Today’s workforce is more diverse, dynamic and fluid than ever before. Baby Boomers—the youngest of whom have been eligible for AARP membership for five years–occupy the majority of C-level positions, but as more Gen Xers turn 50 and more Millennials approach 40, they’ve ascended into leadership positions. Add to this, the first wave of Gen Z college graduates entering the job market and the many members of the Silent Generation (born before World War II) who haven’t retired yet, and we’re looking at up to five generations of employees in the same corporate environment.
Looking forward to 2020 we will see a major shift in how HR policies reflect their changing workforce with the unique skills and disparate requirements they each bring to the table.
Here are my top four trends for HR teams and leaders in 2020:
Soft Skills Will Be Emphasized Over Digital Ones
Research indicates that the biggest skill gaps in an increasingly automated business environment are behavioral and not technical. Years of telling workers to improve their digital skills have created a vacuum of empathetic managers and caring colleagues. More than 45% of chief HR officers say college graduates entering the workforce already have the digital skills they need. And over the next year and beyond, companies will be looking to address the growing gaps in “soft skills” such as influencing, negotiating and creative problem-solving that are essential when fostering greater collaboration between teams.
Training for managers will begin to focus not on what they do, but how they do it. Are they cultivating a culture that helps employees feel supported in their work and invested in its outcomes? Do they regularly communicate with their staff about their expectations and provide actionable feedback on performance? It’s managers’ acquisition of these skills, and their subsequent ability to look frequently (and holistically) at employee performance, that will make them truly effective leaders…and help them to develop the next generation of corporate leadership.
Employees Will Take Ownership of Their Performance Management Process
When it comes to developing their skills and careers, today’s employees expect and demand more from their employers than ever before. Feedback once a year simply isn’t enough for younger workers who will increasingly push for more frequent and more comprehensive feedback on their performance because they view their employment as an investment in their own future—and you should see it the same way.
Engaged employees are high-performing employees, so HR will need to help companies create a culture of corporate performance that motivates employees to take ownership of their work and meet clear, mutually agreed-upon goals that can be reviewed and measured regularly. And rather than the usual top-down approach, HR will also have to help companies learn to be receptive to feedback from their employees, who may have strong thoughts on why their goals are (or are not) being met. Recruiting, hiring, and training staff is costly and time-consuming, so making future-focused changes like these in your performance management approach can significantly impact whether and how long employees stay at an organization.
HR Will Catch Up to the Most Diverse Workforce in History
Diversity drives innovation, and next year’s workforce will be very diverse indeed. As I mentioned above, this means five generations of adults may work in the same company, and HR policies and practices will have to adapt to fit all of their unique communication styles and approaches to their work.
Diversity of age is an asset to an organization, not a hindrance. While many companies are vying to capture younger customers and employees, there’s a lot to be said for bringing older employees on board. But age isn’t the only element of diversity that HR will need to embrace in 2020. We’re also looking at an increasingly racially diverse workforce, one with more visibility for LGBTQ people, and in which college-educated women will continue to enter the workforce in larger numbers than their male peers.
I see the thing that will require the biggest shift in corporate culture and HR policy is a diversity of location and schedule. In 2020, you’ll see more and more workers who wish to have the option to work remotely or on a flexible schedule at least part-time. This is something that’s good overall for employee morale and productivity, but challenging in more established corporate environments.
Job Growth Will Slow, but Don’t Panic
The US job growth rate began to slow in 2019 and I predict this slow-down will continue. Though this sounds scary, there is an opportunity here for employers: fewer open jobs mean your employees are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Employers should take advantage of this opportunity to develop the skills and talents of their workforce, ensuring lasting competitive advantage in a crowded and competitive market.