Top 5 HR Automation Trends from HR Tech 2022

Prashanth Shankara
Prashanth Shankara
February 7, 2023
October 12, 2022
min read
Top 5 HR Automation Trends from HR Tech 2022

Las Vegas. 7000+ HR folks. Around 500 exhibitors. The best of HR Software all in one place. Last month, Tonkean attended the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas for the first time. It was a glittering, global showcase of the latest & greatest in HR tech—including automation, AI, and machine learning—as well as a reunion/celebration of HR professionals for the first time in-person since the pandemic.

We are still recovering from the high of attending an in-person event, let alone one of this size. As a team, we spoke to well over 500 attendees on all things HR and learned a lot.

Here’s a breakdown of 5 major HR trends—from learnings about automation to challenges related to new tech adoption—that we heard from the attendees (with real quotes from attendees we spoke to).

Also: join us on 10/27/22 at 1pm EST when Jennifer O’ Gara of Tonkean sits down with Paula Judge, VP of Talent at Accel, to discuss pandemic-related workplace changes, employee happiness, and quiet quitting.

1) App fatigue is real (Not just in HR)

Is there such a thing as too many apps? Apparently yes. This was the No. 1 thing we heard from attendees, whether they were from HR, Sales, or Marketing.

In 2011, Marc Andreessen famously said, “Software is eating the world.” In 2022, he might as well have said “Software is eating our time.”

Ten years ago, automating the new employee onboarding process would have been an afterthought for most HR teams. Today, we have over a dozen SaaS apps focused just on automating onboarding.  And that’s the case for every part of the employee lifecycle. The result? An overload of HR Tech – hundreds of B2B SaaS apps focused on every part of the employee/HR lifecycle. (Just look at the HR tech sprawl in the image below)

For  employees, the result is often confusion and inefficiency.

In one day, employees and HR jump between many apps to finish tasks, switch context multiple times a task, update data in multiple systems, fight with integrations that are incomplete/lacking and spend more than 60% of their time just coordinating work  — all this takes a toll, and creates app fatigue.

Many vendors had their Sales & Marketing teams at the show. App overload was a sore point for them too.

Quote to note: “I spend 20% of my day jumping between at least 6 different systems, emails, Microsoft Teams, etc. Plus we just added more tools like Talent Intelligence. There’s not enough time to think about the candidate’s experience.”

With over 1000 HR tech tools today, app overload is a significant concern for HR teams (Image courtesy: Josh Bersin)

2) Employee adoption of tech is still lacking

Just how many apps are most organizations using today?  The average enterprise hosts anywhere from 110 – 240. Another Okta report shows larger companies (>2000 employees) use 187 apps on average. But how many of them are actually being utilized to even half their potential? A Flexera report found that nearly 1/3rd of all SaaS software is underutilized or wasted.

We heard the same story from many HR leaders and professionals. Most were keen on controlling the app sprawl, getting better use of the existing ones and freeing employees to do high-value work.

But how? Do we focus on changing their mindset? What about incentives? Can we automate their engagement with different apps?

More often, however, the issue seemed a product of process. An insightful moment was hearing attendees compare notes on how difficult or confusing simple tasks like inputting PTO had become. Some had stopped doing it entirely, because  doing so involved too many systems, required too many steps, or took too much time.

Here’s what the process looked like for one attendee: 1) Login to HR system; 2) update PTO; 3) login to Gmail; 4) update team Google calendar; 5)send Slack message to manager; 6) login to Wrike; 7) update project dates; 8) login to Intercom; 9) update backup support….the list went on.

Not surprisingly, adoption of the process was low.

Quote to note: “I’m not convinced automation or more tools is the solution. We need to change our employees’ mindset around tech adoption. But how do you do that at a large scale? Is that even possible?”

3) Focus on mental health, engagement & DEI keeps growing

This one was a refreshing change to see. Take a backseat, productivity!

Many HR leaders and vendors genuinely care and worry about their employees’ well-being, mental health and happiness. Not just lip service, anymore!

Cynthia Marshall (Dallas Mavericks) set the tone with her fantastic keynote on DEI. A Pro-Basketball team wouldn’t be the first to come to mind when thinking about DEI. But Cynthia’s 100-day plan focusing on inclusion, diversity, no-tolerance for inappropriate behavior, etc. changed the culture tremendously.

We saw this with the Tech on offer as well. Companies like Phenom and Visier showcased how AI can help incorporate diversity and inclusion in everything from hiring to engagement. From the vendor side, we saw less of measuring engagement and more of tools that help improve engagement.

6 out of 10 session tracks also focused on these areas – employee experience, the new world of work, DEI, learning/reskilling, talent management, well-being & mental health.

There was a palpable sense of genuine excitement in the air towards making the workplace more diverse, equitable, inclusive and happier for employees.

Quote to note: “Happier employees. Diverse workforce. Getting these two right is at the top of our list and we’ll open up the purse for any tool that helps achieve this.”

Cynthia Marshall, CEO of Dallas Mavericks, delivering a fantastic keynote about going ‘all in’ on DEI (Image courtesy:

4) Best-in-class over all-in-one

This is an eternal debate in any SaaS landscape, not just HR Tech. But this year, we heard from many HR leaders that the tide is turning against all-in-one tools towards tech solutions that are instead best-in-class.

It’s not that all-in-one or end-to-end tools aren’t working. Tools like HiBob, SAP, Rippling, Workday are all an integral part of any HR Tech stack today. But at HR Tech, there was an overwhelming amount of best-in-class and niche tech as compared to all-in-one.

In his 2019 article, Josh Bersin, celebrated HR industry analyst, argued that best-in-class is the way to go for smart organizations because there really is no true all-in-one solution out there. Three years later, we heard the same from HR Tech attendees.

Employee experience has become the new core HR function today. All-in-one systems are no longer delivering a memorable TOTAL experience, meaning the user experience falls short in many areas. Best-in-class seems to be gaining more momentum purely based on the better user experience and customization.

Still, that leaves one big question unanswered: Integration. The sense among attendees at HR Tech this year was that if you can find the right balance between best-in-class and core HR systems and integrate them in a smart way — well, you’ve opened up the possibilities of delivering both a memorable and a seamless employee experience.

Quote to note: ”The more we look for it, the more we realize that there is no truly all-in-one system on the market. Will there ever be one? I doubt it. So maybe it’s not one tool that’ll do it all but rather one tool that orchestrates how the entire tech stack works.”

5) Employee experience = HR experience

Another preeminent topic at HR Tech this year was Employee Experience—and more specifically, the need within HR to improve it. In fact, the big winner in the pitchfest was an employee experience startup, SPOTLYFE.

It’s a well-established truth by now (thanks to Great Resignation & Remote Work) that Employee Experience is today’s currency in the HR world. But what about the overworked, stressed-out HR professionals?

According to an insightful study from Workvivo, 98% of HR professionals are burned out.

Everyone at the conference seemed well-versed with this stat.

Everyone also seemed committed to remediating it. Including in the short term. The trade show floor had everything from a meditation space to massage tables for attendees.

Though perhaps more pertinent were the conversations taking place about how to improve the HR experience and reduce burnout more systematically.

Quote to note: ”98%? That can’t be real. Wait. Is it really? No way. That’s just mental. What are we doing to ourselves?”

A final word about no-code automation.

One last point that came up often in our conversations at HR Tech? An interest in how HR professionals might be able to take the lead in innovating and problem-solving in their own right with innovative tech such as no-code automation.

We were happy to help. And we still are! We have a webinar coming up that walks through precisely that. If and you want to learn more about how to take your HR processes from manual to magical with no-code automation right away? Here’s everything you need to know: HR Automation with Tonkean

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