L&D and HR leaders deal with some pretty large-scale people development problems, starting from managing attrition and creating learning engagement, to managing to stay abreast of technology trends in Learning and Development.
In most organizations, employee training design has more of a top-down approach, where employers decide what learners should learn and how they should learn it, rather than catering to what and how they want to learn. This process has been seeing diminishing returns as a rising proportion of Millennials and Gen Z has joined the workforce. While some organizations have tried to solve this by building access to MOOCs such as Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning, these sort of learning options only cover self-development. What gets left out is functional knowledge or product/process training, which needs to be put out as structured learning.
So, how can design thinking help? The central premise of design thinking is a solution-based approach to problem-solving. Design thinking requires that the client (in this case the employee) is placed at the center of it all.
Empathize with learners to understand their experiences and motivations. Leaders need to put themselves in the shoes of employees and figure out what motivates them. Tools to help with this can be surveys and interviews of employees, to get a thorough picture of different learner profiles. This is different from a Training Needs Analysis, since it focuses a lot more on behavior, likes, dislikes, motivations, and challenges in their daily life.
Define the problem you want to solve. Very often learning outcomes falter because the learner and organization do not agree on the intended outcome of the learning. Defined problems will yield much clearer solutions.
Ideate with all relevant stakeholders. Creating a multi-functional team that can contribute to this can help to introduce more perspectives and ideas into the mix. This team should know the learner, understand the problem you are trying to solve and brainstorm possible solutions. Approaching this as an open-ended discussion can help bring out as many solutions as possible before you start converging on one for the next step.
Prototype a potential solution. Often the response to arriving at a potential solution is to select one and jump right into implementing it. This is exactly what the design thinking process tells us to avoid. The next step is to produce a scaled-down, inexpensive prototype of the most favored solutions, such as a tech platform or digital content. These are then shared within the design team and with a small group of people outside the team. The aim of prototyping is to identify the best possible solution for the problems identified in Step 2. These are investigated, accepted, improved, accepted or rejected based on the learners’ experience.
Test the product using the best solutions identified in the prototyping step. While this is the final step in this 5-stage process, design thinking is an iterative process and testing phase results often indicate that you need to go back to the prototyping or ideation phase to get things right. If new insights present themselves about your learners or market realities have changed, then this may need a new set of solutions.
The process outlined above may seem linear and structured, but in reality, these steps are followed in quick succession and in a non-linear fashion, to ensure that speed is achieved. Design teams can delineate themselves to do parts of the process.
How will the year 2019 be for startups in the HR tech space in India when it comes to adoption and expectations? Read on to find out.
“It was a good year.” That’s what most of the HR Tech startups we spoke to opined when they looked back at 2018. From the degree of adoption to the amount of funds flowing in, the startup space generally saw an increased awareness around technology in HR. With the talks of AI, automation, technology dominating the whole year around, HR Tech saw a definite uptake both in India and globally.
On this note, what does the year 2019 bode for HR Tech? What are some of the trends that will shape this space in the coming year? We talked to a number of startups in the HR Tech space such as game-based learning platform Quodeck, employee engagement startup Hush, sustainable credit provider SalaryFits, HRMS provider Zimyo, talent discovery platform Vyre, on-demand video platform Monjin, and Zeta which digitizes employee benefits, HR talent marketplace Noble House, among others to understand which way the wind will blow.
Here’s what they had to say.
HR tech to move up the value chain
Continuing from the momentum of 2018, in 2019, HR tech is predicted to move up the value chain to help improve Productivity, Team and Work management from the current state of Integration and Engagement.
Quodeck’s co-founder Kamalika Bhattacharya says that the major thrust among businesses will be towards driving adoption of corporate learning through technology among their employees and partners.
“Early adopters of HR Tech now have large data sets about their employees and will leverage on analytics to drive productivity and improve employee engagement,” she says.
There will be an increase in the use of AI and Technology enabled methods of screening, assessing and hiring talent and emphasis on developing personalized career paths for their employees using tech to reduce attrition while improving employee wellness and output.
Employee engagement and productivity still the focus area for employers
Further 2019 will continue to see employers everywhere focusing on employee engagement and productivity.
Guilherme Mota, Head of Operations, India, SalaryFits says, “With the innovative HRTech solutions available across borders, HR Heads have a big portfolio of different tools to keep their talent happy and engaged. In this sense, employee’s wellbeing, ranging from focus on health and wellness to focus on productivity, purpose, and financial health, will play a big part as an engagement and retention tool. HRs cannot afford to neglect the effects that financial worries can cause on their employees and their productivity.”
From employer first to employee first
Right now all HR Tech is built employer first. However Ashutosh Dabral, Co-founder & CEO, Hush believes that eventually, the trend will move to employee first as the millennial employee doesn’t stay in a company for a very long time.
Employee first Tech platforms that can provide value to employees even when they switch companies will have more value.
He adds that when you add the new gig economy workforce then employers will have to engage workers who are not really “employees”. So new kind of platforms will come up that cater to these users also.
More experiments, more AI, more Blockchain
That 2019 will be an interesting year and will present a greater opportunity for HR Tech Startups as organizations grow and more investments come in startups and growth companies, is also reiterated by Sudev Das, co-founder, Vyre. He adds that organizations will be open to experimenting and experiencing new HR Tech products, to enable quick and efficient growth.
AI & Analytics enriched products would be very attractive to cut on processing time. But it will also lead to expectation mismatches as there are no quick fixes with AI till it matures
The year will also see growth in the adoption of video for hiring, learning, and engagement. Similarly, the use of Blockchain in assessments, skill certification, and educational qualifications will start appearing in some HR Tech products, which will be very useful in verification and validation of candidate details. Also, predictive analytics with respect to culture, engagement, skills will see significant uptake.
The same is seconded by Kumar Mayank, co-founder of Zimyo who believes that 2019 will see the adoption of cloud/ SaaS not only by corporates but SMEs, along with increased adoption of AI-based HR Applications.
Kunal Kapoor CTO, Monjin adds that intelligent process automation is coming into play, which includes AI and related new technology advances, which can help deliver consistent people processes – something that has eluded many HR ops teams given the dynamic nature of the requests they receive. Cost savings also materialize through deploying such technologies as robotic process automation, machine learning, deep learning, and cognitive agents.
“The year 2019 will also witness the development of quality-based talent pipelines which will further improve hiring accuracy,” he adds.
The use of AI and predictive analysis can further simplify the hiring process, by picking candidates with skillsets and achievements that match the given requirement.
HR Tech will need to continuously create value
While it is a given that most of the transactional interactions involving HR will slowly and gradually move to technology and companies have already started working on moving some of the regular queries on to chatbots, HR tech companies will continuously need to work on creating value for the user through their platforms, says Sanjay Lakhotia, Co-Founder, Noble House Consulting Pte.
The next year will also see some consolidation in the HR tech market due to a sudden spurt in the number of tools out in the market, he adds. The tools will either get merged or there would be models of collaboration that will emerge between different tools.
From generalization to specialization
2019 may also see a spurt in more specialized HR Tech as per Bhavin Turakhia, co-founder of Zeta. He says, “Right now a large number of HR Tech companies in India are core HR Tech. But very soon we will start seeing specialized companies-some will focus just on planning, some will focus only on performance review and appraisals. If you think about it, talent acquisition is already segregated out. There will a plethora of segregated tools which will fulfill a specific function.”
However, he still feels that the real growth spurt in HR Tech is still a few years away. Larger enterprises are paying more attention to people but smaller companies in non-tech industries will take longer, he opines. Bhavin aptly sums up succinctly the state of HR Tech in 2019 when he says,
“There is a certain level of maturity that organizations have to go through in India before you get to a point where HR Tech becomes a priority.”
The app focuses on making things simple, so companies that have never done learning before this can also get started in no time.
Game-based learning platform QuoDeck has announced the launch of learning app builder QuoDeck Express.
Targeted at small and growing businesses, including startups, QuoDeck Express allows these businesses to participate in the mobile learning revolution that the industry has witnessed over the past few years. The company aims to sign up over a million users within the next 12 months.
“We observed a significant increase in demand from small and growing businesses, as training has become a critical function for business growth,” said Kamalika Bhattacharya, co-founder of QuoDeck. “These companies need to leverage technology to impart training and connect with their employees,” she added.
‘Express’ was conceived as a product to help companies become better places to work. “Learning is often cited as one of the reasons people move between organizations, so there is a tangible benefit that products like Express can drive for small and growing businesses -from higher productivity and revenues to lower attrition and faster onboarding,” she said
The app focuses on making things simple, so companies that have never done learning before this can also get started in no time. Not only can they add their existing content through presentations and videos, but can also use games and themes to make them interesting.
QuoDeck is currently supporting learning at over 35 global companies including Unilever, Star India, eBay, SBI Life, Aditya Birla Group and Axis Bank, and has close to half a million learners on its platforms. The Express platform offers nearly all the major functionalities of a full-fledged LMS – Design customization, story creation system, learning games library, quizzes, and surveys and reports.
The global e-learning market, valued at over $200 billion, has seen a couple of large shifts that have led rapid growth, – a shift in device to mobile and a growing proportion of millennials and generation Z in the workforce. In India alone, this trend is evident with over 45% of the workforce being between 25-39 years of age, providing a huge opportunity for the right training product.
How was the year 2018 for startups in the HR tech space in India when it comes to adoption and talent? Read on to find out.
December is a time to look back and take stock-where did we start from and where have we reached after 12 long months. And when the startups in the HR Tech space look back, they will mostly say it has been a good year. From the degree of adoption to the amount of funds flowing in, the startup space has generally seen an increased awareness around technology in HR. With the talks of AI, automation, technology dominating the whole year around, HR Tech saw a definite uptake both in India and globally.
So if in the first quarter, Degreed, a global platform for discovery, learning & certification of skills, made news by raising $42 Mn in a funding round, back home, in the second quarter, Indian corporate social responsibility and sustainability management technology platform, Goodera brought raised around $12 Mn. Similarly, employee focused HR tech app Hush also saw itself raising three funding rounds in the year, a major thumbs up for employee engagement apps.
The space also saw major consolidations taking place in the HR Tech space this year. Globally, US-based job review and job hunting website Glassdoor was acquired by a Japanese human-resources and consumer-information provider, Recruit Holdings Co. Similarly, global consulting firm Mercer acquired India based HR tech startup Mettl.
A good year for HR Tech- more awareness, more funds
We talked to a number of startups in the HR Tech space such as game-based learning platform Quodeck, employee engagement startup Hush, sustainable credit provider SalaryFits, HRMS provider Zimyo, talent discovery platform Vyre, on-demand video platform Monjin, and Zeta which digitizes employee benefits, HR talent marketplace Noble House, among others.
Majority of the startups agreed that globally as well as in India, there has been a huge spike in interest and fund flow into the HR Tech space.
” Quodeck’s co-founder Kamalika Bhattacharya says, “There has been a marked increase in awareness for the need for technology-enabled employee engagement amongst the HR community and companies. For the HR tech startups that have kept up with the evolving needs of our clients, this year has been good, steadily moving up the value chain of the requirements for our clients.”
Most of the startups believe that the major acquisitions in India and globally point towards interest as well as consolidation in the space.
Kumar Mayank, co-founder of Zimyo believes that HR Tech startups had a great year in 2018. “From Recruit’s $1.2 Bn acquisition of Glassdoor to Mercer’s $40.5 Mn acquisition of Mettl in the Indian subcontinent, HR Tech is now drawing the long due attention it deserved. Incidentally, Mettl’s acquisition is not only one of the biggest HR tech acquisitions from the country but also one of the biggest SaaS acquisitions too thus making it the joker in the pack for drawing international investors’ attention to Indian SaaS startups.”
Ashutosh Dabral, Co-founder & CEO, Hush reiterated the same belief that it was a good year with multiple startups in the space raising one or multiple rounds of funding.
“This industry is poised to be a $400 Bn dollar industry so the funding activity reflects this assumption.”
Aye for adoption, aye for technology
The startups agreed that early-stage startups too have quite been successful in making inroads to mainstream HR with many of them raking in early customers and investments.
Sudev das, co-founder, Vyre shared, “From an adoption perspective more organizations specifically the ones which are growing have a larger appetite to try out newer HR Tech solutions to support rapid business growth and efficiencies.”
This was reiterated by Kunal Kapoor CTO, Monjin who believes that HR tech is gaining importance in the era of skilling and tech-based recruitment and employee management services.
Another major trend was that hiring has seen a big surge in adopting technology to screen and assess candidates. There has been an increase in off-premise interviews assisted by use of tech to shortlist resumes, online assessments, and video interviews. Similarly, there has been a significant uptick in interest shown by teams within large organizations and SMEs including startups for simple, attractively priced and quick to deploy Learning Management Systems.
“More than hiring, we believe that companies are taking definitive steps to enhance engagement and productivity in the workplace as a retention tool,” says Guilherme Mota, Head of Operations, India, SalaryFits.
Referral hiring has also become a preferred route but companies don’t find it easy to run effective referral programs, avers Ashutosh.
Then again, adoption of video in hiring, learning and engagement has significantly increased and will increase significantly in the next couple of years. This would be largely driven by Gen Z as we go forward. In fact, organizations from a hiring perspective will have to focus on Gen Z as they would significantly change the landscape of a workplace and drive change significantly as they become a part of the workforce.
Hiring talent in the non-tech world will become a major focus for organizations across the board, adds Sudev. Consumer-facing roles will be in demand but the supply will always be shorter. The current way of hiring this talent will go through significant change.
Moreover, recruiters will have to move beyond the traditional job board and platform sourcing to actually embed themselves in the real-life contexts of the candidates and attract them.
This leveraging of technology will only ramp up as the volume and quality of data increases and AI improves. While awareness of AI and acceptance of AI in the HR Tech has increased, however, it would take a couple more years for us to see the real benefits of AI as systems and tech matures in the AI world
Challenges ahead: A dearth of talent, funds and market access
Notwithstanding how highly hopeful and happening the year 2018 was for startups and HR Tech, there are still many significant barriers they have to cross before they can scale greater heights of success.
For instance, hiring talent itself in the space is a problem. Mayank of Zimyo shares that it is becoming difficult day by day to hire quality talent. He revealed,
“We floated over 20 openings during the year, each carrying a 40%+ hike & ESOPs and yet we failed to generate good interest among potential candidates. Many of our partner HR Tech startups (from our HR marketplace) complained of the dearth of quality talent too; especially, at senior levels.”
The same thoughts are shared by Sanjay Lakhotia, Co-Founder, Noble House Consulting Pte who reiterated that a significant challenge for HR tech startups is a scarcity of talent in the market, across all functions, technology, sales, operations etc. He also added that price realization continues to be a big challenge for most HR tech startups.
Bhavin Turakhia, co-founder of Zeta feels that a major challenge with HR Tech companies is that the user interface has mostly not been built from the standpoint of easy adoption, which is what makes ready adoption difficult. The real challenge he feels is creating that HR tech mindset among companies where the goal of HR Tech is beyond managing operations all the way to empowering and enabling people to be their best. With that as an objective, the scope expands 10X for HR Tech.
Unavailability of a ready-market they can sell their business to is another challenge, adds Mayank. For SaaS based HR Tech startups like Payroll or AI Chatbots, it is the lack of cloud adoption in the Indian subcontinent; for Niche HR Tech startups like Compensation and Benefits it is the lack of domain knowledge. Being enterprise solutions, HR Tech startups have to undertake a lot of shoe and leather cost to make every sale happen.
“While the market is there for the taking, quite a few of us in the HR Tech space find it difficult to get across to potential customers. We are not great at selling the product or even marketing or engaging customers. Even platforms which could help us do that are limited and very costly, adds Sudev.
The same is reiterated by Kamalika who shares that HR departments in companies face hurdles in getting business buy-in for tech products. A significant percentage of product/service acquisitions are led by the business teams rather than the HR team. Moreover, companies in India, view HR tech as a service rather than a product. This leads to delays in deployment due to discussions on feature additions and customizations. Ironically, companies still adopt an extrinsic motivation approach (reward vs punishment) as against intrinsic motivation approach (micro-learning, immersive experience, casual game-based learning), which hopefully should shift majorly in 2019.
Then there are global big incumbents in this space and for startups, it’s difficult to build a competitor. So most startups are looking at working on niche areas that can make them an acquisition target for the behemoths, shares Ashutosh.
Interestingly, though the year 2018 saw a lot of funds pour in, yet the number of VCs interested in investing in HR Tech startups are still far and few. Hopefully, the startups believe that in the next 1-2 years, HR Tech will hit the tipping point where investors users and businesses will invest significantly in HR Tech.
For now, some feel there need to be more cost-effective platforms where Tech HR startups can come together meet learn and share experiences, where seasoned HR leaders, tech leaders, and founders come together on a regular basis. An ecosystem that supports startups at a fledgling stage would be more than helpful in the current scenario. A little guidance in sales and early client acquisition would go a long way for the startups.
While technology (AI, video, automation) will definitely push up adoption and increased interest from both buyers and investors up the ante for HR Tech startups, we will have to wait till 2019 to see if the dreams and hopes of HR tech startups will materialize.