Workforce Trends: What to Expect in 2017

December 2, 2016      By Cecile Alper-Leroux

As we approach the end of 2016, we are compelled to look ahead to what we can expect in the new year! With that in mind, here are my predictions for the world of people-first HR and business.

The Voice of the Employee (VoE) Takes Center Stage

Customer satisfaction surveys have long been seen as the best way to understand how well organizations are meeting the needs of their customers. More recently, the Voice of the Customer (VoC) has become more nuanced with Customer Journey Maps and Net Promoter Scores. As organizations recognize that to truly serve their customers they must invest in creating a great experience for their employees at work, the traditional employee engagement survey – often viewed as the way to assess how employees feel at work – is no longer an adequate tool to capture the true Voice of the Employee (VoE).

Thanks to advances in natural language processing technologies, in 2017, organizations can look to Ultimate Software’s new UltiPro PerceptionTM solution to continually scan their environments and get a deep understanding of the true sentiment of their people.

Organizations focused on retaining their best people will have to begin adopting these tools or risk losing the hearts and minds of their people – ultimately affecting their bottom line.

Your Workforce is Becoming More Fluid

The traditional workforce is changing faster than our organizations can keep up and it is becoming increasingly obvious to many business leaders. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Ultimate Software, October 2016, found that nearly 90% of HR and line of business professionals who influence their companies’ HR policies agree that the way employees work is becoming more fluid, flexible, and dynamic.

The notion of defining oneself as one thing at work vs. “at home” is not new, but the blurring of lines and new ways to identify oneself is new and it is having a significant impact in the workplace, creating the need for a new kind of HR and for organizations to offer ever more fluid people policies and philosophies in 2017 and beyond.

Workers want more choice and flexibility in how they approach tasks (more collaboratively), jobs (more frequent changes and exploration), opportunities to advance in their careers (more quickly, and in a less linear fashion), and define themselves at work (in a more personalized, holistic way) – a trend I call “Workforce Fluidity.”

The Primacy of the Employee Manager Relationship

“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” This statement has been floating around HR circles for decades… for good reason. Employees experience work and the culture of the organization primarily through interactions with their direct manager.

People today don’t want to be “managed.” They want leaders who inspire them to greatness, challenge them, and communicate openly with them, coaching them to be their best selves at work.

Looking ahead to 2017, I expect more and more companies to invest heavily in developing managers to become better leaders, and we also will begin to see the fruits of these efforts. New diagnostic and prescriptive analytics tools will support manager development on a day-to-day basis – ushering in a new era of humanized people “management.”

HR Agility Will Become the New Mode of Supporting Organizations

2017 will continue to see our workplaces evolve into more human, people-centered spaces. Rather than reacting to pressure from business leaders and employees, HR leaders will rethink traditional policies to meet the needs of a more open and expressive workforce, taking a front seat in driving successful business outcomes.

This will do two things for Human Resource Professionals: we will become more innovative, nimble, and observant, and we will be forced to adapt existing HR processes and practices to create more agile, human-natured organizations.

This shift began a few years ago with the transformation of performance into a more dynamic, coaching-focused process; in 2017 however, HR leaders will have to rethink paid time off and compensation processes, two areas that are woefully out of synch with the workforce of today.

Culture Shapes the Employee Experience

We all know that there can be a significant difference between an organization’s mission statement and what employees experience, or, what really goes on within an organization. People entering the workforce in 2017 and beyond tend to be less trusting of authority, making it more important for organizations to gain the trust of their employees by demonstrating that they “walk the walk and talk the talk.” This requires a culture of listening and taking action on employee concerns.

Supported by smarter more perceptive technologies in 2017, organizations will finally be able to “see” their culture at work and detect gaps in alignment between employees and the stated mission and values of the organization, supporting organizations in being deliberate and focused on defining philosophies and policies that address how people experience their work lives, and how the organization treats and interacts with their people and customers.

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