Responding to seven workplace trends emerging this year
Updated: May 1, 2019
By Joe Farris
As the workplace evolves, the work of HR leaders becomes more nuanced and challenging. We want to continue to build the best culture, attract the best experts in the field and reward the employees for the fantastic work they do — all while being cost-effective and hitting growth targets. In the meantime, competition for great talent is stronger than ever, retention is harder and the pressure on HR to solve the burning business problems is rising fast.
To guide you through the year and help you focus on what’s important, these are the trends I believe will shape the work of HR leaders in 2019.
1. The employee voice is louder than ever
Many organizations have employee engagement strategies that involve open-door policies, pulse surveys and employee working groups to help them listen to employees and identify emerging HR issues. Yet, last year 20,000 Google employees walked out of their jobs, protesting the mishandling of sexual harassment cases and drawing further attention to the company’s diversity issues.
This year is calling for the emergence of more in-depth, continuous employee listening strategies that open doors for proactive collaboration between a company and its employees to solve the most important issues.
2. The rise of employer brand
Over the years we have seen the rise of employee perks. While things like homemade guacamole, passes to a local ski resort or home cleaning vouchers might certainly make for a memorable interview, it’s the company’s mission, vision, integrity and positive impact that attract and retain the best talent.
If you have not done a thorough evaluation of your company’s employer brand, the time to do it is now. Remember that your employer brand includes not only what the company says about itself, but also the way others talk about it, including on platforms like Glassdoor, and most importantly what your current employees say about their workplace.
3. The shift from employee management to employee experience
As more companies realize the importance of the employer brand and the role that current employees play in its success, we see a shift from engaging with employees to developing a holistic employee experience.
Adopting an employee experience strategy starts with recognizing that the relationship between a company and its employee is not simply transactional, and there are many factors shaping the employee experience. From the day a candidate walks into your office to their last day at work, there are multiple journeys and touch points you need to consider and review.
Start focusing on reshaping your employee experience for better employee engagement, development and performance, which combined make an impact on the way your business grows.
4. Segmentation over one company approach
For many years, HR professionals have been focusing on creating policies and approaches that streamline their work for better management and efficiency. As the workplace evolves, more companies realize that one size doesn’t fit all and the work is much more nuanced than a company’s org chart.
With a variety of employee populations, companies should avoid offering exactly the same terms to the office and factory employees, salaried and hourly workers or employees from different business units. Different employee populations have different needs and values.
That’s why it’s important to define what your employee populations are, what skills distribution is like and where they stand in value creation for the company before adjusting your business strategy based on your employee segmentation.
5. No more paternalism
Have you ever walked into the office of a unicorn company to notice that the workplace is running seamlessly without an obvious presence of “the boss”? As companies continue replacing performance reviews with regular check-ins and direct feedback, they promote more accountability, focus on individual and team performance and effectively give more power to employees.
We’ve seen the same approach is often applied to benefit selection, where companies offer a number of options for employees to choose from, and ultimately it’s employees who are in control of how they get rewarded, making selections depending on what matters to them most.
6. Localization over globalization
As businesses grow and expand internationally, they face a dilemma of keeping it local with distributed teams around the world, or creating a global team that is in charge of the overall strategy and performance. What we see happening is that global teams do not serve the purpose as well as local teams do, and companies more often choose a local approach to business. Employee benefits and rewards follow this pattern.
Instead of developing a benefits and rewards program that tries to be everything for everyone, segment your employee populations, and offer benefits and rewards that are valued by the employees in a specific location (not only country-wise, but also city-wise: Employees in New York City might have different needs from those who work in a small village in France).
7. Cost optimization
I wrote about the rise of the CFO in managing compensation costs last year, and I see this happening in 2019. Companies use job levelling and job architecture and carefully consider the impact that perks, benefits and rewards have on the company’s bottom line before making changes to the benefit programs. Together with an informed data-based approach to talent performance, job levelling helps companies save money and invest in the areas that generate the biggest impact.
A strategic approach to cost optimization is as important as ever, especially considering the concerns experts have about the U.S. economy in the midst of trade war rumblings.
HR leaders’ job is not getting any easier, but I feel positive about the opportunities the new year brings. This is our chance to create workplaces where people are rewarded, where they thrive personally and professionally and where companies and employees work together creating high-impact sustainable businesses.
About the author:
Joe Farris is a co-founder at Nua Group, a San Francisco-based Human Resources consulting firm specializing in total rewards. Joe challenges organizations to think beyond the median, focusing on people-related investments that drive meaningful workforce and business outcomes. He helps organizations build great companies through bold and differentiated people strategies.
The article was originally published in Forbes magazine.