A Survival Guide to Global Workforce Trends in 2019
The workforce is getting both younger and older.
Every year brings unique and sometimes wacky new workplace initiatives. 2018 brought us examples such as such as implanting microchips in employees and allowing them to only expense vegetarian food but there are also important trends that will help you become a better employer. Some of the more progressive initiatives we can learn from are Vermont offering an incentive of $10,000 for remote workers to move there and an insurance firm in New Zealand conducting an academically rigorous trial of a four-day work week with great success.
From welcoming a new generation into the workforce to embracing the growing mobile workforce, these are the five biggest workplace trends that your organization should be ready for as we move into 2019:
1. The competition for Gen Z talent is starting.
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up entirely in an internet-centric society and they rapidly joining the workforce, with the oldest members of the generation being 23 years old. They’re estimated to comprise up to 36 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Companies need to adapt their people strategies to attract and retain young digital natives who expect strategic use of software and technology in the workplace.
To make yourself an appealing employer for Gen Z, have a software strategy and appropriate training to support it. Offer flexibility and wellness-oriented benefits, and have frequent conversations about performance and development opportunities with your young employees. If your company won’t engage them, they’ll find somewhere else that will. Listen to their ideas and be transparent with them from day one. Realistic job previews and employer branding also go a long way to make your workplace a good fit for everyone.
2. Plan for the 100-year Life span.
In addition to focusing on young employees joining the workforce, a similar emphasis must be put on shifting career and life paths across all generations. More and more people in developed nations with access to effective healthcare are reaching their 100th birthday, meaning people will have longer careers than we’ve ever seen.
With people changing careers and jobs more frequently, companies need to prepare for a more dynamic workforce with workers looking to continually expand their skillsets cross-functionally. Consider moving employees horizontally across your organization instead of just thinking of them for the next promotion in their department. Businesses also need to plan for rising retirement ages by reviewing the role of pensions, benefits and physical or schedule accommodations for older and more senior employees.
Japan, which expects half of today's babies to live to or past 100, is taking the idea of the 100 Year Life seriously. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet worked between September 2017 and June 2018 to create a formalized structure for a Human Resources Revolution.
3. Be better than good. Period.
With a tumultuous global political climate, and governments responding glacially to crises with little accountability, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become more important than ever.
As a lot of tech and retail giants have seen recently, doing okay isn’t good enough. Societal expectations and employee demands are the rules by which companies operate. We must be willing and ready to respond to these new demands. We’ve seen livable wage initiatives, such Amazon and Target setting minimum wage targets of $15/hour following public outcry. Ethics also have an increasing presence in strategy, an example being when Google scrapped a Pentagon cloud computing proposal after employee outcry over the possible weaponization of AI.
Younger workers prefer companies with missions that align with their values, but there is a significant gap between society’s demands and corporate readiness. Fiftysix percent of organizations don’t have CSR as a priority and steps must be taken to bridge this gap. CSR comes in many forms -- paying livable wages, environmental sustainability initiatives, facilitating community programs, or getting a certification of social responsibility (i.e. becoming a B Corp).
Wondering which initiative is best for you? Ask your employees to determine their values and keep up with current events.
4. Prepare for the shorter employee life cycle.
It’s no secret that many companies are seeing turnover increase. Between low engagement in many companies and younger employees who more likely to leave within five years than to stay beyond five years, it is evident that businesses must respond.
Some businesses, instead of trying to keep employees around longer, are reducing turnover costs by embracing the new shorter lifecycle of employees. Businesses that hire for high-turnover seasonal and low-skill jobs are putting more effort into cost-effective onboarding, training and offboarding processes to get the most out of employees while they’re still there. Some businesses have shortened the hring process to a single interview, or done away with interviews entirely.
Be cognizant of the risks of shorter-term employment, particularly with the rise of the gig economy and contract work. Contract work in low-skill positions often results in underpaid employees and less job security, resulting in lower levels of job satisfaction and engagement. Embracing high turnover can be beneficial but you don’t make your employees feel they can be easily replaced.
5. Embrace HR tech
Employees today expect good technology to do their jobs effectively and data is increasingly important for performance. With software-as-a-service (SaaS) business models prevalent in fast-growing businesses, you need to scale up software capabilities as your company grows. Single-purpose software won’t cut it anymore -- end-to-end software suites are becoming a business necessity. When considering SaaS vendors or creating your own in-house software, ensure that systems are able to "speak" to each other and share their respective data sets to maximize value.
In addition, organizations are using technology to win the competition for talent. People analytics derived from these integrated systems can improve hiring and employee engagement, increase productivity and improve strategic decision-making. SaaS is surging in the people space by enabling companies to track and analyze data relating to workforce planning, recruitment, onboarding, learning, development and talent management, among other uses. Effective software reduces burdensome administrative work, gives employees more discretion over how they engage with HR and allows them to focus their efforts on more strategic initiatives that drive your bottom line.
Don’t get caught off guard. Staying on top of industry best practices will allow you to maintain an engaged workforce, attract and retain talent, foster innovation, improve productivity and build or maintain your competitive advantage.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Entrepreneur, author, CEO and founder of Inspired HR. Debby was recently honoured for a 4th consecutive year as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women marking Debby's induction into Canada’s Top 100 Hall of Fame as the youngest inductee in history.