What next for HR Tech?

HR Grapevine went to UNLEASH, Europe’s leading HR technology conference and exhibition, to find out what’s next for technology in the people function…

As noted by Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends report, organisations are increasingly concerned about improving what is often referred to as “the employee experience.” Almost nine in ten respondents to their wide-reaching survey stated this issue as either important or very important. Three in ten said it was the most urgent issue their organisation was facing this year.

There’s a strong logic here. According to MIT research, enterprises with top-notch employee experience achieve twice the innovation and much higher profits than organisations with poor employee experience.


Whilst there are a plethora of structural reasons for poor employee experience – ranging from the ways in which employers manage wellbeing, burnout, pay, and the manner in which they allow individuals to engage with work – technology is an increasingly important factor in how individuals view work.

Therefore, when HR Grapevine went to Unleash we were interested to see whether HR tech vendors were seeing demands from customers that reflected the key takeaways from Deloitte’s survey results. Were technology vendors increasingly being tasked with providing solutions that provided better experiences at work?

Listening to some of the leading experts and vendors in the HR technology space over the two-day Paris event, HR Grapevine can reveal where it seems likely HR technology will go next, what issues it will seek to address, and what leading HR functions are calling for.


What’s really clear from research is that employees want to develop their skills, not only contributing to themselves but also to the organisation, so their skills align with the organisational goals and that’s something we’ve been leaning into for quite a long time.

Additionally, employee experience is a must-have. If you look at experiences that employees are having with technologies these days, they’re comparing it to what they see in their everyday lives, so consumer grade experiences. It’s about having a good experience but also an experience that helps them to grow and develop.

Alan Slavik, Head of Strategic Development EMEA, Instructure



Some of the world’s biggest companies recently put a statement out which shows [the market has] moved from that binary purpose, to providing value for stakeholders, to something that is far more multi-faceted which is providing value for all stakeholders – whether that’s customers, employees, communities or the environment. [Here] HR can provide more value to the organisation and to the workforce too – making organisation’s healthier and more humane places to work.

David Green, Founder and CEO, Zandel


In general, the big trends we see are that companies need to look at their own needs from an organisational point of view but also take, even more than before, individual needs into account. So, it’s about having a balance: having talent management on the one hand and talent experience on the other hand.

One key element to enhance that experience is to enrich the employee with development opportunities. For example: ‘I’ve been doing my job for a few years, of course I will look at positions open in system, but the system will show jobs according to my talents, what I want and my potential. Ones that will be the most interesting and on top of that will give advice and push pieces of learning content that will help me to be successful in those new jobs.’”

Geoffrey de Lestrange, Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA, Cornerstone OnDemand


The thing that makes people happy is gratitude, curiosity, awe and wonderment: things you don’t get at work when you’re too busy and have too many emails and too many meetings and you don’t feel like you’re keeping up. These are the existential issues that have led to the HR tech market turning on its side…because this thing called the employee experience has exploded and it’s the number one thing that’s effecting HR vendors.

They used to build HR tech for HR. HR was the audience it was to make the systems, and the applications, and the data easier for HR professionals but that’s not the game anymore. Now [we can] build enterprise applications that are good for people, for workers, for employees, for managers.

Josh Bersin, Leading Industry Analyst and Founder Bersin by Deloitte


Everyone’s talking experience but I think we need to be mindful that not everyone is set-up to build experiences just yet and I think we need to be clear about which experiences we’re helping to improve and why we’re trying to do that.

The challenge for businesses is to understand their audience at different parts of the talent journey and then to understand how to deconstruct that process in order to make it seamless and personalised. This involves understanding the journeys that those people are going on and understanding what the employee wants and what the business wants and then understanding how these compliment one and other.

Duncan Miller, Senior Marketing Director EMEA, Saba Software


Employees expect the level of experience that they are having on Facebook or Instagram. HR is an app. For the generation that enters the workforce today, HR is an app. It’s not a matter of picking up a phone, or typing an email; they want online transactions at the push of a button, requesting absences, checking a payslip. They don’t worry about systems being integrated – an average 23-year-old doesn’t think that way. They want to get everything from the app.

Michael Custers, CMO, SD Worx


Talking about experience, companies will seek to leverage HR data to provide their employees with a personalised experience – HR systems need to provide rich content that engages the employee, helps them find what they need quickly and ultimately makes them more productive. Without direct access to the HR data it’s very difficult to do this, so it’s important to keep the experience as close to the HR data as possible, ideally in the HR system and avoid adding additional layers of software and complexity to try and create the experience.

Richard Doherty, Senior Director Product Marketing EMEA, Workday


In Josh Bersin's [UNLEASH] keynote, he made it crystal clear that HR tech needs to focus on making work better by improving the working experience, performance and productivity. I agree with Bersin's view that HR tech has focussed heavily over the last couple of years on measuring employee engagement and that it now needs to provide insights and actions to employees, managers and HR to actually improve engagement, with the ultimate aim of delivering sustainable employee performance. So, I expect employee performance management and engagement tech to converge over the next year or two and for wellbeing to start to feature more in tech solutions.

Stuart Hearn, Founder & CEO, Clear Review


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