Top 5 HR Trends to Watch

The entire field of human resources is evolving to keep pace with the changing needs of today’s workforce. As 2018 unfolds, look for greater demand for gig work, a bigger role for technology, a need for new skill-sets, an urgency to address new laws and an intense focus on sexual harassment and discrimination. 

March 28, 2018 – HR experts are now wearing multiple hats to help their employers adapt to a quickly changing workforce environment. The days when HR professionals were viewed as administrative paper pushers are finally gone, said Genevieve Douglas of Bloomberg Law.

As a profession, human resources is undergoing a profound shift. Once solely focused on how to manage people as disposable resources, the human era is energizing HR leaders to be the culture keepers of their organizations, said Ms. Douglas. Every aspect of a company’s culture – from how employees are recognized and developed to how life events are celebrated – is being reimagined to drive greater business impact and bring more humanity to everyone’s experience at work.

That said, HR executives are on the forefront of so many key areas within their organizations that it is critical that they stay up to date on trends in the workplace. In Bloomberg Law’s recent Human Resources Report, Ms. Douglas presented five trends that HR professionals will likely be watching for this year:

1. The Gig Economy and Flex Work

There will be a growing demand for “gig work” and “next gen work” in 2018, said Nicole Francis, director for the Center of Recruiting Excellence at Manpower U.S. “The labor workforce is almost at full capacity, and companies are experiencing huge talent shortages,” she said. “Attracting the right workforce now means offering part-time, gig, contract or flex work to attract the right talent. It’s not the traditional nine to five for everybody anymore.”

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Approximately 8.4 percent of U.S. workers participate in independent contractor work as their primary job, a 22 percent increase over the last decade, and a larger fraction, 30 percent, participate in independent work as a primary or secondary activity, according to a study of Uber drivers from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“Employers are looking at remote work as more of a business strategy and less of a perk,” Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, told Bloomberg Law. At the same time, employees are proving they are capable of working remotely by being productive and effective outside of the office, she said.

But working remotely, or in the gig economy, or in a flexible arrangement isn’t yet something that’s available to organizations throughout the country, said Bloomberg. “In urban and suburban areas, the technology component of remote work has made it,” said Ms. Reynolds. People in those areas can find what they’re looking for and work remotely successfully, and technology is fully able to support their work, she said. In more rural areas, however, big chunks of the populace might lack access to high speed internet, or are limited in providers and pricing.

Gig Jobs Continue to Gain Traction
Today, a growing number of workers are opting for alternative employment models over traditional, full-time, permanent roles. Part-time, contingent, contract, temporary, freelance, independent contractor, on-demand online and platform working – call it what you will, they are all on the rise.

Companies in Colorado, Kentucky and Minnesota, for example, are working with local governments and agencies to bring this technology into the community, and those efforts will likely increase in this year, Ms. Reynolds said. “Remote work in those areas can mean a difference between an economy that can support people and an area that continues to lose out on top workers who seek employment in other areas of the country,” she said.

2. Millennial Technology

The Bloomberg Law report said that this year will also likely usher in a new age of communication for workers, recruiters, and businesses alike. Younger generations of workers are bringing a style of communication to the workplace that makes it “quick and instant,” Elaine Varelas, managing partner of career management firm Keystone Partners, told Bloomberg Law. “Very few people are using laptops as their primary technology tool to communicate with others, instead using video conferencing, texting, instant messaging, or other social media platforms,” she said.

Related: Artificial Intelligence Changing the Role of Recruiters

“Less traditional styles of communication will also be expected by potential job candidates,” Ms. Francis said. “The way we recruit new talent is also going to continue to evolve in 2018.”

Artificial Intelligence Ushers in a New Day for Companies and Recruiters
AI is transforming the face of workforces around the world. For executive recruiters and human resources departments, it has meant a growing number of new, specialized roles to fill and untapped talent to discover.

“Companies should also be thinking creatively about how they can expand their reach and talent pools to better access talent,” Ms. Francis said. This is especially necessary for finding diverse groups of workers that may not typically have access to certain jobs or industries.

Another Millennial technology transforming the workplace is the advent of Big Data and the ability to measure HR functions. “Data analytics gives HR a way to measure employee engagement, productivity, corporate culture, retention and streamline an organization’s practices,” said Ms. Varelas. “It is going to inform everything, and all generations of employees will need to be ready for how it can affect their work.”

3. Workforce Skills Gaps

The introduction of new technology to the workplace means employers will look for and need new skill-sets in the next year. “Industries like construction and manufacturing, for example, will be looking for highly skilled individuals to take on new roles in the digital world,” Ms. Francis said. “It’s touching every industry and it’s going to continue to increase, and at the same time the talent pool is getting smaller as the labor market tightens.”

Related: Why the Global Talent Shortage Might be Here to Stay

Employers will need to invest in training and development programs that can “upskill” workers to take full advantage of the digital world of 2018, Ms. Francis said. In fact, twice as many companies in the last year are looking at how to find these new skills in current employment populations than in years past, according to research from ManpowerGroup.

4. Local Laws and Compliance

States and localities are increasingly taking the initiative in areas that the federal government has yet to consider, creating a complex web of laws with which businesses must comply, according to the Bloomberg Law report.

The slew of new employment laws on the local level will be a big challenge for employers, Mr. Drogin said, because “they haven’t been thought through or battle tested.” In states like California and Massachusetts, and cities like Philadelphia and New York, employers will have to keep track of changing requirements when it comes to background checks, pay history inquiries and decriminalized marijuana statutes.

Related: Another Look at the Impact and Implications of Pay History Legislation

“When these laws go live, there will be many compliance challenges because there’s no history to know how these administrative agencies are going to be applying the laws. Lawyers and companies aren’t exactly clear on what compliance looks like for bans on criminal history, salary history, etc.,” said Mr. Drogin.

NYC Law Banning Salary History Queries Begins
Employers in New York City – and the executive search firms that represent them – are now prohibited from asking job candidates about their salary history. The New York City Human Rights Law, as it is known, is an effort to help bring women’s pay in line with that of their male counterparts.

Additionally, many employers may not have the needed resources to review on a regular basis hiring applications and other documentation used by HR because the standard forms may ask questions that are now illegal, Mr. Drogin said.

5. Sexual Harassment

Attorneys anticipate an increase in sexual harassment and discrimination claims and lawsuits in 2018, largely as a result of the public scandals that have erupted in Hollywood, news media outlets and on Capitol Hill. “There is a cause and effect between the sexual harassment public scandals and public dialogue, and workplace lawsuits filed,” Gerald Maatman, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, told Bloomberg Law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 12,146 charges of sexual harassment in 2014, according to the agency’s data. That number grew to 12,573 in 2015 and 12,860 in 2016.

Related: 5 Employment Trends That Demand New Ways of Managing

There will be a “laser focus” from leadership and HR on sexual harassment and discrimination, Laurent Drogin, partner and head of Tarter, Krinsky & Drogin’s labor and employment practice, told Bloomberg Law. “We are seeing a much more heightened awareness and a lower tolerance for any sort of behavior that is going to put a company in harm’s way.”

Mr. Drogin said that organizations should anticipate the problem by making clear that such conduct will not be tolerated. The bigger challenge, meanwhile, will be in addressing claims and instances of alleged harassment or discrimination that do arise. “First and foremost, HR departments will need to be equipped to train personnel on avoiding violations of policies that prohibit discrimination or harassment,” said Mr. Maatman. “More importantly, they will need to be able to respond to internal complaints, resolve them, and create workplace due process for these individuals.”

“Stopping the claims before they start is still the best defense” to a class action or lawsuit, he said.

Related: HR Leaders Cite Retention and Turnover as Top Concerns in 2018

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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