Here’s where Josh Bersin expects the most innovation in HR tech

In his HR Tech keynote, the global industry analyst extolled the virtues of new tech tools but warned that employees can be tough judges.
By: | September 29, 2021

Good news is abounding when it comes to HR technology: The market is robust and ripe for consolidation and innovation. Meanwhile, employers are hungry for solutions to address the Great Resignation and to keep their talent engaged, satisfied and not headed for the exit. Despite this, HR leaders need to stay on top of their investment in innovation, or they could risk their talent leaving for greener and more tech-friendly pastures.

That was the message from global industry analyst Josh Bersin, who delivered a keynote Wednesday at the HR Tech Conference titled “Technology Reinvented: The Big Shift Towards Work Tech.” Bersin introduced his “10 New Truths about HR Technology.”

  1. Employee Experience takes over.
  2. ERP still strong, redefined.
  3. Skills taxonomies and intelligence platforms are the “next big thing.”
  4. Recruiting and internal mobility collide.
  5. Learning in the flow of work has arrived.
  6. Talent Marketplace has become a category.
  7. Employee listening explodes with growth.
  8. Performance, talent and learning converge.
  9. Microsoft changes HR Tech forever.
  10. Watch out for the Creator Economy.

Like never before, workers are voting with their feet. Each month, 2.7% of Americans voluntarily leave the workforce at a toll of 4 million jobs left unfilled each month. “People feel they have lots of power,” Bersin said. 

While the vast array of companies are offering new tech solutions as part of efforts to keep employees on board, the average large company has 70 employee applications, causing workers to face app overload. “If you think employees are excited about new things, think again. We have to rethink employee experience,” he said.

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Apps like Tik Tok are no longer the realm just for wanna-be social media influencers; instead, such tools can play a role in learning and upskilling and rolling out new tools. And it’s not alone as an example of the new creator economy, which applies to HR tech as well, said Bersin.

“Smaller vendors are focused on tools to build things. At the beginning of the pandemic, [many companies] thought they were going to go out of business, but now, they build apps [with the help of smaller vendors]. This didn’t exist four years ago,” said Bersin. “We are approaching the creator economy of HR.”

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Skills and recruiting taxonomies are the next big things. Companies can no longer hire and teach their employees skills in the traditional method. “They are saying, ‘We don’t care about job level, we want to know what an employee can do and what they want to do with their life. What skills do you need to get there?’,” said Bersin. He added that companies cannot trust black box, one-size-fits-all solutions to solve that problem.

“If you don’t know how a skills app works, it’s not going to work. Your HR staff and employees won’t be able to strategically use it. And no two companies have the same skill profiles,” he said.

As 40% of American employees are changing jobs and 25% are changing careers, employers cannot look for the exact same types of people to fill those roles. Instead, HR leaders must determine related skills adjacencies—a similar skill set that could help an employee accomplish the job role—and go out and hire them.

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“We are bolting together recruiting and learning,” said Bersin, noting that insurance giant Allstate says 60% of its hiring is now internal and up to 30% are people who previously worked at the company. “If you don’t think about learning and recruiting, you will be left behind.” 

Bersin calls the talent marketplace—the concept that firms can hire from inside their company—the “best new idea in a decade.” Research from the Josh Bersin Academy found that two-thirds of employees said it’s easier to find a job outside their company, rather than internally, highlighting the opportunities that could await employers if they invest in better tech and strategies around the internal talent marketplace. 

“You can also use the talent marketplace for agile work,” he said, referencing, for instance, SAP’s job-sharing program in its Germany locations. “When an employee has a baby and wants to work three days a week, they can post that they need another SAP employee to work for them and they can volunteer for this partial job.”

While there is a hunger for learning on the job and significant opportunity for internal hiring, there is no time for long, drawn-out education, Bersin said. Instead, employees want small chunks of learning, which is spurring a new design paradigm. Virtual reality, augmented reality and avatars will drive learning in the near future. For instance, Walmart used VR for training and found a 96% reduction in training time, from eight hours down to 15 minutes. Fidelity saw a 10% increase in customer satisfaction in six months thanks to VR tools.

But, HR leaders have to be critical when it comes to new tech. “If [employees] don’t want to use it, why did you buy it?” Bersin asked.

See also: Walmart’s solution to teaching workers kindness: virtual reality

Tools should be tested first with employees and consistently revisited once they’re rolled out, he noted.

“One company [the Josh Bersin Academy] profiled has 90 wellbeing apps and they shut off the ones that are not used at the end of the years,” he said. He called this “the Marie Kondo approach,” named after the noted decorator and clutter advisor who urges people to discard objects that do not bring them joy. 

“Pilot test these technology apps; this helps give a better sense of what is successful,” he said.

More than one audience member asked if HR leaders should be pressing for a bigger tech budget. Bersin said organizations don’t have to spend a lot of money on HR tech to offer a positive employee experience. The more complex a company is, the more value there is in some of these systems but smaller companies should focus on the basics, he said.

“Smaller companies don’t want fancy learning systems,” he said. “Culture and feedback are more important than these fancy tools.” 

Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.

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