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Transformation agenda in HR tech ‘is gathering pace’

Digital technology is changing the way companies manage their workforce at an accelerating rate

Digital transformation and workforce changes are reshaping the HR agenda in Europe at a faster pace than ever, with change accelerating in recent months – and the trend is expected to continue.

The message of disruption – and opportunity – as a constant comes from David Wilson, chief executive of HR analyst group Fosway. The group has just completed its annual detailed research into European HR realities, surveying 600 participants across Europe in partnership with HR Tech World (Unleash).

The changes seen in the workplace are having a significant impact on priorities for HR – but are also creating an opportunity for HR technology and strategy to drive better engagement and deliver change on the right terms.

“The shift to HR as a digital function, running on cloud platforms, continues,” said Wilson. “For solo HR functions, the shift to cloud has been in play for some years and is relatively mature, but now core HR is catching up. And for suppliers of HR technologies, cloud is increasingly pervasive.”

If cloud as the platform of choice is familiar territory, there is increasing focus from suppliers on the user experience, on artificial intelligence and machine learning, and on analytics.

“There are real innovations coming through across the board, often with the aim of empowering employers by giving back control, but it is also fair to characterise a landscape where nothing is totally established,” Wilson told Computer Weekly.

“For solo HR functions, the shift to cloud has been in play for some years and is relatively mature, but now core HR is catching up”

David Wilson, Fosway

Innovations that are coming through but have yet to be widely adopted include freelance HR marketplaces, HR hackathons and HR business process outsourcing.

“There is a lag because change is hard in many large organisations and often there is a lag in understanding and awareness, too,” said Wilson. “The change that could be wrought by capabilities like blockchain, for example, is a way off yet in the HR tech space, even if capabilities around analytics, chatbots, learning and robotics are coming through.”

The clear gap between the trajectory of suppliers and the trajectory of many user businesses is, in part, because many innovations have been modelled and shaped for tech companies in California that are way ahead of the tech curve as well as, in many cases, being more Agile and smaller. It takes time for those capabilities to be adopted in mainstream, mature European businesses of scale.

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Wilson said there is clear potential for businesses in Europe to move away from established models for career, employment and skills competencies, and to embrace working models that use smart data rather than established bias when engaging with employees and their needs.

“Companies understand that the new technologies can let the data do the work,” he said. “It works for supporting employees, but also in recruitment and talent acquisition. The quality of data is being improved, too, by machine learning, which also enhances the personalisation of data.”

Wilson said certain parts of the technology stack are being adopted by corporates quite quickly, with chatbots and automated intelligence to the fore, but he said platforms such as Slack are not a good fit with European corporates.

“HR and service delivery are still changing fast, however,” he said. “HR is becoming a digital function and the experience is improving for users because of personalisation and embedded intelligence.”

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