The 10 Hottest Topics and Trends in HR: Today’s Workplace
The office of today is much different than just a decade ago. It wasn’t all that long ago when casual dress was not the norm and, on the rare occasion when it was found in the workplace, it was merely on a Friday phenomenon. In years past, the workday ended when you went home at 5:00 pm; today, however, people are wired to their e-mail and voicemail accounts virtually 24/7.
Although, it’s not just dress codes, new technologies or cultural enhancements that are changing the way people work; other changes include more diversity, flexible work arrangements, working virtually, child care considerations, carpools, green initiatives, businesses and social responsibility, community involvement and variable pay plans that are tired to personal and team deliverables rather than simply corporate profits.
Of all the current HR “hot” topics, however, none is as impactful or litigious than the current #MeToo movement. Whether we’re talking Hollywood, corporate America, the halls of Congress or rural America, the national news stories profiling #MeToo stories from both men and women flood the media and more are sure to follow; therefore, you cannot talk about the #MeToo movement without talking about sexual harassment.
1. Hot HR topic: Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a violation of the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and, even after decades of hyper-vigilance, mandatory manager training and millions of dollars in litigation costs, it continues to plague workplaces throughout the U.S. In fact, none of the preventative measures that have been enacted appear to have curtailed the estimated 25% – 85% of women from experiencing sexual harassment on the job.
Furthermore, many more men are also coming forward and other types of harassment based upon gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs and clothing are all on the rise as well. Other non-sexual forms of harassment are also on the rise. For example, environments where staff members are degraded, mocked and openly criticized by others fit the criteria of a Hostile Work Environment.
In addition to implementing comprehensive policies that include preventative training, a process for submitting complaints and sternly worded prohibitions on retribution for those that make a complaint, the leaders of today’s organizations must model those behaviors expected of the staff (which would include a moratorium on off-colored jokes in the workplace).
2. Hot HR Topic: Connectivity
Employees worry about taking time off, shutting down their devices and enjoying earned time off from work. They get concerned when their company does not offer connectivity capability to their phones, yet complain about being “on call” all the time. They don’t want to be out-of-the-loop but they also don’t want to feel obligated to respond to each e-mail immediately.
Moreover, today’s leaders, many of whom don’t have any experiences of the pre-cell phone era, have come to expect that workers will respond to even non-urgent requests for information whether it be during the day, evening and/or on weekends. Therefore, while technology has made us more productive, it can also negatively impact work-life balance and lead to burn-out unless healthy boundaries are encouraged and maintained.
This HR topic affects morale company-wide, therefore, company cultures are highly encouraged to find a health balance that works for their clients, employees and culture.
3. Hot HR Topic: Work-life balance
As part of the connectivity conundrum, HR has attempted to build a bridge between the corporate office and disconnected employees unable or unwilling to take steps to achieve a healthy balance between home and work responsibilities. Business owners and employers have an understanding that workers need to step away and take care of appointments or attend family functions, but they are unaware of methods to increase job flexibility while maintaining productivity.
Furthermore, the issue of work-life balance means different things to different people depending upon their age, marital and familiar status, where they’re at in the career and their earnings potential. For example, younger single workers just starting out in their careers may lack healthy boundaries and work longer hours than their older peers who are further along in their career and have started families. In other words, as you age and progress in your career, personal motivators change and time with loved one’s becomes more important that when they were single.
4. Hot HR Topic: Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is a corporate culture approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
Employee engagement is about having a good understanding of how an organization is fulfilling its purpose and objectives, how it is changing to fulfil those better, and being given a voice in its journey to offer ideas and express views that are taken account of as decisions are made.
Nearly all employees want more than a paycheck; they want involvement in company decisions and the motivation to move out into the community.
Volunteering is more than a nice show; it’s your company advertised and branded with a team effort that improves local lives. And employee committees with decision-making input result in loyal employees who come to work every day with the intention of remaining for the long-term.
5. Hot HR Topic: Paperless Storage of Documents/How Green is my Workplace
Forget rooms of file drawers and offsite storage. It goes without saying that Cloud storage has lightened the physical load, eases retrieval and access and ensures safety with proper encryption. No longer are recruiting and interviewing records stored in the HR office.
Today, multiple teams share and alter a single document in a meeting, clients receive forms and contracts via secure email and employees contribute to a greener, less cluttered office by using less paper, ink, and toner. Paperless storage saves space, expedites necessary corrections as compliance requirements change and create a smooth flow of materials for your sales and marketing divisions.
It’s not just about reducing paper usage and cloud storage. Chemical storage, cleaning products, air quality, lighting and alternative transportation to work are staff concerns. HR departments contribute to sustainable work practices with posted conservation reminders, using vendors selling recycled products, providing paper and plastic recycling bins and tracking and posting the office’s green accomplishments regularly.
Whether it’s carpooling, environmental standards, labor laws in foreign lands or only purchasing recyclable products, there’s an abundance of methods which an organization may adopt to make a green work environments the norm in today’s workplace.
6. Hot HR Topic: 24/7 accessible HR
Employees want access to everything from available vacation and sick time to retirement contributions and medical plan information via the company’s intranet portal. Furthermore, they don’t want to call or email HR every time they have a question or update contact information (who, often times, must then research their inquiry); instead, they want to take care of personal issues quickly and want to do it at a time and place convenient to them, not HR’s operating hours.
In order to ensure that the workers are receiving the most updated and reliable information in a timely manner, it’s essential that they request that information from a subject matter expert (someone that works with the data each/every day) which, more often than not, is an outsourced vendor. By outsourcing many of the mundane yet highly specialized functions (i.e. COBRA and/or FMLA administration) to a vendor that employs subject matter experts, the company keeps their overhead costs down while the HR staff is more available in responding to other workplace issues and/or to facilitate team-building exercises.
7. Hot HR Topic: Open Space vs. Virtual Space vs. Cubicle Space
The open or shared workspace was considered the saving grace of the office: it permitted the free exchange of ideas, light, and air, knocked down the ugly cubicle walls and encouraged physical movement among employees. It also removed privacy, decreased productivity and increased noise levels.
The “cube” was dismal in its sameness, but it absorbed noise, concealed power panels, and cords and increased productivity.
The virtual office, whether at home, a coffee shop or an offsite rented office space, meant less overhead but no way to track hours or productivity or meet professionally with clients. Which workspace works is best for your particular business is an HR topic still seeking a solution and depends heavily upon the culture, industry and work environment; although, recently published studies have indicated that, depending upon the culture and industry, many virtual offices have been found to increase employee satisfaction, allow for greater work-life balance, reduce turnover, increase productivity and saves the company in overhead costs – plus, and the organization benefits from a more stable loyal and satisfied workforce.
8. Hot HR Topic: Teams and Collaboration
Two or more people working towards one goal make a team; multiple teams working together on that goal is collaboration, and the movement from team goals to teams’ goals is part of a company’s sense of purpose and dedication to faster, better and less costly success. HR’s role is gathering and providing resources and fostering an open inclusive environment where each team member is respected and where diversity is cherished: Internet-based training, file sharing and video conferencing and encouraging all participants to view each other as equals and leave their titles outside the conference room while bringing their ideas and expertise to the table.
9. Hot Topic: Outsourcing/Where is the Work Going?
The President recently announced semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom’s return to U.S.-based manufacturing, but this is one company out of six who left the country just in 2016 for cheaper labor, favorable taxes, and lower costs. Outsourcing jobs to robots and other countries concerns employees and current HR topics include answering worker’s questions and addressing anxieties while dealing with the reality of job displacement.
While, yes, “some” organizations are bringing their jobs home, many more positions are either being shipped overseas due to cheaper labor or are being eliminated altogether as a result of automation and the acceleration of technology.
10. Hot Topic: Professional/Employee Development
If you read any employee survey from the past decade, talk with those engaged in an active job search or conduct an employee focus group, one of the top three issues mentioned as a top priority for the staff will include professional development; employees looking for a new job want to make certain that the next company they go to work for is committed to professional development.
In a city like San Diego, where 90% of the company’s employ < 100 people, a worker may not have as much opportunity for moving up within the organization as they would at a Fortune 500 company; therefore, whether that next position is with the same employer or different one, the worker wants assurances that their current employer will work to further their skills and competencies so that, when the next opportunity presents itself, they will be ready to take it on.
Accordingly, while employers want to respond to the marketplace by offering internal and external training classes, they should also have strict requirements for participating in any training options they offer their workers. In other words, training and development should be viewed as a privilege, not an entitlement; therefore, for those workers who have not yet demonstrated the competencies necessary to perform their current job adequately, have attendance or punctuality issues, are on probation or have difficulty getting along with their co-workers, they should NOT be allowed to participate in any professional development offered by the company.
Instead, training and development should be viewed at it is: an investment into someone’s long-term potential; therefore, it should be reserved for the A and strong B players who have been in their current role for a minimum of one-year. By setting a high bar, those motivated to participate in developing their skills know – from the start – they must prove themselves before any investment is made into their future.
With changing demographics come changes in the way we work. Working virtually use to be the domain of senior leaders or someone that’s trying to stay on top of their work while home sick; however, it’s more commonplace than ever before.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that every company’s culture is different and, in this Consultant’s twenty-three year history of consulting, the most critical underlying aspect of any workplace culture is trust. If the senior leadership team doesn’t trust their staff (and assumes when the boss is away that they will play), that perception influences how (and even what) they communicate, the manner and means in which they enforce policies, whether or not they take feedback from the staff to heart, and negatively impacts overall job satisfaction and attrition.
On the other hand, if the senior team believes that every worker is doing their absolute best each day and is truly committed to the organizations vision and mission, then the majority of the workers will respond accordingly by consistently giving their best each day, contributing to a culture of open and honest communications and knows, firsthand, that they are valued. Consequently, it starts at the top!
Therefore, if the CEO/President treats everyone the way he/she wants to be treated, the workforce will respond in the appropriate manner. In other words, you reap what you sow; therefore, an organization may invest large sums of money into developing new initiatives designed to increase job satisfaction, reduce turnover and contribute to an environment where each individual is recognized and valued; however, if the actions and conduct of the CEO contradict the behaviors that are the centerpiece of these newly implemented initiatives than they will fail.
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