Now Available: HRD Talent Survey 2020!

Jordan Ingersoll
September 16, 2020

Click here to download the full report online.

Now more than ever, organizations are relying on technology to empower and enable business transformation, create agile businesses that can adapt to new ways of working, and to arm themselves against the unpredictable force of Covid-19. This report, created by HRD in partnership with HR leaders at McDonald’s, MIT, OYO, and pymetrics, sets out to assess the current talent marketplace and recent impact to talent strategy and productivity more generally.

In a climate where the only constant is change, what capabilities, skill sets and knowledge will be needed, not only for business continuity, but for growth and long-term success? What are the most effective ways to onboard remotely and enable new employees to feel connected to your company culture? With the business landscape changing so rapidly with a rise in digitization and automation, how can leaders equip their workforce with the necessary skills to drive organizations in the right direction? Many of these questions will remain debatable for months to come, but this report repeatedly highlights the intersection of talent and technology as a means to help guide through us the multitude of changes within the talent function. Continue reading for key takeaways below:


We invited respondents in the talent leadership community to name their biggest recent challenge from a list of 10 overarching themes. The most popular responses were talent development (57% of respondents) and talent management (52%). The next most popular response, candidate sourcing, was cited by 43%. Candidate interviewing and selection received barely 10% of responses each. Similar responses were received when we asked our respondents about their top priority looking ahead to the next 12 months. A striking 66% percent of respondents agreed that developing employees was their primary objective, and 62.5% identified the need to retain the best talent, while attracting the best talent was cited by only 48% of responses. With hiring slowed and even halted altogether across many organizations, it figures that the HR function has had to re-shift their priorities accordingly to restructure and develop the talent already available to them today.


Among respondents, there was certainly talk of incorporating AI into selection and engagement processes, as well as integrating up-and-coming technologies such as machine learning and neural language processing. However, it seems many HR leaders remain unconvinced about the wider potential of AI in their talent offering, hinting at a lingering suspicion that AI might unfairly exclude candidates who are perfectly well-qualified. To combat such concerns, Frida Polli, CEO of pymetrics, explains that “a contingent of HR tech has made significant strides in ensuring the starting point (data) is unbiased, the algorithms are rigorously tested and de-biased before launch, and supports explainability so individuals know why a specific decision is made. It’s difficult if not impossible to de-bias the human brain, but it is possible to de-bias technology.” There have undoubtedly been disheartening instances of AI used in other contexts that unfairly disadvantaged certain groups, leading to this growing skepticism around using it for decisions as consequential as hiring. But as Dr. Polli explains, if treated like a vehicle that is safety-tested to ensure it passes regulations before being put into production, design flaws will be more identifiable and ultimately fixable.

Pace of Change: 

When we asked our respondents how often they evaluate their technology offering, nearly 40% of respondents said they did so at intervals of more than two years. When we asked whether respondents plan to increase, maintain or reduce their investment over the next 12 months, the ‘maintain’ option received nearly twice as many responses as ‘increase’. Potential reason? Companies might be getting in their own way. Especially in large organizations, there tend to be too many cooks in the kitchen, which makes decision-making in a timely, organized fashion incredibly difficult at times. Teams that break out into smaller groups and clearly establish ownership of particular projects are more likely to get technology solutions off the ground faster, and, more importantly, start seeing results sooner. 

The People Factor:

In line with previously mentioned challenges faced by HR leaders, 43% of respondents cited ‘talent management’ as a key driver of their investment strategy, well above talent sourcing (34%). “We’ve moved from this fixed-time schedule where people had to be there, to where work invaded your home life, and the boundaries of the 9-5 day have been broken down. How will we measure performance if we can’t just see someone sitting at their desk?” Talent leaders have thus been forced to redefine “good” at work, and establish new standards for success.


When we asked our leaders whether they grant their employees any say in the HR buying process, the number of ‘No’s far exceeded the number of ‘Yes’s. And only one respondent said their employees were actually involved in selecting the technology. 

When we asked our respondents to rate their transparency in the use of candidate data, only one respondent said their organization was very transparent. Perhaps most worryingly of all, when we asked what measures they put in place to remove bias from the hiring process, less than a third of respondents said they had done anything at all. It is unclear how levels of transparency have changed in the wake of COVID, but it is probably safe to assume that in light of many teams going virtual and foregoing all face-to-face interaction, it is increasingly difficult to keep employees up-to-date and fully engaged on all projects at all times. 

The Future:

While there might not be a consensus on what the exact long-term picture looks like for HR technology and different areas of the business are being affected differently, there is at least one thing most of us can agree on: some of the best changes happen in times of crisis. Thinking back to the technological advances we’ve seen in times of war and the pharmaceutical breakthroughs we’ve witnessed in previous pandemics, it is of paramount importance that, in the midst of such workforce disruption today, HR leaders embrace this spirit of innovation now. 

To learn more about how pymetrics can enable your transformation journey, please reach out to our team here