Inside HR Tech Column

What Big Trends Mean for HR Tech

The annual release of a "must-read" report holds some interesting findings for HR tech professionals in the areas of mobile devices, cloud computing and the use of gamification for learning and development.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
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One of my favorite annual exercises is to review the annual Internet Trends Report and presentation released each spring by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. In this voluminous presentation (which includes 350+ slides), Meeker reviews, analyzes and offers predictions on global internet and technology trends spanning a wide range of subject areas. From global smartphone-adoption rates to trends in media and advertising to detailed examination of technology use in growing markets such as China and India, this report is truly a "must read" for anyone interested in or in the business of technology. And since technology, more specifically HR technology, is my business, each year I spend a fair bit of time reviewing Meeker's report through the lens of HR and workplace technology, to see what patterns, trends and implications there may be for the next few years of HR tech.

As I said, the report is massive, so I will just tease out a few of the data points and tech trends here that I thought had real relevance and importance for HR and HR tech leaders, and offer up a few comments about how these trends may play out in workplaces in the coming weeks and months.

Trend 1: Continuing rise of time spent on mobile devices

Meeker shares a statistic that shows that in the U.S., adults are now spending an average of 3.1 hours per day consuming digital media on mobile devices, up from less than one hour per day just five years ago. In that same period, U.S. adults have been spending about 15 percent less time using traditional laptops and desktops for the same tasks. The "switch" to mobile as the preferred internet device continues with little to indicate that will abate in the near term. And in many other parts of the world, this shift is even more dramatic.

The implication for HR and for HR Tech is pretty clear: All workplace tech services should be designed and optimized for use on mobile devices. This has been the case in HR tech for most employee-facing tools for some time now, but it is probably time to also re-think many of the "power user" or back-office capabilities as well. Across all user roles, industries, and demographics, the mobile device has evolved into the primary and preferred gateway to the web, to social networks, and more and more, workplace tech. Finally, for organizations operating in or looking to expand into places such as China or India, the "shift" to mobile is even more dramatic. In fact, it hasn’t been so much a shift as it has been a skip -- in these developing economies mobile is often the sole internet device available to access enterprise tech. I guess you can take this as the "last call" to make sure your HR tech strategy has fully and completely embraced this trend.

Trend 2: Enterprise adoption of cloud computing services increasing

I know it feels like we have been writing and discussing the shift of enterprise technology (and, HR technology in particular) to the cloud for so long that many HR leaders would assume that this shift is largely complete, and cloud has become the de facto standard for enterprise tech. Well, like most major shifts in the enterprise, this one is playing out a little more slowly than many would suspect. The key stat from the Internet Trends Report shows that, in 2016, 37 percent of total enterprise IT spending on tech infrastructure was going to the cloud. While that might seem low, the rate of increase is significant, with cloud share increasing by leaps and bounds over the last three years.

For HR and HR tech leaders, this trend remains an important one to consider, especially for organizations that have been slower to adopt cloud technologies in the enterprise. While many HR organizations have completed or are in process of migrating their HR systems to the cloud, there are still a surprisingly large number of organizations (often large, well-established ones), that have not yet made that transition. The reasons for this delay or even reluctance to adopt cloud technologies are several, but they are changing as well (and becoming less relevant over time).

Trend 3: Rise of gaming as a dominant form of learning and development

A pretty substantial portion of the report is devoted to gaming -- video games, e-sports and the influence and impact that gaming is having on many forms of technology and commerce. Indeed, the report finds there are more than 40 million players spending an average of an hour a day playing one of the major online multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft. Video gaming is the most-engaging form of social media, so it makes sense that the key components of social, collaborative gaming -- reputation, analytics, dashboards -- are increasingly appearing in enterprise technologies.

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While the increases in participation in gaming of all types may not seem that important or relevant for HR leaders and HR tech companies, the data presented in the report highlight some key connections between gaming and several important workplace issues. First, as more avid gamers join the organization as workers, their willingness to adopt game-based elements in corporate settings will naturally increase. Also, the rise of social, multi-player gaming provides these users with significant opportunities for improving their collaboration, communication, and leadership skills. Finally, HR and HR tech companies can learn from and adapt best practices from gaming technologies to improve user experience and user adoption rates, as games are proving to be such an engaging, "sticky" technology. Beyond the buzzword of gamification, the growth of gaming in society will have an important and meaningful effect on work and workplace technology.

HR and HR technology don’t exist in their own vacuums. The major trends in global technology adoption, in economics, in demographics and in society overall all impact how we work and how the technologies we use to support that work will evolve. Understanding some of the most important tech developments and getting a sense of what might be coming next are both essential components that feed into an overall HR and HR technology strategy -- for both HR tech providers and HR tech customers. The Internet Trends Report is a great starting point for you to get a better feel for the tech that is happening outside your organization. Because truly, the technology is most likely coming to your workplace too, whether you are ready for it or not.

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


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