what are the biggest HR challenges to watch in 2019?

It’s an annual tradition at Randstad to take a look at some of the biggest HR trends and challenges that human resources teams will face over the coming year. In 2018, we pinpointed digitization, a multi-generational workforce and employee wellness as some of the biggest trends. While all those issues continue to be relevant in 2019, there are some new issues taking centre stage. The focus on social issues, in particular, has reached a crescendo. From diversity and inclusion, to new laws and regulations to consider, to stronger corporate focus on issues like wage inequality and the environment, work has never been so closely intertwined with our personal values. We expect that the coming year will see companies and HR departments focused on shaping their social responsibility policies and positioning who they are as an employer.

hr trends hr challenges in 2019

updating corporate policies for a changing world

Just a handful of years ago #MeToo wasn’t a global phenomenon. Cannabis wasn’t even close to becoming legal. Immigration wasn’t such a fraught topic. Artificial intelligence was more sci-fi than a realistic consideration. Our world has changed a lot in a very short time. HR departments must navigate all these changes from a corporate perspective. Organizational interests need to be protected, but so do the health, safety and best interests of employees. HR must be the standard bearers and ensure that corporate policies are reflective of our modern reality.

What’s acceptable at work and what isn’t in 2019? In many ways, it’s up to HR to set and reinforce the guidelines that define company culture. Do you promote a gender-balanced culture where both men and women feel safe and respected? What’s your policy on consuming cannabis? What constitutes appropriate use of smartphones and social media in the workplace? Are your hiring practices fair and unbiased? Do they lead to hires that accurately reflect all of Canada’s diverse residents? These are some of the questions that HR departments need to be asking and planning for in 2019.

It’s not enough to deal with sensitive situations as they come down the pipeline. Policies and guidelines need to be in place to ensure consistency and objectiveness. In many cases, outdated corporate policies need to be updated and modernized to reflect our current reality. It’s not good enough to say ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ and turn a blind eye to how much the world has changed. In 2019, HR will need to take a hard look at how their policies are serving them and their employees, and be open to making changes that better serve both employees and companies.

diversity and inclusion take centre stage

Diversity in all its forms has jumped to the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. From racial and cultural diversity, to gender equality, to LGBTQ representation, to accessibility for people with disabilities, the last few years have shone a spotlight on how far we have to go to achieve inclusivity and diversity that’s reflective of our complex society. From the depressingly low number of women in leadership roles, to the sexist culture propagated by some tech startups, to the lack of visible minorities and LGBTQ represented in popular media, more than a few high-profile examples of what not to do have emerged.

Many of the conversations about diversity focus on representation in popular culture, but representation is needed in workplaces, too. There are many ways HR can take action to build inclusive policies that promote diversity: eliminate hiring biases that put someone out of the running for a job based on their race, gender, physical capabilities, accent, or other superficial traits; encourage more women and visible minorities to get into traditionally white, male-dominated industries; or make it easier for underrepresented groups develop the skills they need to advance into executive and leadership roles, to name a few.

Though awareness about the need for diversity is at an all-time high, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to taking measurable action. As gatekeepers who frequently oversee hiring decisions and shape corporate social responsibility policies, HR departments must be at the forefront of these conversations and the fight for more inclusive workplaces and hiring practices, even when it means asking tough questions and challenging the status quo.

expansion of corporate wellness programs

Corporate health and wellness has become huge business over the last decade or so, and it’s only growing. Though corporate wellness programs got their start as a cost-saving measure to reduce corporate insurance premiums, the sector has taken on a life of its own. Today, corporate wellness programs have evolved to be less about cost-saving and more about helping employees live healthier, more productive lives. That positivity feeds into happy, healthy workplaces and loyal employees.

There’s no shortage of creative ways to implement health and wellness policies. Stock the break room with healthy snacks for employees to munch on. Provide active work options such as standing desks and exercise balls in place of chairs. Allow employees to take advantage of flexible work hours and catch a yoga class during their lunch hour. Also, don’t forget about mental health! Provide counseling and support for employees who are going through tough times. Provide an open and honest forum for employees to discuss issues that plague many working people like stress, burnout, and depression.

Health and wellness initiatives have become a key benefit in today’s competitive market for talent. Rest assured that if you’re not on the bandwagon, employees will have no problem finding someone who is. When your employees feel that you care about their health and wellbeing, they return that loyalty and dedication in spades. Ignore employee health, and you risk burnt out employees who are just going through the motions and desperate for a respite from the stress and pressure, which leads them to look elsewhere for a healthier work situation.

desire for trust and authenticity in employer branding

Trust in corporations is eroding. The ubiquity of internet and social media has saturated our lives with marketing images and PR pushed by companies. We’ve grown cynical to brand messages. With distrust and disengagement at an all-time high, authenticity has become an important way to make brand messages stand out, particularly when it comes to attracting talent. For employer branding messages to resonate they need to feel true and align with your values.

People no longer want to work for a slick corporate brand that was cooked up in a board room with the sole purpose of appealing to the widest possible audience. They want a real representation of who you are and what you stand for. They want to work for a company that stands for something that they can relate to and get behind. That’s particularly true for Canada’s youngest working generations: Millennials and Generation Z, who are far more likely than their parents to prioritize working for a company that aligns with their values.

Cold, corporate brands without an ounce of personality are being shunned in favour of companies that have something to say on social issues. Perhaps it’s the environment. Maybe it’s early education. Or maybe it’s poverty, diversity, or health. Whatever mantle you take up, it’s important to choose issues that have a real connection to your business. Talking the talk isn’t enough; you need to walk the walk, too. That means dedicating employee time, advertising dollars, or actively raising awareness. Being active and having a real connection to the cause is essential.

growing reliance on digital technology

Human resources often gets a bad rep for being resistant to change, and being attached to the traditional ways of doing things. However, the non-digital route is no longer an option. HR professionals must be adept at working with digital tools to survive in the field. From applicant tracking systems, to learning management systems to talent management systems, HR tech is the future of the industry. As HR processes migrate online and companies take advantage of the efficiency offered by tech like AI and machine learning, HR professionals will need to stay one step ahead to remain in-demand.

Many other HR processes are being digitized to streamline them and free up HR’s time for value-added tasks. From tools that automate scheduling and conducting interviews, to tech that performs background and reference checks without human interaction, many HR tasks are being automated by artificial intelligence. And with AI only getting smarter and more reliable, expect to see more repetitive, manual tasks replaced with technology in the future. These changes can be positive in that they ensure consistency, eliminate bias, and provide a faster turnaround, ultimately improving the candidate experience. In the coming year, one of the biggest challenges HR professionals will face is ensuring they have the right tools and HR tech in place to remain competitive. Training and processes will also need to be adapted to account for technology.

addressing the changing structure of work

The standard 9 to 5 workday is slowly but surely eroding. As the capabilities of digital technology expand, flexible work situations have become more mainstream than ever. Collaborative tools and the constant connectedness of email, document storage and video conferencing make it possible to get work done from anywhere at any time. It’s possible to work from just about anywhere in the world with a decent internet connection.

From coworking spaces, to remote working, to allowing employees the flexibility to set their own schedules, it’s never been more socially acceptable to reject the status quo of a 9 to 5. It’s not just trendy startups that are embracing this trend, either. Companies of all sizes and in all industries are finding that flexible work options are one of the most attractive benefits they can offer to lure in top talent who have their pick of employers. This perk is especially coveted by Millennials and Gen Zers, who increasingly value freedom and work-life balance over traditional perks such as an important-sounding title or a raise.

Flexibility affords better work-life balance, and that’s a perk that appeals to everyone. A parent with young kids can work around their kids’ school schedule. A homeowner who needs to be around to have a pipe repaired can work from home that day. A young professional focused on their health can take an hour in the afternoon to attend a kickboxing class. That’s the great thing about flexible working solutions: they adapt to the needs of each individual employee, so they’re always relevant. As more and more companies realize that employees want flexibility built into their schedules, it’s becoming a standard rather than the exception. Companies and HR professionals need to be able to address their flexible work policies.

 

There you have our 6 biggest trends for HR to watch out for in 2019! Do you agree with our assessment? What issues are you most focused on as an HR professional? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for more insights on where HR is headed in 2019 and how you can tackle some of the issues above? Check out our workplace insights blog!

about the author

Kristen Smalley - Content Manager

As someone who firmly believes that variety is the spice of life, content marketing has been a natural career path for me. Every day brings a chance to think creatively and learn about exciting new topics. Whether it's tackling content on employment trends, how to handle tough interview questions, or keeping safe in the workplace, there are always interesting topics waiting to be explored in the world of work!

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