Roundup: 2019’s Top Stories and What They Mean for 2020

News Roundup

This week, our Roundup looks back at the most important stories of 2019. Some are worth noting on their own, while others are indicative of trends that will continue into 2020. Either way, they’ve all helped set the stage for the coming year.

SAP SuccessFactors went all-in on the notion that “experience” is foundational to successful HR and recruiting strategies. At SuccessConnect 2019 the company made clear its intention to treat the idea of “Human Capital Management” as “Human Experience Management.” Head of Product Amy Wilson said the pivot toward “experience” was customer-driven. “It has been an area of focus, but I think the level of focus has intensified,” she said. SAP will plans to provide experiences that integrate SuccessFactors capabilities with Qualtrics and other data, third-party apps and a notable, messaging-like UI revision.  

#HRTech's top stories for 2019 – covering AI, experience, investments and more – all set the stage for the coming year. Here's our rundown. #HR #HRTribe #2020 Share on X

Oracle unveiled new features for HCM Cloud that shows the company’s continued focus on improving the experience for employees, candidates and HR, even as its streamlines collaboration and workflows. Late in the year, the company predicted “everything will be voice-enabled,” and customers report Oracle has been emphasizing the potential of its conversational interface.

ADP has spent all of 2019 ramping up for 2020. The company launched several products, rebranded and semi-quietly showed off new features to analysts and the media. All the while, the company’s been working on something called “Next Gen.” Not long ago Josh Bersin said the platform “could become one of the more disruptive systems on the market ” HRExaminer Principal Analyst John Sumser described it as “a universal tool that comprehensively meets the needs of individual customers.”  

Employees of AI companies are mostly male and white, according to a report from NYU. And though tech firms have made much about their to develop more diverse pipelines and increase equality within their workforces, the school’s report said AI providers have made “no substantial progress in diversity.” The not-so-surprising result: AI systems reflect the very biases they’re meant to combat. Systems used to classify, detect and predict race and gender—which means pretty much every talent acquisition platform we can think of—is in “urgent need of re-evaluation.” Said the report: “The commercial deployment of these tools is cause for deep concern.”

Experience remains an industry priority but the reasoning behind it may be evolving. The reason: Some executive fear the economy may slow, which would loosen the job market and ease pressure on employers to retain existing workers. The point of engagement and usability, some vendors and analysts speculate, may soon be weighed in the context of business performance rather than recruiting and retention. 

On-demand pay’s momentum grew dramatically. Vendors including ADP, Ceridian, Paychex, Ultimate Software and Alight have all introduced on-demand pay solutions. In December, Kronos’s Workforce Institute reported that 72 percent of U.S. workers want access to their wages before pay day. And while just 6 percent of employees are paid on-demand today, 43 percent would take advantage of the option if they had the chance.

Talent acquisition specialists say marketing is a growing component of their work. If that’s true, it’s worth considering research from Gartner that predicts efforts to personalize marketing campaigns are on borrowed time. By 2025, 80 percent of marketers who’ve already invested in personalization will wind down their efforts, the researcher said. The reasons: lack of ROI and the risks that come with customer data management.  

UK-based advisory firm Hampleton Partners said 2019 was “a great year to sell a company in the HRtech space.” Transaction volumes, multiples and valuations hit their highest levels in years, it said, attributing the trend to PE firms’ demand for quality assets and the availability of cheap debt.

The biggest deal took place when Ultimate Software was acquired by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman in an all-cash $11billion deal. That breaks down $331.50 per share. The company said the transaction was spurred in part by “the short-term focus of Wall Street,” which hampered Ultimate’s ability to expand its team and develop new products. As a privately held company, Ultimate says it can now focus on its long-term vision. It’s worth noting that Kronos is also among Hellman & Friedman’s portfolio companies. Despite speculation that a PE firm wouldn’t allow Ultimate to maintain its noted culture, sources inside Kronos said it’s not in H&F’s nature to fix things that aren’t broken.

Last Week’s Top Stories

4 Trends to Consider As You Look Toward 2020

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. Read more.

Why an ATS Alone Won’t Solve Recruiting Challenges

A new report from’s Research Institute said that while 77 percent of employers use an ATS, only 52 percent call their hiring process good or excellent. Read more.

Survey Shows Big Growth in Staffing AI Next Year

The staffing industry is jumping into the world of AI, with two-thirds of staffing firms overall planning to implement an artificial intelligence-driven ATS by the end of 2020. Read more.

Podcast: Cornerstone Brings Oculus VR into LMS

Cornerstone OnDemand announced a deal with Facebook’s Oculus to incorporate virtual reality into its LMS. Listen here.

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