Given the low unemployment rate in the U.S., the generational shift as Gen Xers and millennials move into leadership roles and Generation Z’s entry into the workforce, the HR landscape is poised for a shift in 2019. 

It’s usually up to the HR team to identify what changes are coming and how to handle them, and traditional approaches may no longer work in today’s fast-moving digital economy.

To help your company stay ahead of the curve, here are some of the trends that promise to loom large in 2019 along with tips on how to integrate them into your HR practice. 

HR Trends for 2019

1. No more 9-to-5

Face time isn’t what it used to be. People across industries, age groups and professions are looking to rethink traditional office hours and engage in flexible working schedules that mesh more readily with their lifestyle. Millennials, currently the largest segment of the workforce, are especially enthusiastic about the concept of working remotely.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 44% of millennials and 50% of Gen Zers think flexibility in hours and location is very important. Another study reveals that 70% of office professionals around the world work remotely at least once a week. 

While this desire isn’t new, the growing acceptance of remote work is. Businesses and even corporate giants are likely to jump aboard the remote work train in meaningful numbers in 2019.

Embrace the trend: Consider the possibility of a flexible work policy by trying out collaboration platforms and web conferencing software, and let your team know that you’re open to ideas. Research shows that people who work remotely are just as productive, if not more so when working remotely, as long as you maintain effective communication and engagement. You never know. The employee who brings the most to the company’s table may be the one whose favorite corner office is in Starbuck’s.

2. AI and HR: A beautiful friendship

AI has been a hot topic for several years in the business world. What’s new, however, is its potential to disrupt HR — in a positive way. Most people think of HR as a face-to-face profession, but how much time do you really spend engaging employees in person vs. over the phone or email? Would your time be better spent developing wellness programs, or building more meaningful relationships with your managers and company employees? AI can give HR professionals that freedom.

Here are a few more ways in which AI can impact and improve HR:

  • User interaction: Smart technology such as chatbots can offer answers to employees’ FAQs.
  • Talent acquisition: AI can mine data to make educated, unbiased decisions about which candidates are the best fit in terms of skills, experience and compatibility.
  • Personalization: Using data to personalize the employee experience from the outset can help promote engagement, productivity and positivity at work. One size doesn’t fit all, and AI gets that.
  • Tracking patterns: Thanks to AI technology, you can look at the big picture, both over time and in real-time, and address issues like employee engagement, turnover, absenteeism and more.

Embrace the trend: First, consider which of your vendors might be experimenting in this space to provide personalized education and engagement opportunities with your employees. You may be able to expand your relationship with existing partners instead of bringing on an entirely new HR offering. If your research comes up flat, consider working with procurement to create an RFP or source budget-appropriate vendors in the space for a pilot program or long-term relationship.

 3. Recruiting & retention

Recruiting talent has become more of a challenge in the current job market, which is, by some estimates, 90% candidate-driven. Attracting future employees in a competitive market takes significant resources and focus — you might even have a team or colleague whose sole job is to source and vet outside candidates.

In 2019, recruiting and promoting internally for open positions is likely to be a greater focus. And what’s the best way to bring out the talent you already have within your organization? Keeping them interested, challenged and happy. That’s where a focus on retention comes into play.

Embrace the trend: To make promoting employees from within standard practice, it’s important to invest in their learning and development over the long-term and ensure a safe, diverse and inclusive workplace. Consider which offerings and benefits regularly receive high praise and those that offer employees not just what they want but also what they need, including financial wellness programs like Gradifi Refi and Student Loan PayDown, which offer solutions for paying off student loan debt, financial fitness counseling and retirement planning advice.

4. A people-oriented approach to onboarding

Onboarding should be more than a presentation of the company handbook. Building a positive connection with new hires is essential, given that nearly 30% of employees leave their new job within 90 days. In fact, more businesses are taking a friendlier approach to onboarding these days, working with new employees over weeks and months to integrate them into the company culture, processes and expectations.

Studies show that an effective onboarding program decreases employee turnover and increases employee engagement. And according to a report by the Aberdeen Group, an engaged employee is 87% less likely to head for the exit in the first year. Moreover, in a survey of HR professionals, 53% said that an improved onboarding program boosts employee engagement. How can your onboarding process be tweaked to be more personalized, enjoyable and simply communicative, overall?

Embrace the trend: Review your onboarding process under a microscope, making notes of elements or presentations that must stay, might stay or must go. With that understanding in mind, leave the must go sections on the cutting room floor, convert the might stays into musts, repeat the above and craft a new onboarding program with the following details in mind:

  • Focus on purpose. What do you want new employees to experience? What are your expectations? What can you do to help achieve the results you want?
  • Create connections. People like to feel connected — at home, with their friends, at work. One of the main reasons that people quit their jobs is a failure to reach an understanding with their boss or manager. An HR professional can help new employees make those connections, while also introducing them to a new environment.
  • Promote mentorship. New employees can learn a lot from company veterans. Pairing up with a more experienced employee helps the newbies adjust more quickly and gives them someone to go to for advice.
  • Explain how things work. Key to the onboarding process is ensuring that new hires understand the company’s values and processes, including performance reviews, goals and feedback.

5. Diversity & inclusion

How your company approaches diversity & inclusion determines who wants to work with and for you. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every business is different, so launching a diversity & inclusion program without tailoring it to your company’s specific needs is like shouting into the wind — a lot of effort with little result.

That said, this year more than ever, a growing multi-generational workforce is increasingly insisting that companies improve their diversity & inclusion programs. This is especially true of younger workers, for whom diversity & inclusion is a top priority. What’s more, companies with diverse management teams generate 19% more in revenue due to innovation. 

Embrace the trend: Review your existing diversity & inclusion efforts and measure them up to best practices. Ask yourself: Where are the gaps and opportunities? How should you take action? How do you factor for and against related issues like pay transparency and the gender pay gap?

6. Gamification

Some employers may turn their noses up at gamification, but fun and games can be serious work, especially when they encourage employees to engage and connect with each other and the company. An intentional (i.e. not superficial) 2019 HR gamification strategy that includes play, learning and rewards can boost your HR efforts across the board.

Some of the upsides of gamification:

Embrace the trend: Have a company outing coming up? Look into scheduling it at a venue with popular activities for those who are interested. Coming up with your latest and greatest incentive program? Consider integrating a game-related aspect to introduce some friendly competition. Revamping a learning and development program? Research live Q&A websites that bring a little surprise-and-delight into your “test what you learned” section.

Leading the way

HR is undergoing a broad transformation as the definition of workplace wellness expands. HR professionals can play a key role in anticipating those changes and embrace them as opportunities that lead to an engaged, productive workforce and a healthy bottom line.

With these six trends (and more) on the horizon for 2019, it’s prime time to assess what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and how you can stand to improve both.