HR tech trends to watch in 2021: 5 expert tips on how to get ahead

Jess Fuhl
Published on 28th October 2020
3 min read

Can you believe it’s already nearly the new year?

Yes, 2020 didn’t pan out quite the way we were expecting but it’s time for HR to look to the future once more.

The good news is, there’s plenty to look forward to, especially when it comes to the future of HR technology. To find out what’s on the horizon, we reached out to a panel of five future-thinking HR experts to get their views so you, as HR and People leaders, can get ahead. Here’s what they told us.

1. Delivering experiences remotely

After a tumultuous 2020, Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research and Advisory in the USA, believes the remote employee experience will shoot to the top of every HR leader’s agenda.

“Companies must be able to deliver experiences remotely,” he explains. With many companies looking to work virtually for the long-term, the future for HR tech will be to “deliver experiences remotely that engage workers to bring their best selves to work.”

Better still, Eubanks believes improved employee engagement technology could have a positive impact on diversity and inclusion, too. “I am seeing an incredible growth in diversity tech,” he says, “from tools to support more inclusive hiring and engagement to analytics and everything in between.”

Therefore, when it comes to investing in technology, it’ll be vital to include employee experience in the broader picture – meaning it’s more important than ever for HR to be involved in the tech selection process.

2. Tech platforms helping HR to do even more

HR played a vital role in steadying the ship during COVID-19. It’s likely that HR and People teams will take on an even bigger role in driving their organization forward in 2021 and beyond.

According to Robert Hicks, Group HR Director of UK-based Reward Gateway, HR leaders will need to be prepared to “do more with less time, money and resources.”

One of the problems Hicks foresees is that HR will have to juggle both the expectations of the business and its employees. He told us that while on the one hand businesses will want HR to reduce costs, at the same time employees will increasingly be asking for new technology to help them do their jobs. The question then becomes: how can HR satisfy both sides?

The solution, as Hicks sees it, is to invest in collaboration technology that integrates a greater number of processes into one place. More specifically, he believes HR leaders should invest in “employee engagement and experience platforms that can serve as the one place employees go to connect with their company and feel recognized and supported.”

Hicks believes this seamless integration could help HR to save both time and money, by integrating more processes into one place and helping to create a single version of the truth.

3. Artificial intelligence saving HR departments time and money

While it has long been tipped to disrupt the HR sector, this is the year Angela Maiers, CEO and Founder of Choose2Matter in the USA, finally sees artificial intelligence (AI) making a big impact.

“AI is now an essential part of our daily lives and will continue to drastically improve the capacities of HR in 2021 and beyond,” she explains.

“From AI software that is able to expedite the screening process to technologies that promise to make more sophisticated matches and recruiters,” the business case for AI, she says, is clear: time and cost-savings across the board.

Artificial intelligence may seem worlds away but it’s already slowly creeping into the HR worksphere – meaning now is the time for teams to upgrade their skillsets in order to harness this technology.

4. Shifting to asynchronous communication

In the words of Jon Ingham, Director of the UK’s Strategic HR Academy: “There needs to be a shift to asynchronous communication.”

Like many others, Ingham believes the return to physical workplaces will be slow, and that the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown will change working culture permanently. The future, therefore, is one in which the workplace works on a digital-first model.

“The most important tech HR should be focused on,” he believes, “continues to be the digital workplace.”

With this, Ingham foresees a move towards asynchronous communication – a style of communication that does not warrant instant responses, and which facilitates employees to manage their workloads more effectively.

5. On-demand pay becoming the new norm

Lisa Sterling, CEO and Founder of R3-Engage, a US-based HR consultancy, believes the financial impact felt by many employees throughout 2020 will lead them towards seeking faster access to pay.

“The concept of a payday every two weeks is antiquated and outdated,” she claims, adding that a shift towards a more flexible payment culture will become a “game-changer.”

In preparation for this trend, Sterling urges HR tech vendors to make the most of a “huge opportunity to create far greater flexibility” in 2021, by implementing what she calls a system of “on-demand pay.”

While this needn’t necessarily mean daily paydays, it could lead to a system in which employees are able to request payments with a higher degree of flexibility – for instance, taking advance payments as and when they need them.

HR in 2021 and beyond

There’s no doubt that 2021 – and the next few years that follow – will be huge for HR and People teams.

However, by knowing the big trends on the horizon, you can hit the ground running and help your team to make great strides, despite whatever the future has in store.

What do you think will be a big HR trend in 2021? Let us know by tweeting @SagePeople.

How else is HR changing? Download ‘The changing face of HR’, our research report from 500+ HR leaders, to find out.

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