Top 10 Human Resources Trends of the Decade

4 Human Resources Trends

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The top ten trends of the decade for Human Resources staff and the employees served at work were not obvious nor were they easy to pick from my original list. Depending on your company size, your location, and the health and progress of your company and industry, the top ten Human Resources trends may have differed for you.

Although the selection was a challenge, and I still go back and forth, these are my top ten Human Resources trends of the decade.

These Human Resources trends are presented in no particular order aside from the first trend, which has swamped HR the past couple of years.

Now that you have had a look at the top ten Human Resources trends I've presented, plus several of my runner ups, what are yours? Do you agree or disagree with the Human Resources trends I have selected? Please share your thoughts on the "Readers Respond" form below.

It's the Economy

With US unemployment at 10.2%, as I write this, and extended unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies keeping many families afloat, this economic downturn has left no one unaffected. Even people still employed have watched as their 401(k)s and savings sunk to new lows.

Almost no employees have received a raise without a promotion this past year. Normal bonuses and profit sharing have been replaced with mandatory furloughs and more work to replace that of laid-off coworkers.

Mourning the loss of laid-off coworkers with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and fear has also chipped away at the employee’s comfort level at work. Looking over their shoulder and protecting their own job has become commonplace. No one can predict how bad the economy could become or how long the downturn will last.

So, business leaders don’t know whether they are managing from an economic perspective that the economy has been reset forever or a down economy that will recover. Business leaders are struggling to manage in times they have never before experienced – and the employees, who may also be experiencing stressful economic trauma outside of work, are watching and concerned.

Millennials Are on the March

A generation of employees who were pampered and scheduled by their Baby Boomer parents have taken the workplace by storm. They bring pluses and minuses to your workplace, but come on, who ever heard of a play date before 1990?

So, not only is your workplace trying to absorb these offspring of the Baby Boomer generation - and millennials bring special challenges – employers are dealing with helping three generations of workers happily co-exist to serve customers as a team.

The economic downturn has made the three generation situation worst with Boomers who planned retirement, to make way for up and coming employees, unable to retire - and not happy about it. Millennials and Gen X employees are supervising Boomers and Boomers are mentoring those who wish to learn from the leaving generation.

For the employer, managing millennials is a skill managers need to develop.

The millennial quest for work-life balance and for having a life outside of work is legend. Employers accommodate these talented young people and develop their strengths and ability to contribute, or you'll lose them to an employer who will.

Many of them have options. They bear no resemblance to the "company man,” touted as the ideal employee in earlier years. And, the workplace is changing to accommodate them.

Employee Recruiting and Networking Online

This decade has brought about the transformation of employee recruiting and social and media interaction and networking. When I first started writing about recruiting, the big job boards like Monster, had not been around very long.

Employers have seen a transformation in how people find each other for networking and jobs this decade.

From large job boards like Indeed to niche job sites, from networking on discussion lists to sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Ecademy, networking and recruiting will never be the same again. Human Resources employees have either kept up with the new ways of interacting and communicating or they are doing their organizations a disservice.

Social media networking is the new way to find employees, find jobs, get answers to questions, build a wide-spread, mutually supportive network of contacts, and keep track of colleagues and friends. Social media and online recruiting bring the employer new challenges.

Developing social media and blogging policies, deciding whether to monitor employee time online, and checking candidate backgrounds online, just scratch the surface of new employer challenges. But, don’t let the power of this online media pass you by.

Made to Order Employment Relationships

Perhaps it’s the push from the millennials, and definitely, it’s the availability of technology that facilitates the customization, but the made to order work relationship has become a dominant force in the past decade. Teleworking or telecommuting, a rare privilege in the 1990s, has taken workplaces by storm.

One giant computer company reports that over 55% of its employees not only telecommute, they work from home all of the time. A New York City publishing company allows telecommuting two days a week and employees can bargain for more.

Teleworking is not the only component of the new made to order work arrangements. Flexible anything has become the new norm. Flexible work hours, flexible four day work weeks, flexible time off for appointments, and the most important trend of all: Paid time off (PTO) allows employees to take time off when they need the time as it consolidates sick leave, personal time, and vacation time into a bank of days for employees to use.

Additionally, trends such as bringing a baby or the family pet to the office also fall within this workplace flexibility.

Superficially, all of these components of the made to order Human Resources employment trend offer benefits for employees. But, they offer benefits for employers, too. Employers don’t need to police employee time.

They need to make work and communication more transparent and measurable so the flexibility yields results. Their employees are more motivated and engaged, and less stressed out about family and life issues, because they have the time necessary to address work-life balance issues.

The Big Blur

Online, all the time, and availability via technology, has blurred the line between work and home. Employees work at home in the evening on collaborative reports and email. They shop at work and take brief breaks by playing online games.

Employees do their banking at work and their work accounting at home. Almost no one goes on vacation without their smart phone, laptop, and kindle-like device.

Employees taking PTO email colleagues with the number of their cell phone if they won’t have access to email.

No generation has ever been this connected, and for good and bad, some employees never stop working. This interferes with down time, relaxing time, and work-life balance, but most employees just see it as a way of life. Employers need to make sure this degree of connectivity is not required. They must also back away from old rules about what an employee was allowed to do at work.

Employers do need to heed wage and hour laws when dealing with hourly employees who must be paid for every hour they work. Indeed, this work – home blurring is a nightmare for employers who must pay for overtime. So, most employers forbid hourly employees, for the most part, to work at home. This emphasizes the differences between exempt and nonexempt employees, already a distance.

The Rise of Technology

No Human Resources trend list would be complete without an explicit mention of the impact of technology on all aspects of the field.

I have mentioned the power of technology all through these trends, but will still cite technology as a major trend. Technology has transformed the way in which Human Resources offices manage and communicate employee information and communicate with employees, in general.

In a world in which identity theft is prevalent and can cost an employee countless working hours over several years to correct, safeguarding employee records is critical.

Identity theft is so serious and rising that every employer needs a plan to prevent.

Did words like Intranets, wikis, webinars, and blogs exist in common language ten years ago? I don’t think so; only the early and earliest adopters used them. Now, employees use them internally to stockpile information, work collaboratively, and share opinions and project progress.

They can even work virtually and with distant teams simultaneously. They hold meetings and share visuals with teams from all over the world.

Employee Training and Development Transformed

This decade has seen the rise of technology-enabled opportunities for training, employee development, and training meetings and seminars. Podcasts, teleseminars, online learning, screen capture and recording software, and webinars provide employee development opportunities.

Additionally, during this decade, as the technology-enabled delivery options expanded, so did other training and development opportunities and definitions, including increased expectation for learning transfer to the job.

Online learning, earning an online degree or credits, and all forms of web-enabled education and training provide options that employees never had when training occurred in a classroom.

Employers are saving millions of dollars in employee travel expenses, and the employee’s access to the training does not walk out the door at the seminar’s end.

This is the decade when employers experiment with classroom training in a virtual world called Second Life. You can expect even more progress and experimentation in the years to come.

Plus, another Human Resources trend that flourished, though did not start in this decade, is the concept of alternative forms of employee learning such as coaching and formal mentoring. They hit the mainstream in this past decade.

Tension Increases Over Government Intervention in the Employer-Employee Relationship

A debate exists in the US between people who think the government is already intervening too much by making laws that require employers to provide particular benefits for employees, and those who don’t.

People who support the government intervention believe that the US government has been negligent in not mandating benefits such as paid sick leave. They consider it the “right” or humanitarian action to take.

Opponents want benefits for employees but argue that employers should make benefits choices that their employees desire and that they can afford. Opponents argue that employer mandated benefits will cost the country jobs and opportunity. Small business, the engine of job creation in the US, is currently sitting on the sidelines because of the uncertain economy including threatened government mandates and potential changes to health care.

One of the more significant examples of government intervention occurred with the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993. The effects of its passage continued to be an employer’s nightmare this past decade as, especially, its intermittent leave requirements created recordkeeping quagmires and made trial lawyers smile. I expect I will be including this Human Resources trend after the next decade, too.

The Rising Cost of Health Care

Much as I’d prefer to leave this Human Resources trend off the table, it’s not going away. The continually rising cost of health care insurance and health care is affecting what employers can provide in terms of additional benefits for their employees.

The rise of employee payments for part of insurance coverage, the practice of seeking insurance first from a spouse’s employer, increased payments for covered family members, and higher health care provider co-pay office fees are all highlights of the rising cost of care.

Americans disagree about what needs to be done in this arena. (I support capping fees to trial lawyers and limiting payouts in medical malpractice suits, providing incentives to people becoming family practice physicians, and making basic insurance more affordable.)

But, most agree that something does need to happen so that Americans can retain the best healthcare system in the world. Legislation is currently pending, which as I write this piece, is not supported by over 56% of Americans, so we shall see. Health care costs will remain a Human Resources trend in the next decade.

See the final trend and my Honorable Mentions.

Globalization, Outsourcing, and Offshoring

Increasing government regulation in the US along with increasing corporate taxation (maybe highest in the world), higher wages, and less desirable, business friendly policies and incentives are causing employers to rethink locations for their operations.

High taxation, high regulation states are seeing an outpouring of business (and jobs) from their locations.

The US is seeing an overall rise in outsourcing jobs to overseas locations that are viewed as more friendly to business.

In an era of globalization, this makes sense. Employers seek global, rather than local markets, so that economic factors in one location do not hinder progress. Employers see the positive impacts of locating offices and factories in global markets and tapping the strengths of local employees who are familiar with business and employment practices in the new locations.

Whether work is off-shored, outsourced, or the company is simply expanding globally, the challenges to Human Resources with a globally-located workforce are serious. If a US company has five employees in Hong Kong or six in Europe, local Human Resources offices do not make sense.

In fact, the US HR Director, with assistance from local employment agencies, probably hired the staff. Managing and working with these global locations, while obeying the laws and honoring the customs of the host country, is a challenge for managers, Human Resources, and coworkers.

I remember hiring my first employee in Hong Kong. I learned the monetary system, the required holidays, the government regulations, and more. I also found that, until I had local, trusted employment staffing assistance, the new employee and subsequent employees took advantage of my limited knowledge.

It's a whole new world of global challenges out there. Get ready.

Human Resources Trends of the Decade: Honorable Mentions

I considered these Human Resources trends and they are worthy and deserve a mention. Several of them will see their biggest impact in the next ten years.

This includes diversity which is already affecting workplaces and legislation. See my favorite piece about diversity: Search for Similarities: Just Like Me. Discrimination laws have had a profound impact on recruiting and hiring practices and in all areas of equal opportunity employment.

The labor union movement in the US is in the process of undergoing a radical change. Recently, public sector employees became the majority of union members leaving private sector union member numbers behind.

Additionally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has stated publicly that their members include illegal immigrants. This will produce changes in the next decade about Political Action Committees (PACs), raise questions about who is funding union activities, and also impact the illegal immigration debates in Congress and for employers.

In the wake of the horrific events of 9-11-2001, much of which most employees watched unfold on their televisions at work, a feeling of a loss of safety swept the nation.

When tragedy struck the workplace, employers responded with new building evacuation plans, safety and crisis management plans, and business continuation strategies.

People who lived closer to the events and who lost family members and friends were most profoundly affected. But, the events of 9-11-2001 will never be forgotten in America. Hopefully, this will never be a trend, but several readers nominated this event.

The evolution of performance management as an employee development, goal setting, and performance evaluation strategy is an important Human Resources trend in my book. It allows an employer to develop an employee from onboarding until they leave your company.

It moves evaluation and goal setting away from an annual appraisal administered by the employee’s manager to a mutually beneficial defined contribution and development plan.

We’ll see considerably more from each of these trends in the next decade. Hold on to your seat. The next wave of Human Resources trends for the next decade will soon leave the station. Are you ready to enhance and take advantage of them in your workplace?

Please share your best trends of the decade and your worst trends of the decade. Have comments on these top 10 trends and Human Resources trends of the decade, in general? Share your thoughts about the top 10 Human Resources trends of the decade.

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