It’s safe to say that we’re a group of futurists here at Rise. We pride ourselves on consistently looking forward when it comes to HR and the employee experience and we’ve put together 9 predictions that we believe will transform HR this year:

1. The consumerization of HR & the employee experience

There is a big shift occurring in the working world. Millennials are taking over the workplace and their criteria for a job doesn’t just come down to a paycheque. In order to ensure business success and high-performance rates, HR professionals are going to need to apply a consumer marketing lens to the employee experience. They should be thinking about how to create social, mobile and consumer-style experiences for employees. HR also needs to consider how they can create an employee experience that mirrors their best customer experience. Increased focus needs to be put on brand experience as people continue to view companies and workplaces like they do brands and make their career choices in similar ways to how they select consumer products.

Mobile is especially important. Here’s why: According to research conducted by Census Wide, on behalf of Indeed.com, 65% of people use their mobile devices to search for jobs. And this trend isn’t just isolated to Millennials and Gen Z. While 77%of people ages 16 to 34 use a mobile device in their job search, 72% of people ages 35 to 44 also turn to mobile to find a new position, as well as 54% of people ages 44 to 54, and 35 percent of people ages 55 and over. 

Going into 2017, HR professionals should focus their efforts on five key consumer trends: creating a personalised employee experience, being agile, focusing on employee advocacy, infusing design thinking to create new HR solutions, and incorporating people analytics. Which leads to another major trend for 2017.

2. The agile approach to HR

More and more HR professionals are adopting an agile approach to different functions of their role, especially recruitment and employee development. The agile methodology has traditionally been used in software development but over the past few years, more and more disciplines have started to adopt it. We’re predicting (alongside many others) that 2017 will be the year that agile takes off in HR. Success stories like Amber Grewal, previously the global head of talent acquisition at GE Digital, have shown that this approach can lead to a total transformation. By applying an agile approach to talent acquisition she was able to help recruiters deliver top talent to clients within 2 to 6 weeks versus an average of 10-15 weeks. She even created a new role of “Agile Recruiting Scrum Master” in the process. Companies are also seeing an opportunity for this method in learning and development by making it simple for employees to find, rate, tag and consume learning. Companies like IBM, Visa, MasterCard, Adidas and General Electric are adopting new intelligent digital platforms to create a Netflix-like experience for corporate learning and development.

3. Reconsidering open workspaces

According to recent research conducted by the IFMA, roughly 70% of workers in the US go to offices with open floor plans. However, over the last few years, there have been a lot of arguments against this type of floor plan and many companies are beginning to question whether this is the best solution for building a productive workplace. In a recent TED talk, Susan Cain made the case that most workplaces are “designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation. Introverts, on the other hand, are highly talented individuals with a very different set of characteristics and requirements for a workplace. She argued that companies should be asking themselves: “How can we accommodate both our introverts and our extroverts in our workspaces?” Workspace shouldn’t be an afterthought but should be part of the HR agenda and extend into the company’s culture and employee experience. This ties into the earlier trend of the consumerization of HR and focusing on creating highly personalised experiences for employees of all personality types.

4. Farewell to the performance review & hello to coaching & development

This year will bring major shifts to how workplaces conduct performance reviews. Again it comes down to creating personalised approaches to performance management and conducting open and transparent conversations. HR managers should focus on creating platforms where their employees can speak openly about issues, feedback and their career growth strategy. 

Where possible, managers should support their employees to achieve personal goals, self-motivate and drive their own tasks ― so long as these activities align with the overarching mission and culture of the organisation itself. For this to be effective, it should be underpinned by a clear managerial direction to ensure that, while remaining flexible, individual performance goals stay on track with those of the organisation more broadly.

5. Embracing AI in HR

Artificial Intelligence is a huge trend across all industries. And for good reason; experts are comparing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Internet in the mid-1990’s in terms of potential and predicted market growth. It’s a huge market that is estimated to surge from $8 billion this year to 20 billion by 2020. Marketing has already adopted bots and HR is next.

Enter Amy Ingram, the AI-powered personal virtual assistant launched by x.ai who schedules meetings and is so “human-like” she has been asked out for dates, says Dennis Mortensen, CEO of x.ai. Or Talla, a chat bot who handles recruiting tasks such as suggesting interview questions or finding similar candidates on LinkedIn, or Howdy, a workplace automation tool for your team.

“Over the next five years, automation will seep into more and more aspects of our work and personal lives. Increasingly, it will be hard to distinguish what is being done by a person and what is done by a machine. As a result, the fundamental nature of how humans work will be transformed and we’ll have to work smarter,” says Gideon Mann, head of data science at Bloomberg LP

The takeaway: incorporating AI in HR doesn’t just come down to setting up software on a departmental level. To be effective, HR professionals will need to take a leadership stance and encourage understanding, adoption and integration across teams.

6. Welcoming the gig economy and a blended workplace

In 2016 we wrote about “The Moonlighting Movement” and the increase in full-time employees taking on side gigs or contract work in their spare time. This trend continues and experts are predicting that we’ll see an even bigger surge in 2017. It’s undeniable that the workforce of the future won’t be all full-time employees, but rather a blend of full-time, consultants, contractors, freelancers, part-time employees, and other contingent workers, collectively known as “Gig Economy Workers”. Multiple studies, conducted by Intuit, The Freelancers Union, and professors from Harvard and Princeton, predict the percentage of the workforce who are Gig Economy Workers will range from 15.8% to 34%. Forward-looking HR leaders should take action now to plan for a blended workforce and address things like onboarding, training and how to integrate gig workers into the workforce as a whole.

7. Shifting focus from individual to team development

Despite the rise of the gig economy and a blended workforce, companies are putting more emphasis on developing effective teams. Organisations are recognising that high performing teams are what will enable them to compete in the future. One big factor contributing to this realisation is that Millennials and Gen Z workers are taking over the workplace and are much better prepared to perform in teams, having grown up playing team sports and working in groups in university. In fact, 75% of Millennials and Gen Z say they are well prepared to work effectively in a team. Cisco is one of the first companies to embrace this trend by creating “Team Space,” a platform for employees that delivers education on how teams can work best to win together.

8. New roles in HR

Rise originally addressed this topic in March of 2016 when we wrote about how HR job titles are changing to reflect new roles and responsibilities taken on by HR. So what will the “new normal” look like for the HR function in 2017? McKinsey coined the phrase the “new normal,” referring to the fundamental changes in the business landscape following the 2008 recession. For HR we predict it to be the convergence of consumer marketing with the digitisation of HR creating a more personalised employee experience powered by artificial intelligence. This means a growing number of more specialised and technical HR roles. For example, Dave Putterman is a computer software engineer who brings his skills in technology, and an agile approach to software development, to the talent acquisition department of GE Digital, where his title is “Agile Recruiting Scrum Master & Technology Leader.”

We’re also noticing more specialised consumer marketing type roles such as Mark Levy, Global Head of Employee Experience at Airbnb, or Stephen Hamm, Chief StoryTeller at IBM and more HR organisations who have an entire department dedicated to employee experience.  We think it’s this convergence of technology and consumer marketing that will define HR’s transformation in 2017 and beyond.

9. Approaching employee wellness from a holistic perspective

Last but not least, is the topic of employee wellness. Companies are making deliberate attempts to create a holistic view of wellness from financial wellness to health and well-being. It’s not all about yoga in the office and healthy snacks on hand anymore. For example, SunTrust Bank offers a unique financial wellness benefit to help employees increase their financial confidence. A recent survey conducted by SunTrust Bank found that 70% of working adults felt a moderate or high level of financial stress in their lives. The solution: an online financial fitness program to help their employees save $2,000 for an emergency and take one paid day off for improving their financial health through setting up a will, doing a family budget, or going through the online Financial Fitness program offered free to all SunTrust employees. Then there is Gradifi, a platform that aims to help organisations attract and retain the best talent by offering their Student Loan Paydown benefit to employees.

Companies are also integrating the latest technologies into wellness programs. Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, says wellness programs are leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) and embedding artificial intelligence into well-being solutions. AI tools like Amazon’s Alexa, and beacons, which use Bluetooth, enable users to know how they are meeting their health and fitness goals without using a mobile phone or a web browser. Well-being in the workplace is becoming an expectation for how we will work and live our lives and should be a priority within any organisations HR agenda.

Over to you

Now that you know the HR trends to watch in 2017, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Share your predictions with us in the Comments section.

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