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Gartner HR trends: Facial analysis, big vendor market share

Facial recognition tech may play a role in helping managers assess employee reactions to events in the office, according to Gartner. Other HR trends include market consolidation.

It's a buyer's market for HR technology, Gartner analysts said during the first day of its annual HR conference. Another message from analysts: Facial analysis might play a role in helping employers develop a fairer workplace.

In advance of the conference, Gartner surveyed 3,500 HR managers and employees in the third quarter of 2021 on a variety of HR trends. Only 22% of respondents rated their employers as having a high degree of workplace fairness. Employees who rate fairness highly perform better and are nearly 30% less likely to quit, according to the survey data.

But the significant events of someone's employment, including hiring, pay and promotion, affect only about 25% of an employee's perception of fairness in the workplace. Lesser things, such as when a manager recognizes "the person who spoke the most, but not necessarily the person who did the most," have greater influence, said Brian Kropp, chief of research in the Gartner HR practice, during the opening keynote.

With advances in HR technology, those smaller moments could play a bigger role for HR departments. Some firms have begun to use video to track employee facial expressions to see if they're tired and then suggest a break. But the technology has the potential to do more, Kropp said.

"If, when you speak, others nod, it could indicate that you're making a bigger contribution," he said. "If others look away when you speak, it might indicate that you're not making a contribution. Your performance potentially can be determined entirely by the facial reactions of everyone else on that call." 

That type of video analysis is in the future. The more immediate HR trend is the power buyers have over HCM vendors.

Top HCM vendors by 2020 market share
SAP, Workday, UKG and Oracle led the HCM technology space by market share in 2020.

The big four HCM vendors

In 2020, nearly 60% of HCM software was dominated by four vendors. SAP led, with almost 20% of the market; followed by Workday at 17%; UKG -- the new name for Kronos and Ultimate Software -- was third, at 14%; and Oracle was fourth, at 12%.

The balance of the HCM market, at about 40%, is "very fragmented" across other HCM suites, specialists and local vendors, said John Kostoulas, an analyst at Gartner, during his presentation.

In the past five years, the big HR vendors' overall market share has been in the 60% to 62% range, "so I would call this share trend quite static," Kostoulas said.

The HCM market has seen increasing consolidation, a consequence of slower growth in HR spending due to COVID-19, but the market is rebounding, he said.

There is still ample room for pricing negotiations, especially among the largest vendors.
John KostoulasAnalyst, Gartner

"Despite the consolidation, the HCM software market is still a buyer's market," Kostoulas said. "There is still ample room for pricing negotiations, especially among the largest vendors."

The HR trends Kostoulas outlined were mostly around improving employee experience, the ability for businesses to understand employee needs and improving the efficiency of HR processes.

"Demand for technology will focus on sustaining and scaling key processes like internal recruiting, onboarding, hybrid learning or virtual teamwork," he said.

HR technologies capable of delivering the most business impact include "voice of employee" technologies that collect and analyze employee opinions and perceptions and provide insights and recommendations to HR.

"HR leaders are looking into AI to reduce the cost of HR operations while improving the effectiveness of key processes," Kostoulas said. But he advised users to pay attention to the transparency and explainability of AI systems to guard against bias.

Some other technologies gaining ground include internal talent marketplaces, continuous recognition and reward programs, and flexible earned wages accessibility, which enable employees to collect their pay as they make it, as often as daily.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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