How Josh Bersin believes the pandemic will reshape HR tech

As the COVID-19 pandemic influences how people around the world work, it’s also sharply impacting the tech that makes that work possible. Josh Bersin, dean of the Josh Bersin Academy, believes the global crisis has ushered in a number of lasting changes, shifting the tools that are gaining traction in the market and putting the spotlight less on HR tech and more on work tech, a topic he will dive into during a keynote of the upcoming HR Tech Conference.

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Before the live event in Las Vegas, Bersin looked back at the pandemic-driven trends that he says will shape the industry for years to come.

HRE: One year ago, how did your own personal predictions about how the pandemic would impact HR technology compare to what we’re seeing today?

Bersin: The big change is how quickly “in the flow of work” has happened. When I first started talking about this two to three years ago, it was an idea; now, every HR tech vendor is producing technologies that you can talk with, chat with or interact with–without “logging in” to their platform explicitly. AI is now reaching a new stage where all the new HR tech solutions are actually intelligent by design, not just “personalized”–and the use of data as the engine of HR tech is emerging as the next big thing.

HRE: Is there any trend you had been seeing in HR tech prior to the pandemic that has been permanently derailed?

Bersin: Well, the number of “new ERP implementations” has slowed down because most companies have been so busy reorganizing and integrating and improving what they have.  Mid-sized companies are gobbling up HR platforms now, and the economy is focused on “reopening” and hiring again.  I think the idea of a one-time “transformation” has now more or less ended, and companies see HR transformation as an ongoing process, heavily focused on hybrid work and employee experience.

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Read full coverage of HR tech trends HERE.

“The ‘war for talent’ is now a ‘holy war for talent,’ if you know what I mean.” – Josh Bersin

HRE: What is your take on the predictions about a labor shortage–and what areas of the HR tech market will be most influenced by the current situation?

Josh Bersin
Josh Bersin

Bersin: All my data shows that this is very real and very disruptive. People feel very empowered to change jobs (driven by remote work) so the “quit rate” is now 4 million per month–the highest ever. That means companies have to be even more focused on employment brand, wages, benefits and fantastic recruiting processes. The “war for talent” is now a “holy war for talent,” if you know what I mean.

And yes, there really is a “labor shortage” if you aren’t a good employer. Great employers can always attract great people, but if you’re not managing people well, you’re going to struggle. By the way, this kind of economy draws more people back into the workforce so the workforce itself is very elastic, so we will see a higher percentage of people working overtime.

Related: No, HR, we don’t have a ‘labor shortage’ crisis

HRE: The Josh Bersin Academy recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. How different is the organization today than when it started?

Bersin: As I talked about in our recent video about the anniversary, the discovery for me was how huge this need has become, how complex the problem is, and how passionate and supportive HR people have been. When we started this, we were thinking about building “courses” and “experiences” but the JBA has become a “place” for HR people to not only learn but share, ask questions and advance the state of thinking. We realized we had to build a capability model as a framework for growth, and we also realized people want mentoring, developmental assignments and lots of live events.

We also now have real data on the correlation between HR capabilities and employee retention and employee experience.

Related: Register here to learn more from Bersin during his HR Tech keynote, “HR Technology Reinvented: The Big Shift Towards Work Tech.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at