HR Trends and Themes for 2018 – 2020

2018 – 2020 appears to be a revolutionary year for Human Resources Management in North America; as a result of new developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), HR transformation, harassment, diversity and generation integration, Working Virtual, Smart Office, end-result assessments, payroll and People Analytics.

Most of these developments are not new; they are simply the reincarnation of old buzzwords, concepts and discoveries.

For example, John McCarthy’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) concept was first brought to the forefront by I.J. Well in 1959, when he said “in 20 years (or in 1979) people won’t have much to do” when AI is fully embedded in the workplace. Good’s prediction had taken more than 60 years for scientists and programmers to move the needle further to use a few of the benefits of AI.

Another example of a buzzword that has recently gained currency in HR is “Transformation”. Today, most initiatives and change initiatives are labeled “HR Transformation” when they are improvements in HR processes using change management techniques.

Below are some of the leading HR trends and themes that will get the attention of human resources management professionals as we close another decade.

  • HR transformation and the future of work (Robotics, AI & Blockchain technology)

Human HR professionals continue to initiate organizational changes and projects to improve productivity. However, they will have to go beyond these projects to embark on enterprise-driven human resource transformations that involve redefining work processes to achieve future visions and strategy for their organizations.

Robots that specialize in repetitive work will eventually take over the work of some employees in the workplace, especially in the manufacturing and adjusted industries.

AI (artificial intelligence) applications will affect a significant number of jobs in all sectors of the Canadian economy. A recent report on the future of work (McKinsey, 2017) suggests that as many as 375 million workers around the world may need to shift occupational categories and learn new skills. The report also highlighted about 60% of jobs, and at least a third of work can be automated using AI. Professional human resources in recruiting (e.g., through re-hiring of the human recruiter), talent search, HR assistants and advisors are some of the jobs that will be immediately affected by AI.

The good news is that AI’s applications will lead Human Management to its golden age of being a true partner in organizational strategic decision making. According to a recently published paper: A New Age of Opportunities What does artificial intelligence mean for HR professionals, of the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario (HRPA, 2017), AI has already had a significant impact on HR in Ontario, Canada. The HRPA paper is based on a 500-member response to their survey of a possible 23,000 registered members, or 2.2 percent, who could speak for a select group of HR professionals in the country. However, the highlights of the stated report will be AI facilitating HR services by:

  • Reduction of administrative workload,

  • Introduction to recruitment efficiency,

  • Restricting certain prejudices, especially when recruiting, and

  • Improving employee retention and internal career mobility

HRPA and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) report “Artificial intelligence in HR: a no-brainer“was also published in 2017, which reported that AI in HR would immediately create the following efficiencies:

  • Remove repetitive task (administrative workload)

  • Speed ​​up the search for talent (recruitment efficiency)

  • Reduce employee decline (and retention) and

  • Improve employee engagement (including internal career mobility)

Finally, the use of blockchain technologies will facilitate employment references and provide access to past payroll records for recruitment and hiring.

  • Harassment at work

2017 ended with numerous stories of sexual discrimination and harassment in the media and damage to some companies ’reputations, putting some employers on notice for significant litigation. These accusations led to the resignation or termination of many male leaders, celebrities and politicians. Organizations should now take proactive steps to reduce harassment complaints through the adoption of zero-tolerance harassment policies, education and cultural change initiatives. Harassment at work can be a sub-topic of an HR forum or conference.

  • Diversity and generation of integration (workplace fit)

Diversity and generation integration will dominate the human resources professionals agenda over the next few years as organizations grow into global entities and welcome new generations of employees in the workplace. This year, the first group of generation of college-educated Z universities will join the workforce in North America, creating a diverse carpet of workforce employees. Managing a mixed generation of generating X and millennials as boomers and traditionalists migrate to project and consulting contractor roles will lead to the demand for new soft skills. Other skills that will be brought to the workplace include cell phone texting, forming online communities, on-demand mobile learning and managing online behaviors outside of the workplace.

  • Flex Time, Remote and Freelance work

Most of the surveys conducted in 2017 suggest that most workers and job seekers are looking for remote work. The concepts of “smart office”, “free address”, virtual work and work from home are some of the features of the concert economy. Survey reports from 2017 from Workplace Analytics, Gallup et al. also found that telecommunications and work from home are on the rise. To reduce employee turnover, it is sometimes recommended that companies invest in hybrid shelf-live spaces (live work).

Some of the employee surveys conducted in 2017 indicate that freelancers are proactively building job-relevant qualification sets than their counterparts employed by companies. As many as 65% of independent workers claimed that they study to stay on top of career development as jobs and skills develop, as opposed to 45% of non-freelance workers.

  • Productivity and performance management

In recent years, the focus has shifted again to increase productivity as new people are hired following the recent recession in 2008 in North America. Changes in performance management, assessment of competencies and objectives had led to new methods for measuring productivity.

Employers are currently developing new techniques to measure employee productivity and coaching to improve future performance.

Issues of concern to most employers in Canada that could impact productivity include legalizing marijuana, increasing recreational drug use, and substance abuse.

  • Pay equity, reasonable compensation and benefits

Although transparency is a core value for many businesses, provincial governments in Canada are actively working for jobs that favor some male employees rather than female employees in pay. New employment laws currently pertain to differences in pay and benefits between permanent and agency employees in Ontario. In 2018, managing organizations will spend a portion of their time ensuring that their businesses are compliant with paying equity and other employment laws.

Suggested conference themes for HR

  • The future of HR is now

  • HR Transformations – The best fit for your organization

  • Inventing human resources: A guide to meeting current and future challenges to success

  • Performance breakthrough: How to reform evaluation of goals and objectives for employee success

  • People Analytics: Data Moves Beyond HR (Predictive Analysis)