January 16, 2019 – The workforce continues to evolve at an incredibly rapid rate as transformations in society, government, culture, technology, communications and law impact employers. As we look forward to the year ahead, low unemployment, a rise in concern over how technology is shaping the future of work and a series of movements giving power to the people are among the top trends shaping workplaces everywhere.
It is against this backdrop that the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated has released its annual predicting the top trends that will impact the global workforce in the coming year.
Look for these six trends in the months ahead: Artificial intelligence and machine learning, for starters, are expected to open new opportunities to improve the workplace. People managers, meanwhile, will become even more critical to finding and keeping top talent. Organizations will also find that they must adjust to the growing number of candidates who will have followed an unconventional educational path yet are highly skilled. Employment laws will pose continuing challenges, and battles. To win the best people, employers will have to further adjust to what their employees want in a career and a workplace. And more attention will be required to help employees move through a growing number of disasters of all sorts, meeting a new level of expectation for companies that care.
1. AI and machine learning unmask previously-hidden workforce data to make people-centric decisions.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will finally be woven into workforce management practices, revealing a treasure trove of data that organizations have been collecting – but not using – for decades. The Workforce Institute report said that “with regular and digestible access to workforce data trends – like scheduling accuracy, absenteeism, overtime usage and burnout – predictive analytics will shine, helping organizations head-off potential issues before they arise.”
Intelligent automation will also free up managers from admin-heavy tasks – like managing schedules, approving time-off requests, and shift changes – while encouraging data-driven decision-making to provide clarity between what is equal versus what is fair, said the report. In order to harness analytical insights to make accurate, actionable decisions for specific employee and business goals, however, organizations must avoid a “one-size-fits-all” model, said the report.
2. Historically tight labor markets and emerging technologies put people managers in the spotlight.
With unemployment low and the exodus of Baby Boomers reaching critical mass, employers globally will face a historically tight labor market. “Sourcing great candidates has never been more difficult, and retention will become an all-out dogfight,” said the Workforce Institute report. “While an employer’s brand, innovative hiring technologies and proactive recruiting practices are more important than ever, it’s organizations with the best people managers that will ultimately prevail. Organizations will place an increased focus on leadership development as a retention strategy – especially as Millennials flock to middle management – and measuring manager effectiveness will be HR’s top challenge in 2019.”
Adaptability is critical, and companies must make a strong commitment to finding and keeping top talent. “It’s imperative that employers are able to adapt to what’s occurring in the employment marketplace,” said Stacy Pursell, CEO of the Pursell Group, an executive search and recruitment firm working throughout the U.S. and Canada. “What has worked in the past will not necessarily work now. The labor market is as tight as it’s ever been, and employers need to analyze everything they do in terms of hiring and workforce management.”
“Organizations must invest heavily in candidate engagement, employer branding, and retention after the hire,” she said. “And when I say invest, I don’t mean just money. I mean time, energy, and effort. These must be points of emphasis within the organization.”
With such changes come certain risks. “As AI and machine learning take over mundane managerial tasks, freeing up managers to spend more time with their people, deficits in leadership competencies will be exposed as management expectations continue to shift from a historical command-and-control model to a horizontal style that considers all perspectives and seeks innovative ways to inspire, develop, grow and keep the top talent that drives business value,” said the report.
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3. The changing face of education redefines trades and challenges traditional hiring practices.
As the student loan debt crisis furthers the debate about the value of a college education and credentialing programs for job-specific skills emerge, tomorrow’s best employees may take an unconventional path to employment. “Competencies that once required a degree – such as coding, robotics, and data analytics – are being redefined as skilled trades with the rise of certificate and micro-credential programs,” the report said. “Also, as yesterday’s jobs become augmented by automation, new skills will be required for traditionally blue-collar roles.”
The Workforce Institute said that employers “must revamp their hiring profiles and remove traditional job requirements to tap into this new pool of qualified candidates who will staff the shop floor, store floor, hospital floor and top floor of the future. And, as Millennials become parents, many will likely urge their school-aged children to take an alternative educational path for a brighter financial future.”
4. Further fracturing of employment laws globally, nationally and at the local level strain organizations.
“From minimum wage to sick pay, to fair scheduling proposals to the right to disconnect, governments around the world will continue localizing – and repealing – employment laws,” the report said. “Ever-changing regulations around the world will put increased strain on organizations to avoid sanctions, fines, crippling class action lawsuits and reputation-damaging stories.”
Multiple reports along with this one say that technology will be vital for organizations to manage scheduling-related mandates, ensure unbiased practices, monitor fatigue and overtime management, and ensure employees are paid accurately and fairly – all while providing analytical insights that surface risky managerial practices otherwise buried in a sea of employment data.
5. Employee-agnostic flexibility, consumer-grade tech and the rise of the occasional time worker redefine “work your way.”
The Workforce Institute report said that all employees – salaried, hourly, and gig – crave control over when, where and how they work. “While employers have put more focus on flexibility and alternative work schedules, most have been slow to reengineer processes that underpin how the organization runs,” said the study. “Tools must meet employees where they naturally work – such as on their mobile phone, tablet or favorite social networking platforms.”
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As part of this candidate-centric marketplace, employers have to focus on what candidates want, especially when they’re seeking to hire the best. “These candidates want more control over their career and flexibility in terms of how they work,” said Ms. Pursell. “In the past, candidates would have to adjust to what employers wanted as far as work schedules and protocols were concerned.”
“Now, the balance of power has shifted, especially with the top five percent to 10 percent of the candidate pool,” she said. “If organizations want to hire the best, then they must adjust to how and when the best candidates want to work to provide the most value to the organization.”
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The Workforce Institute report also noted that the gig economy and emergence of the “occasional-time worker” will force organizations to replace traditional hiring and scheduling processes with systems that enable workers to choose when, where and how long they work. “Mobile-friendly processes, self-service features and immediate access to real-time data in a consumer-grade technology wrapper will help drive the next iteration of the flexibility phenomenon, as predictability of anytime work will empower employees to be more productive, make more intelligent decisions, and be more engaged,” the report said.
6. Greater emphasis on disaster preparedness as part of a holistic human capital management strategy.
Disasters large and small, natural and man-made, have unfortunately become the norm. “Organizations worldwide have been challenged to respond effectively to increasingly frequent crises, with HR, operations and payroll forced to take center stage in the lives of affected employees,” said the report. “With more emphasis on company culture, caring and ‘doing what’s right’ in a world where disasters – and a company’s response to them – are frequently in the news, there is a new level of expectation for an organization’s response, responsibility and employee benefits.”
Lastly, the report said that organizations of all sizes must take a hard look at disaster policies, processes, and capabilities – including both taking care of employees in the moment and rebuilding in the wake of disaster, which will be near impossible for those operating on a DIY workforce management, HR, and payroll system. “Sustainability plans that today primarily account for company assets and data will need to incorporate employees and their families,” said the Workforce Institute.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media