There is no doubt that digital technology is a key driver behind an increasingly agile workforce—a workforce that requires more intuitive, connected, user-friendly and mobile HR systems. But technology is not the only change driver. The workforce itself—along with innovative companies that are developing new business models—is creating a demand for responsive, productivity-focused HR systems that will continue to empower people in the ever-changing work world.

This is just one of several key insights that emerged during my participation in a panel discussion at the recent 2017 Tech Summit in Sydney, Australia to explore the impacts of technology on HR systems. Topics we touched on included:

  • Key digital technologies, trends, and their impacts
  • Workplace-shaping emerging technologies
  • Who is leading the change
  • The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • How to best apply HR technology to support the changing workforce

In response to our umbrella topic question, “Will we still be talking about business disruption in 10 years?” the consensus was, “Yes, we’re just not sure what we’ll call it or what it will look like.” The important factor is that change will be driven by employee and customer wants and needs.

As HR professionals, we will have to take a proactive and dynamic approach in understanding and addressing those needs and applying technology—including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and predictive data—as a facilitator in these efforts. Most significantly, the foundation for the HR systems of the future will be flexibility and adaptability in meeting individual needs, rather than taking a “one-size-fits-no-one” approach.

Influential technologies and trends

As we looked at what the future holds, our panel identified the following disruptive and emerging technologies and trends:

  • “Wearables” and other natural interfaces, such as facial recognition
  • AI and robotics
  • The more robust use of data to proactively predict and personalize interactions as well as engagement rather than react to issues and challenges with the engagement of our people
  • Talent marketplaces for sourcing resources both within and outside of the organisation
  • New leadership models and business structures that include robots and AI as a part of our teams
  • The workforce itself in terms of demanding the consumerisation of the workplace

These technologies and trends will be pervasive—impacting the who, when, where, and how of work, as well as how HR professionals help our organisations manage learning, automated processes, and people. The IoT will be an enabler.

The trailblazers

There are several companies leading the way in this transformation—such as Virgin, Proctor & Gamble, Air BnB, and Mastercard—by putting people first, experimenting with new technologies and business models (such as Agile), and leveraging the liquid workforce to meet both business and employee needs.

It was an exciting and invigorating discussion. Clearly, technology will play a pivotal role in the HR systems of the future. But the foundational element will be using technology in ways that best serve people.

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