2021 was an intense one, wasn’t it?
Much like 2020, the past year placed a lot of pressure and challenges on HR and People teams. HR leaders’ skills, HR technology and a strong dose of resilience got us through the year. But what role will tech play in HR in 2022?
A whopping 82% of HR leaders said they had to scale HR technology to manage and operate effectively during the pandemic and it empowered HR to manage and navigate disruption.
We asked a panel of HR and People experts to see which HR technology trends they think will define 2022.
Here’s what they had to say, as well as some of our top tips for getting ahead:
1. Continued growth in artificial intelligence and machine learning
Although technologies such as automation may be commonplace in many HR teams and systems today, when it comes to more sophisticated technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), it’s not always the case.
There’s still a long way to go.
However, D. Mark Hornung, senior employer brand strategist at exaqueo, believes that AI and machine learning in 2022 will help HR and People leaders to reduce their own workload while improving the overall productivity of their businesses further.
“HR teams are stretched very thin,” he explains. “So, we need the ‘muscle’ that technology, such as chatbots and employee experience platforms provide, to deal with large numbers of candidates and workers.”
John Boudreau, Professor Emeritus of Management and Organization and senior research scientist at the University of Southern California, believes 2022 will see even greater advances in AI and machine learning too.
He believes AI and machine learning will be able to understand work outside of job titles and descriptions – which is the most commonplace use today – in order to automate tasks and capabilities.
“As AI and machine learning get more intelligent,” he explains, “we will increasingly need HR systems that do not rely on ‘jobs’ and ‘jobholders’ as the unit of analysis.”
Devyani Vaishampayan, non-executive director and CEO at The HR Tech Partnership, agrees.
He explains that the future for HR tech will be to enable teams to use AI applications “that are intuitive, improve employee engagement, provide predictive insights to leaders and are cost effective”, and it should be high on the HR agenda.
What will be the end result of a successful integration of AI and machine learning?
In John Boudreau’s view, it will be to “add agility, inclusiveness, and strategic impact” in HR.
However, it won’t be all smooth sailing, he warns. “It will also require tectonic shifts,” he says, “in the way HR leaders and their constituents operate the HR function and support strategic leadership.”
2. Tech that elevates hybrid working
Hybrid working is nothing new.
Back in 2019, 95% of organizations had already started to, or were thinking about adopting flexible working.
However, what has changed is the dramatic increase in the number of employees working remotely and flexibly. While the pandemic accelerated this trend, organizations still need to look to tech to support them, as true hybrid working can only be achieved with technology.
The question now is: how can HR leaders choose technology to maximize the potential of hybrid working?
Gillian Davis, founder and CEO at OverTime Leader, has a few suggestions.
First, she says, in 2022 HR and People leaders must learn “how to balance hybrid working so that those working via a screen don’t feel left out, or at a disadvantage to those in the office”.
Next, they must adapt their technology “to create seamless accessibility and inclusion for onboarding, retention and development”, especially when it comes to international teams.
Finally, HR and People teams must make sure they make “documentation and annotation easy and seamless so that teams get better at capturing and sharing their approaches, ways of working and goals”.
In other words, moving teams online was only the first step.
Now, we must become the pioneers of fully digital ways of working at organizations, ensuring every employee, no matter where they are, has a create workforce experience that truly keeps them productive, engaged and happy.
3. More focus on tech for wellbeing
The pandemic has been taking a huge toll on employees’ mental health.
Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey revealed that a third of young people have taken time off work over the past year due to stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
In 2022, HR tech will evolve to accommodate a greater range of wellbeing resources.
Jacob Morgan, author, keynote speaker and host of the podcast Be Your Own Boss, predicts that employee recognition and feedback will become a priority for HR tech vendors, offering more “in the realm of real-time recognition and feedback for employees and moving away from annual performance reviews and surveys”.
Devyani Vaishampayan adds that HR tech solutions will also begin to encompass “coaching, mentoring and [will help to create] an inclusive culture linked to organizational purpose”.
Finally, John Boudreau believes the key aim for HR tech in 2022 will be to reduce “tech ‘intrusion into worker’s non-work lives” by improving data transparency. He explains that platforms are already disrupting the traditional HR tech market by adding emphasis to the issue of employee wellbeing.
4. Finding the right (not more) technology
75% of HR leaders say they’re already using some form of HR tech and 67% plan to invest even more, but in 2022 there will be an increased focus on finding the right, not more, technology.
In particular, these will be all-in-one technology suites that support the end-to-end employee journey.
As Jacob Morgan puts it: “The biggest HR technology trend to watch in 2022 is not going to be using more technology but balancing the amount of technology that is used with keeping the organization human.
“For a few years there has been a massive emphasis on more technology, and I think we have gone a bit overboard – so now we need to pull back a bit and remember that business is still about relationships and human beings.”
Get ready for 2022 and beyond
HR technology will never stand still because HR moves as such a fast pace, so there’s never a better time to see what’s coming on the horizon.
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