2020 saw a lot of changes to the world and employee management, welfare and engagement was greatly impacted as well. With all these changes and the pandemic still ravaging many parts of Southeast Asia, we asked hrtech founders and entrepreneurs for their predictions on what the industry would look like in 2021.

With the world recovering from the pandemic and a population mostly staying at home, we can expect the industry to continue to change and evolve to match the changing needs.

These three experts gave us a holistic view of the industry and what we can expect for the new year.

Rayvan Ho, ACKTEC

Immersive learning entrepreneur Rayvan sees an evolving industry with new technologies starting to gain traction in the coming year.

Continuous Learning and upskilling for job placement will be a trend moving forward. As HR adopts technology for their learning & development capabilities, we will also see it include aspects of gap analysis, in terms of skills requirements by the employer and the current skills of the employee. HRtech will have to evolve to include emerging technologies — including and going beyond A.I. — to better understand and map companies’ L&D needs vis-à-vis their HR roadmap. 

COVID-19 has had a large and far-reaching impact on our jobs landscape. As Singapore is a talent-dependent country, especially in sectors such as F&B and construction — with limitations on recruitment likely to remain in 2021, there will be a massive need for rapid reskilling to meet demand. Furthermore, limits on recruitment also means there may be a difficulty procuring trainers for this reskilling. We may see more corporate training being outsourced, as companies gain more awareness about how to access accredited training content through online means. For example, ACKTEC provides training crafted by institutions and large MNCs in their areas of expertise — making it possible for F&B businesses to provide accredited onboarding that is certified by well-known culinary schools.  

Furthermore, the pandemic has led to a boom in new sectors, such as A.I. programming, tech development, e-commerce and even foodtech. These are emerging sectors where midstream career-changers and even new graduates can explore — and where training can be easily done online. This training must be able to accommodate new modes of working as a result of COVID-19: Remote work/split-ops is here to stay. In this model of work, managing time and productivity will be crucial. However, not every company is prepared for this. Businesses will have to measure work productivity in a different manner, and it’s more important that employees are ready for these new norms. 

As mentioned previously, mobile learning saw more use amidst the pandemic. Remote training on mobile will be the logical way forward, even in 2021 and beyond. According to Statista.com, in 2019, there were 3.2 billion smartphone users globally, and the numbers are expected to grow by 300 million users every year. People readily have their phones with them, now more than ever — a global survey has shown that more than 70% of responding internet users worldwide used their cell phone more as a result of the pandemic. If the HR department needs to send any employees for training, they can now send the training and learning content to their staff remotely. Their learning will be bite-sized and can be consumed on-the-go!

With the use of the built-in camera, gyroscope, accelerometer and LiDAR, the future of augmented reality (AR) is promising. The interactivity and engagement of digitally-created objects within the real world make learning more immersive for the learners.

James Chia, ArcLab

Training and learning startup founder James predicts an uncertain year as the pandemic continues to rage across certain markets.

We expect remote work and split team arrangements to continue to be part of companies’ BCP as well as BAU operations. This suggests more innovation to support companies in engaging and managing a remote workforce. That requires more upskilling, reskilling, made more urgent by shortened knowledge cycles. All this point to the need for nimble L&D and workforce performance support.

The lack of clarity on the trajectory of the economic recovery (and presumed unevenness among sectors (“K-shaped” as coined by several commentators) also suggest that topline projections for many companies are uncertain, hence more prudent investment decisions will be made. This will be true for HRTech investment. In this regard, clunky enterprise HRTech software investment might be harder to push through, while lighter, SaaS type HRTech which are easily implemented by the user – will be easier to adopt.

This should also benefit the end-HRTech user – the worker. This also means more mobile-first HRtech, whether it be for payroll, comp & ben, L&D. Focus on User Experience and “B2C”-feel interfaces, no different from what we use in our non-work lives, ultimately translates into better outcomes for the workforce – who will be more productive, and contribute positively to companies’ performance – a virtuous cycle.

Adrian Tan, PeopleStrong

Adrian, the regional lead for PeopleStrong, expects companies to double down on employee engagement regardless of how the pandemic progresses in the region.

Whether Covid19 will remain around or not, the shift in focus on existing employees will stay on. It may drive companies to look into more measures on talent management since hiring a new person (plus training them) is more expensive than course-correcting an existing one. I would imagine learning to be disrupted where a traditional LMS will be replaced by a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) whereby learning truly becomes personalised for each individual and is guided towards the end development goal that is agreed between the company and the employee.

Further which, productivity will become a key emphasis especially on using tech to augment your output. HR Tech (and work tech) can play a huge part in reducing time spent on daily admin tasks. Instead of 20 mins spent on getting onto a meeting, you can use evie.ai (calendaring bot) to auto check with everyone on their availability.

Chatbot may see a resurgence if companies continue to be remote since employees would still need their queries answered soonest possible. HR tech providers will emphasize more on the frontend to make it more consumer-grade as possible so things can be done quickly and employees can go back to their work without spending 20 mins trying to apply for leave.

At Tech Collective, we want to know what you think will define hrtech in 2021. Share your thoughts in the comments or drop us a message. We’d love to hear from you and also share your thoughts and opinions with our community.