Human resources is a varied field, which means HR managers will be looking in a number of directions to plan 2018’s activities depending on their specific needs and the challenges of their industry. Talent acquisition and employee retention will likely be the top concern for many, but there are also issues surrounding technology and wellness that HR managers will have to pay attention to in the coming year.

John Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, has said this year will “be one of the most important years for HR in decades”. This is why.


Increasing digitalization of HR

According to Bersin by Deloitte, “HR organizations now have to learn how to ‘be digital’, not just ‘buy digital products’.” The increasing digitalization of HR is one of the most significant issues organizations will be focusing on in 2018 since it affects the way teams work.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems will be introduced more in 2018, particularly in recruitment and talent analytics according to the 2017 Randstad Sourceright Talent Trends survey. For recruitment this includes processes around interviews, scheduling and reference checking, which will alleviate recruiters of traditionally manual tasks. Not only does this save time, it also ensures process consistency, elimination of bias and a better candidate experience

Organizational network analysis (ONA) tools - which can study communication and social networks within businesses - are also likely to witness increased adoption in 2018. The latest Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey found that although only eight percent of businesses made use of the technology in early 2017, “usage is growing rapidly, with an additional 48 percent of companies experimenting with these tools”.

One of the biggest challenges for HR managers this year will therefore be to ensure their teams are fully up to date with the latest digital trends in the field, or they risk falling behind competing organizations.


A multigenerational workforce

The current workplace will typically be comprised of three different generations: baby boomers, generation X and millennials - while generation Z will be entering the workforce soon. These generations will have varying priorities and goals, so it will fall to employers to manage the expectations of these different groups of workers. Karen Cariss, chief executive of HR software firm PageUp has said that 2018 will see “the end of one-size-fits-all”, as businesses can no longer rely on this approach to attract and retain top talent.

Generation X is at an age where they are moving into more senior management positions so will be looking to consolidate their preferred style of working, as well as introduce the benefits they most appreciate. According to Glassdoor, these employees “value salary level, a 401K plan with matching benefits, job security, advancement within the company and opportunities for work-life balance”.

Meanwhile, millennials are looking for “benefits choices, paid time off, ability to work remotely, control over their schedules and a great deal of flexibility”. It is therefore essential that organizations pay attention to what they want in order to attract the most qualified and talented candidates among them.

Additionally, millennial employees are not only entering the workplace by the masses, they are also being appointed management roles, spelling mayhem for many of them. Randstad’s Gen Z and Millennials Collide @ Work study exposed a crisis among millennial managers, as many are not prepared or equipped with the EQ (emotional quotient) and people skills required to effectively manage a team.

Catering to all demands will likely be a particular focus for HR managers in 2018. As will the distribution of roles and responsibilities across the different generations. This will then have an impact on company culture and leadership style as different generations look for different elements in an employer. 


Emphasis on company culture

Company culture is one of the most important factors candidates consider about a potential employer. If the organization’s atmosphere, values and aims don’t align with their own, there is little chance that they would choose to join a business. This makes it an essential consideration in talent acquisition strategies.

Richard Jager, CEO Randstad Group Germany, says “while salary and benefits continues to be the most important factor for potential employees when seeking out a position, long-term job security, pleasant work atmosphere, and work-life balance are the next highest values, in that order, for potential talent. When we evaluated the top perceived core values of employers, however, they ranked highest on financial health, strong management, and good training. In fact, only one of the top core values for potential employees was in the top five values for employers.

Culture drives people to want to work at a company and keeps existing employees engaged. A study by Columbia University found that companies with “high culture” have just a 13.9 percent chance of staff turnover intention and a 66.3 percent chance of retaining their staff.

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) warns organizations against implementing “significant changes” without consulting on what workers really want. Giving employees a voice regarding their organization’s culture will benefit everyone involved, as insights will be gleaned that may not ordinarily be heard.

In 2018, HR departments will benefit from analyzing their company culture and making adjustments if the picture is not what they’d like to be seeing.

Greater consideration of employee wellbeing

With more companies adopting comprehensive health and wellbeing programs, this is a key area to pay attention to in the coming year. According to a report by Bersin by Deloitte, “the focus of these programs has shifted from reducing insurance costs to actually helping employees perform better, engage with their colleagues and contribute to a positive company culture”, showing that the benefits can be significant for businesses.

However, many health benefit programs can see costs for employers rise significantly. Keeping an eye on the cost-effectiveness of these schemes is a particular challenge for HR managers. Their value can’t be overstated, though, as candidates take these benefits into consideration when evaluating where to apply. They’re an equally important factor in talent retention.

Brandon Carter, engagement and loyalty marketer at employee discount network Access Perks, said HR departments will increasingly be focusing on finding ways to mitigate stress in the workplace as part of their “regular wellness programs”.

He told URL shortener Bitly that although personal and financial stress “has always creeped into the workplace”, companies are now beginning to help employees manage their stress levels. He said this is a way for employers to offer wellbeing schemes while not raising salaries and avoiding the cost of health benefits.

More consistent feedback

Feedback is a significant concern for candidates looking to join organizations, as it is the precursor to learning and development opportunities that people are increasingly considering essential in their careers. However, there is now less appetite for annual or quarterly appraisals, and more for continuous and consistent feedback.

Chief executive and founder of feedback management solution firm iRevu Michael Heller highlights this, saying: “Reviews aren’t dying, but they’re certainly changing. 43 percent of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least twice a week, but here’s the sticky twist; many employees report being uninterested in performance reviews. Ongoing corrective feedback is far more desirable and constructive than any form of feedback.”

Bersin by Deloitte refers to it as continuous performance management and has said “it can transform your company”. It allows workers to correct issues immediately and therefore boost performance levels.

Open feedback tools will likely see wider adoption this year, giving employees more opportunities to share their views on their workplace and what their colleagues are doing. It can lead to improved transparency and benchmarking.

In 2018, HR departments will find it necessary to build new, ongoing processes and procedures for feedback, mentoring and setting goals.