Trends to Watch
From the "Internet of Me" to reimagining the workforce, major HR technology trends are transforming the way modern business gets done.
By Steve Boese
As the HR technology marketplace has grown and-in some ways-matured, it has begun to take on the attributes and characteristics of more established technology ecosystems, and has become an active driver in shaping the technology trends that cross business, personal and social environments. We don't have to look very far in the HR-technology landscape to see signs of extremely leading-edge approaches in diverse technology domains including video, wearables, machine learning and predictive analytics.
Recently, consulting and advisory giant Accenture released an interesting report titled The Accenture Technology Vision 2015, highlighting what it concludes are five transformational trends that will help drive businesses forward, and that are powered and enabled by robust new technologies. And since I look at the technology world through the prism of HR and workplace-related solutions, I thought it would be fun to highlight these "macro" technology trends as identified by Accenture and point out some examples where we are seeing them play out.
Trend No. 1: The Internet of Me. This means that our world will be even more personalized than it already is. Everyday objects are going online, creating an abundance of digital channels that reach deep into our lives. Forward-thinking businesses are changing the way they build new applications, products and services to engage customers without breaching the customers' trust.
HR Example: BrandAmper, one of the "Awesome New Startups for HR" at 2014's HR Technology Conference and Exposition ®, has developed a unique application to help better align individuals' personal brands and personae with the overall organizational and employment brand, resulting in a "win" for both the employee and the company. Those behind BrandAmper, like many HR providers, have realized that, by supporting the individual, organizations can drive better business outcomes as well.
Trend No. 2: The Outcome Economy. Intelligent hardware will bridge the digital enterprise and the physical world. As the physical world picks up sensors of all kinds, products will become more meaningful in the results they produce for people. This is no longer about selling things, but selling results.
HR Example: We see this in solutions from wellness providers, including ShapeUp, VirginPulse and Limeade, all of which approach employee wellness and engagement holistically and are supplemented with innovative technologies. Combining technology with expertise in motivation, competition and team building, these solutions can help deliver better outcomes for individual health and wellness, as well as company productivity and results. Organizations that engage with these kinds of solutions often report improvements in retention, absence rates and overall employee engagement-which all lead to positive impacts on the top and bottom lines.
Trend No. 3: Platform Revolution and Evolution. Platform-based companies are capturing more of the digital economy's opportunities for growth and profits. The cloud and mobility are eroding the tech and cost barriers associated with such platforms and also are opening up this new playing field to enterprises across industries and geographies.
HR Example: The best examples of how platforms are impacting HR and the workforce are the "on-demand" and contract labor markets including Elance-oDesk, Freelancer.com, and perhaps can even include software developer-community sites such as GitHub and StackOverflow. These kinds of platforms, while having different business models, reflect the essential elements of the new "platform" model: bringing buyers (organizations) and sellers (contractors, skilled developers) together in one virtual environment and facilitating the exchange of information and value. These sites are making it easier for HR leaders to discover talent and to cut time and costs out of traditional talent-acquisition processes.
Trend No. 4: Intelligent Enterprise. Technology will enable people to make faster decisions and, with an influx of big data, software intelligence will make it easier for machines to make better-informed decisions.
HR Example: Numerous HR tech solutions that are supporting and enabling better, faster and more data-driven decision making have emerged in recent years. Some of the most interesting technologies in this domain are Visier, in the workforce-planning and analytics-platform space; Equifax Workforce Solutions, which enables informed and data-intensive decision making to support Affordable Care Act compliance; and Vestrics, which has built a solution to help HR leaders better assess the business impact and outcomes from HR programs and initiatives. Data has become the new currency of the enterprise, and HR leaders, supported by technology, will be well positioned to lead the charge in this area.
Trend No. 5: Workforce Reimagined. Machines and humans have to be amplified to do more together. Advances in natural interfaces, wearable devices and smart machines will present new chances for companies to empower their workers through technology.
HR Example: Well, since this trend is about how workforces are being changed or "reimagined" via the transformative nature of new technologies, in some ways, all HR technology solutions will play a role. One solution that has stood out to me in this area is from a company called Wearable Intelligence, which has developed an amazingly interesting set of applications for front-line and field workers, particularly in the oil- and gas-services industry. This technology combines training, safety and logistic-support applications with Google Glass technology to improve worker performance and drive productivity.
Workplace technologies are a great barometer and reflection of more general technology trends. The kinds of technology driven transformations that we see all around us in our non-work lives are also happening in equal measure in our workplaces, and will impact how we lead, grow, engage and support our workforces. This is an amazing period in the evolution of technology, and HR technology is at the forefront of these trends.
Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE's HR Technology ® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at email@example.com.