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The Next Big Trend in HR Tech: Improving the Flow of Work

November 16, 2022 Employee Experience
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

The past few years have seen a mountain of changes in HR and talent management technology, from experience layers to video interviews to SMS tools. But one of the most important changes is also one of the most subtle: the interface used to access various programs.

Rather than interact with systems through a computer’s desktop, today users are connecting to various software without leaving the application they’re currently in. For example, a person may book time off by accessing the HR functionality through Slack or Teams, which in turn feeds back to the HR system.

This is one outgrowth of the spread of integration. And they're getting more and more attention from HR and organizational leaders as they seek to reduce friction and improve ease of use for employees.

HR Tech Is Now Just Work Tech

The notion of experience layers is simple to understand. They’re a layer of hardware and software that sits between the end user and a product’s functionality, for the express purpose of facilitating its use and productivity.

This offers employers several advantages. First, it encourages the consistent use of tools across a product’s user interface. Second, it allows a range of technical solutions to share a common approach to implementation.

Microsoft’s Viva, for example, uses Teams as a delivery mechanism for new capabilities that go beyond its core communications and collaboration features. It allows Microsoft to meld new apps into a software framework that many workers already use as something of a home base. That improves usability, streamlines learning and, ultimately, boosts productivity as users take advantage of a tool’s power while working in a familiar environment.

Today, nearly every touch point between employers and employees have an employee experience component. At the latest HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, industry analyst Josh Bersin said that HR tech is in the process of shifting to “work tech,” which can be used to conduct pretty much every aspect of an employee’s job.

Bersin predicts the industry will soon spend much of its time seeking to improve the employee experience through apps that are easy to use and integrated neatly with existing tools.

And we've already seen that happen. As the recovery from COVID-19 got underway, employers reinforced their investments in workforce solutions. According to Ceridian's Future of Work report, in 2021, more than two-thirds of employers planned to invest in HCM and employee experience technology.

Related Article: HR Leaders Should Demand More of Their HR Systems

The Proof Is in the Flow

But what’s interesting isn’t how these tools are packaged, but what they can do.

Delivery in the flow of work has been an active part of HR technology vendors’ strategy for at least five years. But it was only recently that products in that space began receiving notable interest from employers and that “in the flow of work” gained traction as a solution for learning and other needs.

Product integration has been around longer than that, of course, but today, numerous vendors are forging partnerships with other players to offer more functionality in one place. Consider Slack: It has partnerships with Microsoft (Teams), Outlook, Asana, Evernote and Qualtrics. Microsoft Teams incorporates solutions from Hibob, ADP, Clovers, Workday, Knowledge Management and UKG.

All of this indicates that “ease of use” has been folded into the greater notion of “getting things done.” Slack, Viva and similar products are designed to streamline work by offering access to a wide variety of tools. Because Slack and Viva offer mechanisms to complete a wide variety of tasks, they’re built with utility in mind.

Combining integration with delivery in the flow of work allows for more flexibility in developing an organization’s HR tech stack — and more possibilities for users. The mechanisms that accomplish this aren’t particularly sexy, but their impact on workers, HR and organizations is quite real.

Broadly speaking, HR tech trends run about five years, from the time a product or practice is ready for prime time. It's fast moving. This year, it’s all about hybrid work. Next year, it may be about skills development, learning or video communications. The combination of integration and the flow of work may not get the same level of attention as engagement tools, but it’s sure to expand the landscape of everyone who delivers HR content and services.

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