Jan 3, 2019

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. This is No. 9 of the 708 articles. You can find the complete list here.


The role of HR continues to be dynamic and ever-changing, with major economic, sociological, technological and cultural trends impacting the way people will work and live in 2019. HR’s shift from a largely administrative function to a strategic business unit has been slow up until now. But that is about to change, as HR has the opportunity to take center stage and become a champion for businesses looking to keep up with the pace of these changes.

HR is responsible for mitigating some of the most critical issues facing businesses today, such as hiring and retaining talent, skill development, and creating a positive employee experience in a tight labor market. Organizations adapting to the future of work are realizing they need business-savvy, innovative HR leaders to help them navigate the evolving needs of the modern workforce.

This, in turn, puts more pressure on HR leaders to stay ahead of the latest trends and find solutions that move businesses and employees forward amid intense competition. Below are just a few trends that HR leaders will need to follow closely in 2019 if they want their businesses and the employees they serve to excel in the future of work.

Wellbeing at work

Talent management is critical in any business, and HR leaders must continue to make holistic employee well-being a top priority in order to keep their people happy, growing, and engaged in the workplace. The dizzying pace of change in the workforce and the exponential growth of available data and technology have created an always-on, competitive environment and potentially contribute to burnout, especially among tech workers. The National Institue of Mental Health estimates that one in five Americans lives with a mental health issue, and even more state that they are impacted by stress.

As companies look to maintain their talent, it’s critical that HR plays a role in supporting and understanding employees’ personal, physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and even financial well-being. This can be daunting, but it can set apart the workplaces where employees will want to stay and be their most productive selves, and those that will struggle to retain the best talent.

As the concept of employee wellness evolves, HR must find new solutions to address employees’ emotional and cognitive health and go beyond traditional wellness programs, focused on physical health, to ensure employees continue to thrive at work. This will naturally vary based on the organization, but some examples include providing financial-education classes (just look at the role financial anxiety plays in increasing stress levels), staffing onsite medical professionals who can quickly and credibly address mental health, or offering creative spaces within the office environment where employees can connect and recharge in the way that best suits their individual needs, such as meditation rooms, quiet connection pods, and other welcoming spaces.

Technology is changing HR’s job

The Internet of Things (IoT) is beginning to make its way into the workplace as it affords new opportunities to create highly connected and collaborative environments. Distributed technologies that are the hallmark of the IoT give HR leaders the ability to explore new workspace concepts that could foster top performance. Some examples include smart applications that can record and save praise and feedback that can be used during employee reviews, smart meeting spaces that foster collaboration, or wearable devices that can pick up stressors and allow managers to find solutions before the problem worsens. This interaction can lead to new insights and experiences, elevating the traditional employee and manager relationship, as well as the employee’s view of the organization.

Data democratization is crucial to enabling meaningful and productive collaboration, and it can increase trust levels between employees and employers, by stripping away information silos that impede progress. For example, data gleaned from smart apps can share valuable insights and help managers give the appropriate praise or feedback to help their employees succeed and feel valued at work, wherever they are. However, organizations must consider and balance the ethics of capturing data, and the flow of information that moves between and within the connected and collaborative workplace. Insights gained from data should be used to make improvements in the workplace while still respecting individual privacy.

Reskilling workers

The nature of the modern workforce is changing as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies become more advanced and ubiquitous. While many employees fear job loss, there are in fact more opportunities for meaningful work — if employees are properly trained and reskilled in the coming years. We are seeing greater urgency on this front, as companies realize they have not prioritized preparing employees for the future of work.

The future workforce will only become more blended and complex, with diverse people and machines working side-by-side. Automation technologies can handle repetitive, administrative tasks, freeing up valuable time for people to focus on more creative, critical-thinking work. However, this will require new approaches and topics for development, and that cannot be left entirely up to employees. Managers should work with their direct reports throughout this uncharted learning process, making an effort to better understand their unique needs and motivators and including them in the development process. This will allow employees to participate in controlling their destinies at work, something that employees today feel very strongly about. Whether it’s asking their feedback on the types of work they’d be interested in learning about through intelligent surveys or regularly discussing in manager meetings, it’s vital for all employees to have a voice as the workforce and work environments continue to change.

As HR embraces new role opportunities, it’s important to consider these trends to ensure organizations can best lead their people and empower them to achieve more meaningful levels of success — without falling behind.

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