HR Tech Concept It’s no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how quickly” organizations can adapt to this new employee-centric workforce reality, as those who don’t will fall behind. (Photo: Shutterstock)

“The war for talent is over. Talent won.”

I recently heard someone say this to a room of HR leaders, and it accurately reflects the current state of business. Today’s workforce expects and demands more from their employers, and HR feels the urgency to create an employee experience that attracts, motivates, develops and retains top talent. It’s no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how quickly” organizations can adapt to this new reality, as those who don’t will fall behind.

I see 2019 as the year where HR is able to bring advances in technology and people analytics together with the latest thinking in workforce alignment and motivation to form a comprehensive talent management strategy that ensures their organizations are able to meet today’s goals and be ready to address tomorrow’s challenges.

Here are my top three trends for HR teams and leaders in 2019:

HR analytics go mainstream

HR professionals pride themselves on their empathy and emotional intelligence — and these remain critical traits. However, these talents aren’t scalable; HR pros simply cannot give every employee and every manager equal attention and focus. Technology is necessary to help HR teams identify where they should focus their efforts.

Related: 4 steps to becoming a world-class HR organization

Historically, HR has been data-rich but insight poor because they lacked access to the kind of technology that could help them. 2019 will bring a new a level of data competency to the HR space with the increasingly rapid and widespread adoption of people analytics that transform these piles of raw data into actionable insights.These insights can be used to support data-driven decisions around high-potential talent, promotions or compensation, development and succession planning and, importantly, agile cross-functional team staffing.

For example, HR teams will now be able to apply advanced analytics to the huge amounts of sentiment data that is generated from hundreds of interactions between employees and managers that are captured as part of the performance management process. These insights can help flush out and reduce biases, providing the impartial information required to more accurately evaluate manager and employee capabilities. By evaluating the sentiment of these conversations and understanding its benefit and impact to employees, HR can better identify opportunities for coaching. Managers and employees can also benchmark their own and team behavior and performance against “top talent.”

When everyone feels that the process is fair, they’re more likely to use the data to inform goals, feedback, performance reviews, and ratings. People analytics will never replace the essential human elements of HR, but will complement them and become an extension of the team, helping to illuminate the areas that require focus and allowing HR teams to scale their impact.

Performance management moves beyond HR

There is a growing recognition across all levels and functions that effective performance management is a critical business priority, not just a compliance task for HR departments. The manner and speed of work is changing dramatically on multiple fronts: business environments shift and evolve quickly, requiring agile realignment around rapidly changing priorities. Cross-functional teams have all but replaced the siloed department structure, fast adoption and application of new skills outweigh functional job descriptions and within a decade it’s estimated that approximately half of the U.S. workforce will be temp, contract, or freelance workers.

Any of these on their own are dramatic changes, but taken together it is revolution. And as a result, the old school method of annual reviews for performance management has been rendered wholly ineffective. In response, CEOs and operational business leaders are getting actively involved in transforming their organizations around a continuous performance management approach that facilitates constant realignment and motivation of their entire workforce to achieve their desired business outcomes. Additionally, by harnessing the analytics I referenced earlier they will experience the benefits of having the most up-to-date insights about their talent to inform strategic activities like succession planning, calibration, and building their leadership pipeline.

Forward-thinking HR departments have already been changing their performance process to focus on development opportunities and continuous feedback, and these trailblazers are reaping the fruits of their labor. In 2019, the priority of evolving performance management will continue to stretch beyond “something HR does” to become the way everyone in the company collectively achieves together.

HR tech will (finally) make employee’s lives better

Today’s workforce expects their technology — even their HR Tech — to be intuitive and integrated seamlessly into their flow of work. This has been labeled the “Employee Services Layer” by HR industry analyst Josh Bersin, who asserts it is “the single most important technology investment” HR can make. Bersin also counsels that this layer will comprise best of breed talent management software services to meet specific needs and requirements, rather than a suite from a single vendor.

My previous experience at SuccessFactors gave me a front row seat when they built the first performance management SaaS application and Taleo launched their SaaS Applicant Tracking Software. And I saw how SAP, Oracle, and Workday each then subsequently built and/or acquired an entire HR application stack.

Unfortunately, having the vision and talent necessary to build one leading HR application doesn’t necessarily translate into creating an excellent experience for each distinct HR application. For example, companies who build systems of engagement typically aren’t good at developing systems of record and vice versa.

These legacy platforms are also challenged by age and technological debt and aren’t nimble enough to create the intuitive, seamless and social experiences needed to meet the needs of today’s workers who expect frequent, real-time feedback about their work and a genuine investment on the part of their employer in their career development. This new model of performance management needs help from technology to execute successfully, and as Bersin notes this has opened the market for more nimble and innovative solution providers who can better support a continuous process.

2019 will be another impactful year for enterprise HR teams. Taking steps now to ride the wave of these three key trends will help HR leaders continue to play a large role in shaping the direction of the organizations and workforces they serve.


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Doug Dennerline is CEO at Betterworks.