HR Innovation 2021: More Disruption Lies Ahead

2020 has been a year of lockdowns and quarantines.

At the organizational level, people learned how to adjust to the new normal of working remotely while managing client and team member relationships. On the personal level, we all learned how to balance our personal life, take care of our kids, family and be more resilient.

Organizations were not prepared for this massive disruption and have been caught off guard. They did not have a plan for business continuity nor a strategy to take care employees to main productivity and re-deploy talent per business needs. However, as Covid-19 arrived to stay, organizations reinvented themself and created new ways to delivered value, new products and services, new ways of working and a strategy to re-imagine talent and employee experience.

The HR innovation market ecosystem has also adapted. In 2020, we saw a big wave of mergers and acquisitions across the end-to-end talent lifecycle. Remote hiring, talent matching, re-skilling, employee sentiment and talent marketplace solutions were on the rise and powered by AI.

2021 brings a new concept for workplace and workforce, but also with new norms, policies and rules to keep Covid-19 under control to keep employees safe. Technology for talent and HR will play a key role to keep the workforce productive, engaged and advise leadership to redeploy talent at scale.

Below are some of the trends I see in the talent and HR space for 2021:

More acquisitions ahead: In 2020 we saw an exponential trend in the market- see my previous post- The AI market in talent and HR is exploding to learn more-. Many HR technology vendors started to expand their capabilities via acquisitions and/or develop new features. The reason? Covid-19 and the new normal changed organizational priorities. CEOs and CHROs are looking for end-to-end solutions to tailor the employee experience, build the right talent-mix, manage employee well-being as well as the re-allocation of talent to drive business value. What is the message? Big disruption ahead with new investors and VCs injecting capital to extend AI capabilities for HR technology vendors competing in the talent and HR market. In 2021 we will see more acquisitions in the HR innovation space. Many HR vendors saw the opportunity and are moving away from standalone solutions to focus on integrating tools across the talent lifecycle with a single AI platform. For example, the talent marketplace segment is growing exponentially, and many vendors are coming from different angles. We will see more market consolidation in the talent acquisition space as well. For example, Phenom ,ICIMS and Jobvite made several acquisitions in the last 12 months to provide an end-to-end talent solution. The HR innovation market is moving towards that direction: a talent end-to-end platform powered by AI.

Humanoids in HR: This is a fascinating space that is getting attention from organizations with advance AI and analytics across talent and HR. I personally was shocked when in 2017 Sofia, a social humanoid, was granted Saudia Arabia citizenship. This made Sofia the first robot to receive citizenship in the world. Last month, I spoke with three different solutions bringing humanoids and/or avatars with the ability to interact, coach, learn and create experiences with candidates and employees across the talent lifecycle. These humanoids can be applicable, for example, in recruiting in the assessment stage by being able to have an engaging conversation with candidates, and objectively assesses soft skills and personality traits through blind interviews. Tengai is offering this solution in the European market and planning to expand to the US in the long term. Amelia is the most human AI in the market that I have seen so far (she is not a chatbot). I am personally very impressed with its deep contextual understanding and learning capabilities. Amelia can manage complex conversations with employees and assist them in different areas across IT and HR Operations as an HR assistant. CDR offers an avatar for leadership coaching.

What is the message? Humanoids are here to stay and are part of the new workforce mix. It will change the way HR is structured, and human and machine collaboration will be part of HR service delivery model. Furthermore, these technologies will redefine new talent practices and up-skill HR talent will be required.

Talent Platforms: Skills are the new currency in the age of AI for talent and HR. AI has been playing a key role to identify the right talent and match them to roles to meet business and customer demands. Organizations are looking at talent as an ecosystem where talent is deployed on demand and creating an agile workforce providing visibility to leadership about the right candidates with the right skills and experiences to meet business outcomes.

There are two types of talent platforms; one that gives organizations visibility to worldwide talent (temporary, gig workers, highly skill specialized talent) to increase labor force flexibility and speed to market to meet customer demands.  The leading platforms in this category are Upwork and Toptal. The other category is talent marketplace-internal mobility platforms. They match employees to opportunities (gig work, project, mentoring, learning, etc ) powered by AI providing recommendations for succession planning, career paths, and re-skilling. Leading platforms in this category are Gloat and Eightfold. Pymetrics  is a rising star and brings a unique approach using behavioral assessment talent data. It launched its talent market feature in 2020.

I see all these platforms merging and enhancing their capabilities to combine the gig ecosystem and internal organizational talent at scale.

Employee Resilience: According to HRB “Resilience, the ability to adapt and recover from personal and professional setbacks, is increasingly recognized as a key driver of job performance. For those who lack resilience, a bad day can seriously throw them off their game, lowering their sense of worth, attitude toward their job and work performance”. With Covid-19, our home is our office and our office is our home; diluting the balance between work and personal life. With that said, employee’s mental resilience, health, and engagement is one of the biggest challenges for organizations in 2021. Here is where technology can help by deploying behavioral change and training solutions that unifies wellbeing, performance and productivity to build workforce resilience and improve their mental health. Thrive Global , Mequilibrium and Happify are three solutions leading in this space.  This niche market is growing, and we will see more solutions coming to this space to help employees to manage stress, anxiety, be more confident, and improve focus and vigor in the workforce.

Intelligent Behavioral Nudges: As more organizations implement and deploy employee listening and collaboration tools to keep track of productivity and engagement, organizations realized the value to capture employees’ emotions, perceptions and the way when and how people work, recognize and collaborate between each other. Using AI, HR technology vendors are offering solutions that ingest and analyze ONA (organizational network analysis), collaboration, performance, culture, and employee survey data in a way that brings real-time insights to leadership and provide intelligent nudges for managers and employees to take action to address employee’s pain points. These solutions send personalized emails and texts to employees suggesting small behavioral changes to make work better and build stronger workplace relationships. In short, it’s like having a personal coach. Leading vendors in this space are Humu  and Cultivate – intelligent nudges- and Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook (growing exponentially) for collaboration tools. The intelligent nudges solutions look very promising but still in early stages. However, I think during 2021 organizations will start exploring and adopting it as part of their employee development strategy.

Final thoughts

2020 has been a rough year at the personal and organizational level. We all learned how to adapt, be flexible, more resilient and balance our personal life while working from home. The future is here now, and AI will play a huge role by assisting HR and business leaders in the talent space. Organizations have big challenges ahead as to understand how intelligent solutions can enable talent strategy and employee experience as well as how to orchestrate all these intelligent solutions across the HR stack and roadmap for implementation.

More to come! Stay tuned!

Note: All views expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated . My opinions are my own.

Share it with your network:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Albert Loyola

Artificial Intelligence | Employee Experience| HR Transformation| Advisor| Speaker

Albert brings global market research experience  to help executives harness intelligent technologies, reinvent HR, re-skilling and employee experience across NAR, APAC, LATAM and EMEA regions.

Keep in touch