Charting the trends in HR over the last few years reveals a distinct course of direction that directly leads to what’s expected of 2018. In 2016, increasing agility within HR was a primary focus, establishing a foothold for AI-based technologies and people analytics to provide HR the flexibility to pivot according to people data in real time.
2017 picked up where 2016 left off by further advancing the cause of people analytics, only further cementing its position as a permanent mainstay within HR departments. In fact, an estimated 69% of HR departments actively took steps to improve their people analytics, a significant rise from the estimated 10-15% just the year before.
In essence, 2017 represented the beginning of consumerization of HR as organizations actively looked for ways to quantify and, ultimately, improve the employee experience, relying on people analytics as the foundation for such efforts.
As 2018 gets underway, Hyphen sees the same trends continuing, now with an emphasis on technology to further improve, refine, and solidify the people analytics systems that will be driving organizations into the future. Building on that note, Hyphen expects a handful of specific trends to emerge in the HR space throughout 2018.
HR Trends Dominating 2018
1. Shifting from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience
2018 will continue to see companies drift further away from more traditional policies and procedures concerning employee engagement – including offline events or the typical, static annual survey. Instead, organizations will strive to create comprehensive ecosystems of engagement, culture, and performance management through platforms specifically designed and implemented to gather, analyze, and transform people data into actionable insight.
Also, the notion of employer and employee brands will be further refined as companies expand on the antiquated concept of a brand strictly being defined by consumer perspectives. Going forward, the entire breadth of the employee lifecycle will play a significantly expanded role in the concept of brand development, where employee satisfaction at all stages of employment will likewise become synonymous with an organization's brand.
In order to help develop that definition of a brand based on the employee lifecycle, HR departments will employ a variety of methods – with technology at its root – including employee feedback tools, wellness apps, gamification, communication, and different productivity tools to maximize the employee experience throughout the lifecycle. Gone are the days where feedback and engagement strictly occur during onboarding and employee exiting procedures but, instead, become a consistent, ongoing presence.
2. The Digital Transformation of HR
2018 will also see HR departments continuing to play technological catch-up with other business functions, first and foremost through the implementation of AI and automation software. Together, these innovations will help improve decision-making, recruiting, and nearly every other routine HR function to lend departments significantly increased efficiencies.
Likewise, digitizing HR processes like paid leave, medical, lifestyle benefits, internal job postings, and more will further improve departmental efficiency, allowing HR to accomplish much more without the accompanying costs of an expanded staff.
Concentrating on increased efficiency will make continuous listening possible for HR departments as they strive to constantly gauge the pulse of an organization's workforce. These types of tools will replace annual performance reviews with frequent and diverse employee feedback and engagement systems.
In another example of playing catch-up, blockchain will begin to take root within HR departments where it's encrypted ledgers, heightened transparency, smart contracts, and ever-increasing agility will make it extremely beneficial to recruiters over the next few years.
3. Decision Making Based on People Analytics
Although Hyphen has already written about people analytics in great detail, we continue to identify new trends that will only further its importance and acceptance within organizations. Specifically, we foresee a democratization of people analytics, where it is transformed from the exclusive ranks of data specialists and becomes more widely integrated into managerial disciplines across entire organizations.
The accompanying advancements in technology will create models and dashboards that will significantly streamline and improve communication between team leaders and senior management. In other words, people analytics will evolve beyond the intricate data visualizations and reports it’s currently associated with but become a source of tangible, actionable insight to support a variety of people decisions.
4. Paradigm Shifts and Organizational Structures With the Gig Economy
The rapid evolution of the gig economy is another noticeable trend that's taken hold over the last few years. While companies like Uber continue to be the face of the movement, organizations of all shapes and sizes will use the gig economy to refine their talent sourcing with contractual employees not on the payroll. Organizations will need to improve their speed and agility in order to quickly identify work and projects – especially those that naturally lend themselves to short-term contracts or freelance work – to best take advantage of the extreme levels of specialization and flexibility afforded by the gig economy. Likewise, companies should develop procedures and systems to enhance and maintain satisfaction within their gig workforce. Given the dynamic, constantly changing nature of the gig economy and its participants, such systems will need to be agile enough to equip an organization with the information and tools necessary to optimize their relationship with its gig workers.
In another example of heightened flexibility, remote working will also continue to flourish, building on the 115% growth it has seen over the last decade. According to recent studies, 80% to 90% of the American workforce would prefer to work remotely for at least part of the time, further demonstrating its rapid rise in popularity. There is a similar trend which can be seen in Canada, UK, Australia & India as well.
From an employer's perspective, telecommuting has positively impacted companies through increased employee morale, lower absenteeism, and increased willingness to work overtime and atypical work shifts. The enhanced flexibility in work timings is of particular use to organizations that traditionally have found it difficult to find talented employees willing to work those atypical shifts – 52% of companies now offering flexible work arrangements to at least a portion of their employee base.
5. HR Moves from Operational and Administrative Roles to Consultative Roles
2018 will also see HR continue to migrate from its traditional administrative role to one that is heavily integrated into organizational leadership and management. As previously discussed, technology will play a critical role in this process, streamlining HR functions to free departmental resources that can be devoted to more analytical and strategic functions.
Of course, technology will provide the reporting and insights that will drive those newly expanded strategic HR functions. For instance, Hyphen's platform will allow organizations to segment employee feedback by departments and teams, providing the ability to automatically communicate any problem areas directly and quickly to management.
This type of strategic consulting will increase HR's importance across various departments within a company. Likewise, technology platforms can accomplish similar results in performance management throughout the different layers and functions of an organization. Using people analytics as its foundation, performance management will identify the characteristics of top-performing people and teams to better inform recruitment as well as people and team development.
As a result of these new and expanded roles, HR should redefine its position and purpose within a company to become more of a strategic business partner rather than just a conduit for top management. Becoming a champion for employees rather than executives will be an important component to redesigning and maintaining more satisfying employee journeys.
6. Millennial Entry Into the Workforce
Although not a new phenomenon, millennials will continue to exert their ever-growing power within the workforce. Already the largest labor segment, HR departments will continue to develop more effective ways of attracting and accommodating the particular needs and demands of millennials.
Just because millennials represent the biggest portion of the workforce, however, doesn't mean they collectively possess a well-rounded skill set at this time. No matter the source of the skill gaps, HR will need to significantly expand employee development systems to not only increase skill sets and knowledge bases but also transform systems to better prepare organizations for the particular work intricacies of younger generations.
Also, given the prevalence of turnover in the modern workforce – particularly with respect to millennials– multi-decade careers with a single organization are no longer realistic. For that reason, HR must rapidly improve talent pipelines to seamlessly fill in voids created by high turnover rates.
Although discussed in greater detail in our previous pieces concerning millennial engagement, HR must adopt and adapt to the specific needs and concerns of a young and powerful generation. Using employee engagement as an example, 80% of millennials want regular feedback on their work performance, a distinct departure from more traditional models.
7. Power to the People
Building on the notion of drastically expanded employee feedback procedures for millennials, the old-fashioned annual engagement survey has become an antiquated, imprecise, and skewed source of people data. Instead, HR needs to develop the ability to read employee experience cues in real time using a combination of top-down – management directed feedback – as well as bottom-up feedback that is open-ended and crowdsourced.
Going forward, organizations will need to let their top talent be the primary drivers of their culture, embracing the notion that a company is best served by an environment that is molded and shaped to fit its people rather than expecting its workforce to adhere to a static and rigid culture.
If a company is able to fill its ranks with employees that possess skill, knowledge, and character that best fits its needs and culture, it should trust those employees to start initiatives and advocate necessary change and direction while management helps stimulate such dynamics with an organic, open-minded approach.
8. Social Is the New Professional
Embracing the pervasive, digitally-driven social aspects of the modern workplace might not be a new trend to 2018 but will certainly continue to be critical for organizations that want to keep pace. Between social recruiting, profiling, social conversations, and compressing the employee experience into the mobile environment, how organizations communicate with current and prospective employees scarcely resembles what the landscape looked like just a few years ago.
To that point, 85% of companies now use social media as one of their primary recruiting tools, relying on its reach and scope to develop and refine their social recruiting abilities. Of course, given the workforce’s reliance on smartphones for job hunting – 28% now using them on a regular basis in an employment search, a staggering 53% for the 18 to 29-year-old demographic – fully half of the workforce has completed a job application simply from their phone. If an organization's hiring platform doesn't cater to the mobile environment, they're neglecting a functionality that their competitors are more than capable of leveraging to its fullest extent.
Technology is driving much of the rapid change sweeping across the modern workplace. If HR departments failed to implement systems to expand and enhance employee engagement and performance management through the insights provided by people analytics, they're essentially failing to prepare their organizations for the future. Whether that involves today’s AI-based platforms for people data analysis or even tomorrow’s blockchain applications to increase security, transparency, and agility in recruiting, adopting new, transformative technologies is critical in keeping pace with the dynamic demands and expectations of an ever-evolving workforce.
Through Hyphen's own innovative engagement platform, HR now has systems to help companies embrace current trends, develop the agility needed to adapt to future ones, and reveal the actionable insights required to optimize the employee's journey.