Stanley Louw: 2020 HR trends, from disparate tools to integrated platforms

In 2020, the focus for C-suite will remain fixated on operational efficiency, with workplace experience playing an increasingly important role. The goal is to lower the cost of operating, at the same time as building a competitive employer proposition – and the pressure will mount for HR departments to support the business in achieving this.

Modern technology is putting HR departments in a better position than ever to take their rightful role as a more strategic function – if only teams can learn to take advantage of them. With this in mind, here are my predictions for HR trends in 2020:

1. Putting big data to use

The last few years have been about gathering data, in HR as in all industries, and there is certainly no shortage of it. Data is already being put to good use in areas like recruitment, but there is so much potential to use it in other areas, like anticipating employee sentiment, churn, and performance. 2020 will be about taking the data and actually using it.

For example, a professional services firm who recently was battling high attrition, with management suspecting employees were leaving for higher salaries. However, multiple sources told us they actually felt they weren’t accumulating the experience they needed to advance in their career. Armed with this insight, the company developed a portal for employees to browse for opportunities that could help them build the skills they required.

2. Hyper-automation

According to an Avanade survey on Workplace Experience, 73 per cent of companies are already using automation to various degrees. HR has dabbled in the technique as an industry, but in 2020 we will see teams embrace the technology to its full potential. Artificial intelligence will be used to streamline back-office processes like onboarding, timesheet management and exit interviews.

And it’s not just about gaining productivity either. Better use of data will help HR take its place as a more scientific and strategic function, and the ability to automate its more administrative aspects will only create further space for this evolution to unfold.

3. Millennials take over the workplace

According to Jeanne Meister, co-author of “The 2020 Workplace“, Millennials will account for nearly half of the world’s workforce in the next four years. While there is a definite movement to build workplaces that are more attractive to younger, tech-savvy generations, many are still designed by Baby Boomers for Baby Boomers.

In 2020, however, the transition will gather pace. Above all else, Millennials crave flexibility, mobility and easy collaboration at work, and C-suites are eager to harness technology to provide these experiences. In particular, companies will be looking to embrace so-called ‘phygital’ technology, offering a rich combination of digital and physical experiences.

Our clients in the Oil & Gas industry are leading the way here, for example by fitting hardy connected devices to hardhats to guide workers during complex procedures in remote and dangerous environments. Off-site, more advanced technology like Hololens augmented reality headsets are being used to train workers to perform high-risk operations in a safe environment.

4. From disparate tools to integrated platforms

Workplace technology is a bit like big data. There’s no shortage of enthusiasm (or investment!) from companies – the challenge is convincing workers to use it. In a recent survey of UK professionals conducted with YouGov, Avanade found that while 39 per cent have embraced modern workplace technology like Slack, Teams, and Skype, 73 per cent remain wedded to more dated technology like email.

In many cases the challenge is quite simply the confusion that comes from an excess of tools. With all of the different collaboration, engagement and communication technology on the market today, one of the most common questions we get from employees is “which tool do I use, when?”

In 2020, there will be a trend to consolidate tools, favouring solutions like MS Teams that provide a complete, integrated, and simplified digital working experience – similar to the seamless experiences that we have come to expect as customers.

5. Digital detox

Once HR teams succeed in getting employees to use workplace tech, the next challenge is making sure they don’t use it too much. A lot of spotlight has recently been placed on technology’s potential to impact our mental health and overall physical wellbeing, and the pressure is on HR teams to help employees find the right balance.

In 2014, the German car company Daimler AG implemented a solution dubbed “Mail on Holiday” where any emails sent to employees on leave were automatically deleted, and details of who to contact were forwarded to the sender. Daimler was a front-runner, but in 2020 we will see initiatives promoting digital wellbeing, like tech free meetings or digital detox buddies, become much more commonplace in the business world at large.





Stanley Louw leads Innovation and Workplace Value Realisation for Avanade UK, where he assists business leaders with navigating the increasing pace of change in the industry by focusing on digital disruption, customer-centricity and excellence in execution.