COVID Impact on Technology Priorities

The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant business disruption and placed new demands on workforce management policies and procedures. Besides re-setting their operations for the requirements of remote work and safe workspaces, companies must manage layoffs, redesign their payroll processes, interpret, and comply with regulatory requirements, and sort through an extraordinary number of applications for every open position.  They must also identify and introduce new digital tools to aid in supporting the changing workplace requirements, shifting their IT priorities and budgets.

In a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research, nearly half of 160 corporate executives said they plan to boost spending on robotic process automation by more than 5% in the year ahead, spurred by Covid-19. This includes software bots to conduct office tasks such as processing paperwork, reviewing expense reports or answering customer queries. By doing so, companies can bring smaller groups of workers back in shifts, maintaining social distancing requirements.

When initiating mandatory remote work programs, many companies implemented new learning content, solutions for recruiting, surveys and engagement, and communication and collaboration applications to facilitate productive telework.

Other innovative applications receiving broad acceptance include:

  • Applications that aggregate employee health checkups and personal survey responses into a central dashboard
  • Tracing capabilities that use workplace Wi-Fi data to identify employee interactions in the office by zones and time periods.
  • Real-time inventory-management systems for tracking personal protection equipment.
  • Virtual college job fairs to find and interview candidates for a company’s early-career development program, as well as potential interns.
  • Touchless products such as passive body temperature monitoring, timeclocks, and facial recognition for ID checks.

While concerns about privacy and discrimination may slow down the adoption of touchless solutions, the advantages they offer in the workplace are quite real. While HR wrestles with the ramifications of these products, their development will continue.

As COVID-19 continues to require companies to execute a remote working environment, the demand for “next generation” communication and collaboration platforms is growing.  Companies are seeking streamlined solutions with more apps embedded in other products, enabling users to divert their attention from their primary task without interrupting their current workflow.

The software trend toward “interface-less” products that present tools and/or information when they are needed, without users having to proactively request them, has been accelerated.  Platforms and solutions are being designed, at the core, to be user-friendly, earn high user adoption and specifically focus on user needs versus process needs.

While the innovations listed above address specific work steps, the need for HR data has also remained a priority.   In its 2020 HR Metrics Survey of more than 400 U.S, employers, XpertHR found that workforce metrics are of increasing importance in most companies, with other departments joining Human Resources in the analysis and use of that data.  Among organizations that analyze at least one HR metric, 48% said the finance department is also involved, followed by 28% that reported operations staff’s involvement.  Seventy percent (70%) of respondents indicated that employee turnover is regularly analyzed. Other key metrics include time to fill (49%), employee absence (44%), training costs (37%) and cost per hire (36%).  Technology vendors have been incorporating data tools into a greater number of products, creating user interfaces that make those features accessible to users who may not have a data background.