Evolution of HR Technology

A Brief History and Future of HR Technology

If the Terminator film saga (and to a lesser extent, Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive) taught me anything, is that it’s better to welcome the evolution of technology than be on the other side. Similar to the technical enhancements made to the cybernetic endo-skeletal T-100 in the first Terminator that begat the liquid alloy T-1000 of T2 fame, HR technology has seen a number of improvements in recent years that have made a world of difference. Moving from a set of disconnected processes and legacy systems reliant on manual inputs and characterized by balky technology, today’s HR technology is moving towards more streamlined, user-friendly platforms that can cover a range of HR functions in a more holistic, unified manner. While specialized applications focused on specific aspects of HR, such as employee well-being or recruitment, are also needed, the flexibility of cloud-based systems, mobile technology and design thinking has allowed HR tech to evolve seemingly eons beyond where it was just a decade ago. But let’s take a look back and see what these changes mean for the future of HR technology.

The Birth of the Modern Era of HR Tech

The 1990’s is when the modern era of HR Tech had its start. This time period saw the rise of the first online job boards, which made recruiting easier than ever before but also disrupted traditional employer-applicant relationships. HR recruiters could now easily source and screen hundreds of resumes of potential candidates and pare down applicant pools so that only the most qualified entered the interview process. However, this also had the effect of increasing the competition for top talent. It’s no surprise then that the 2000’s saw a greater emphasis on talent management applications that were no longer locally deployed. These new recruiting and talent management systems began to migrate to the Cloud, making implementation and maintenance a breeze. While these applications were functional they lacked the kind of employee-facing, user friendly interfaces that would be needed for them to become truly “sticky” and the kind of platform that employees actually wanted to use.

Today’s workplace is evolving to become more employee-centric and HR technology is evolving in tandem. In this current era, the focus is on identifying and hiring the top talent, and then keeping them engaged and productive. Recognition, Health & Wellness, Learning and Development – these are a few of the emerging areas of HR tech that have become crucial to engaging and retaining top talent.

Central to this growing suite of tools focused on the employee experience is their ability to positively impact engagement. With Gallup recently reporting that 87% of employees worldwide are disengaged, being able to take action to improve engagement by technological means can clearly holds great promise. Furthermore, with millennials now making up a larger portion of the workforce than ever before, finding measureable and repeatable ways to keep them engaged engagement has become of the utmost importance. With this reality as the backdrop, it’s easy to see why it is so important for companies to adapt and embrace the latest shifts in HR technology before they lose out in the war for talent. Here are a few more ideas as to where HR technology might be heading in the future:

Increase in Learning Management/Career Growth Platforms

According the Gallup study referenced earlier in this blog, 87% of millennials place a high value on growth and development opportunities in the workplace. So it stands to reason that the popularity of Learning Management Systems will continue to grow, with companies adding these to their suite of employee experience tools either as stand-alone offerings, or as an add-on to their existing employee engagement platform via integration with an open API. Access to an LMS benefits both the employer and employee alike; the employee acquires new, marketable skills (along with positive feeling of personal growth that the learning experience engenders), and the employer can expect increased productivity or an expanded skill-set from the employee. This category of employee engagement is going through a disruptive period of its own, with the increased adoption of career mobility platforms. These platforms are more than an LMS; they allow employees to gain an understanding of a new role all within the confines of their current company, sometimes going as far as offering role-specific tasks to complete.

An Increase in Actionable Data

With the proliferation of HR technology, data regarding almost every aspect of the employee experience is being tracked, measured and analyzed. Traditional metrics, such as attendance, do little to predict the future performance of employees, outside of their likelihood to show up every day. But new forms of data are beginning to shed light on drivers and predictors of employee engagement that were never available before. From recognitions given and/or received on an engagement platform, to the results of frequent pulse surveys, today’s employers now have access to reams of valuable employee data to analyze and subsequently act upon. This will only increase as big data continues to work its way into every layer of the business decision making process. By utilizing the wealth of metrics now offered on HR Tech platforms, employers can quickly identify poorly performing employees and possibly re-engage before they leave for another opportunity; or conversely, identify top performers and develop strategies for engaging and retaining them.

Greater Integration with External Systems via APIs

Virtually the entire business world has seen a major philosophical shift through the development and increased use of APIs. APIs afford employers a greater amount of choice in the external platforms they integrate into the workplace. This allows them to offer best in class applications for each aspect of HR, further ensuring the platforms they offer employees are functionally effective and entirely useable. Open API’s and the growth of Single Sign On (SSO) technology also serve to simplify the navigation of day to day HR systems as employees are no longer forced to remember a unique login name and password for every disparate system used in the workplace. Instead, different programs such as health and wellness tools, referrals programs, LMS’s, etc. can be offered in a unified environment.

The HR technology landscape has evolved so much so in the past decades that it can difficult to remember what life was like before the current era – and few of us would want to! With ongoing innovation occurring at an ever increasing pace, it can seem increasingly daunting to keep up with the times. But what remains consistent is the need to identify, hire, engage and retain talented employees. Thankfully, this has been made easier by the emergence of tools focused on the entirety of the employee experience, especially in areas like employee recognition which Aon Hewitt just identified as the top driver of employee engagement in its 2017 Trends in Global Engagement Report.

When thinking about the future of HR tech, don’t be scared of emerging technology and don’t get left behind, or like the countless victims of that famous cinematic cyber-warrior mentioned in the opening, you risk getting terminated.

Learn more about what to look for in an employee engagement and recognition solution. Download the Buyers Guide for Social Recognition Systems.

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About the Author

Iain FerreiraIain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco. You can view his Linkedin profile here.