5 HR technology trends set to change the workplace in 2016

It’s that time of year again. Window displays are full of trees and tinsel. Santa is starting to ho-ho-ho. And in the world of HR tech, everybody’s wondering what the ‘hot trends’ in the coming year will be. Luckily, research reveals no shortage of opinions on the matter…

First of all, let’s note in passing the 2016 trends that fall into the ‘same old, same old’ category, otherwise known as ‘again, really?’ That’s not to say that these won’t be some of the dominant drivers of HR technology next year, they will; it’s just that they seem to crop up in every new year’s list. So, either these are the long term current drivers and factors, or we (users, vendors, employers, etc.) somehow keep failing to grasp it and every year, we get another chance (analytics, anybody?)

The somewhat familiar HR technology trends for 2016 will be:

Software-as-a-Service and HR in the Cloud – Many pundits are saying that off-premises HR tech is still at the early adopter stage. This seems a little hard to believe but recent research by the Hackett Group suggests that SaaS HR use will double over the next two years.

Talent management set for disruption – according to Josh Bersin’s predictions, LMS, applicant tracking and performance management apps are set for a shake-up.

People analytics are maturing – also classed as being in the ‘early adopter’ stage, analytics seem to crop up in these lists with predictable regularity.

All that said, there’s no shortage of less well-known HR technology trends set to transform 2016 which are either genuinely new or at the very least, are being cited for the first time…

Recommended Reading: HRMS Vendor Guide - Find an HRMS vendor looking at the HR technology trends of 2016

1. The HR apps are coming

We’re in the so-called ‘third wave’ of HR technology (#1 was traditional licensed software, #2 was cloud, and #3 is mobile, in case you’re wondering) and while mobile HR systems have often relied on web browsers to access cloud and SaaS software, the platform of choice is rapidly becoming the app. The difference is largely in UI design and user experience. In HR smartphones have been used as pocket-sized computers, like carrying your desktop around with you. But mobile apps have changed the way we use our technology (more social expectations, pinch and swipe not tab and scroll, using location data, etc.) and we’ll see far more HR apps leveraging those differences in their design in 2016.

2. Master data management

Perhaps one factor that has kept HR analytics in the bridesmaid position (i.e. never the bride) is that to be truly effective, a wide variety of data must be available. In fact, the wider the better. And once you started drawing on different data sources, compatibility becomes an issue. Master data management (call it MDM) is focused on linking all data to one database (the ‘master’ database) to create a single source or point of reference. Data quality, old data, the impact of a merger/acquisition, all drivers encouraging data standardization. As more organizations see the MDM light, it increases the ease with which HR data can be combined, compared and generally crunched with financials, business performance, customer interactions, and so on, leading to more sophisticated and more accurate analytics.

3. Feedback and engagement

Slowly and reluctantly, human resources is moving on from the annual appraisal style of performance management, that once-a-year meeting with the manager. Part of that move is the emergence of a variety of apps and systems that encourage a more frequent and flexible (and two-way) approach to feedback. Again, Bersin’s “10 Big Disruptions on the Horizon” report cites a selection of software focused on employee feedback, pulse surveys, culture checks, monitoring engagement and performance, mentioning new names such as Glint, TINYPulse, and CultureIQ – all under the umbrella category label: “feedback management”.

4. Employee well-being systems.

In the past, the technology side of employee wellness (essential to productivity, we can all agree) seems to have focused on speculative writings about wearable technology which always has a disturbing Big Brother feel (after all, rather than use an employee’s jacket, watch, or glasses to gather data, why not just implant a chip in their neck and have done with it?) But now there’s a growing market in more employee-oriented apps that encourage fitness without being intrusive. From health improvement challenges to gamified fitness tracking (think Wii Fit but less cumbersome?), incentive links and healthcare costs, companies like RedBrick Health are part of an increasing wave of employee health apps.

5. A Wave of HRMS replacement

Finally, some good news for vendors perhaps. Commentators and experts see the HR tech market as progressing in cycles of 5-7 years. A wave of purchasing systems is followed by implementation, embedding and finally replacement. Many see the imminent beginning of a new cycle which would mean a surge in HRMS selection and purchase. Regular annual surveys, such as the HR Systems Survey by Sierra Cedar are citing three out of five companies changing their HR technology strategies, and two out of five looking to replace their HRMS in the next 12 months. Perhaps the factor that indicates this is a fresh cycle is that at least a quarter of organizations are taking a ‘rip and replace’ approach rather than a more cautious upgrade strategy. Given the ever-increasing choice on the market maybe it’s no wonder employers are seriously looking for something new and this is no doubt strongly linked to the emergence of so many cloud systems over the last few years, greatly increasing the options for buyers.

As with all crystal ball gazing, accuracy is hardly guaranteed but having said that, as 2015 draws to a close, the industry’s big names all seem fairly united in seeing significant growth and increasing sophistication for the HR tech market in the year to come.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall