Upcoming Workplace Trends in 2018

As we close on 2017, HR leaders have a chance to look forward and size up the novel challenges of the New Year. Over the next 12 months businesses may find themselves needing to adapt to these trends or risk falling behind the competition. Unsurprisingly technology will continue to drive the future of the work. Data science has made massive strides as of late; consider that over the last few years 90% of the world’s data has been produced. With this in mind, what do we see as the major trends for 2018?

A larger focus on upskilling and retraining of employees

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Technology continues to play a larger and larger role in the workforce. Therefore organisations need to move at speed to adjust to a growing skills gap. There are presently 201,300 job openings in Australia that are unfilled, a 14% increase from the previous year. This skills gap has been trending up for the past three years, and will only continue to grow as the roles of the past fall to the wayside. According to researchers John Seely Brown and Professor Peter Denning, the half-life of a learned skill is only 5 years – that is, much of what you learned 10 years has become irrelevant, and half of what you learned 5 years ago is obsolete. As more industries become disrupted by changing technologies, the need to upskill employees to meet demands will become apparent.

Luckily, thanks to those same technologies, upskilling and retraining programs will also become far cheaper to conduct. While the learning domain has been slow to utilise technology, expect a push towards direct and immediately applicable teachings. Big portions of material will be divided into more easily digestible pieces (micro learning), with immediate access as needs arise. Gamification practices will also ensure learning occurs in a more playful and engaging manner. As VR devices become increasingly mainstream, the capacity of organisations to create novel learning practices will only grow.

Flexible working arrangements

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Working virtually continues to trend as a flexible alternative to accommodate employees in maintaining a work/life balance. Over the past two decades in the US the amount of employees working at least partially through telecommuting has quadrupled and now stands at 37%. A large driver of this stems from the development of VPN technology that makes it easy to access work systems from nearly any computer. Given the majority of workers have stated they want this flexibility as part of their work week, companies that shift to this approach have a sizable advantage in attracting talent over fellow competitors. We expect more organisations will adopt initiatives such as ‘Work from Home Wednesday’, to break up the work week and enable employees to more easily tend to personal needs and appointments outside of the office.

Wellness outside the office

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More and more HR departments are recognising the value of work/life balance. Many are now implementing policies that limit the checking of email and work product while out of the office and/or on paid time off. They are also looking to encourage staff to use personal days where needed to ensure when they are at work, staff are refreshed and effective.

HR departments are also emphasising ways to mitigate stress in the office. Personal and financial stress has always found ways to creep into work, but companies are now looking to create initiatives to better manage employee stress. In many organisations stress is the catalyst behind poor mental health, especially when it becomes excessive. Managing stress is the key to having healthy employees, which in turn contributes to a healthier business. Employee Assistance Programs should see increased use as an option to cope with these demands.

Blind hiring practices

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The traditional interview process of the past will continue to transform as organisations become further aware of the dangers of bias. Scandal has rocked several major organisations in 2017, with Google being only one of many companies accused of gender bias discrepancies in the workplace. To protect equality and minimise controversy blind hiring practices should become the norm. In standard screening and interviewing unconscious biases can quickly become a factor in hiring by including data that gives away key parts of a candidate’s background: data such as gender, age, and race. By converting hiring to a blind process, stripping away information that can reveal demographic data, the first waves of screening can be done purely based on abilities and achievements. This allows for a more diverse workforce built on merit, and will not only make the process more candidate friendly, but more predictive as well.

Future proofing employees

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Politicians often speak at length about the return of jobs in manufacturing and manual labour, but the hard truth is that those positions are going away in the face of evolving technology. Universally, artificial intelligence is going to change the way we work. Over the next 30 years, automation will affect every job in Australia, but the workers whose jobs are the most susceptible to automation work in construction, trades, food preparation and cleaning. Where does this leave the human work force? In 2018 it is up to organisations to re-examine their human resources and determine the best way to pivot employees into future positions. HR professionals will need to be able to identify the staff that are willing and capable of embracing different aspects of jobs, such as management, problem solving, troubleshooting and other areas that require the human element. The long-term savings will be substantial for organisations that plan ahead and maximise the human potential of their current workforces.

With 2018 is just around the corner, it is clear that these technology-driven trends are going to have a significant impact on the HR industry sooner rather than later. Savvy organisations have the ability to invest time and resources now in order to get ahead of the game. Hit the ground running in the New Year and prepare for the future today.


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