HR tech trends push fast forward

‘All models were broken in the pandemic; as we look to 2021, it’s important to strategise for how the game will change again’


Marc Coleman, Founder and chief executive, UNLEASH
Marc Coleman, Founder and chief executive, unleashgroup.io

An entire generation is now hooked on technology to power every function of their lives. And just as all great inventions create excitement as they make new things possible, the real question is not whether there will be more major technological changes in 2021, but how organisations can learn to better handle the disruptions that follow. 

Real-time everything is the new wave in respect to skill management, learning, tasks, communications, performance and productivity, and health is observed as the key to sustainability for organisations of the future.

Using tech to help your employees

While the live workplace is truly missed, organisations are seeing productivity gains of at least one day a week as human resources activities, such as virtual onboarding, provide a better, faster and cheaper employee experience.

Many organisations have easy-to-use apps that let customers make instant transactions online. Behind the scenes, however, many of the company’s own employees have wait times of two to eight weeks to get their necessary tools of the trade, including admin work, training, software logins. I am reminded of a conversation I had 12 years ago with the then-Tesco chief executive when he commented, “We know more about our customers and their behaviours than we do about ourselves and our employees.”

UNLEASH customers such as Amazon have added 427,000 employees – 2,800 employees a day – over the past ten months and are delivering digital employee experiences in onboarding and learning. These virtual experiences will continue and evolve long after the coronavirus pandemic.

Imagine Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls where you have a conversational inbox that creates actions, automates work as you go, shows you all the interactions and current status of customer relationships, and alerts you on the performance analytics, learning needs and project status of employees as you interact with them.

Investing in real-time communication

What we have experienced in this crisis is how office distractions have been eliminated and replaced with real-time communication. In the months and years ahead, decision science will be taken to a whole new level and a new chapter in trust of information versus intuition. Or, what all of us on the job refer to as data versus your gut feeling.

The business world changes fast and all models were broken in the pandemic; as we look to 2021, it’s important to strategise for how the game will change again. Data as the new oil sits firmly evident at the top of the Fortune 200 and successful employee experience is becoming the sweet spot.

Tony Hsieh, founder and chief executive of Zappos, sadly passed away this year. Zappos was really the first company to adopt holacracy, with varying degrees of success, but adopting a concrete framework for encoding autonomy, agility and purpose alignment into your organisational DNA feels really smart ten months into a pandemic.

My personal view is, while well-intentioned employee practices are put on the table, they won’t work unless full environmental factors are considered. This is just one example of what’s already in place at UNLEASH, in our think tanks, as we create a new vision for what globalisation looks like.

In many ways, these fast-forward thinking practices were ahead of their time and, increasingly, new-wave practices of being self-managed are seeing results. Long gone is the idea of turning up to an office, hugging the CEO, being lured by a carrot and beaten by a stick to do your job or being paid handsomely for micro-management. 

What this future world reveals is how exponential technologies continuously have humankind on the cusp of a change most people can’t fathom and keeping up is where survival of the fittest rings true.


Written by Marc Coleman, Founder and chief executive, unleashgroup.io

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