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What's Coming Next in HR Tech

Look for voice-activated workplace apps, a variety of AI-aided systems and sprint-speed project trials and launches, according to experts at the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas.

Friday, October 13, 2017
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Twenty years ago, on-premise HR systems were the norm and self-service applications a rarity.

Flash forward to 2017. Cloud-based platforms that employees and managers can access without help from HR personnel are a fact of work life for companies large and small. In the not-so-distant future, people could bea using voice-based assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home to look up payroll, benefits and other work-related apps.

"It'll be no more clicking or going through menus," said Jason Averbook, a long-time HR tech industry analyst and one of several industry futurists who discussed the past, present and future of workplace applications during the "20 Years of HR Tech" session on Thursday at the HR Tech Conference.

"I guarantee in two or three years, we won't be talking about user interfaces or menus, but how we bring interaction to the worker," said Averbook, founder of HR consultant LeapGen.

Just as today Uber hides more than 20 different processes running its ride-hailing service behind a single user interface, future HR technology will deliver the same "comfortable, frictionless" process, Averbook said. HR tech innovations are just around the corner. Artificial intelligence is one. Close to 50 companies exhibiting at this year's conference are showing various AI-based workforce applications, said Bill Kutik, the conference's chairman emeritus, who interviewed all four experts separately in the second morning general session.

AI will work best in applications that automate high-volume repetitive tasks and other things people are bad at, and augment things people are good at, such as problem solving, said Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research. Early applications of AI for HR are trickling into the marketplace, including for employee assistance, job interviews and wellness, Wang said.

ADP Chief Executive Carlos Rodriguez said the company is completely rebuilding its Autopay payroll platform, versions of which have been around for close to 50 years. The new platform, in the works for close to five years, will better match modern work and pay practices, including covering global payroll and giving employers the flexibility to pay independent contractors by the day or shift.

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"It's inevitable that the old ways of how people got paid -- by the batch, weekly -- is not going to be the way business is done 10 years down the road," Rodriguez said.

In the future, people management practitioners will continue to be pressed to innovate quickly to keep up with business' faster pace of change. One way to do that is by running experiments on possible HR tech projects before even instituting a pilot, said Stacey Valy Panayiotou, global head of talent and development at The Coca-Cola Co.

Panayiotou's team recently experimented on new performance management processes for nine months to try different approaches, build data and create a business case. The experiments created buzz about the project. "You're not trying to convince anyone. You can almost make it cool," Panayiotou said. Ultimately, the experience gave her team the data needed to fast-track approval to proceed with the new system, which was subsequently scaled up globally within six months.

Michelle V. Rafter is a Portland, Ore., business reporter covering workplace issues and technology. To see her tweets from #HRTechConf follow @MichelleRafter. Send questions or comments about this story to


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