The big shift in HR services

The HR services industry is undergoing a series of disruptive changes. These trends have an impact on HRTech, as the recent HR Technology 2021: The Definitive Guide by analyst Josh Bersin shows. It is interesting to see that the move towards ecosystems and marketplaces that we see in the US, is also a global phenomenon.

The report by Josh Bershin is an eye-opener to anyone working in or around the HR services industry. Big shifts caused by external events, societal changes and technological progress are changing the face of this segment.

Getting work done

Technology has become mission-critical for companies. Technology is used to make employees as productive as possible, and HRTech is adapting to this. The report calls this the shift from HR technology to work technology: “everything we now buy must feel useful and important as a tool for getting work done.” Together with the shift towards employee centricity (see below), this places the employee squarely in the center of technological evolutions. It goes without saying that getting work done also means getting it done safely, through secure connections.

HR applications proliferate

Another big shift the report highlights is the vastness of HR applications, and the spread of HR applications into areas beyond payroll and employee administration. “Yes, every company needs a core system of record that stores employee information and a system that models the company (who is in what job, who reports to whom, what level are people at, their pay grade, bonuses, benefits, schedules and certifications). But employees need much more. Everything that happens at work – from the minute you leave home to the minute you clock out at night – is a step, stage or series of activities that can be facilitated and improved by technology.” This evolution only accelerates the convergence between HRTech and Work tech.

HRTech becomes employee-centric

Underlying these trends is the evolution towards employee centricity. “HR software used to be designed for HR managers. Today, it is designed for employees.” As a result, these tools have to be so easy to use that they fit into the flow of work.” In designing these solutions, software developers “now think of what you want to do, not what the system wants you to do.” HRTech developers are now thinking in terms of ‘moments that matter’ and ‘employee journeys’. And to make life as easy as possible for employees, mobile-first design now dominates. The overall strategy: to make HR technology disappear, by embedding it in the flow of work. “If it’s useful and fits into day-to-day work life, we’ll find it valuable and HR will benefit. If employees find it to be an interruption and have to spend valuable time learning how to use it, we won’t gain as much value.”

A complex HRTech architecture

From an architectural perspective, this means all applications need to be connected and need to exchange information. The report looks back at the evolution of the last two decades and concludes that HRTech moves in waves, driven by technology, culture and the economy. In each wave, other systems were used: systems of record (employee information), systems of talent (for applicant tracking, learning administration, employee surveys,…), systems of engagement (with user-friendly interfaces, meant to make employees more productive) and, finally, systems of work – tools that make work easier. Each of these systems continues to exist and are built on top of each other.

At the same time, software companies keep inventing new applications for point solutions, e.g. systems that track employee emails to identify patterns of strong or weak teamwork, or software that recommends the right career path for people. “Two years ago, no one even dreamed of these applications.” Small wonder then that most companies have a vast portfolio of HR applications to maintain. Reports claim that organizations on average, use at least nine core talent applications, a number that is constantly rising, along with the cost of these systems. Companies are spending 29% more per employee on HR systems than two years ago.

Towards digital-ecosystems and -marketplaces

These are trends that we recognize in working with HR service brokers like SD Worx and others. As in other industries, HR service brokers are bringing their employee-centric applications together in one portal that is easy to use and accessible both on mobile and through the web. Identity and Access Management (IAM) products, like Suite, are instrumental in accomplishing this. As an example, SD Worx is using TrustBuilder as an international single authentication platform to let customers start up any SD Worx application, using advanced features such as Single Sign-on (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). And for access to its SD Worx Assistant mobile app, SD Worx relies on TrustBuilder Mobile Authenticator to provide passwordless yet secure access to all users. 

To help HR services brokers quickly and securely build their digital ecosystems, TrustBuilder offers a Service Catalog that contains a host of connections to Identity Providers and applications. Among these applications are mobility and travel apps that can fit into an HR portal, but also specific apps for meal- or eco-vouchers like Monizze.

Using Suite, HR service brokers can bring digital ecosystems and user-friendly portals to their users faster than other players in the market.

Interested in our HR services offering? Check out our HR services web page or contact us.


Frank Hamerlinck

Frank Hamerlinck

As co-founder of global trade management leader Porthus, customer experience platform NGDATA, and strategic consulting services company innacco, Frank embodies the entrepreneurial mindset. His 20+ years of ICT experience is complemented by his position as ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at iMinds and coach at Netwerk Ondernemen.

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