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Jan 25, 2017

Note: This is part two of two parts. Find the first part here.

The new year is upon us, and it’s shaping up to be an even wilder ride than its predecessor. What’s on the horizon, and how can HR and L&D leaders guide first-level managers (often, they’re the newest and most vulnerable leadership layer) through the many changes ahead?

Below is the second in our two-part series compiling a list of predicted trends and related tips for 2017. Part one is here.

6. Robots won’t be replacing human managers anytime soon, but learning automation is on the rise.

Don’t worry, Westworld-style robots won’t be taking over 1-on-1s and giving redirecting feedback to direct reports, at least not this year. Interpersonal relationships will be an essential part of organizational growth in 2017. Managers should embrace the endless complexities in managing humans and re-commit to investing in their people.

After all, the messiness of humanity is what separates people from bots. AI just isn’t up to things like coaching, giving feedback, career development, hiring, firing, promoting, strategy, etc. Yet.

That said, L&D teams will increasingly look to new technologies that help them tailor learning experiences to individual needs and deliver those experiences automatically.

7. Freedom and flexibility will define the learner experience.
Today’s employees want greater flexibility in work schedules and locations. The same holds true for learning. HR teams who stick to one-size-fits-all instruction are likely to find themselves sidelined as 2017’s employees seek to reduce hierarchy and increase autonomy, choosing when, where, how and with whom they learn. To ensure that employees are getting the instruction they need, HR and L&D leaders must particularly empower managers with the education and tools to support and enable a culture of self-directed, continuous learning.

8. The remote workforce will present unique opportunities and some huge challenges.

Most of the management and business advice books on Amazon haven’t quite caught up to the growing reality of a virtual workforce. Yet, a 2015 Gallup poll found that 37% of U.S. workers have telecommuted, up from just 9% in 1995, and those numbers are on the rise.

To help keep remote employees on track and ensure that they are getting what they need, managers should clearly outline expectations and targets well in advance. Specific 1-on-1 video meetings to discuss both personal and professional topics can help compensate for a lack of face time. Regular reviews of remote workers’ to-do lists will help ensure that they are neither overloaded nor twiddling their thumbs.

9. Organizations will attempt to become less hierarchical.

While a truly “flat” organization without hierarchy and titles is unlikely to be the norm anytime soon, many organizations in 2017 are headed toward a more community-based model, calling for input and feedback from employees at all levels and opening up the lines of communications. The deciding factor to success? Listening. If leaders ask for insight but then ignore suggestions and ideas, the shift in hierarchy will be a laughable experiment at best.

10. Networks will move beyond teams, companies and industries.

With tools and connections ranging from Google to LinkedIn, 2017’s employees will increasingly look beyond the more static communities within their own organization for ideas and insights. While these additional inputs can be great, that only holds true if the info is accurate and from a reliable source.

Managers must make sure that they are providing as much information and support as possible on a case-by-case basis and keeping an eye on where team members are sourcing their info.

As much as we might want to put last year and its HR challenges behind us, 2016’s snowball is only going to continue to grow bigger in 2017. In a year that’s sure to be fraught with change and upheaval, it’s up to HR and L&D teams to support managers as they navigate the minefield.

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