HR Technology Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore

With the end of the year fast approaching, it is natural to turn our attention to the coming year, which means reading, thinking and talking with HR-technology leaders about the trends, developments and new technologies they think will have the most impact for HR organizations in the new year. Fortunately for me, three industry experts who are regular speakers at the HR Technology Conference–George LaRocque, Ben Eubanks and Trish McFarlane–recently released the 2019 HCM Trends Report, which identifies several of the big-picture HCM and workplace trends that will impact organizations and shape the direction of HR-technology innovation in 2019.

I recommend downloading and reading the entire (free) report here, but I also wanted to highlight three of what I think are the more important HCM trends that the authors lay out in the report. I’ll also suggest some ways HR-technology innovation will reflect these trends in 2019 and offer recommendations for HR leaders on how to move forward.

Practical Applications of AI at Work

If there was one term that seemed to shape much of the HR-technology conversation in 2018, it was artificial intelligence. Like many macro-technology trends that have come before (SaaS, mobile, UX, etc.), AI is now increasingly applied to support HR and talent-management functions. But like many emerging technologies of the past, AI seems more like just a cool set of capabilities still in search of the right problems to help solve.

In the 2019 HCM Trends Report, Eubanks makes a great point about where the AI conversation needs to head in 2019 stating, “The thing that’s going to change in 2019 is a greater focus on the actual, practical impacts of AI. It’s no longer enough to shout that your technology has machine learning or automation capabilities if you want attention–you’ll have to explain the problems it solves, or risk being overshadowed by those that do.”

The takeaway for HR leaders who are thinking about how to make AI-enabled HR-technology plans for 2019? Make sure you press any potential technology provider for demonstrable examples of real-world applications of these AI tools, and the ability to see quantifiable results of these projects. In 2019, AI must move past the “hype” and begin to deliver real returns, or as Eubanks correctly implies, the technologies–and your efforts using them–will not be successful.

HR as an Enabler of Individual and Organizational Success

Over the last few years of planning the HR Tech Conference, we have tried to focus the program on one central theme: success with HR technology. The idea is to create a set of learning experiences that would collectively offer HR leaders all the information, tools and insights they need to realize success with their organization’s HR-technology initiatives and see a return on those investments. Connecting HR, technology and success makes perfect sense and aligns with what we think about all the time at the conference.

What can HR leaders begin to think about in the context of their 2019 HR-technology plans? The focus should be on desired outcomes for the business, HR and the individual, and how HR tech can support achievement of these outcomes. Whether it is in targeted, discrete ways like applying new HR technology to support real-time learning, broader initiatives like systemic digitization of HR-service delivery or applying insights from HR data to inform talent decision-making, all HR-tech efforts should focus on driving results. I see more and more progressive HR organizations being results-oriented, and that will be a driving theme of 2019 HR-technology programs.

The Importance of Total Wellbeing

Over the last several years, an important shift has taken place in the workplace. Employers are broadening the concept of employee wellness to make a more comprehensive approach best described as “total wellbeing.”

In the report, McFarlane writes that the wellness term has been used in the workplace for at least a decade. Primarily, it was a way to address the need for improved health of employees via step programs, exercise plans and better eating habits. This has evolved into total wellbeing, which is the holistic strategy to address the emotional, physical, financial and professional needs of employees. Organizations are embracing it to help them increase employee engagement and retention, improve productivity, and as a recruiting and employer-brand-building tool.

Understanding this shift and how to use it to inform ongoing and new investments in HR technology will be an important agenda item for HR leaders in 2019. HR leaders should take time to research and better understand the growing market for solutions that support processes like financial planning and wellbeing, child- or elder-care needs, student-loan-repayment support and employee mental-health needs. Chances are, traditional wellness programs don’t address these areas fully, if at all. HR leaders should look to their HR-tech providers to support this more comprehensive definition and approach to wellbeing to ensure consolidated reporting and analytics, unified access and consistent user/employee experiences. This will be an area of focus in HR and in HR tech in 2019, for sure.

Workplace trends, whether caused by demographic shifts, economic conditions or technology innovation, will continue to shape the practice of HR and the development of new tools and technologies to support the workforce. It seems certain that 2019 will be another dynamic, fast-paced and technology-driven year in HR and will shape the growing HR-technology marketplace, so make plans to attend the HR Technology Conference from Oct. 1 through Oct. 4 in Las Vegas, where all the important HR-technology solutions will be on display, and you’ll be able to meet with leaders from these innovative providers to help you find the next set of HR-tech solutions to drive your organization forward.

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at