11 HR tech trends to watch in 2020: What the sector says

Jess Fuhl
Last updated on 25th February 2020
4 min read

The 2010s are over, and what a decade it’s been for HR tech. From flexible working to the rise of the gig economy, a wave of tech solutions have sped up and automated HR processes. This has allowed us to manage people like never before.

Now we’re entering the 2020s, though, what big tech trends can the HR sector expect next? As we did ahead of 2019, and 2018, we’ve asked HR and People experts around the world.

1. Go beyond functionality to add true value for employees

The right HR technology doesn’t just automate tasks for employees – it enables them to contribute fully, and leverage their potential as unique individuals, explains Jon Ingham, author of ‘The social organization’.

“Approaches need to move towards liberating and empowering people,” he explains. “HR tech needs to support this change”.

Jon adds that something else the sector can expect to see over the next year is a shift towards managing teams, groups, and networks – rather than just individuals: “HR systems, therefore, need to focus much more on the value of a group, enabling us to measure and reward the performance of teams, not just individuals”.

2. Introducing ‘organizational guidance systems’

The time has come to create an ‘organization guidance system that can be used by business and HR leaders to provide course-correcting and enable more effective organizations in 2020, says Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business.

This moves beyond scorecards, dashboards and predictive analytics – into an integrated guidance system that enables more effective organizations and business decision-making.

He explains: “[Existing data collection] overwhelms business leaders who struggle to sort out which ideas to use. Instead, an organization guidance system articulates desired business, customer, and investor outcomes then offer guidance to attain them.”

3. The explosion of the health and wellbeing market

For analyst Josh Bersin, the $48 billion corporate well-being market is perhaps the most fragmented, and explosive of all. Tools for mental and emotional health, stress reduction, physical fitness, diet, and financial wellbeing are everywhere, he explains.

“Most of the big healthcare providers are pouring money into new AI-based automated tools, and these can be mixed and matched to fit any workforce in the world. Wellbeing platforms can bring these applications together and create real behavior change for your workforce.”

“This is a market I don’t think existed ten years ago. Today this is a true segment of the tech market and HR and People teams should understand what’s available, because these are critical issues for the employment and company brand.”

4. Remote or virtual workspace technologies

Despite the growth in popularity for flexible working, there is still plenty of room for the sector to grow, explains employer brand specialist at exaqueo, Emily Fritz.

“There are already several solutions to address the challenges remote workforces present for organizations,” she explains. “Everything from collaborative workspaces to virtual office spaces.”

However, Emily believes the sector is still in its infancy, and that the coming decade will see a race for businesses to develop solutions to an increasing contingent of remote workers.

5. Digital ethics will be top of mind in 2020

HR will play a big part in the ethical introduction of automated technology, explains Perry Timms, founder of People and Transformational HR.

“If work is being displaced from people’s roles and given over to a bot, what’s our ethics on redeploying those people to higher caliber roles? What if the role is too much of a stretch for people to take on? Then what do we do about them in finding alternative employment?”

6. Career coaching technology

As the development of workplace technology continues to gather pace, organizations will need to provide a higher level of technology coaching to employees, says CEO of Workitdaily J.T. O’Donnell.

“Up until now, it was expected that an employee would seek these kinds of resources on their own and spend their own money outside the company,” she explains. “But thanks to millennials, the mindset is shifting.”

7. Increased usage of People analytics for actionable insights – even still

For HR influencer, speaker and writer, Gautam Ghosh, the continued use of People analytics remains a top HR tech trend, even still, over the next year. HR and People leaders will need advance their use and maturity of analytics even further, for example, by running experiments and making an impact on business strategies and bottom line growth.

“HR leaders need to develop how to ask questions and run experiments across the organization before deciding on a certain course of action – becoming evidence-based rather than instinct based.”

Our recent research report, The changing face of HR, revealed that only 42% of organizations are currently using data to drive HR decision-making, so there is still a lot more to do.

8. Increased employee experience driven initiatives

The sector’s favorite buzzword doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down in 2020 and the focus on employee experiences intensifies.

This was raised by many of our experts, including People analytics leader Soumyasanto Sen, who explains matter-of-factly: “The demand has already started on the consumerization front of HR customers.”

9. The need to address notification and device fatigue

The average person checks their phone every 12 minutes – and receives approximately 64 phone notifications a day. “With screen-time under scrutiny for its negative impact on our health, I think we will see more technologies adjust to address the health and wellness concerns centered around device fatigue,” Emily Fritz of Exaqueo says.

Emily believes this increasing level of awareness will also extend to notifications. Pointing to Instagram’s recent decision to remove ‘likes’ from people’s posts, she says technology will follow suit by becoming more economical with the number and type of notifications they show.

10. Continued use of AI to build better employee experiences

For Jazmine Wilkes, HR Generalist at SEA Wire and Cable, AI has been on the rise – and 2020 will be no different.

However, “While AI is taking over, I think employers are finally realizing that they must put people first,” she adds. “Pool tables and open-concept seating is not where to put your employee experience. Getting feedback from the people you’re trying to show appreciation to might just help.”

11. HR and People teams as tech and ‘process Tsars’

“Digital tools can, by their means of reviewing the current ways of working, likely to force a review of unproductive and wasteful internal processes,” explains founder of People and Transformational HR Perry Timms.

As a result, HR and People teams are perfectly placed to introduce leaner, more agile and responsive processes that are in tune with what people and the organization needs in 2020 – as ‘process Tsars’ in organizations.

What’s in store in 2020?

New tools are disrupting the traditional talent management platforms because they are designed for employees first, HR departments second, explains Josh Bersin. Is this the case for your HR tech plans in 2020?

Let us know, and what you think will be a big HR tech trend in 2020, by tweeting @SagePeople.

How do your 2020 HR tech plans compare to other HR leaders’? Find out by downloading our research report, The changing face of HR, divulging plans from 500 HR and People leaders across the globe.

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