When it comes to the business of people, change is a given. This means HR professionals are constantly dealing with a whirlwind of change—especially when it comes to trends. The top human resource trends for 2015 not only reflect an evolving workforce makeup, but also a growing skills gap, a lack of leadership, a focus on culture and employee engagement, and how technology is changing just about every aspect of the workplace. Here, we’ll look at the top five HR trends of 2015.
- Leadership Development
Leadership development ranked among the top human resources trends this year. This is an ongoing trend, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report: it ranked as the top trend in 2014, and was in the top three in 2013 and 2012.
The report, which surveyed more than 3,300 organizations from 106 countries, found that 86% of respondents cited leadership as either “important” or “very important” when asked to identify the importance of the challenges facing them in the workplace. It also found that only 6% of people believe their leadership and leadership development programs are “very ready” to best serve their company.
This capability gap is seen and felt on all levels of companies, but is especially prominent when it comes to a business’s ability to develop Millennial leaders (see Trend #4).
The fix? Focusing on leadership at all levels and consistent year-over-year spending in leadership development. The need for good leaders isn’t going anywhere, and it’s an area that gets the unanimous nod from everyone asked if it needs improvement.
- Culture and Engagement
Culture and engagement displaced leadership as the most important issue in Deloitte’s report this year, with 87% of organizations citing culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50% calling the problem “very important.” Two-thirds of HR respondents reported that they are updating their engagement and retention strategies.
With increased transparency courtesy of the Internet and social media, businesses are more exposed than ever before. An organization’s culture—loosely defined by the report as “how things are done”—can be either a competitive advantage or a stumbling block to recruiting and keeping good workers. To be an advantage, companies need to focus on creating a culture defined by meaningful work, employee engagement, and strong leadership, attributes that are more likely to retain employees, outperform peers, and attract top talent. And considering that 86% of employees are currently looking for work outside their current positions, those attributes are more important than ever to an organization’s success.
- The Widening Skills Gap
The June 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that at the end of April 2015, there were 5.4 million job openings. Yet more than half of employers say that they can’t find qualified candidates. This issue will progress until the college curriculum aligns with the current job marketplace, says Schawbel, noting that only 2% of companies are recruiting liberal arts majors in 2015, but schools still offer the degrees. “Companies need to start working with colleges so that students get the necessary skills to fill the gap,” he writes.
The Deloitte report concurs about this trend’s importance: 80% of respondents listed workforce capability as an important issue. This demand to close the skills gap will “drive a trend toward greater use of hourly, contingent, and contract workers.” This can be seen in the rise of freelancing, which, thanks to the Internet, is a more obtainable career path than in years past. A recent study shows that 53 million Americans are now freelancers (34% of the American workforce) and 69% of them say that technology is making it easier to find freelance work.
This trend toward more temporary workers means HR managers need to be prepared with the right processes, policies, and tools in order to source, evaluate, and reward the influx of non-traditional talent within their organizations.
- More Millennials
This is the year when Millennials—defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person born in the 1980s or 1990s”—will displace Gen X employees to become the largest percentage of the workforce for the first time. More Millennials in the workplace means a different work culture that better reflects their “norm”—increased social media presence and different communication methods. It also means more Millennials are taking over leadership positions: a study commissioned by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding found that 27% of millennials are already in management positions.
Having leaders in their 20s and 30s isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But according to a piece written by career and workplace expert Dan Schawbel for Forbes.com, the big problem facing young managers is that they are unprepared for the positions. “They were never trained on how to be good managers and are being pushed into these roles out of necessity,” Schawbel writes. “Companies are losing older workers and positions are opening up fast.” And that’s where the Millennials step in—ready or not.
This trend aligns with the first one and emphasizes the importance of having a solid leadership development plan in place at every level. That way, if a younger employee finds himself or herself in a management position, they will have had the training necessary to lead and succeed.
Technology—specifically smartphones and the Internet—is changing the way people look for jobs and evaluate potential opportunities, and how companies recruit potential employees and connect with customers.
Mobile recruiting is an area that should not—and cannot—be ignored, as 83% of job seekers currently use smartphones to search for job openings and 45% of active candidates have applied to a job on their mobile device. To stay competitive in this mobile-oriented market, companies need to optimize their websites for smartphone compatibility in order to appeal to this new class of job seeker.
Another way to appeal to and attract talent is to use social media. This ties in with workplace culture and engagement, as tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram offer a behind-the-scenes look into life within a company. This is something more and more employees consider important in their decision-making process: 58% of people are more likely to want to work at a company if they are using social media; over 20% are more likely to stay at their companies if they are using social media.
From leadership development to creating a successful social-media strategy, the HR trends of 2015 are wide-ranging and anything but simple fixes. However, they are also nothing new—and they are certainly able to be addressed with the right skills.
Resources to start with include this step-by-step outline for developing a personal leadership plan and this list of common challenges HR managers know all too well—with tips for addressing each one included.