2019 Predictions from the Workforce Institute

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

Every year at this time, we ask our board members around the world what they think will be the most important workplace trends in the coming year. Although we usually have tried to limit ourselves to 5 top trends, this year we found 6 recurring themes among the prognostications of this insightful group.

Following are our 6 predictions for 2019. Do you agree? What did we miss?You can let us know by participating in our Predictions Tweet Chat on January 15, 2019 at 12 p.m. ET. Follow #KronosChat for details.

  1. AI and machine learning unmask previously-hidden workforce data to make people-centric decisions. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will finally be woven into workforce management practices, revealing a treasure trove of data organizations have been collecting – but not using – for decades. With insight into their workforce data trends – like scheduling accuracy, absenteeism, overtime usage, and burnout – managers will be able to head-off potential issues before they arise. Intelligent automation will also free them from admin-heavy tasks – like managing schedules, approving time-off requests, and shift changes – while enabling data-driven decision-making that. Our board encourages caution here, though, warning that organizations must avoid a “one-size-fits-all” model.
  2. Historically tight labor markets and emerging technologies put people managers in the spotlight. With unemployment low and the exodus of baby boomers reaching critical mass, employers globally will face a historically tight labor market. Sourcing great candidates has never been more difficult, and retention will become an all-out dogfight. While an employer’s brand, innovative hiring technologies, and proactive recruiting practices are more important than ever, it’s organizations with the best people managers that will ultimately prevail. Organizations will place an increased focus on leadership development as a retention strategy – especially as Millennials assume middle management positions – and measuring manager effectiveness will be HR’s top challenge in 2019. If we’re right about prediction 1 above, then as AI and machine learning take over mundane managerial tasks, deficits in leadership competencies will be more readily exposed if managers aren’t using that extra time to support and develop workers.
  3. The changing face of education redefines trades and challenges traditional hiring practices. As the student loan debt crisis furthers the debate about the value of a college education and credentialing programs for job-specific skills emerge, tomorrow’s best employees may take an unconventional path to employment. Competencies that once required a degree – such as coding, robotics, and data analytics – are being redefined as skilled trades with the rise of certificate and micro-credential programs. As yesterday’s jobs become augmented by automation, new skills will be required for traditionally “blue-collar” roles. Employers need to revamp their hiring profiles and recruiting practices to tap into this new pool of qualified candidates who will staff the shop floor, store floor, hospital floor, and top floor of the future. Millennial parents, may urge their school-aged children to take an alternative educational path for a brighter financial future.
  4. Further fracturing of employment laws globally, nationally, and at the local level strain organizations. From minimum wage to sick pay, to fair scheduling proposals to the right to disconnect, governments around the world will continue to evolve employment laws. Ever-changing regulations around the world will put increased strain on organizations to avoid sanctions, fines, class action lawsuits, and reputation-damaging headlines. Technology will be vital for organizations to manage scheduling-related mandates, ensure unbiased practices, monitor fatigue and overtime management, and ensure employees are paid accurately and fairly – all while providing analytical insights that surface risky managerial practices otherwise buried in a sea of employment data.
  5. Employee-agnostic flexibility, consumer-grade tech, and the rise of the occasional time worker redefine “work your way.” All employees – salaried, hourly, and gig – crave control over when, where, and how they work. While employers have put more focus on flexibility and alternative work schedules, most have been slow to reengineer processes that underpin how the organization runs. Tools must meet employees where they naturally work – such as on their mobile phone, tablet, or favorite social networking platforms. The gig economy and emergence of the “occasional-time worker” will force organizations to replace traditional hiring and scheduling processes with systems that enable workers to choose when, where, and how long they work. Mobile-friendly processes, self-service features, and immediate access to real-time data in a consumer-grade technology wrapper will help drive the next iteration of the flexibility phenomenon, as predictability of anytime work will empower employees to be more productive, make more intelligent decisions, and be more engaged.
  6. Greater emphasis on disaster preparedness as part of a holistic human capital management strategy. Disasters large and small, natural and man-made, have unfortunately become the norm. Organizations worldwide have been challenged to respond effectively to increasingly frequent crises, with HR, operations, and payroll forced to take center stage in the lives of affected employees. With more emphasis on company culture, caring, and “doing what’s right” in a world where disasters – and a company’s response to them – are frequently in the news, there is a new level of expectation for an organization’s response, responsibility, and employee benefits. Organizations of all sizes must take a hard look at disaster policies, processes, and capabilities – including both taking care of employees in the moment and rebuilding in the wake of disaster, which will be near impossible for those operating on a DIY workforce management, HR, and payroll system. Sustainability plans that today primarily account for company assets and data will need to incorporate employees and their families.

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