The new year means a slew of industry trend pieces with fear-stoking headlines. For HR professionals, they all boil down to the same premise: The workplace is changing — and you’re already behind.
Headlines like these often feel like a fire drill. But as anyone with a social media account will tell you, trends come and go. However, anti-trends, which we dug deeper into in our annual report, are core workplace truths that aren’t going anywhere soon. We found that many tried-and-true HR strategies are still important — they just look a little different when coupled with emerging technology and a shifting industry. Here’s how:
1. The rise of z-shaped skills
As technology replaces some of the mundane and, you guessed it, technical aspects of work, employees are left with more time to flex their creativity and critical thinking muscles. Coined by future of work expert Jeanne Meister, “z-shaped skills” refer to the unique mix of digital and business expertise, crucial soft skills, and creativity and innovation required in the modern workplace.
How to respond: New technology is creating demand for new skill sets, just one of the many reasons why there will always be a need for personal and professional development in the workplace. Digital tools like LinkedIn Learning alongside traditional employee learning opportunities like conferences, lunch & learns, and networking events will continue to help workers grow in their careers. Need more convincing? Take a note from Google, who encourages its employees to unleash their inner innovation by devoting a percentage of their time to side projects. That’s because some of the most creative — and useful — ideas originated as side projects (Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack, and Groupon, to name a few).
2. Consumerization of the workplace
With record low employment, the war for talent is at an all-time high. In today’s tight labor market, candidates have the upper hand. And when it comes to similar roles and salary options, they’ll opt for the companies using tech and social media in ways that mirror their personal lives.
How to respond: One of the best ways employers can appeal to potential employees is with a strong brand. First, review your Glassdoor and social media profiles to understand how employees experience your company brand. Then, treat your HR efforts like you would any other marketing effort. Think of the employee as your consumer or end-user — and make sure to put them at the center of every major company decision.
3. Ding dong–the annual review is dead
It’s no secret that everyone dreads annual performance reviews. According to CEB research, 66% of employees say performance reviews negatively affect their productivity, and 65% say they aren’t even relevant to their jobs. Managers are equally frustrated: 95% report feeling unsatisfied with their performance review processes. And 90% of HR professionals don’t think their companies’ performance reviews reflect accurate information.
How to respond: Nobody questions the value of feedback, but the traditional method of delivering it is falling short. Good managers are ditching the annual review for a continuous feedback model that allows employees to learn, improve, and be recognized for their work in real-time. Goal management software can help streamline this process so managers spend less time checking administrative boxes and more time providing meaningful feedback.
4. Technology is reshaping HR roles
It’s no secret that many emerging HR technologies have taken over the more administrative and — let’s face it — mundane tasks traditionally performed by HR professionals. But that doesn’t mean a human touch is no longer needed in the HR department. With less of their time drained by tedious tasks, HR professionals can focus on more strategic work, like aligning their company’s business and people goals.
How to respond: The savviest organizations recognize that new tech is augmenting HR, not automating it. But don’t embrace new tech without first conducting an internal audit to discover what’s working — and what needs updating. Be sure to remember the people behind the tech, too. Continue investing in and listening to your employees so they have the training, tools, and resources to leverage technology in the best ways possible.
5. Perks have to mean something
If you watch the TV series “Silicon Valley,” you’ll know that the “perks” offered by today’s companies, especially trendy startups, have become comical in their execution. From beer fridges to in-office massages to use of the company yacht, companies will try almost anything to win the war for talent.
How to respond: We hate to break it to you, but flashy antics don’t land talent. While many people enjoy sipping a beer with their coworkers on the company’s dime, others would rather be doing something else. That’s why the best employee rewards programs involve choices. Meaningful options that resonate across a wide range of employees include charitable giving, professional development, custom experiences, group rewards, and company swag.
6. Four generations under one roof present an opportunity
Most research these days is quick to point out the differences between generations, especially as Gen Z enters the workforce. While it’s true there can be tension between employees from different generations, these differences also present new opportunities within the workplace. At the same time, this is nothing new — every time a new generation enters the workforce, they bring new needs, expectations, working styles, and expertise that can help companies update their business practices.
How to respond: HR leaders should learn the habits and unique skill sets of every generation in their organizations. Understand how each generation provides value and lean into those strengths. Employees across generations can also complement one another, so prioritize collaborative projects and mentorship opportunities.
7. Data matters more than ever
People analytics (also known as talent or HR analytics) is a major trend to watch in the HR space right now. But at the end of the day, all the term really refers to is the metrics companies use to track their employees (like performance, professional training costs, and turnover rates) — which is not so new.
How to respond: While certainly helpful, data tools also highlight the sheer amount of information HR professionals can now analyze. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with the big three: employee attrition (or retention or turnover), absenteeism, and training costs. Most importantly, don’t just gather data — act on it.
Yes, the workplace is changing, but no, you’re not already behind. These seven trends are simply an opportunity to draw upon existing capabilities and level up your HR efforts this year.