With the sands of 2016 close to completing their journey through the pinched middle of the proverbial hourglass, it is only natural to consider what 2017 has in store. But before the future becomes the present, learning what trends emerged in the HR space in 2016 might help inform, and better prepare us for what’s to come. Below are 5 HR trends that emerged in 2016 that we believe will become more ingrained and ubiquitous in the coming months and years:
1. A More Diverse and Employee-Centric Workplace
The idea of an employee-centric workplace is one that can impact almost every aspect of an organization. From providing mechanisms for employees to directly influence the direction of a company, to facilitating a culture of recognition and engagement, in 2016 businesses were more focused on those in “the trenches” than ever before. For many organizations, the rise of an employee-centric work environment was made evident through the simple act of letting employees express their true selves, rather than stifling the individuality and diversity of thought that each individual brings to the table. As Kety Duron (Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer at City of Hope, a California-based healthcare system) states in a recently published article on Forbes.com, “Differences question the status quo and force us to learn from diverse thinking. You have to have people who are agile and can adapt. We can’t say we are open and then create workplaces that do not embrace diversity of thought. If we are trying to select and attract diverse talent to the leadership table and embrace their values, we must continue to encourage and value diverse thinking. When that happens at the leadership level it will cascade to all levels, creating an organization where diversity and inclusion is part of the organizational fabric.”
2. Work Anywhere, Anytime
With the ubiquity of personal electronic devices and growing variety of ways to log on and stay virtually connected, it is easier than ever for employees to work in the places in which they are most comfortable. According to Jeanne Meister’s article, “Consumerization of HR: 10 Trends Companies Will Follow in 2016,” workplace flexibility is second only to salary when prospective employees are evaluating a job opportunity. Workplace flexibility not only creates an environment of trust between employer and employee, but also fosters a better work/life balance while reducing the costs of commuting. When work is results-driven, it shouldn’t matter where the work is being performed as long as mutually agreed-upon goals and objectives are met.
3. It’s (Still!) All About Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is the measure of how much employees believe in their company, and how much effort they are willing to put in to work toward its success. According to Gallup, in 2016 only 1/3 of U.S. employees reported being engaged at work and this number is little-changed in over a decade. So it’s not surprising that there are a number of solutions on the market focused on improving employee engagement. The most exciting and promising of these are focused on offering a complete employee engagement solution, not only focused on Health & Wellness, Learning & Development, or Rewards & Recognition, but linking all of those, while tying in measurement tools such as pulse surveys along with a robust suite of people analytics. By focusing on the complete employee experience, these emerging tools will provide the greatest ROI for emerging, employee-centric organizations.
4. Frequent, Real-Time Evaluation Tools
With increased emphasis on engagement and greater access to employee generated data and insights through recognition and rewards platforms, 2017 is shaping up to be the “Year of the Employee”. This being the case, it makes sense to invest in tools that can help you measure and act on employee engagement data in a frequent, timely manner. These can be as simple as a daily or weekly pulse survey offered through a centralized platform, or as formal as weekly one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers. By analyzing the results from these evaluation tools, companies can address certain systemic failings almost immediately This trend further emphasizes the transition to the “employee-centric” model by allowing employees to anonymously (in the case of online surveys) express their true feelings regarding their work environment and company priorities on a regular basis and then making that data widely available to help guide the business. Not only was this a trend in 2016, some think this will be a major enterprise in 2017 and beyond.
5. Employees as Cultural Ambassadors
In today’s always-on, mobile, social, transparent environment, rare is the employee lacking an up-to-date LinkedIn page and a Glassdoor premium membership. Couple these trends with greater emphasis on the individual and you have a recipe for what could be a company’s greatest (and perhaps, worst) asset for attracting top talent. With a simple click, employees can share with the hundreds, if not thousands of people in their social networks, the photos of that amazing team-building trip or a well-written blog post published by a company, espousing emergent industry trends in a given business sector. These seemingly disparate instances of social sharing actually form a lattice of social relevancy that serves to inform prospective employees of the pros (and cons) of an organization. A highly engaged, well-compensated employee is a greater recruiting tool than any other used before, as they are not a faceless, monolithic, one-way source of knowledge, but rather an approachable source of “real” insight that candidates can engage with to get an honest look into the inner working of a given organization.
Almost all of the emergent trends of 2016 reinforced the idea that employees are imbued with more power than ever before. From increased and ongoing importance of employee engagement, to trusting employees to get the job done from wherever they please, companies have already taken strong measures to assure they are at the forefront of this transition of power. With historically low unemployment rates, increased transparency, and more democratizing resources such as job boards, employer review sites and career building sites such as LinkedIn, 2017 looks sure to be the Year of the Employee.
About the Authors
Josh is Director of Content Marketing at Achievers. An accomplished marketing and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience in the fields of marketing and PR, Josh worked as a press secretary on Capitol Hill before moving West, and from politics into PR – and on into content marketing. Josh graduated with High Honors in History from Kenyon College and lives in San Francisco with his wife and 9 year-old daughter. In addition to work and family, he is passionate about music, politics and fly fishing (not necessarily in that order).
Iain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco.