Record low unemployment and skyrocketing turnover rates are presenting new challenges and opportunities as HR grapples with sourcing and keeping the right mix of talent in today’s fluid workforce environment. One recent survey found that 60% of employees plan to look for a new job in 2019, offering a clear charge for HR to up its game in attracting and retaining the best talent. HR executives will continue to embrace their change management role, counseling the C-suite that many of the HR issues that used to seem “nice to have” are now imperative.
In 2019 the choice will be simple: Understand and embrace these trends, or lose your ability to compete for talent. Here are the three areas that are particularly top of mind for HR leaders:
1. HR joins marketing in defining the company ‘brand.’
Apple, Trader Joe’s, JetBlue — think of companies known for excellent customer experience and you’ll find that they also frequent “best employer” lists. That’s no surprise, since strong brands attract strong talent.
HR is in the business of attracting, selecting, developing and retaining talent, and whether you know it or not, your candidates have already formed a brand image of your company. In the same way that branding influences customers through all levels of the funnel — from awareness to trial to long-term loyalty — perceptions of an organization’s brand influence how people interact with you. This means their impressions can impact whether they apply for a job, accept a position and, ultimately, stay with the company.
In today’s transparent environment, potential employees get a picture of your company by visiting your website, reading anonymous reviews and finding out what employees are saying on their own personal social media channels. It shouldn’t be a surprise that one-third of candidates surveyedsaid they would decline even a perfect job over a poor cultural fit.
Managing your brand is vital to help attract and retain the right talent. HR can help create culture and drive policy, but are your employees squarely on board? You can take the lead in encouraging the company to walk its talk, and by joining forces with marketing, you can ensure that external and internal messages are aligned, underscoring the best possible employee experience.
Just as marketers prioritize the consumer experience, HR must consider the employee experience, which should always play a starring role in reward, benefit and communication strategies. For example:
• Does your company clearly and frequently communicate its mission, values and culture in a variety of channels?
• Do you leverage technology tools to build internal portals and platforms for sharing information and encouraging your employees to be your best advocates?
• Do you offer — and promote — opportunities for mentorship, volunteerism, task forces and other internal programs that can leverage employee interests and strengthen bonds across organizations and silos?
• Are you developing recruiting practices that map to your company’s brand and underscore the value of a customized approach and personal touch?
2. HR will redefine diversity for the future workforce.
The term “diversity and inclusion” has, itself, become more inclusive. Today’s HR leaders are embracing a new definition of diversity to include a myriad of factors which extend beyond gender, race, LGBTQIA status or religious affiliation. Now a diverse workplace also incorporates:
• Geographic location: Remote workers who have chosen to work outside major hubs and might hail from rural or suburban towns are now interacting with urban/onsite team members.
• Generational affiliation: For the first time in history the modern workplace embraces five generations and their respective cultural norms and communication styles.
• Education levels: Some of the largest companies like Google and Ernst & Young no longer require a four-year degree, instead focusing on whether potential employees have the necessary skills.
One 2015 survey found that 33% of HR executives believed demographic shifts and increased workplace diversity will have the biggest impact on HR by 2025, yet only 34% of employees believed that management is prepared to lead a diverse workforce.
Diversity needs to permeate the entire internal and external profile of your organization. HR will need to set the tone in driving diversity initiatives across the organization, equipping managers with messaging to inform, educate, engage and empower workers where appropriate. These initiatives should be incorporated throughout your corporate policies and practices, staff training, executive presentations, social media posts and targeted recruiting efforts.
3. HR must support a flexible work culture.
Flexible work schedules and work/life balance used to be considered great perks or lavish add-ons, but today they simply make business sense. As technology has evolved and customer expectations have changed, work itself has pivoted from a 9-to-5 block to a 24-hour cycle. While that doesn’t mean employees should similarly be “always on,” it affords many types of businesses the flexibility to allow workers to work alternative schedules and engage in work patterns that best support their lifestyles.
HR can play a critical role in fostering this fluid workforce by determining best practices for flexible work arrangements that support your company’s business model, whether that’s the ability to work remotely or work during off hours.
HR will also help employees embrace flexible career paths, including horizontal and vertical career models, which have been shown to attract and retain emerging talent. This concept of “internal mobility” has been embraced (paywall) by top companies like Google and Facebook, all of which discovered that cross-functional work experience benefits both the individual employee and the company as a whole.
As HR develops policies and proceeds that will offer employees enhanced flexibility, it will lead to even more work/life fluidity, less stress and higher productivity. One recent study found that 78% of employees feel they are more productive in a flexible work arrangement.
Charging into the new year, we know that the half-life of skills is shrinking dramatically and that the right teams will be more important than ever to move critical projects forward for each business. By driving initiatives that address and anticipate the team’s needs, you and your HR team will play a pivotal role in helping your company successfully adapt to an ever-changing workplace.
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