Another year ends, and that means it’s time to look ahead at what the new year has in store for the world of human resources. In 2017, the hottest HR trends will center more than ever on the employee experience and employee satisfaction. Technology will continue to stake its claim in the world of HR, with new and different platforms and a more holistic approach also shaking things up.
Let’s jump right in—here are the 2017 hottest HR trends:
1. Improve employees’ experience
Employers have always focused on improving their customers’ experience, but recently there’s been a shift to focusing more on employees’ experience too. This is in great part due to the skills-gap we’re facing. There simply aren’t enough skilled workers to meet the demands in certain fields, such as manufacturing and IT. That means employers have to work harder to keep employees happy, so they won’t leave for a competitor.
In 2016, the leading job satisfaction contributors included respectful treatment of all employees at all levels, compensation, benefits, and job security. These are a few of the factors companies will have to focus on next year. Everything from job perks to paid parental leave to career tracking—it’s all on the table next year, and companies will have to step up their game if they hope to keep skilled employees for the long run.
2. Track employee engagement
In order to know whether your efforts are in fact improving your employees’ experience, tracking employee engagement is going to become paramount. Lewis Garrad, a partner at the management consultant company Sirota, says that companies need to track engagement metrics in order to “find ways to boost employee retention, productivity and performance.”
Tracking engagement is no longer a bonus function of HR, but rather at the very foundation of a company’s success. According to Gallup research, 32% of U.S. workers are engaged (twice the number of worldwide employee engagement, at 13%). Yet this number has stayed the same during the last 15 years. Part of the problem stems from many companies’ quick, slap-on solution of the “employee survey” as a substitute for more meaningful employee engagement. The time has come to view engagement as part of the overall organizational strategy and consider how it aligns with company goals.
3. Focus on families
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 12% of workers in the private sector can get paid family leave through their employer. In fact, the United States is one of only two countries in the world that does not guarantee paid leave for new mothers (the other is Papua New Guinea).
Over the last year, however, several companies made news for offering family leave benefits that were unprecedented in the country. Companies including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Netflix (with its whopping unlimited leave within a year) have expanded paid leave for both mothers and fathers. This trend will continue to surge as more and more employees demand that their employers provide paid family leave.
4. Wellness gets techy
Another growing trend is the use of applications and devices for encouraging and tracking employee wellness. According to Deloitte research, more than 40% of millennials select an employer based on its health and wellness benefits. Many programs to promote employee wellness have proven successful, but the next step will involve a more technological approach.
Recently, Aetna announced it would make the Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment, and that it would subsidize a portion of the Apple Watch cost through monthly payroll deductions. Aetna also provided free Apple Watches to its own 50,000 employees, to “encourage them to live more productive, healthy lives.” The marriage of wellness and technology will prove to be a strong trend in 2017.
5. Allow for flexibility
A better work/life balance may not seem like a new trend, but it’s certainly a growing one. It has been pushing forward, full steam ahead for years now and it shows no signs of slowing down. Employees want workplace flexibility, from telework options to unlimited paid leave. The trend continues to move away from the rigid 9-to-5 mindset to a results-driven work environment.
Companies looking to acquire and retain top talent must continue to work on providing flexible work options for their employees, especially the younger ones. In a recent Deloitte study, millennials said that “flexible working conditions and work/life integration” is the No. 1 way organizations would have to change if they want to improve retention.
6. Rethink performance management
The once-a-year performance review simply doesn’t work anymore. Research shows that companies that give regular employee feedback have 15% lower turnover rates, and 80% of millennials (who are increasingly coming into the workforce) prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews.
Deloitte studies show that only 8% of companies say their performance management process is highly effective in driving business value. That’s a shockingly low number for such a core HR function. Employers need to start rethinking their performance management in a way that actually works for today’s workforce.
What other hot human resources trends do you see coming in 2017?
Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they're best at, and that they enjoy.