HR tech has already come so far, where will it go in 2019?

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There are five main areas where AI and other technologies will change HR's focus and purpose this year

The drive to transform the workforce will continue unabated during 2019. From new technology trends, workforce wellbeing having a renewed focus, and four generations working together for the first time, organisations are having to adapt and embrace the digital era like never before.

Here are five predictions for 2019:

1. 2019 will be the year of automation

According to recent research, 65% of employers believe HR tech will free up workers to focus on more knowledge-intensive tasks. Our recent Trends Report also found that 72% of organisations have now adopted technologies to automate tasks and processes. While many organisations are already benefitting from automation freeing up employees from time-consuming routine tasks, 2019 will see the use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) expand to manage these same defined functions, but increasingly do it better, faster, and more reliably. For example, using natural language processing to expand keywords to synonyms and stack across the multiple job searches that talent acquisition teams perform.

2. More of us will work alongside robots

As the impact of automation and AI becomes more commonplace, many jobs will transform, with some functions being handled by robots who will work side-by-side with human workers.

HR professionals will need to balance the introduction of robots and target key areas such as managing repetitive processes and answering recurring questions from employees. Robots can make faster decisions, come to conclusions and generate insights more quickly. But managing the exceptions and complex work decisions that require empathy will need ‘humans in the loop’. By letting machines complete the intensive yet lower-skilled administrative tasks, HR’s role can evolve and focus on the development of staff into roles that use more insight and involve more complex tasks.

3. Technology will help manage employee wellbeing

Avoiding burnout and disengagement, and instead focusing on wellbeing and collaboration, is critical – and falls to HR in many cases. Using technology to win back time can have a positive impact on individuals.

I believe wellness programmes will no longer be seen as a nice to have, but rather a strategic necessity in 2019. A smart HR department will also use digital technology to provide the right tools and techniques to better manage issues such as absenteeism and presenteeism, employee engagement and productivity, unscheduled paid time off, and employee retention, satisfaction and morale. This insight can quickly highlight issues with particular staff members and ensure they are addressed before they escalate.

4. The recruitment process will become fairer

AI has incredible potential when it comes to talent acquisition; imagine smart systems being able to adapt assessments to get the best from candidates and make intelligent decisions (without bias), based on a range of factors from skills and competencies to personality and working preference-fit. Similarly, virtual reality tools will make it easier to put new employees in real-world scenarios without the risk of them miscommunicating with a customer or costing the company valuable time and money.

5. British businesses will embrace a more agile culture

Entry-level talent will be valued more by businesses as the attraction and retention of the younger generations becomes increasingly key – we must ensure that they don’t all disappear into start-ups but instead support the transition of established yet transforming British businesses. HR leaders will need to build a more agile, open and collaborative culture, working in partnership with the leadership team. Our recent Trends Report also showed that Gen Z employees have quite different attitudes to their predecessors. These digital natives take more risks around IT investment for example, and want to see more innovative technology in their daily lives. Yet at the same time, a focus on the training and reskilling of those who aren’t currently adopting new technology will also need to be juggled – worryingly our Trends Survey revealed that 59% of respondents believed that less than half of people in their organisations are ready for such technology adoption. This is why HR needs to ensure everyone jumps on board the digital transformation journey to drive employee attraction, retention and productivity.

Alex Arundale is group HR director at Advanced

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