This content is part of the Essential Guide: The essential guide to managing HR technology trends

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Five of the most important HR trends that are revamping talent management

Ready or not, technology has been disrupting how talent expects to be recruited and managed. Here are five trends that smart business and HR leaders have been using to stay on top.

Enabled by advances in cloud-based applications and services, leading-edge HR professionals have been using HR technology to better attract, understand and manage workers. To gain a competitive edge, more companies are doing the same.

Indeed, many companies recognize they have to embrace cloud technology if they want to modernize their HR functions. Forty-six percent of enterprises expect to spend more than half of their HR software budget on cloud-based systems, and more than 75% of companies predict they'll have migrated at least one of their HR systems to the cloud by 2020, according to ISG.

The shift to the cloud enables HR departments to integrate employee data with other business data, a key step in enabling human resources to support an end-to-end digital workplace, said Deb Card, partner of HR Technology and Delivery Strategies at ISG. Using all types of new and old employee data, HR professionals are increasingly becoming involved in more company-wide initiatives and are no longer isolated from other departments because of old legacy software, she said.

These new offerings position companies of all sizes to pursue one or more emerging HR trends that aim to provide a complete view of employees and ultimately improve the workplace. Five such trends are particularly helping companies redefine their recruitment strategies and relationships with employees as they recognize that a modernized HR department can give them a competitive edge.

Social media, artificial intelligence help HR get proactive about recruitment

Social media and AI help HR

Companies want their employees to consistently work at a high level, and finding high-caliber workers who fit the bill is a top priority. An emerging HR trend is to no longer wait for those kinds of employees to apply but to instead recruit them, according to Forrester analyst Paul Hamerman.

"Traditionally, recruiting happens when there is a job open. It's reactive," Hamerman said. "But a really big trend now is [for] companies [to] brand themselves as a 'talent destination' and use marketing techniques to make the organization attractive. It involves using social media, paying attention to Glassdoor scores and driving traffic to a company website and drawing candidates in with stories about their culture -- instead of hoping they come through the more traditional process."

Recruiting software from Jobvite and SmashFly also stand out for their proficiency in this growing field of "candidate relationship marketing," Hamerman said. "It's all about becoming a talent destination," he said.

More companies are getting help with their candidate searches by using AI-based HR software that creates algorithms to identify ideal job prospects, said Brian Kropp, head of the human resources practice at Gartner. For example, Hi-Q Labs offers an application that scans LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers -- as well as posts and tweets -- and uses analytics to predict if that person is itching for a career change, he said. Algorithms used by Hi-Q Labs and other HR software also assess how people communicate, judging writing skills to guess if they'll perform at a high level, Kropp added.

Continuous performance management pushes out annual reviews

Continuous performance management

Another emerging HR trend sees companies ditching the longstanding practice of drawing up annual performance reviews, a process that can cause issues to linger, and instead using data to continuously monitor employee performance. These companies recognize that consistent employee engagement fosters honest feedback, improved performance and high morale.

HR software such as BetterWorks, High Ground and Lattice automate the review process and enable managers and employees to proactively share data and discuss performance goals, inviting feedback about work in the moment, Forrester's Hamerman said.

The marketing strategy company Workshop Digital this year started using HR software BambooHR, which is aimed specifically at SMBs, to manage the performance of its 25 employees and perform other HR functions. Previously, Workshop Digital had tracked information on Excel spreadsheets and sticky notes that were attached to folders. BambooHR lets the company's lone HR specialist, Mollie Delp, organize quarterly employee reviews, with employees and managers both able to track goals and evaluate progress at any time.

"It helps us make goals and move them forward," Delp said. "Employees and managers can have an ongoing dialogue. It not only helps managers but it also lets us see if managers are keeping their end of the bargain."

Employee wellness and education programs gather force

Employee wellness and education programs

More than 90% of companies offer at least one wellness initiative, and more than 60% have employee wellness program budgets, according to one study on workplace wellness trends. Of those, 51% expect those wellness budgets to increase in the next two years. For many companies, fitness trackers factor prominently into wellness efforts.

Indeed, many HR departments are jumping onto the wearable fitness movement as part of a larger emphasis on employee wellness, according to Gartner's Kropp and Forrester's Hamerman. Fitbit and other wearables may be offered at subsidized prices to employees, and some companies hold 5K runs, step contests and other physical events to entice workers to get and stay in shape.

More than 90% of companies offer at least one wellness initiative, and more than 60% have employee wellness program budgets.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, wearable devices will be pervasive in society and will significantly alter workplace behavior and productivity by allowing companies to track employee health and safety. Wearables embedded in clothes and on head-mounted displays -- possibly even sensors on the skin -- will provide a new understanding of employee productivity by connecting networked intelligence to enhance job performance, according to a Gartner report on the digital workplace.

In the present day, companies are also helping employees with money matters, guiding them to apps and programs that specialize in savings and financial planning, Kropp said. Helping employees manage their health and financial well-being will, in turn, keep them energized and focused on work, he said.

But employees are usually hesitant to share data on health and finances with employers, believing they shouldn't provide personal details that could someday hurt their job statuses, he said. Employees will share personal information with Amazon and Facebook but not their employers, Kropp said. To clear this hurdle, HR departments could consider using a third-party service to store wellness data so that the employer can't use it to influence personnel decisions, he added.

Employee job training programs capitalize on digital tools and mobility

Digital tools for employee job training

Technology is also helping HR departments lower the cost of employee training and more readily offer job-specific educational programs. Expensive off-site training sessions are becoming a thing of the past with learning software programs, as well as company-produced and public-domain videos that are tailored to certain skill sets, Hamerman said. These digital tools let employees learn about their jobs and other positions at their own pace, on site or outside of work.

"Before, learning and career advancement was expensive and sometimes not relevant to the job," Hamerman said. "But now these informal learning programs and videos are focused and can be consumed on a mobile device."

Enterprise UI and UX get some much-needed attention

Enterprise UI and UX

Companies are all about impressing customers with snazzy websites and mobile apps, but historically concerns about the user interface and user experience of enterprise software and tools -- including those related to HR -- has been woefully neglected. Employees instead have long had to maneuver through bland and sometimes not-very-user-friendly internal HR web portals.

But that's starting to change, Hamerman said. Some companies recognize that the digital experience delivered to customers should also be presented in-house to further employee engagement, he said. These companies are moving away from staid intranet offerings and are instead creating user-friendly web and mobile offerings that HR departments hope will entice employees to learn more about company programs and policies.

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