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Human Resources (HR) is being rocked by radical changes, demanding a sophisticated blend of high touch and high technology acumen. With year-end coming up fast, I decided to find out what experts forecast for HR professionals in 2015.

1.  Analytics have business impact

According to Greta Roberts, CEO at Talent Analytics Corp, data science is increasingly embedded into HR, pressuring that organization to understand how data ‒ big and small ‒ affects not just its own processes, but more important the business outcomes. “HR reporting doesn’t matter. Attrition rates do. HR is going to be pushed by the line of business, meaning sales, the call center, and other departments to deliver business-relevant metrics.”

2.  Software vendors engage in “parity wars”

Spurred on by customer demands, Lisa Rowan, Research Vice President of HR, Talent and Learning Strategies at IDC, predicts vendors will try to outdo each other in terms of analytics capabilities.

Roberts agrees noting, “There’s a lot of hype but vendors like SAP are well-positioned to help HR track line-of-business impact. Unlike software that just tracks applicants, SAP’s solutions connect the hiring data to the business performance process.”

3.  The future of predictive analytics is now

HR will jettison the rearview mirror in favor of predictive analytics. For instance, Roberts says CFOs are pushing HR to do more than just hire anybody and train them. “They want analytics to help determine patterns to predict the likelihood of someone doing well in a particular role.”

4.  Analytics experts thrive in HR

HR will need to understand what analytics questions to ask, how to read results and recognize patterns and errors. “They’ll either need to bring in outside talent or learn how to do it themselves,” says Katherine Jones, Vice President, HCM Technology Research at Bersin By Deloitte. The human element is equally important in making sense of analytics, requiring in-depth business knowledge plus judgment, she added.

5.  HR is swallowed up by the business

HR consultant Paul Belliveau, believes the true mark of a successful human capital management practice is to be incorporated into the DNA of the business and not be siloed. “There still will be the need for regulatory requirements and compensation and benefits as specialty areas that are part of HR, but the human capital experts will be infused into the business.”

Longer term, Jones foresees a time when HR won’t be needed. “We may need an ombudsman or a compliance person. But we won’t need a separate hiring group because the business can predict who will do the best work in our kind of organization and go find them.”

6.  Data integration is a must-have

Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of the San Francisco-based, Future of Talent Institute, says this is the year companies integrate disconnected systems, including HR with back-office data. “We have to make it easier and more flexible for integration to take place. Tools like SAP can help HR integrate and understand data from human resource systems, application tracking systems, and development and e-learning tools.”

7.  HR steals Marketing’s playbook

Candidate relationship management is transforming as HR explores powerful lead generation tools. “HR can create content such as a blog, track how many candidates read the post, apply for the job, and progress through the hiring process – or not,” says Wheeler. “The company can determine why they became a candidate, at what point they dropped out of the hiring process, and tailor content to attract desirable talent in the future.”

8.  Hiring and online learning go mobile

Mobile interviewing, assessment testing and gamification will become the norm. Watch for focused, mobile-friendly “learnlets” that trainees quickly read and apply on-the-job. “Most technology tools today are still optimized for the big screen. There’s going to be a lot of redesign and rethinking such as how to apply for a job remotely. It’s a sloppy process right now but will develop over the next year,” says Wheeler.

9.  Annual performance reviews are out, coaching is in

As yearly performance evaluations fade away, HR needs to cultivate coaching expertise. “Software helps by keeping track of conversations, providing questions and other dialogue tips for managers who are learning how to coach,” says Jones.

10. Human Resource Management System (HRIS) updates increase

Rowan finds significant interest in updating and replacing systems beyond just talent management to include core HR, payroll and benefits. “Companies want to eliminate onerous upgrade cycles while making sure everyone is on the same release of the software, and they want to reduce their dependence on IT,” she says. “SaaS-based HR is viewed as modern, easier to use, more agile and efficient.”

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