When we put together the top HR trends for 2017, we featured recruitment marketing, artificial intelligence/predictive analytics, and chatbots. And in 2018… we’ll see more of the same. As budgets continue to shrink for many smaller companies and HR departments, it seems that many businesses are taking longer to adopt certain trends than originally thought.

As recruitment and leadership consultant Greg Savage puts it: “On giving this some thought, it is clear some ‘trends’ remain trending! (i.e. same as last year).”

This year, we decided to take a more data driven approach so we could be more in step (and more realistic) with what businesses—especially small ones— and HR departments will consider this year.

To define what we consider to be a trend, we consulted research data from GetApp’s research reports over the past year, and data from our parent company Gartner, as well as asked experts in their field to tell us what they expect to see from HR in 2018.

The machines will rise, but mainly in recruitment

We talked about artificial intelligence and chatbots in our HR trends for 2017 piece, but we still haven’t seen these trends take hold to become mainstream, especially among small businesses.

One of the areas of HR that holds the biggest potential for AI and chatbots is recruiting. In July, we reported on the release of Google Hire (for recruiters) and Google Jobs (for candidates), which aim to improve both the candidate experience and the recruiting process through the use of artificial intelligence.

Google Hire

Google Hire

In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, candidates applying for jobs at 20 percent of large global enterprises will interact with chatbots before recruiters.

However, while every man and his dog are talking about AI and chatbots, more thought needs to go into which tools will improve the lives of recruiters and candidates.

“There is a need to plough through the hype, and identify which tools actually work, improve the process, and save recruiter time,” says Savage. “Talent acquisition functions will become more discerning about evaluating such tools. There is no chance anytime soon that recruiters are going to be replaced by technology, but their roles will change.”

Development will be employee owned and company supported

In November 2017, we highlighted a trend in employee development that we believe will come to the fore in 2018—employee-owned plans that allow individuals to pursue opportunities that align to a purpose, rather than a specific job role.

Gartner’s take on this is as follows (available to paid clients): “By enabling individuals to chart their own course and follow opportunities—both within and outside the organization—they can reap the benefits of a great employer brand that supports and encourages growth without the constraints of fixed career paths.”

employee owned development plans

Source: Gartner

Ben Brooks, founder and CEO of PILOT employee coaching software, believes that with intrapreneurial skills and mindset being highly sought after by the C-suite, employee development will continue to evolve to better identify and support employees who take initiative and ownership.

He says: “Rather than herding large groups of employees through forced developmental programs based on their rank or title, increasingly employee development programs will be structured as opt-in and be highly flexible, with the employee driving the focus and pace of their own development.”

This overhaul of employee development also includes evolution in coaching, the way it is delivered, and who receives it.

Brooks explains: “As coaching has continued to explode in realms ranging from dating, to spirituality to weight loss, executive and career coaching will continue to boom. Increasingly, access to coaching, through both traditional 1:1 coaches and coaching-focused software, is being pushed down the company structure to reach employees earlier in their careers.”

According to Darrin Murriner, cofounder of personal and team development tool Cloverleaf, this is part of a focus on better relationships, which sees a return to basics for people management.

He says: “This means more focus on training and development around how to build better relationships with direct reports. It includes a renewed focus on coaching and mentoring as an organizational competency.”

Recruiters will adopt marketing tactics and focus on branding

Recruitment marketing is another trend that feature in our HR trends for 2017. Omer Molad, co-founder and CEO of online hiring assistant Vervoe believes that in 2018 recruitment marketing will go from being an emerging trend to mainstream practice. “From Facebook to the grocery chain— everyone will compete for candidates’ share of mind,” he says

As Adriano Corso, Head and Solution Designer at Inbound Talent, noted in our HR trends article last year: “Recruitment marketing is not about automating everything and reducing the workforce. But it is about increasing the effectiveness of the standard recruitment approach using consumer-marketing strategies, tactics, and approaches to more effectively “market” organizations and employment opportunities to potential candidates.”

In fact, when we surveyed job applicants in September 2017, we found that 75.1 percent of candidates say that employer brand and culture is important when applying for a job.

employer branding and culture

Savage explains: “Smart companies move from reactive hiring to proactive hiring via talent communities and consumer marketing tactics applied to candidate interaction.”

Companies will overhaul the candidate experience

In 2018, candidates attitudes to the recruitment process will continue to change, with job seekers becoming more demanding of what they can expect from the recruitment process.

Savage explains: “They want more. They want better. They want engagement. They will pull out early if dissatisfied. They will share on digital their disappointment with your process,” says Savage.

This includes diversifying the channels used to communicate with candidates. For example, our research found that candidates prefer to be contacted on LinkedIn or Facebook over other social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and, Snapchat.

social media communication

Molad says: “Candidates, not employers, will dictate communication channels. That means more text messaging, more social media and a big win for candidates.”

Diversity will be taken seriously— and reflected in HR software solution selection

There are many, many studies on the benefits of diversity in HR, and an increasing number of regulations (mostly outside the US) focusing on addressing the need for more diverse.

In 2017, we surveyed job seekers and found that one third of people think that companies have biased and unfair hiring processes. This was more pronounced among women, with 37 percent of females saying they believe hiring is unfair, compared to 32 percent of males.

hiring bias

Gartner believes that companies will start to prioritize features in HR technology that will help bring about more diversity in the workplace.

The research firm predicts that by 2020, more than 75 more of large enterprises will include D&I enablement criteria in their selection process for HCM technologies.

Molad says that: “Companies will start taking diversity seriously because they understand that diverse companies perform better, rather than for compliance reasons.”

Managing gig economy workers effectively will give competitive advantage

According to a study from Upwork and Freelancers Union, 57.3 million Americans are freelancing (36 percent of the US workforce). These contingent workers—as they are called by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics— contribute approximately $1.4 trillion annually to the economy, an increase of almost 30 percent since last year.

In 2018, the companies that manage these workers through their HR and payroll systems, integrating them more effectively into company processes and life, will get a competitive advantage.

According to Gartner (paid clients only), by 2020, 40 percent of large (> 5,000 employees) multinational organizations will use a unified human resources strategy for employees, agency workers, contingent workers and freelancers.

Murriner explains: “More organizations will find ways to tap into the on demand workforce / freelancers as a major source of talent for roles and positions that were typically seen only as full-time positions. Organizations that find effective ways to build a pipeline of on-demand talent and onboard them quickly will increase their agility and competitiveness in their respective markets.”

Cloud HR software will dominate, but point solutions remain

According to research from Gartner, cloud HR solutions will become the dominant force in the market.

It predicts that SaaS deployments at large organizations in North America, will movie from 45 percent of the market in 2016 to more than 60p percent by 2020.

At GetApp, we also found that our users are still favoring point solutions for areas such as recruitment, instead of all-in-one HR suites that include this functionality.

Most popular HR software

Gartner predicts that this trend will continue. It says that by 2020, 30 percent of global midmarket and large enterprises will have invested in a cloud-deployed human capital management suite for administrative HR and talent management, but will still need to source 20 percent to 30 percent of their HCM requirements via point solutions.

In terms of the future of applicant tracking systems in 2018, Molad believes that these will continue to be commoditized, which will drive prices down even further. He also predicts that 2018 will be a big year of mergers and acquisitions activity in HR technology.

What are your top HR trends for 2018?

These are what our experts think will be the top HR trends for 2018, but we’d love to hear what you think. Drop us a line in the comments below, let me know on Twitter what you think will make an impact, or email me at karen@getapp.com.