The rate of change in the world of human resources is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. HR departments are implementing and experimenting with new HR trends, techniques, and strategies for recruitment, coaching, and performance management to ensure they are consistently bringing out the best in their people.

From technological innovations to reimagined employee experiences, here are the HR trends we foresee dominating the headlines and impacting the workforce and the workplace in 2018.

1. Artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace

To aid employers in the war for talent and the ongoing challenge of keeping employees fulfilled and satisfied, automation and recommendations informed by artificial intelligence will yield results in operational areas like talent recruitment and employee retention.

Through data-informed recommendations, machine learning will provide support in the areas of candidate screening and candidate assessment by helping remove bias from the evaluation process and predicting potentially successful applicants in a more automated applicant tracking system.

AI software will be able to provide personalized HR support to employees with greater convenience and speed. Currently, HR departments are employing AI-powered chatbots to assist employees with overall health and wellness management, addressing questions regarding nutrition, fitness, and more, with increased speed.

2. Virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR) in the workplace

Virtual and augmented realities are on track to change the way we work entirely. 

Companies using VR and AR have the power to transform and enhance the existing environment by transporting the user to a different reality with tech devices and wearables (such as the Oculus Rift), giving employees the opportunity to have interactive, hands-on experience in real-world scenarios. 

Some of the ways in which VR and AR will impact the workforce include bringing change to areas such as employee training and team communication, along with improvements to the workplace through fixing open office distractions by streamlining office space usage and bringing together remote teams, thus rethinking the way we define the scope of company culture.

3. Comprehensive wellness experiences informed by people data

Wellness isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution. In the new year, more companies will customize tailor-made corporate wellness experiences for employees that sync up with their individual interests, preferences, and needs with decisions informed by people data.

For example, employers will use digital platforms to host their wellness programs, determining specific wellness programs and goals based on employee data. Data can be collected through fitness trackers integrated with a wellness portal, with the technology supporting and rewarding individual progress.

Employers can expect to see higher participation rates as a result of this more personalized approach to employee wellness, thus supporting a healthy and happy work environment, building their company’s reputation of caring for their people, and positioning their organization as an employer of choice.

4. Investing in nutrition to boost workplace health and wellness

Maintaining a fully stocked fridge in an effort to keep your people fed and nourished throughout their work days is an effective way to boost employee focus and productivity. Whereas weekly pizza lunches and unlimited beer on tap are attractive work perks, the trend of healthy eating habits will continue to transform the variety of food and drink options made available in offices. Visit any industry leading company and you’re likely to notice productivity improving hacks in several areas of the office.

Employees are even more likely to choose healthy foods when they are readily available in a company kitchen or break room. As such, companies will increasingly add to and promote a health-oriented kitchen stocked with nutritious snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables, mixed nuts, hummus, and healthy juices and smoothies as ways to contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

5. Focus on mental health 

When the story of Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark whose manager was accepting of her taking a mental health day, went viral, many companies were prompted to have real conversations around the topic of the mental health of their employees. 

In 2018 and beyond, expect to see more employers focused on encouraging their employees to take care of their mental health in the workplace by promoting the use of mental health days, providing assistance or coverage for therapy or counseling services, collaborating with mental health professionals to provide programs of mental health awareness, and encouraging employees to practice self-care at work.

It’s time to break the stigma of mental health and mental illness and remind your people that their health and wellness matters most above all.

6. Improving employee performance by prioritizing sleep 

Company leaders are acutely aware of how the lack of a good night’s sleep is affecting today’s workforce. Western Canada Regional VP of Business Development, Group and Business Insurance at Desjardins Nadeem Rajabali reveals that the sleep deprivation epidemic costs employers about $5,000 in lost productivity per employee per year. In fact, studies show that insomnia is responsible for 25% of errors and accidents at work. 

In an effort to reverse the negative impacts of lack of sleep in the workplace, including absenteeism, presenteeism, lower productivity, and lower satisfaction levels, employers will spend more of their efforts on helping their employees get proper rest.

Some initiatives include educating employees about the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, adding incentive programs such as sleep tracking challenges and sleep goals to their wellness programs, implementing flexible hours to allow employees to catch up on some valuable rest, and even making adjustments to their office layout and design by adding on-site nap rooms and sleep pods for employees to take an approved and encouraged snooze break.

7. Promotion of financial wellness 

With half of Canadian workers living from pay cheque to pay cheque, coupled with the rising costs of living, employees across Canada are becoming increasingly worried about their financial wellness. According to Financial TimesNearly half of employees have financial concerns, causing an average loss of six work days annually. This, in turn, affects the employee’s job performance and productivity levels. 

As a result, employers will invest more in programs of financial literacy to alleviate their people’s financial concerns by helping them get a handle on their financial situations and burdens. If they haven’t already done so, companies will start offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), a confidential outlet offering services like debt counseling and financial advice, along with workplace programs where employees can learn about financial education, savings plans, and money management.

8. Diversity in the workforce 

Politics, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disabilities used to be considered taboo to bring up in the office due to the potentially divisive nature of these discussion topics. With harassment and discrimination cases reaching a tipping point and dominating the discussions of work culture in every industry this past year, it’s now unavoidable to avoid addressing these issues.

Today, the dialogue has shifted from whether we should be having these conversations of diversity at work to how we can begin to tackle these conversations at work in a way that is inclusive and empathetic. More and more companies are creating employee resource groups, spanning from gender to racial equality, to work towards bridging the pay gap and promoting diversity in representation across all industries, departments, and roles. 

In order to create a safe space for your people, they need to feel accepted as their whole, diverse selves.

What HR trends do you predict will have a big influence on HR in 2018? Share your thoughts with us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram — we’d love to hear from you!

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