HR tech trends: How people teams are staying ahead of rapid change


Jan 6, 2022


Joe Gross

The past two years have seen massive upheavals across the business sector, from supply chain issues to a near-total rethink of the relationship between employees and their companies. The HR space has been at the center of this radical change.

As HR is more vital to business than ever, we wanted to examine how HR has changed over time and what HR teams need to address the current, volatile business climate. The results are in and can be found in the new report by 451 Research, HR Tech Trends: How to Stay Ahead.

The big takeaways:

Core HR skills are evolving to support remote work, participate in corporate strategy, and increase data literacy

More than half of the respondents said there was a stronger need for HR professionals to support a remote and hybrid workforce, to become more data literate, and to participate more in wider company strategy and vision. 

The arrival of COVID-19 placed this need into sharp relief; HR became the point of contact for supporting remote work and managing expectations. Data helped HR leaders understand productivity loss, employee engagement impact and more, which made HR more strategically valuable.  

Core HR tools remain vital but investments are expanding across the employee lifecycle 

Three-quarters of the respondents use payroll tools at their organization, while 71% use them for benefits and compensation deployments, and 67% have workforce management solutions   in place.  

But more than half also use performance management tools, recruitment tools, and learning and development solutions. While value-added areas like compliance are in high demand for analytics and insights, measuring the employee lifecycle and experience is becoming equally valuable for HR leaders. 

There’s also a growing desire for software that helps companies capture data, consolidate it with other data through integrations, merge that data with the systems of record in use and, ultimately, improve its availability and use, which has become an increasingly important part of HR buying decisions.  

HR pain points include lack of agility, sluggish onboarding and inefficient non-core processes (performance  management, employee engagement, etc.) 

Less than half of survey respondents found “very easy” or “somewhat easy”  to respond to external market changes such as new regulatory requirements, economic conditions or technological innovations. In addition, only about 5% of respondents said less than one day to fully onboard a new employee, while  3% said it took two weeks or more, while 18% took one to two weeks. After widespread furloughs and hiring freezes due to COVID, quickly ramping up employees has become a priority.

When asked which outcomes are driving the modernization and digitization of their organization’s HR processes, our HR leader respondents highlighted improved employee experience, improved company privacy and data security, fewer manual tasks so HR can focus on more strategic initiatives, better insights to make decisions faster and, yes, improved agility.

HR buying patterns reflect closer collaboration with IT, demand for low/no-code solutions, and a significant preference for integrated suites 

When asked about product choices, 53% of our respondents said they preferred integrated suites, while 30% preferred point solutions. When asked their reasons for choosing

integrated suites, more than half said better reporting and analytics, more efficiency, stronger integrated feature sets and increased cost-efficacy.  The evidence suggests that HR seems to be looking at how its tools work together and what complementary value they  bring to adjacent tools and processes in a workflow.

What’s next?

Businesses looking to invest in new HR solutions should go about it in a certain way. 

  1. Bring in stakeholders early for evaluations. Lack of budget as a buying challenge may be alleviated when you have multiple parties supporting HR in a consensus buying scenario. 
  2. Align needs across departments and get a list of required functionalities and their prioritization before beginning the buying process. Look for low- or no-code solutions to help solve for the technical expertise challenges, as such solutions also have the potential to support the automation of workflows and processes. This in turn frees up HR teams to think and act strategically.
  3. Consider the broader ecosystem around the tool itself. Look for opportunities to bolster automation to support HR in eliminating administrative tasks and leveling up its strategic identity.

The long and the short of it: 

HR is simply not what it once was—it now includes progressive tools and processes, all underpinned by data and strategic execution. HR wants to improve its own processes, the employee experience, and engagement across the employee lifecycle. 

By doing this, and by investing in the requisite tools and technologies that support this shift, HR is strengthening its roots as a strategic partner to the business and permanently changing the way in which businesses view the people function.

last edited: April 26, 2023

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