6 HR technology trends to anticipate in 2021

When we entered the new decade, we also entered a new era of digital transformation - particularly in human resources (HR) technologies. Some companies are finding their legacy systems are no longer fit for purpose and it’s predicted that by the end of the year, 70% of small and medium-sized enterprises will utilise HR technologies.


hr techs to leverage in the new year

From artificial intelligence to anonymous reporting, the way we hire, manage and work is changing at a phenomenal pace. What will become an essential tool for HR professionals and what will be replaced with innovation that’s right around the corner?


  1. Machine Learning, RPA and AI
  2. Cloud-based HR
  3. Virtual reality onboarding and training 
  4. Recruitment relying on technology
  5. Employee-focused and increased feedback channels
  6. Anonymous reporting


1. Machine Learning, RPA and AI

HR technology has dramatically changed the landscape of how people management works. There are a couple of things that have powered such a big shift. The first is millennials are now the biggest cohort in the workforce. This is a generation that has grown up with access to the internet and mobile devices, and as such, HR technology is no longer a preference but a necessity.

Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) make employee onboarding easier for HR teams. 

Once an applicant is hired, RPA tools can automatically update the applicant tracking system, make a new employee record for company use and gather the employee’s necessary documentation. With this automation of low-level processes, recruiters and HR professionals can focus on higher-value tasks. 

Expect to see more chatbots in HR technologies as the emphasis on self-service increases. Many companies already use chatbots to interact with curious customers - why not use them with employees or prospective new hires? 

Chatbots, when deployed correctly, can help quickly resolve issues and provide instant answers instead of waiting for a phone call or email. AI-powered chatbots can also solve many simple HR issues, tasks like updating personal information or making other data changes can be automated. 

Aside from internal use, chatbots also show promise in streamlining the candidate experience too. More advanced chatbots can handle initial applicant screening and schedule interviews. This way, recruiters can focus their time on higher-value tasks like looking for talent and culture fits. 

2. Cloud-based HR

Remote working is fast becoming the new normal. While this trend has been snapping at our heels for the past few years, the COVID-19 situation has really accelerated it. Increasingly, many companies will move to a remote-first model while others will offer remote working options for their employees. Not just through necessity but because employees want it. 

Collaboration and productivity tools like Slack and Trello are critical to this transition which is why HR software has to become cloud-based too. People management processes need to be quick and scalable, which is only possible through cloud-based HR tools.

One major downfall of a lot of HR technologies is getting employees to actually use it. If an employee has to remember a separate login or go to a complicated, long URL, they won’t use the tool. To solve this challenge, look for more tools that closely integrate with what employees use every day. 

While it allows HR to access employee data in real-time and make decisions accordingly, the cloud-based self-service tools also give employees much better control over their data. This, in turn, makes it a lot easier for companies to evaluate productivity, engagement and even wellbeing. 

3. Virtual reality onboarding and training

We can expect more companies to jump on the virtual reality training wagon. It sounds far fetched and futuristic, but many companies are already seeing positive results.

FedEx, Walmart and IKEA started using virtual reality training and plan to expand their programs. 

Pilots have been training on flight simulators for decades. The difference is the new surge in virtual reality products for consumers. It’s cheaper and more accessible, making it an excellent option for corporate trainers. VR can help when onboarding, which is a key element in the retention of staff. It’s no surprise 97% of learning and development professionals see VR as a way to enhance training.

How could you use VR in the onboarding process? One idea to implement is virtual tours of the work environment, allowing new employees to familiarise themselves with it prior to even starting work. This can be self-paced, putting the employee in control of their own onboarding. It’s a nice welcome to the business. 

This is just the start. What’s exciting about the future is VR will be able to do things that have never been done before, especially in the realm of training and development.

4. Recruitment relying on technology

Recruitment, interviews, performance evaluations and other HR interactions will become bolstered by technology.

Pivoting your hiring strategy is crucial to secure top talents and nurture the candidate experience. 

Though this isn’t revolutionary, the coming years will see renewed efforts from HR teams to create and maintain a diverse workforce in terms of factors like gender, race, ability, sexuality and nationality.

The increased push for diversity is partly caused by increased scrutiny of the bias HR teams can have during hiring. Unfortunately, like many people, HR professionals themselves are susceptible to unconscious biases that influence the hiring process. They can be difficult to overcome, but one way to minimise their effects on recruitment is to use AI. 

Artificial intelligence can objectively screen applicants and predict the most suitable candidates. More importantly, HR professionals can program AI-powered recruitment tools to ignore demographic information such as race, gender and age. Companies should aim to develop recruitment strategies that ensure equal opportunities are given to all applicants.

With careful consideration and planning, you can harness these new technologies to build modern and productive HR processes and deliver better experiences for applicants, employees and beyond.

5. Employee-focused and increased feedback channels

To be more effective at their jobs, HR teams often turn to technology such as HR software to automate tasks wherever possible.

In a world where automation will inherit repetitive tasks, having software that invests in soft skills training like communication. Being a good team player and employee has become increasingly important.

Performance management is going to become a real-time, continuous and an integrated process. The era of annual appraisals is nearing its end and organisations are upgrading themselves to more frequent reviews with the ability to even have more granular check-ins. 

With employment rates at an all-time low, people aren’t content with employment alone. People look for a specific employment experience that empowers them to make their own choices when it comes to their tasks and goals. The majority are reevaluating their circumstances and valuing more than just work perks. 

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to human resource management will no longer work. Nearly 80% of businesses say employee wellbeing is a critical part of their business plans. HR teams can use survey software to get a deeper understanding of their employees and develop tailored management approaches as needed. 

Another HR trend to anticipate involves changes in organisational culture. Employees want more insights into how companies are run. As a result, organisational culture now moves away from traditional hierarchies and towards flatter, circular structures that include employees in the decision-making process. 

6. Anonymous reporting

One of the key trends is anonymous incident reporting. Incidents of harassment and bullying are taking place in organisations all over the world, impacting people’s wellbeing, happiness and confidence.

Culture Shift was built to lead a positive change in organisational culture by giving organisations the insight to support their people and take proactive steps to tackle negative and harmful behaviours. You can learn more about your culture and identify patterns of behaviour through real-time reporting. 

Anonymous reporting increases the chances of these incidents coming to light and gives employees the support they need when they need it by signposting them to relevant articles, tracking case outcomes and providing direct support to those who give their name. For more information on anonymous reporting, you can listen to our podcast. 

By giving people in your organisation a voice, they’ll know their safety and happiness matters. And, most importantly, that speaking up makes a difference.

See how the Culture Shift platform works

One thing is for sure, the need for HR technologies will only continue to grow. You can book an introductory call or send a message to the Culture Shift team and see first-hand how our system can power a positive culture shift in your organisation.
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