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​HR - A Preparation Guide For 2018

A Look At A Few Of The Challenges Facing HR Professionals In The Coming Year.

6Dec

The year is coming to an end and for HR, it has been an intense one.

With massive upheavals in almost every facet of society, innovations in HR have long evolved past simply integrating new tech into payroll. Today, HR systems have to be smarter and prepared to provide more nuanced solutions to an ever-changing work landscape.

We've outlined some of the most important considerations HR professionals will need to focus on in 2018.

The Rise Of The Millennials

Attitudes towards the much-maligned millennial generation have changed rapidly in recent years and for good reason; by 2020, they will account for 75% of the workforce in America. The cliché of the lazy millennial is increasingly being left behind as they demonstrate what they can do, and companies are having to adjust their long-standing corporate models to get the best out of this important generation of workers.

However, while a lot of the more common negative generalizations about millennials are being proved wrong, not all are entirely inaccurate, particularly the perception that they are disloyal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people born between 1960 to 1980 changed jobs twice on average before the age of 32. Workers today, on the other hand, are likely to have switched jobs at least twice as much in that same time period. In the past, this has been attributed to millennials being flighty and indecisive, but HR professionals are starting to appreciate that it is actually the more complex problem of their motivations. The new generation of workers is far more focused on ‘work-life balance’ than money, a shift from previous generations where the reverse has been true. They also place a much higher value on recognition and validation. Indeed, in a poll by Xactly, Gen Y’ers ranked growth potential, recognition, flexibility and the ability to make an impact all higher than money.

Culture Becomes More Important

In order to satisfy this new generation's needs, HR professionals will next year have to adapt and find new solutions to improving staff retention and keeping them both happy and productive. This has led more HR departments to shift their focus to 'performance management'. These are the many actions taken in order to ensure employees don’t become overworked, burnt-out, flight risks and instead remain content, productive, and stable employees. Throwing money at staff is easy, providing recognition and validation is far more abstract. A plethora of HR software and tech is being developed every day by ERP vendors, start-ups and the like, but first and foremost, the change needs to originate from a fundamental desire to ensure the company culture evolves to suit this new class workers and change is embraced.

This is why perks which were once only seen in uber-trendy Silicone Valley start-ups are now a mainstay in all kinds of companies. HR departments are realizing that flexible hours, better maternity leave, free drinks, staff trip and even in-office massages, can go an incredibly long way to building a stronger relationship with younger staff. 

A happy workforce tends to be a loyal one.

The Morality Of Tracking Employee Fitness Becomes A Bigger Question

Employee tracking has received a bad rap recently. American truckers made the news this year by taking to the streets to protest the ELD (electronic logging device) mandate soon taking effect. ELD's are machines installed in trucks which are programmed to follow road and safety regulations precisely and hence, have been derided for being too rigid for real-world human situations. For example, if you were 5 minutes away from your home, but had already driven the maximum number of hours for that day, you would be forced to park up meters from your destination until you had taken the obligatory break. While one could argue whether or not this is a good thing, many of us fear a similar situation if our employers could track our every action; corporate overreach and unnecessary interference.

However, employee fitness tracking doesn’t have to become some Orwellian hellscape. Conscientious employers are using advancements in wearable tech to monitor their workers' wellbeing and reduce cognitive overload, which, in turn, greatly improves employee productivity levels. HR is now able to give employees gentle ‘nudges’ to do a bit more exercise or eat a little bit better or even take a couple minutes to mediate. Simple moves like these not only reduce burnout rates within companies but also help employees achieve a level of ‘sustainable performance’.

Greater Emphasis On People Analytics

The suggestion box is far from a new invention. It has long been portrayed as a corporate tool to help convince employees that management cares and values their opinion but has had an almost comical reputation for falling short of this purpose.

However, the suggestion box has been reimagined in recent years. The combination of workers who need to feel heard and software advances in real-time survey systems have given rise to organizational network analysis (ONA) tools. These products have shown employers that there are great benefits to sourcing new ideas from the workforce and dispelled many long-held beliefs that companies have regarding employees. For example, increased pay transparency , something almost unthinkable 10 years ago, is being widely adopted by start-ups and forward-thinking companies. Despite the time and effort it takes HR departments to put these new systems in place, it ultimately makes their jobs easier in the long run as they end up having a much better idea of where the priorities of the staff lie and how their issues should be addressed.

An Augmented Workforce

A long-held fear of automation and, more specifically, AI, has been its penchant to take jobs away from the masses, with stories like that of the Japanese firm, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance replacing 99% of their staff with AI making world news.

However, most experts agree that the general direction of AI in the workplace today is away from complete automation and towards ‘worker augmentation’. So, instead of the classic robots taking over scenario we are all familiar with, employers are looking for new ways to combine the best traits of people and AI in order to create more efficient workers.

Augmentation of human efforts with AI is far-reaching. It has the potential to impact almost every facet of work. This includes more exotic uses like virtual reality systems that allow surgeons to practice an operation before a patient is ever opened up, to the more everyday tasks of assisting HR departments with more focused and nuanced recruitment tactics to compensate for record low unemployment levels. Overall, it is giving HR professionals the ability to do their jobs better by delegating grunt work and other more analytical tasks to AI systems while they focus on more human, condition based issues.

More Remote Workers

Remote working is quickly becoming an increasingly attractive proposition among the workforce, and it is only going to grow in 2018. With the proliferation of high-speed connectivity, the need to physically come into the office is becoming less and less necessary for a lot of roles and any company looking to remain attractive to the new crop of talent will have to consider it in some shape of form.

So the question becomes, how does HR manage staff located, in some situations, all over the world? Well, just as software advancements have allowed for people to work remotely, the tech is out there to help HR professionals remain in touch with these staff members. And while most surveys report that workers allowed to work from home are generally happier with the freedom this affords them, it is still up to HR to ensure these staff members feel included in their office culture in some way. One of the main drawbacks of remote working is the sense of isolation they feel from their colleagues and managers, so ensuring that these employees still feel involved and have the same opportunities for growth and development their office-faring colleagues do is essential to maintaining a content workforce.

The potential for remote capabilities stretches even further for HR, as remote interviewing and training become the norm for many businesses. This further helps to open up the talent pool to farther-flung locales. Skype and other video chat software are used by practically every remote company to interview new applicants and tech like VR make remote training ever more effective. And since remote workers both increase productivity while lowering real estate costs and overheads, expect to hear the term 'digital nomad' a lot more in 2018.

So, going into the new year, HR professionals should expect a greater onus to be placed on them to be the innovators at their workplaces and introduce the most relevant techniques to their workplaces, not only to benefit the staff they are responsible for, but also to improve their own effectiveness at their jobs. 

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