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In the past decade, the world of work has changed dramatically, shaped by factors including technological advances, a brutal recession and a new generation of workers with an entirely different idea of what employment must look like.
Around ten years ago, companies surveyed by the SHRM Foundation said their top future challenges were succession planning and also providing leaders with the skills needed to be successful. Today, employers verdict that the increasing competition for skilled workers is a top concern. Which is why the workplace is much more employee-focused & individualized.
The trends toward an employee-tailored workplace are likely to continue, and you may need to adjust quickly if you haven’t already started. So now let’s come to the point, what has changed over the past decade, and how will those trends evolve in the years to come?
1. Companies have become more Social:
Percentage of companies that track which websites employees visit
THEN: Ten years ago, social media was fairly new and a little unsettling for business leaders and HR. Twitter has been just 1 year old, & Facebook was thought of mainly as a distraction that threatened to decrease productivity. According to a BambooHR study of HR trends, two-thirds of employers used technology to block connections to banned websites in 2006, 3 out of 4 monitored which websites workers visited and more than half monitored employees’ e-mails.
Percentage of companies that track which websites employees visit
NOW: Whew! Thank God! a more relaxed attitude prevails now. Last year, just 30% of organizations blocked access to certain sites and even fewer kept an eye on what workers were viewing and e-mailing, according to BambooHR.
WHAT’S NEXT: In the next decade, organizations may abandon e-mails and use social media or other instant messaging tools as their primary internal communication vehicle, predicts Shawn Casemore, President of Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm Casemore and Co. Inc.
2. Benefits go a La Carte
THEN: Health and retirement programs were among the most common benefits employers provided, & benefit offerings were relatively limited.
NOW: Employees still value the basics, but they also want more flexible as well as individualized benefits. Companies have responded by recalibrating their perks to remain competitive in the war for talent. Retail Giant: Amazon, offers its hourly employees a generous tuition benefit and on-site schooling. The company trains workers for jobs outside of Amazon.
The Career Choice program offers up to 95% reimbursement of tuition and fees (up to $12,000 over four years) to train employees in high-demand fields in regions where they work. They can learn about aircraft mechanics, machine tool technologies, and nursing, too.
Student loan help is another popular perk with modern workers. The entry-level employee is now burdened with educational debt that didn’t exist previously, and they’re asking, ‘What kind of benefits can you provide for student debt?’ ” says Skip Spriggs, senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer at TIAA, a New York City-based financial services company.
WHAT’S NEXT: More & more companies may embrace benefits model similar to the approach behind consumer-driven health plans: Employees are allocated with a set amount that they can spend on the perks that best meet their needs.
3. Feedback Becomes Fluid
THEN: Companies relied heavily on annual reviews to assess employees’ performance and provide feedback, while some used draconian strategies that pitted workers against one another. For example: At Microsoft, managers relied on stacked ranking, or the “rank and yank” style of employee assessment, in which the employees with the lowest ratings tended to end up looking for other opportunities in the company or elsewhere.
NOW: Companies are adopting a less formal and more flexible approach. After Microsoft moved away from stacked ranking in 2013, managers began using a process called Connects, in which workers get real-time feedback without structured reviews. Instead of numbered rankings, it’s about the employees’ impact over the last two to three months, their anticipated future impact, what they learned from various experiences and how they grew professionally, says Chuck Edward, head of global talent acquisition at Microsoft, which employs 110,000 people worldwide. And instead of encouraging competition among colleagues, the system fosters collaboration. Employees are assessed on how they worked with their teams and contributed to others’ success. That’s a welcome approach, especially among Millennial workers. 85% of Millennials think if they had more-frequent performance conversations with their managers, then they feel more confident in their current position
WHAT’S NEXT: No one is sure. Though experts believe that the move away from a once-a-year gathering of feedback is a step in the right direction, nailing down the best process for evaluating employees in a way that benefits both companies, as well as worker, remains elusive. “Ten years ago, I told people if I could find a good appraisal system, I would be rich,” says Pamela Harding, SHRM-SCP, CEO of Enumclaw, Wash-based Manzano, which operates the LinkedIn group Linked:HR. “Ten years later, it still doesn’t exist.”
4. Technology Pushes Work Beyond the Office
THEN: People used to take advantage of digital technology to work remotely as well as outside of traditional business hours, but employers that offered telework options were still the exception rather than the rule.
Percentage of employers offering teleworker options
NOW: A Society for Human Resource Management study proved that three times as many companies offered telework last year than did in 1996. That gives leeway to both workers & employers, who can vastly expand their pool of job candidates. “It doesn’t have to be someone local for a job,” Harding says. Companies “can work with someone across the world.”
Flexible work arrangements & schedules have also brought about a different way to evaluate work. Long hours and face time used to be mandatory for some companies. Now, it’s not so much about time served, rather about what gets done. “It goes right back to getting your work judged by getting the task completed,” Harding says.
WHAT’S NEXT: The age-old problem with new technology, though, is that the human element often gets lost. In the next decade, it will be up to HR managers to instruct workers on how to communicate outside of e-mail and social media platforms. “We need to teach them how to shake hands, how to network outside of a computer,” Verrico says
5. Career Development in Agile and Gig-focused
THEN: In 2005, about 10% of U.S. workers were employed by a temporary help agency, as an independent contractor or in an on-call position, according to a study from Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz and Princeton University’s Alan Krueger.
NOW: Goodbye, company career ladder. Hello, gig economy. In the U.S., slightly more than 1 out of 4 workers were gig workers in 2016, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, and that number continues to grow as people seek more independence and opportunities. (By contrast, the decade before that showed little change in the percentage of workers in alternative work arrangements.) The growing Millennial workforce is highly focused on racking up new experiences than on banking time at one organization (or even in one field for an entire career), and HR managers are adapting.
“Years ago, the old paradigm was that the contract was defined by loyalty & tenure. There is a new social contract, or new business paradigm, in which employees, especially Millennials, are less incentivized by security & benefits and are more eager to take on roles that offer new experiences and flexibility,” says Jan Bruce, co-founder and CEO of meQuilibrium, a Boston-based company that helps organizations deal with worker stress. “Instead of buying your loyalty with tenure, we earn it by helping you be agile and purposeful. I can’t buy you for life, but if I give you a great skill and help you in your career, then you will be loyal to me while you are there.”
That includes offering more opportunities to entrepreneurial independent contractors – contingent workers who work on a per-project basis and are not employees of any one company.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Gig economy driven as much by the economic downturn of 2008-09 as by the influx of Millennials in the workforce will present challenges in the next decade for HR, comprising how to provide benefits to contractors & manage intellectual property rights when a person has several different employers, Wadors says. But ultimately, workers and companies will benefit from the trend. “If we become agiler in [talking to] the workforce and listening to their choices, we can create more flexibility and save money” by streamlining staffing, she says.
6. Analytics Changed the Game Slowly and Steadily
THEN: Some HR managers were experimenting using metrics to measure the cost as well as the impact of workforce programs and HR initiatives, but few HR professionals had any background in data analysis.
NOW: Although there’s growing recognition of the need for HR practitioners with expertise in data skills, the number of organizations actually leveraging workforce data is still relatively low. According to a 2015 report by Deloitte, less than 9 percent of respondents said their organizations had a strong team in place that could handle data analysis within HR.
32% of companies say they are ready to begin using predictive analytics.
WHAT’S NEXT: While analytics have gotten off to a sluggish start, the use of data to assess & improve everything from recruitment to health & safety to succession strategies will be the biggest game-changing trend in HR. In fact, nearly 1/3rd of companies said they were ready to make the leap to using full, predictive analytics, according to the Deloitte study.