Published: Jan 09, 2019

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 that reveal the key HR trends that will be important for future decisions.

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 HR trends that organizations of all sizes need to prepare for in 2019.

Man with ipad HR trends concept

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. And that's just the scheduling part of the conversation. The HR trends we've been tracking also indicate that the ability to access employment information and handle HR processes anytime, anywhere on any device is key in building a modern and competitive employee experience.

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 HR 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.