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These six HR technology predictions will be part of your working life in 2020. By Rob Bothma
Now that 2017 is well under way and most of us have long forgotten our vacation time, it’s a good time to look a little ahead, but not just at what technology trends are predicted for 2017, but rather taking look at what the experts are predicting we can expect HR to be like in the year 2020.

At the HR Tech Fest, Mike Molinaro presented his predictions on what he thought HR would look like, where HR is going and what role technology would play in HR in the year 2020. Although some of these predictions are not ground breaking or bleeding edge, it’s heartening to see that some of the hot topics we have been discussing over the past few years are now actually coming to fruition.

Prediction 1

The first prediction discussed was the consolidation of the burdensome administration tasks that weigh so heavily on the HR team. The prediction is that, no matter which route your organisation will follow, be it through taking advantage of technology to automate these tasks or through outsourcing, the prediction is that administration will be totally consolidated and hopefully a thing of the past. Tied to this, it is predicted that through this consolidation the size of the HR team will shrink, but the function would become more focused on strategic issues.

Prediction 2

The second prediction is centred around robotics, a topic that not too many people are comfortable speaking about, and even less so when you start speaking to HR practitioners. HR, they say, can never be replaced by robots. The term “robots” is used as a general term, and does not necessarily refer to having C3P0 or R2D2 and friends wandering through your offices managing employees!

Automated call centres with built in intelligence is a more likely example.

But the idea here is that it would be the repetitive tasks that will be replaced by robots, not those tasks that require a true human element. These robots will be driven by extremely complex software, which would have built-in intelligence as well as the capability to build on that data base, forming a never ending learning cycle. In the same vein, who would have thought a few years ago that self-driving cars would be one of the main focus areas of car manufacturers? At a plant creating battery powered self-driving cars, it is interesting to note that the ratio between software engineers (programmers) and actual mechanics is five to one.

Prediction 3

The third prediction was on the strategic nature of the HR function. This line of thinking has certainly been a topic of discussion for many years now, and it is enlightening to see that the experts predict that, by 2020, the HR function will be strategic in nature. As Mike Molinaro puts it, “Finally, we sigh, HR will understand the business and how people impact on business. We will accurately predict the future with leading rather than lagging indicators. We won’t be looking at what our turnover was. We will tell people what our turnover is going to be. We won’t tell our management where we sit when it comes to wages against market, we will tell them what the correct timing is to make adjustments in order to keep up with market”.

Prediction 4

In his fourth prediction, Mike Molinaro sees the concept of the HR Specialists re-emerging in the HR fraternity. Over time, the pendulum swung from HR being a team of specialists, each operating in their own specialist silo, to the present time when HR largely operates in more of a generalist Business Partner role, trying to meet all the needs on line management through a small team of HR generalists. But the new specialists of 2020 will have a focus on making decisions based on data rather than gut feel. Big data and analytics will become the new core competency in HR. Start preparing to hire your HRIS Manager.

Prediction 5

The fifth prediction is how HR will need to manage a work force that is mobile and will probably spread across the globe. It is going to be key for HR to plan around managing a workforce residing in the global village. Talent is no longer going to be restricted by distance. Wherever in the world the talent resides, the organisation will need to be in a position to be able to utilise it. If you don’t, your competitors surely will.

Prediction 6

In his sixth and final prediction, Mike Molinaro states that the face of HR is going to change. The HR team is going to start looking more like a good Marketing team. You might ask, “Why?” Well, the Marketing team has evolved over past years, much like we now expect the HR team to evolve. Marketing today is a science, it’s no longer just a “spray and pray” approach, it has become totally targeted in its approach through the use of data analytics.

And the prediction is that the HR team is going to follow this same focused and targeted approach, so when faced with a workforce issue, HR is going to be able to come up with a targeted solution because they are going to understand the data behind the problem.

In summary, the question to ask is, “Are you, as an HR professional, ready for this new world?” Warren Buffett said, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

And I think the true message to HR, is stop fixing the leaks, take the leap, and start taking advantage of what new HR technology brings to the table, to ensure that you are ready for the world we will face in 2020.

Rob Bothma is an HR Systems Industry Specialist at NGA HR, www.ngahr.co.za, a Fellow of the Institute of People Management and past nonexecutive director and Vice President of the IPM, co-author of the 4th Edition of Contemporary Issues in HRM and member of the Executive Board for HR Pulse.


· HR Tech Fest 2015
· Mike Molinaro: Top 6 predictions for HR in 2020.
· http://techfestconf.com/hr/aus/blog/hr-technology/6-predictions-for-hr-technology-in-2020/

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