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HR Tech Trends in 2021

Using the search data from our site, we make reasonably accurate predictions in HR Tech...

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
January 11, 2021
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2021 will be an interesting year that may just be as unpredictable as 2020.  However, using the search data from our site, we can be reasonably accurate with a few predictions that should come true in the coming year.

Plus, it’s always fun to make predictions :)

Virtual Hiring

Of course, it comes as little surprise that virtual and remote hiring continue to be priorities for many companies.  We saw a massive spike in the number of searches for virtual hiring tools on our site in March 2020, with video interviewing tech’s demand increasing 524% in one week alone!

The immediate need to hire when you can’t meet in person meant a massive rush to adopt these solutions while the rest of HR Tech was mostly put on hold.  However, since this initial spike, we’ve seen the demand for these tools subsiding (while still holding far above historical norms).

Virtual hiring trend line

That said, we actually think there will be a rise in virtual hiring in 2021 relative to Q4 2020 levels.  Many companies are realizing that remote is here to stay either due to circumstance or competitive advantage.  Look for new remote hiring tech innovation this year, along with even more broad adoption of video interview platforms, virtual career fair offerings, etc.

Employee Experience Software

Employee experience technology includes EAPs, employee recognition and rewards, employee engagement software and really anything else that helps build culture and engage employees.

Just like almost any other HR Tech niche, we saw demand for these tools fall off a cliff in March/April/May last year as companies scrambled to understand how to put out the new fires that COVID started in their organizations.

Employee Experience Software trend line

As the smoke started to clear, it became apparent that 2020 in general was causing massive mental health issues amongst employees, not to mention the need to build new culture mechanisms in a remote work world.

We saw a resurgence in this tech during the Summer which was super charged in Q4 2020, and shows no signs of slowing down!  During yet another unpredictable year, it will be important for People teams to focus on the employee experience more than ever.

AI and Automation

AI was the buzzword of the moment at HR Tech 2017.  Every vendor had some sort of angle.  Now, smart software is actually creating real value across the employee lifecycle.  We’ve seen a large demand increase in HR chatbots, AI recruiting, and really any type of AI powered HR software suite.

AI and Automation trend line

Companies want to do more with less, and automation is making it a reality.  AI is also allowing people teams to check the box on some of the most basic blocking and tackling so that the strategic HR work can take up a bigger slice of time.

Other Trends

We didn’t have robust enough data to draw charts for these, but they seem likely to drive major change in 2021:

  • Diversity has become perhaps the most important priority across the TA/HR teams we talk to regularly and there’s little doubt that it will continue to be a high priority for most organizations in 2021.  You can even see vendors peeling off modules and use cases specifically designed for diversity hiring or to fix leaky buckets.
  • People analytics has been something we’ve been nerding out on for a while.  No, it’s not a higher priority for the majority of HR teams.  But, for the top decile that we really look up to, they are all hands on deck to figure out how to use data in more robust ways this year through tools like Visier, customized vendor dashboards, or by hiring data specialists.

It will no doubt be an interesting year, and we’re excited to share it with you.  Please let us know what trends you’re keeping an eye on as we move into 2021!

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Phil Strazzulla

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2022, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

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