Key HR Trends Developing in 2017

What's new in HR?

The way organisations are required to handle HR is constantly changing, and those who don't stay ahead of the curve could potentially miss out on attracting new talent, and keeping valuable staff.

Some of the most recent important developments have been around the use of social media and big data, from the ubiquity of the LinkedIn profile, to recruitment software such as Entelo or TalentBin. These go beyond a person's CV or Twitter page to examining a potential employee's activity on industry-specific 2017 networks such as the finance community Proformative, or software development resource GitHub.

Similarly, the importance of apps like Glassdoor, where employees past, present and prospective can rate and review organisations for all to see cannot be underestimated.

But this social media and big data takeover of recruitment and HR is nothing new – the real question is, where do things go next?

Consumerisation of HR and the workplace

Again, this is nothing new. Many HR commentators suggested that the consumerisation of HR would be a big trend in 2016, and this is definitely the way certain parts of the working world has been going. However, what may be the case for hip marketing and tech firms can often take a while to reach other industries, but this approach is certainly set to become more of a trend in 2017.

What is it?

The customer is always right – but the algorithm that tracks their behaviour and recommends them their next purchase is even more right, and of course, the key to ensuring your customers keep coming back is to keep them happy. The consumerisation of HR sees companies adopt the sort of marketing principles that you would expect to see used to engage customers, and direct them internally towards their employees.

As a result, work becomes an experience, somewhere where employees want to be, and perhaps more importantly, somewhere they want to share on Instagram! Rewards for loyalty and completing certain behaviours are a big part of this. This is, in itself, a form of external marketing. Employees enjoy their workplace experiences, become advocates for the brand, and in turn show the company in a more positive light.

What will happen in 2017?

Job satisfaction reached a two-year low across the UK in 2016 with employers largely failing to engage staff. As mentioned, many of these trends were identified for 2016, including in Forbes, but they are yet to take hold.

In 2017, HR professionals and managers will need to focus more on creating positive environments for their employees. Whether this is achieved through a thriving social culture or employee benefits, it's important to know that the world is watching through social media.

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Dealing with automation

Machines are coming to steal our jobs – and your staff may well be worried about that. While this isn’t really the case, increased automation and its potential to lead to a Universal Basic Income, was a seriously big topic for discussion at the end of 2016, and is supported by tech pioneer and all-around future visionary Elon Musk.

What is it?

Automation will in the years to come transform more and more jobs, similar to what has already happened within a lot of manufacturing work. As machines are able to perform a wide range of tasks more efficiently, and without fatigue from repetitiveness, manual labour is required less and less. For example, the logistics industry could see drivers replaced by self-driving cars, sales and customer service staff could be replaced by automated lines with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence, or chatbots.

The argument for Universal Basic Income is that, with less people needing to work, the government should supply everyone with a set income – enough to live off, but not so much that it discourages people to seek work in other roles.

What will happen in 2017?

Well, probably not much – mass job losses caused by robot workers aren't predicted to happen any time soon. Research from the McKinsey Global Institute, looking at 2,000 work activities across 54 countries, found that the number of jobs that could be fully automated using "currently demonstrated technology" (tech that exists and is in use now or is on its way to becoming the norm within the next few years) stands at between 5% and 20%. This means that a relatively small number to a fifth of the world's workforce is at risk from automation. However, full automation for most roles is unlikely for a few more years, at least.

For HR professionals, the emphasis must be placed on ensuring employee concerns around automation are dealt with. Tech-based solutions may be exciting and revolutionary, but there may be a human cost to their implementation.

On the other side of the coin, new tech can streamline some aspects of a person's role, freeing them up to focus on others. Perhaps a greater emphasis on training for senior positions, personal development, or roles that contribute towards marketing the organisation through company and employee culture.

Dealing with Brexit

Talk about Brexit isn’t going to stop any time soon! It will continue to dominate much of the UK's political, personal and business landscape for the next few years.

What is it?

The UK's vote to withdraw from the European Union has been ratified by MPs, who voted to trigger Article 50 at the end of January. Although there are still a great deal of amendments, negotiation and change to come, it is unavoidable that the UK is leaving the EU.

This may mean changes to the prices of imports and exports, different rules on who is able to live and work in the UK, increased travel prices, and the tough decision for many industries to decide whether to remain in the UK or to relocate across the channel to continue enjoying access to Europe.

What will happen in 2017?

As is often the case with Brexit, we still don't know – so the focus for HR needs to be on supporting staff who are from other EU countries, and as such are currently completely in the dark about what their rights will be once Brexit is properly underway.

EU citizens have been advised to collect proof of living and working in the UK. Therefore, if you are an employer with a high proportion of EU staff, it is essential for morale that you do everything you can to help. Employees will likely be coming to their HR team with requests for documentation, such as P60s and employment contracts that prove they have been living and working in the UK. HR departments need to do what they can to help, to help maintain engagement and be sympathetic to those who may need time off to complete relevant applications.

Free ebook: The Essential Guide to Staff Health and Wellbeing  Every employer wants to take care of their staff - or, at least, they should!  Our ebook covers the basics, and a little bit more besides.