Employers in the United States and across the world are quickly increasing the amount of money they’re investing in HR technology, including systems such as cloud-based HR portals and talent management solutions.

That, in turn, is leading many employers to reexamine the ways they handle their entire HR workflow, and allowing many benefits managers a greatly expanded range of tools for personnel management.

It’s a positive sign, especially as many companies have cut back their benefits and HR staff, and illustrates some ongoing trends for growth in HR technology, according to Mike DiClaudio, global leader of Towers Watson’s HR service delivery practice.

“Despite cost cutting in some areas of HR, we are seeing a substantial spike in technology spending,” DiClaudio says. “Companies are realizing the value that consumer-grade technology brings to HR and are willing to make smart investments that can grow and evolve with the business.”

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Towers Watson’s new HR Service Delivery and Technology survey indicates that at least a third of respondents planned on spending more money on HR technology than they did last year.

Use of mobile technology and HR portals is also an increasingly standard part of the day-to-day benefits workflow, with some 46% reporting they’re using mobile tools for HR transactions and 60% indicating they’ve got a portal already in place.

“It also appears that companies are splitting their investments between core HR systems such as talent management and payroll, and next-generation technology including HR data and analytics, [plus] integrated talent- management systems.”

But the technology spend is just part of a larger revolution underway in overall HR and benefits management, DiClaudio says. More than half of the employers surveyed indicated that they’ve reengineered key HR processes over the last year and a half, and roughly three in 10 respondents say they have refocused the role of their HR business partners.

Another significant trend is the move toward manager and employee self-service initiatives, with almost three quarters of North American-based organizations already using manager self-service tools, a 10% jump from last year.

Employee engagement surveys have also become an increasingly common practice among employers hoping to get the best out of their HR technology dollars, with almost two thirds of U.S. employers conducting regular employee engagement surveys and using the data to better direct their personnel and benefits investments.

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