its executives talk about applications without interfaces—they’re just available in the right place at the right time.

Also, a flurry of companies introduced tools designed to incorporate texting into talent acquisition. Among other things, they argue texting is an important channel because messages are almost universally read and are the preferred medium for many younger workers.

All of this is evidence that vendors are working hard to “meet users where they are.” Yes, they’ve been at this for a while. But 2020 may be the year visions of enhanced usability and experience become realities. One area to watch: Who’s building native apps and who’s building “experience layers.”

Analytics Goes Retail

More vendors are incorporating analytics into the workflows of HR practitioners and managers. Paycor, for example, rolled out at a package to help HR recognize patterns and identify problem areas so they can address issues in both the near and long terms.The PEO TriNet released Workforce Analytics, a reporting and analytics tool that provides SMBs with in-depth reporting and forecasting.

At the same time, more multinational employers began upskilling their HR teams to analyze workforce data and put it to use. That’s an increasingly realistic goal as more vendors launch products designed to make data and analytics accessible.

It’s a sure bet that more data and analytics will be made directly available to employees, HR staff and managers alike. However, there’s still the question about whether the necessary training will be available to help them take advantage of it. That’s another thing to stay tuned for next year.

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