The Most Critical Trends Shaping HR

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There are so many important trends shaping HR right now that will affect employers in years to come. Here's a brief synopsis of the most critical ones that you should know heading into 2014.

Social Media & Mobile

Social networking platforms are changing, and will continue to change, how HR departments operate. People's lives are becoming more social networked, and nowadays, social media is no longer simply a marketing or personal tool. It is gradually becoming engrained into many aspects of the workplace.

Although social networking is primarily used for recruiting, employers are beginning to use social networking platforms for learning and development, employee communications, collaboration and innovation, and recognition.

Similarly, mobile continues to become more central to our lives, which poses both challenges and opportunities for our workplaces. Mobile can be leveraged for learning, recruiting, and other HR needs, and provides employees with greater flexibility to do their work, but it also will continue to present difficulties (e.g. productivity).

Big Data

Big data, or HR analytics, is increasingly guiding decisions pertaining to talent and the workplace. As technology increasingly is implemented in HR departments, people decisions are becoming more strategic and complex.

More companies will move beyond operational reporting and benchmarking, and leverage data about employees to make their HR departments more data-driven and strategic. This includes using data to predict outcomes (e.g. hiring, performance, etc.) and conducting strategic analytics to statistically analyze problems and translate data findings into solutions.

Because research is finding that leading organizations are using big data for HR and that it is effective in delivering sound problem solving, this trend will require HR departments to hire and develop staff with big-data related skills in business acumen, consulting, data management, statistics, communication, and executive presence.

Generational Issues

Four generations are in many organizations right now, and they all have very different ways of working, forcing companies to put into place practices that help manage generational issues and conflicts.

The younger generation, in particular, is creating challenges for HR departments with their distinct values, forcing organizations to re-tool their talent management practices. For example, the younger generation...

  • Desires flexible work hours and work-life balance
  • Has intolerance for boredom and 'dead-end' jobs
  • Values mentoring, personal learning, and development
  • Expects rapid career progression

Because this generation brings critical skills to the table and are the future leaders of organizations, HR will need to find better ways to manage this group in order to retain them.

Rise of Contingent Workforce

Studies are predicting that the workforce will become more contingent in the next five years, and that by 2019, nearly half the workforce will contract their skills to multiple organizations.

There are already signs that this is happening with a rise in temporary workers, contractors, independent consultants, and freelancers. According to a report by Accenture, the most common freelance jobs include sales and marketing, IT and programming, design and multimedia, engineering and manufacturing, and writing.

The dynamics of business are changing so rapidly these days that many employers find they need an agile, "just-in-time" workforce that is more cost-effective. Contingency is attractive because work is becoming more knowledge and project-based, and increasingly reliant on specialized skills and expertise. In addition, economic fluctuations like we've seen the past few years will require more flexible staffing models.

Though contingent workers bring benefits, they will also pose challenges for HR departments in terms of how they are managed, compensated, and treated.

Change & Innovation

Because organizations are changing so rapidly, HR will have to take on more significant roles related to managing and communicating change initiatives and disruption within the workplace effectively. HR will need to take on a more consultative and change-management oriented role in their organizations.

Similarly, the need for innovation, risk-taking, and creative solutions is becoming more necessary. HR will be increasingly relied upon to drive this behavior through the development of culture and programs (rewards, empowerment, suggestions and ideas, employee feedback, etc.).

Leadership

Traditional theories of leadership are not as relevant to today's challenges, and certainly won't be in the future.

Leaders will need to demonstrate different behaviors and skills than were required in the past. Skills such as empathy, authenticity, influencing, strategic thinking, articulating, flexibility, risk taking, demonstrating integrity, leading diverse teams, collaborating, and bringing out the best in others are all being seen as more important for leaders.

While these aren't necessarily new leadership skills, more emphasis will be placed on them in the future.

Total Rewards

More and more, employers are faced with the issue of "there's only so much money in the bucket" and must make harder decisions about the total rewards that they offer.

For one thing, the benefits landscape is changing with the steady rise in health care costs, the uncertainty associated with how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the changing nature of wellness in the workplace. Likewise, modest pay increases and a performance-oriented approach to compensating employees has also been evident. Then, there are other rewards that factor into the equation like perks, recognition and rewards/staff appreciation, voluntary benefits, training and development, and more.

Employers will have to continue to make hard decisions about what total rewards will be provided to the workforce. Business strategy, performance, and the needs and interests of the workforce will all play a role in these difficult decisions.


Whatever next year and the future may hold for HR, pay attention to these trends in particular, because they are shaping HR and your job.

Additional Resources

2013 HR Trends & 2014 Outlook
This e-book contains over 60 pages of content recapping the most important HR trends from 2013 and predictions for 2014. Topics include legal, healthcare and benefits, compensation, talent management, and hiring.

HR Consulting

 

ERC's HR and Management Consulting services can help your organization with a variety of HR projects including total rewards, compensation, benefits, HR strategy, and more. 

Training

ERC offers training programs in leadership development and generational issues which are designed to improve your organizational effectiveness.