As the Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, I get to talk to a lot of smart HR people about their challenges and their successes. The successes I hear about are generally born from the necessity of resolving tough challenges. Irrespective of industry, world region, or company size, most HR professionals are torn between the often-competing priorities of supporting individual employees while respecting the overall objectives of the organization.  And the main thread that runs through these success stories is that great business strategies only work when they are based on clear eyed, data-based problem statements.

A former boss of mine used to say that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I don’t think she originated that expression, but it has always stuck with me. If you are trying to resolve issues based solely on how people feel about problems or proposed solutions, you’re bound to fail. This can be particularly tricky with HR challenges. People issues inevitably are accompanied by strong emotions. Employees’ lives outside of work are filled with responsibilities and stressors – partners, children, elder care, volunteer work, illness, second (or third) jobs, etc. What appear to be minor changes in the workplace can upset the delicate balance that employees are managing between your workplace and the rest of their lives.

How you manage necessary changes in HR practices makes all the difference in whether those changes will be successful. What changes are you likely to need to make this year? At the Workforce Institute, we believe there are six major trends that organizations of all sizes need to prepare for in 2019.

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more mainstream. Don’t expect robots to replace your employees any time soon, but there are many use cases for AI that can help smaller organizations achieve efficiency and operational effectiveness. Using things like predictive analytics and assisted decision-making capabilities, available in most HCM solutions, ensure HR at your company as well as managers are spending time on things that retain key talent instead of spending their time buried in approval requests, etc.  
  2. Tight labor markets make great frontline managers more important than ever. Our CEO says that people join companies, but leave managers. If your managers aren’t helping your employees develop and move up in their careers, they’ll be moving on to greener pastures before you know it. Companies of all sizes need to be thinking of their employee experience as a key differentiator and a way to attract the talent you need to remain competitive.
  3. People will increasingly pursue alternative paths to employment this year. As more people question whether the value of a college degree justifies huge student debt, more people will pursue alternative paths to employment and employers will need to revamp their job requirements accordingly.Do your candidates really need degrees for all the job postings you have that currently require them? Are you considering alternative candidates and new ways of evaluating job fit?
  4. Compliance with federal, state and local legislation is more challenging than ever. From the ACA to minimum wage changes, there has never been a more complex environment when it comes to managing compliance with labor and employment laws. Research we published in 2018 indicated that more than half of human resources and payroll professionals (55 percent) have witnessed compliance activities by their colleagues that created unnecessary risk. If you’re not sure of what the most current labor laws are in your locations, you may want to check out what resource your HCM vendor makes available to you, so you can stay on top of the right updates to keep your company compliant.  
  5. Employees expect more flexibility from their employers when it comes to where and when they work and better self-service technology to support that flexibility.  We know it can be difficult to balance all your employees’ schedule preferences against the needs of your organization, but the more effective you are at doing so, the more loyal those employees are going to be. In research we published in 2018, 9 out of ten employees globally felt their employers could do a better job with scheduling.  
  6. Disaster preparedness will become a bigger part of your HR strategy. You don’t have to be a climatologist to see that extreme weather is having a bigger impact on business operations. You need to have a plan to deal with them. Here are 7 tips for managing your people and your business through extreme weather.

As you prepare for 2019, consider these predictions and the potential implications to your business if you don’t start talking about them now with your leadership, your managers and your employees.

This article was originally published on the What Works blog at Kronos.

Today's post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

Yesterday we hosted a fast and furious tweetchat to expand upon the predictions for 2019 workplace trends that we issued earlier in January. We were joined by several of our board members, as well as visitors.

We posed the following questions for conversation and debate. Read on following the questions to see a full transcript of the chat. You can also review the chat by searching twitter for #KronosChat.

Q1: #AI & #machinelearning can provide previously-hidden workforce insights to guide people-centric decisions. How can/will predictive analytics be used to support leaders and employees? 

Q2: What previously-hidden workforce data do you expect will be more frequently used with HR/workforce management solutions that include #AI and #machinelearning?

Q3: With historically tight labor markets, organizations will place an increased focus on leadership development as a retention strategy. How can they efficiently hire, train and measure their managers?

Q4: The changing face of education challenges traditional hiring practices. Jobs that once required a degree are being redefined as skilled trades. What can HR departments do to revamp their hiring profiles and tap into this new pool of candidates?

Q5: Governments around the world will continue localizing – and repealing – employment laws. Ever-changing regulations around the world will put increased strain on organizations to avoid sanctions, fines, lawsuits, etc. How can technology play a vital role to avoid such outcomes?

Q6: All employees – salaried, hourly, and gig – crave control over when, where and how they work. What must organizations do to give employees these options?

Q7: With the rise of “working your way” and AI freeing up managers’ time, how can managers and employees build trust (with and without face to face communication)?

Q8: Disasters large and small, natural and man-made, have unfortunately become the norm. What should organizations do to prepare themselves and their workers to effectively respond to disasters?

Q9: If you have a prediction for 2019 we didn’t cover, what would it be?

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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