What does the future hold for HR tech?
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the world of work. In response to the UK Government’s lockdown measures, which were enforced back in March, a large portion of employers moved to remote working arrangements, virtually overnight. Employees scrambled to create makeshift home offices - to begin with, propping laptops up on stockpiled loo rolls and documenting it for the world to see on social media - while employers grappled with how they could keep business ticking over with an entirely remote workforce.
One thing that has been clear throughout the coronavirus pandemic is that remote working would not have been possible without technology to keep staff and bosses connected. Just think of the constant Microsoft Teams messages, Zoom calls, webinars and other tech mediums that have been exchanged and relied upon to support corporate communication throughout this challenging period. Even TV presenters, journalists and the Government have been utilising this technology to stay connected with the public and deliver the latest news. And whilst this stint of homeworking may have been intended as a temporary measure, lots of organisations have woken up to the idea that physical offices aren’t necessary to run a business, understanding that their staff like having the choice over when and where they work, and that employees can be just as productive - or even more so than usual - when working from home.
This is backed by 2019 research from gig economy platform Airtasker which found that working from home has benefits in that it eliminates commuting times and costs, but also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles as a result. Elsewhere, Yahoo! Finance reported on recent Hoxby research which found that half of managers have been pleasantly surprised by their teams’ productivity while working from home. And this has encouraged some organisations to pursue homeworking on a more permanent basis.
The spotlight has been turned on HR tech to help employees, managers and businesses connect virtually
One such firm that has supported this notion is the social media giant Twitter. In May, the organisation told staff that they can work from home ‘forever’ if they choose to. A recent BBC report detailed that the social media giant is letting its staff make the decision about where they work as the organisation looks towards the future of work post-pandemic. This decision came after Twitter revealed that its working from home measures had proven to be a success.
“The past few months have proven we can make that work. So, if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” a statement from the organisation read. But Twitter isn’t the only organisation to be thinking of homeworking as a more permanent fixture. Tech giants Google and Facebook also revealed that staff would likely not be returning to the office full-time until 2021, according to a Variety report. The two firms explained that staff would be able to work from home until the end of 2020 which, of course, wouldn’t be possible without the implementation of technology. With recent research from Dynata showing that 15% of Brits want to permanently work from home and 74% want to work from home at least some of the time after the pandemic, the idea of continuous homeworking is something that businesses may have to get on board with - and invest in the correct technology to facilitate this - to attract and retain top talent.
‘Change isn’t optional’
In order for businesses to stay relevant in today’s market, and to have the right talent to survive the challenges that the pandemic currently poses, it is crucial for employers to be adaptable. In fact, Geoffroy de Lestrange, Product Marketing and Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand, told HR Grapevine that the coronavirus pandemic has taught employers that change isn’t optional. “As every organisation faces disruption and challenges, there is an immediate need to reskill and upskill the workforce,” he explained.
And as the working world adapts to the ‘new normal’, employers have turned their attention towards the importance of upskilling and, subsequently, the demand for virtual L&D has increased to facilitate this. A report from Cornerstone stated that in March 2020, learners spent a whopping 27.5million hours on Cornerstone Learning. In addition, the data found that there has been a 50% spike in the number of organisations moving in-person training to online and more virtual formats. But, in order for HR tech to effectively help organisations accelerate digital transformation programmes for future purposes, de Lestrange said that the tools must tick several boxes.
“The first is being hyper-personalised, for employees, managers and the various users in the HR department. It’s with this personalisation that all HR functions can become effortless and most effective. The second is that technology must be driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) at every step, meaning HR technology fits seamlessly into the flow of work and enriches processes. The sudden challenges brought about by COVID-19 is also an opportunity to accelerate strategic initiatives and for companies to transform into a resilient, unbound business,” Cornerstone’s Communications Director added.
As every organisation faces disruption and challenges, there is an immediate need to reskill and upskill the workforce
‘Using tech to achieve scale’
Once businesses have found methods and strategies that work, it is about rolling them out across the board and scaling up. This is something that Justin Black, Head of People Science at Glint said technology can help with. He told HR Grapevine: “The real evolution here is that we will use technology to achieve scalable, helpful coaching that’s integrated into our common work practices. We see that in the future organisations and their people will start thinking of advanced business suites as their office allies. This is where platforms that generate trusted, personalised suggestions, tailored resources, and timely reminders can be a front-line resource that helps the whole organisation.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has greatly changed the traditional world of work that we knew, it is likely that a new set of changes are on the cards in future. As has been well documented, a large portion of employees will want to continue working from home because the pandemic has given them a flavour of what a better work-life balance and greater flexibility looks like. And in order to attract and retain top talent, employers will likely have to get on board with this and invest in tech to make this possible. As Mark Probert, EMEA Director, Bridge sums up: “With the global pandemic having a long-term impact on the way we all work, the spotlight has been turned on HR tech to help employees, managers and businesses connect virtually whilst maintaining efficiency, performance and alignment. This means that HR tech vendors now hold a certain responsibility to make remote working successful and support customers in enabling their teams to adjust to it,” he concludes.