The Workforce Institute at Kronos has published its expected workplace trends for the coming year. In first place it lists the idea that top organisations should treat employee engagement as a financial strategy while thinking creatively about the employee experience.
Kronos says billions of dollars have been spent on chasing the white whale of employee engagement – yet engagement has remained stagnant for decades worldwide. Worse, many C-level leaders are questioning the ROI of culture-driven investments on the bottom line. Kronos says HR must change their vernacular to better connect engagement with business challenges while using operational data to show how engagement is financially driven (e.g. better productivity, fewer customer escalations, optimal scheduling, retention of top performers). Simultaneously, to attract and retain the best talent, employers must weigh all the different “currencies” accepted by today’s workers (e.g. pay, benefits, flexibility, learning and development, work environments, meaningful connection to the business, people, and the community), while thinking creatively about the entire employee experience lifecycle, matching expectations during the recruiting phase all the way through succession planning.
Secondly, Kronos says there will be a greater appetite among employees for accessible, applicable workplace data. Outside the workplace, people expect fast and easy access to information of all kinds, they argue – from nearby restaurants that have the highest reviews to recommended television shows to binge next. Yet when they get to work, good, valuable information across their organisations can be hard to access and near impossible to process in order to make an informed decision in the moment. Employers are increasingly expected to provide a consumer-grade technology experience in the workplace with one-touch access to information that helps employees – both laptop-toting and frontline workers – work smarter and work their way.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are expected to make HR and operations more strategic. Innovations in workforce management and HR software have simplified the delivery of data intelligence to help solve real business problems that directly impact an employee’s daily work routine. AI can dramatically speed up time-consuming, everyday tasks while proactively identifying potential compliance risks and employee burnout concerns before they become a problem. Machine learning algorithms deliver better forecasting while enabling technology to act as a digital consultant. Managers and employees alike must be properly trained to strategically utilise and, above all, trust this unprecedented ability to mine information, while transforming their daily responsibilities to accomplish more strategic tasks they didn’t have the time to complete before.
In fourth place the company expects a focus on the human side of leadership. As innovations in workforce management and HR technology increasingly automate daily tasks, managers have more time to interact with employees than ever before. Yet many people managers are lost with these newfound opportunities for human interaction thanks to historically weak manager onboarding programs combined with years of hiding behind devices, remote work, and mountains of administrative tasks. Since people managers are the number one driver of the employee experience and, in turn, productivity, organisations must focus on programs to help managers forge relationships, develop their people, and build the courage it takes to be a great leader.
Finally, Kronos says retirement will move from being a casual conversation to a full-blown crisis. Organisations aren’t prepared for the loss of inherent knowledge as thousands of Baby Boomers retire each day. Many Boomers plan to ease into retirement by working part-time hours or taking on an entirely new, lower-paying job with more meaning. Many more retirement-aged employees aren’t financially capable of leaving the workforce. The perfect storm created by these trends will challenge organisations to test their succession planning, deliver meaningful roles to employees sun-setting their careers, and maintain productivity and engagement of those employees who continue to work primarily because they can't afford to retire.