The Top 10 Emerging Talent Trends for 2019

The New Year could see organizations starting to reboot how they find, evaluate and even pay employees, according to a newly released talent report by Korn Ferry. Let’s explore the latest findings!

January 15, 2019 – If 2018 was all about who was getting jobs, 2019 may be about how jobs work. Indeed, this may be the year that organizations start retooling how they find, evaluate and even pay employees. Chalk up the shifts to, among several factors, the tight labor market and a massive influx of data, according to a new talent report by Korn Ferry.

“To succeed in attracting, developing, and retaining top talent as we head into another year, it’s critical to be agile and forward thinking,” said Jeanne MacDonald, author of the report and global co-operating executive and president of global talent solutions for Korn Ferry’s RPO and professional search business.

Korn Ferry canvassed talent acquisition specialists, compensation experts, and HR professionals from around the world to identify 10 emerging talent trends in 2019.

1. (Don’t) Mind the Gap!

It has always been a red flag — the “hole” in a candidate’s resume, a period of time where a candidate wasn’t working. “But an increasing number of organizations are realizing that those holes are there for very legitimate reasons, such as taking time off to care for children or aging loved ones,” said Ms. MacDonald. “Many firms are now actively seeking out people with these types of gaps. Firms are using workshops, customized landing pages and microsites, and other means to find these people.”

2. Making Artificial Intelligence More “Intelligent”

Artificial intelligence has been touted as the new holy grail in recruiting, the Korn Ferry report pointed out. Experts worry, however, that its “intelligence” could create a lack of focus on diversity and inclusion. Even when resumes are anonymized by removing candidate names, AI often can figure out a candidate’s gender by analyzing the phrases used. For instance, “takes charge” and “tough taskmaster” are often associated with men, while “leads persuasively” and “committed to understanding” are often used by women.

“One way to help alleviate the issue is to feed the artificial intelligence with non-partial data, such as talent assessment data, that highlights success factors,” said George Vollmer, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global account development. “The AI also needs to be trained to look more for the skills needed for a specific role instead of focusing on subjective modifiers.”

3. Personalized Pay: Go Ahead, We’re Listening

There are four generations now in the workforce, each with different expectations when it comes to pay and rewards packages. Forward-thinking firms are using social listening, focus groups and surveys to figure out what each generation actually wants, said the report.

Related: Uncertainty Aside, Employers Look to Ramp up Hiring In 2019

“With that information, they are able to tailor rewards packages, offering different mixes of pay, flextime, paid time off, international assignments, student loan repayment and other benefits,” said Ms. MacDonald. “This is turning the pay and rewards discussion from a company talking to the entire employee population to a one-to-one discussion with employees.”

4. Rethinking the Annual Performance Review

In the U.S., the average job tenure is a little more than four years. Experts say that with such short tenures, annual reviews are no longer the primary way to help employees develop professionally. Many employees already recognize this. In a recent Korn Ferry survey of professionals, 30 percent said their annual review had no impact or was ineffective at improving their performance, and 43 percent said it had no impact or was unhelpful at making them understand what to do to improve future performance.


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“Firms are starting to consider real-time feedback as, at a minimum, a supplement to annual reviews, if not a substitute,” said Ms. MacDonald. “Ongoing feedback can help employees learn and stay engaged.”

5. Digging Deeper into the Diversity and Inclusion Pipeline

Around the world, there have been growing mandates for more women on boards and other senior leadership positions. “While that’s a good development, firms need to maintain focus across all levels of an organization to create an ongoing pipeline of diverse talent, including women, people of color, disabled persons and LGBTQ employees,” said Korn Ferry. “To measure their progress, many organizations have begun using applicant tracking systems to find out what percentage of minority applicants were hired.”

6. How Are We Doing?

For years, consumer product companies and retailers have been surveying customers about their experiences with the brand. Increasingly, that practice is becoming part of the recruiting process. “Technology is allowing for real-time feedback from candidates about their experiences during the recruiting cycle,” said Ms. MacDonald.

“The survey tools seek feedback at all points within the process, which gives recruiters and hiring managers data-driven insights and intelligence,” she said. “With the data, they can amend recruiting practices, including specific job requirements and interactions with candidates, to successfully hire the best people.”

7. That’s Really a Title?

Chief happiness officer. Data wrangler. Legal ninja. Although they may sound like outlandish job titles, such roles are emerging across many industries to meet the changing strategies of organizations, said the Korn Ferry report. Healthcare, finance and other types of firms, for example, are increasingly looking to hire a chief experience officer.

Related: The Global Recruiting Sector is in Growth Mode, But Challenges Loom

“These businesses realize that the need is stronger than ever for customers to have positive experiences at every touchpoint,” Ms. MacDonald said. Another emerging C-suite role is chief transformation officer, a job that is usually tasked with change-management initiatives, often during times of mergers and acquisitions. “Some names are also popping up to attract younger employees,” Ms. MacDonald said. “For instance, data wranglers are responsible for organizing and interpreting mounds of data, and legal ninjas are the new generation of legal aides.”


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8. Talent Analytics Is Becoming as Important as Business Analytics

Traditionally, business leaders set their strategy by analyzing business analytics to determine cost and operational effectiveness. Experts told Korn Ferry, however, that their efforts may be for naught, because they fail to find the right type of talent. Increasingly, firms are incorporating talent analytics into the mix. This data measures things such as competition for qualified talent in a region and compensation norms.

9. Talking Talent Holistically, From Hire to Retire

“With the massive influx of data, one would assume organizations would have an integrated way to analyze all elements of talent decisions, including recruiting, compensation and development,” Ms. MacDonald said. “Unfortunately, in many organizations, each of these functions is operating under a different ‘language,’ often unable to talk with one another.”

Related: HR Challenges Expand in the New Year

Experts also told Kerry Ferry that there is a trend toward a more foundational, data-centric approach that creates insights from organizational, team and individual perspectives. That allows for a calibrated approach to talent that is tightly linked to business outcomes. “For example, the data garnered during the recruitment process can be used to help create a customized development program once the candidate is hired,” the report said.

 10. Managing Short-Term Hiring Needs with Long-Term Business Goals

The speed of technological advances and changing business priorities makes knowing what is going to happen next year — or even next month — extremely difficult. In a recent Korn Ferry study, in fact, 77 percent of the talent acquisition professionals surveyed said they are hiring for roles that were nonexistent just a year ago.

Leading organizations are taking a holistic approach to talent acquisition. “In the short term, they are speeding up hiring by figuring out the right mix of short-term contractors, gig workers and full-time employees to do the work that currently needs to be done,” said Ms. MacDonald. “At the same time, they are focusing on a longer-term approach by taking a deep dive into business imperatives to create a total strategic plan that has clearly defined goals, but one that can be amended as needs change.”

Related: More Volatility, Less Motivation Expected in 2019

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

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