Emerging HR Trends for 2017

Human resources is constantly evolving and changing, and with the continued advances in technology, people’s habits and preferences are changing. It’s essential that human resource professionals not only learn about the habits and preferences of employees, but also use that data they collect to continuously improve the experience of candidates and employees at all levels.

While many of these emerging human resources trends for 2017 may have already started, we are confident they will all become increasingly more important for human resource professionals in the new year. Don’t get left in the dust when it comes to recruitment and retention — be aware of the emerging HR trends for 2017 and look for ways to strategically use them to benefit your business.

Annual Reviews Won’t Be So “Annual”

There used to be a fairly rigid structure for the way employees’ performance was graded. There was often a numbered scale of some sort with a variety of areas that were measured. A number or grade was given for each area and usually discussed with the employee, so they were aware of any areas that needed improvement. The structure was good, but the rigidness of the process left much to be desired. What if an employee began failing or going downhill in one or more of these areas prior to the annual review? Sure it would be graded on the next annual review, but was there an effort made to touch base with employees regarding their performance more than just once per year? Often times, there wasn’t.

While annual reviews may make it to the end of 2017, they are becoming supplemented with frequent check-ins. This gives an employer the ability to confront any employee performance issues, even minor ones, throughout the year on an ongoing basis, rather than making a note for the next “annual review.” This keeps employers and employees on the same page — and ongoing, fluid feedback strives to achieve constant improvement for all parties involved. A true win-win.

Employee Surveys Will Increase, and So Will the Demand for Action

 As technology advances, there are more and more ways for human resource professionals to collect data on their employees. This trend is a continuing one. As time goes on, there are more opportunities to collect data in efficient ways and report on the information collected. While all of this big data is great to collect, don’t forget that in exchange for giving feedback, employees want to see action. Collecting and storing big data is a thing of the past — now, while more and more opportunities to collect data present themselves, in 2017 it’s time to take some action.

What areas of your business do employees see room for improvement? Are there new processes or new technologies you can put in place to improve any of these areas? Start harnessing the power of technology to make improvements and show employees you really appreciate them and the time they put in to the surveys you distribute.

Predictive Modeling Will Open New Doors for Employee Retention

 In addition to using data to drive improvements in the workplace experience for your employees, another way to use data is for predictivemodeling. Employee turnover is expensive and, regardless of millennial stereotypes, the average tenure for employees of all ages is less than five years. Collecting data from employees is one way to understand why they leave. Once you know why employees are leaving, you can identify trends and areas you can improve for increased employee retention. It also gives you the ability to step in when you notice employees going down the road that leads to their departure.

To give an example of predictive modeling, let’s say your company surveys over time show that employees that have less of a commute stay with the company longer. The implications for current employees may be to offer a relocation bonus to those at a certain level, in an attempt to retain them. It could also have an effect on where and how you recruit employees — focusing on candidates within a certain radius of your office.

Talent Acquisition Will Continue to Take on a New Face in the Digital Age

 This doesn’t mean all talent acquisition will be, or should be, digital in 2017. However, we’d be crazy if we didn’t acknowledge the impact technology has made in the recruitment process. Job websites like Indeed and Glassdoor list your company ratings, and even salary levels, if they can find them. Transparency is the new face of talent acquisition. And don’t forget the recruitment management systems, that move candidates through the interview process. Rather than pushing these technologies aside, embrace them — but don’t ignore human interaction.

Find the places in your talent acquisition process that technology can be an asset and streamline processes, but don’t replace the whole process. Human interaction is key, especially when it comes to interviews. There isn’t a one-size fits all solution here — just a note to be aware that the technology isn’t going anywhere, and it’s worth assessing (or reassessing) how technology can make your talent acquisition process even better.

Freelance Work Will Become More Common

 In the near future, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers and part-timers. Don’t have many (if any) part-timers or freelancers now? Don’t skip over this one. There is a key takeaway from this trend.

Regardless of whether or not you currently have freelancers and part-timers on staff, look for opportunities to use them. Are there tasks that could be done by a freelancer that might free up some of your employees’ time to focus on other areas of their job? (Hint: This could make a great survey question to employees.) Sometimes, if you aren’t “in the weeds” with employees, it’s hard to know whether or not there might be room for freelancers to help your workforce become even more successful.

Flexible and/or Remote Work Schedules Will Be in High Demand

 The shift to freelance and part-time work also exemplifies the fact that that employees increasingly value flexibility in the workplace. As a matter of fact, in 2014, it surpassed healthcare as the top employee benefit globally, yet the majority of companies don’t offer it. Millennials are particularly interested in this benefit, so much so that many say they’re willing to take a pay cut, or switch jobs to get more flexibility in their work.

Is there room in your company for flexible work hours or remote work? If there is, get a group of decision-makers together and decide what that might look like. Obviously, productivity shouldn’t be sacrificed, but if you have a way to monitor productivity and can offer flexibility to those who prove to be productive outside of business hours and/or from home, it could really boost employee satisfaction and recruitment. Flexible perks, like working from home, are sure to fulfill your employees’ craving for flexibility. Keep flexibility top of mind. And if you offer it, don’t forget to brag about it for recruitment — job seekers will continue to be looking for it.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Will Expand EEO-1 Report and Focus on New Compliance Enforcement Areas

 For the second time ever, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a brand new Strategic Enforcement Plan, sharing where they will begin focusing their compliance enforcement efforts, beginning in 2017. Their efforts will be focused on eliminating barriers to recruitment and hiring, protecting vulnerable workers and ensuring equal pay protection. Obviously, you need to make it a priority in 2017 to be in compliance.

In addition to issuing the new Strategic Enforcement Plan, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also announced it will expand the data employers have to collect in the EEO-1 Report. If your company has 100 or more employees, you will have to track and report on the number of hours employees work, identify their earnings and classify each employee in one of twelve pay bands — all of this is an effort to eliminate pay disparities.

Mobile Technologies Will Take Over

 

It’s no secret that more and more people are using their smartphones to access information. The numbers for mobile have been increasing over the past few years — but now they’ve reached a point that can’t be ignored, especially when it comes to recruitment and retention.

For example, 70% of job seekers want to apply for a job on their smartphone. Is your online application mobile-friendly? Do you offer an online application? If you don’t have an online application that’s optimized for smartphones, chances are you’re losing applicants due to frustrations, and eventually, givingup, on your application.

The implications for mobile don’t stop with recruitment. Tech upgrades now allow people to access pay information via their mobile HA apps. Do you have a mobile app that employees can use to access their pay and benefits information? If not, do you at least have a mobile-friendly intranet they can access? More and more people are using their smartphones even more than their computers, so having information that is easily accessible by your employees on their smartphones is important now, but will become even more essential in 2017.

Investments in Tools to Help Employees Do Their Jobs Better Will Increase

As more and more human resource processes can become more automated, human resource professionals have more time to focus on the people. One of the benefits of focusing on the people is discovering antiquated processes that could be streamlined. This can be done easily through survey data collection (assuming that you aren’t “in the weeds” with your employees on a regular basis). Streamlining processes can be a huge asset to a company’s bottom line.

Often times employees have ideas on how their work could be done more efficiently with the help of a certain tool or technology. Obviously, not all of these opportunities can be capitalized upon, but as a human resource professional, you have the opportunity to analyze the data and decide what makes the most sense. While purchasing and utilizing technology to manage your processes in human resources, it’s important to note that there are often tools employees could use that may have a significant impact on the bottom line. Don’t forget to explore those as technology continues to grow in 2017.

Ongoing Education and Training Will Become Increasingly More Important

 There are three main reasons ongoing education and training will play a big role in 2017. First of all, there is more of an emphasis on hiring the right person and training them for a specific job (rather than hiring a person solely for having the specific skill you need). Having a plan for ongoing training allows you to broaden your recruitment pool and train candidates for the job based on your company values and processes. While this doesn’t work for all positions, it is the trend for many — and with this hiring trend, comes a demand for ongoing training.

The second reason is that performance and job satisfaction are both on the rise when employees are given the freedom to contribute to their employer, but also to their own goals. Enter education. Whenever possible, it’s great to have employers that can invest in their employees’ education — even better, invest in education that not only ties to company goals, but also to their personal goals, as long as it ties in to the goals of the business.

The third reason is as you are training new employees and making an effort to provide some level of education to existing employees, you have an intelligent workforce, which opens up new doors for training within the company. Employee-led seminars over lunch, or even over the course of a day, are a much cheaper alternative to sending employees to off-site trainings and educational opportunities.

Company Collaboration and Teamwork Will Take a Front Seat

 

Regardless of company or industry, there is a basic human need to feel connected, not just in life, but also at work. Yes, connections at work can bring on a myriad of challenges, but the positives overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives — after all, if an employee doesn’t feel connected with others in the workplace, they’re likely to be unhappy and will eventually leave.

While company picnics and networking events may be the first things that come to mind to improve company culture, there are other ways to encourage connections throughout the workday — collaboration being at the top of the list. Teamwork is a trend that has already made progress in 2016, but it’s likely to continue gaining ground, perhaps mostly as a result of the rise of millennials and Gen Z workers. Organizational design is important — and fostering a team structure is equally as important to give employees a connection in the workplace.

Wellness Initiatives Will Continue to Attract Top Talent

Workplace wellness is on the rise, and there’s still time to get in the game ahead of many others. While the trend of wellness benefits has drastically increased in 2016, fewer than half of American workers say their company supports employee well-being. If you don’t already have wellness perks (like rewards for reaching wellness goals, offering exercise classes, etc.), get on board quick, and it could help you get ahead of the curve in recruiting new talent in 2017. Eventually, perhaps just in time for 2018, wellness perks are going to become the standard, and you don’t want to be left in the dust.

Sure, making current employees happy and getting ahead in creating top talent are two great reasons to explore wellness initiatives at the office, but there are a bunch of other perks for you. You’ll find that companies with employee wellness programs in place also have employees who miss less days of work, and you can save money on healthcare costs, too.

Creativity in Benefits Packages Will Give Companies a Competitive Edge

Wellness isn’t the only workplace perk that will continue to dominate in 2017. There are actually many others, too. Yes, pay is still most important, but once you get past that and healthcare benefits, people are looking for flexibility, which shows in the increase of the number of freelance positions, as we mentioned earlier.

Once you get past flexibility, there are a variety of benefits that employers are trying out. For example, some are helping pay back student loans, as a result of the significant amount of debt so many in today’s workforce are struggling to pay off. Others offer tuition reimbursement, and still others provide a credit for transportation and/or food. The creativity and expansion of benefits is just getting started. Explore the benefits you could offer and start promoting them to get ahead in 2017.

Casual Attire in the Workplace Will Become More Common

 formal attire

Formal business attire is on its way out. When’s the last time your business re-evaluated its dress code? Is there any room for flexibility? Now is the time to gather the decision-makers and see if there are any revisions to make.

Aren’t sure that a casual dress code could be a permanent solution? If you can’t offer a permanent solution, consider offering dress down days, or a certain number of days per month that employees can dress down for a donation to a good cause. There are plenty of ways to offer flexibility in a dress code without sacrificing the professionalism of the company.

You Can’t Afford to Take a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

It’s easy to read through all of our projected HR trends for 2017 and let your imagination run wild with the opportunities your business could have in each and every one of them. The most important thing to remember is that not all of these trends work for all businesses — and even if all of them do work for you, resources and manpower are often limited, limiting what you can take on.

The best thing to do is make a list and prioritize it based on opportunities you see that meet the balance of being fairly easy to implement and could make a significant impact on business. Tailor the HR trends for 2017 you want to focus on to the business goals you have in place for the new year.

For example, if 2017 is going to be a year focused on ramping up recruitment efforts, consider adding some new and different perks to your employee benefits package, or put a plan in place to market the great perks you already have. Regardless of what you choose, be strategic about your approach to embracing these trends.

Prepare for Unexpected Human Resource Changes in 2017

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While these are all trends we’ve seen evidence of, there are many that are sure to develop in the upcoming year that we didn’t see coming. Our best advice, especially in light of the recent presidential election, is to make an effort to stay up to date with new and pre-existing legislation to see what changes will be coming down the human resources pipeline.

We did some preliminary research prior to the election in our blog post titled “How Will the 2016 Election Affect Human Resources and Employee Benefits?” While this was a blog post meant to educate on the views of each of the candidates, it can still be beneficial in reviewing what President-elect Donald Trump’s views are on key human resource issues, like minimum wage, overtime and healthcare. Be aware and be prepared for unexpected changes.