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Josh Bersin’s 2019 HR technology market report: the small business edition

Josh Bersin continues to be one of the most influential HR technology analysts and experts around. He recently released his 2019 HR Technology Market report, appropriately titled “Disruption Ahead”. This is a great read for anyone who is driving talent optimization in their organization and wants to stay ahead of the curve.  

While Bersin is an excellent analyst, he does tend to see the world from an enterprise/larger company perspective first. Unfortunately, this can leave small and medium-sized business talent leaders wondering, “Is this really for me? Does this describe my reality?”  

The answer is yes! But not everything really applies, or will likely be relevant, for you this year. So, in order to help you better distill Bersin’s 2019 Technology Market Report, I put together a SMB-focused synopsis below. These are the SMB cliff notes, so I strongly encourage you to still go read the Bersin report if you have time.  

The HR technology world is going through massive disruption.

If you are a talent optimizer, you are part of this disruption. Disruption is coming in three major forms:

  1. Artificial intelligence
  2. Productivity
  3. The employee experience

And it’s going to rely on one common denominator: people data.

2019 hr technology report small business the predictive index

The role of HR is getting bigger.

In addition to the core functions of staffing, payroll, compensation, and benefits, Bersin names 12 functions that HR is becoming increasingly responsible for. These include emphasis on owning fairness and transparency of the organization—especially as it applies to how data is used. It also includes elements of external brand (e.g., Glassdoor ratings) and social consciousness. Finally, Bersin identifies that elements of well-being, team dynamics, gig and contract work, and leadership development are all becoming more HR-oriented.

While that can seem like a daunting list, what’s most important is the awareness that more companies are asking HR to move beyond compliance and paperwork to own important issues—or if you are already doing these things, then you are in good company!

Artificial intelligence is here to stay.

And it’s becoming so common, it’s almost a commodity! That said, there has been a struggle to adopt AI solutions due to complexity. So if you’re not currently using AI, don’t worry too much yet. You can still be very successful in your work without AI tools.

However, there are some AI solutions that could be enormously impactful in your small business, such as tools that help improve the recruitment of talent (e.g., helping people to find your job postings) or provide insights on performance management. Taking the time to explore some of the options out there that are already easily packaged in software—such as Zugata, Xander, and Butterfly.ai—could help to improve the efficiency of your HR department and teams and keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to hiring and performance.

The goal of AI is not to replace any individual employee, but to augment the work of that employee by automating tasks and providing insights gleaned from consuming massive amounts of data that would be impossible for any one person to sift through.

Productivity is critical and is increasingly becoming the major focus of HR.

In Bersin’s eyes, technology is moving from systems of engagement to systems of productivity and teams.

This has two implications: First is that many companies are doing less work in a hierarchical fashion, and more in teams and projects. HR technology is trying to keep up, and small businesses should be as well. If your organization isn’t thinking about productivity in an agile way, then you may be missing opportunities to really excel.  

Second, HR technology is increasingly providing great tools designed to really harness the power of teams—both structured or project-based. A great example of this is PI’s Team Styles, which allows you to understand how your team works together, discover emerging patterns, identify behavioral gaps, and improve relationships. If you’re not leveraging these types of tools, you’re risking falling behind.

Broaden your definition of the employee experience.

For many, the employee experience is synonymous with employee engagement. But today the employee experience goes much further: it’s about the “moments that matter” and helping employees acclimate to the processes, culture, and work styles of the organization.

From onboarding and learning to questions about policies and benefits, the employee experience is critical—and the best companies are finding ways to improve by incorporating new initiatives (e.g., performance management) into systems that everyone uses everyday. A great example of this is how one company used Success Factor for performance management, but put the whole thing into Salesforce, since 90 percent of the company used that platform. Not only did they win by implementing a performance management tool, but they won again by eliminating the need for another tool, another login, and another software.

Analytics are growing in popularity.

Bersin notes that this is the fastest subdiscipline in HR. While I have subtly hinted to be patient with many of the other innovations, I think analytics is here to stay. The volume, velocity, and value of the data we are collecting is growing by leaps and bounds. There are new tools that are increasingly making people analytics easier to measure, analyze, and apply.

Here’s what this means for you:  if you are optimizing your talent—and you have data to show it’s working—your seat at the table is going to grow. We’re going to see HR, front-line managers, and individual contributors having bigger influence on the direction of the company.

And those are some takeaways. There is a lot more to the Bersin report around learning, HR technology architecture, and even the gig economy that would be valuable to read when the time is right.  

Innovation and yes disruption is all around us. But I caution: don’t be fooled into thinking technology makes it all better. There is a still a “people” component to “people strategy”. All too often we confuse the convenience of technology with what really matters: showing employees they matter, they are valued, and giving them tools to work together, thrive together, and perform. It doesn’t take technology to create an award-winning culture or an amazing employee experience—but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Greg is the SVP of science at PI.

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