7 HR Trends to Look for in 2020

By Betterworks
February 5, 2020
6 minute read

Today’s HR leadership is different from what it was just a decade ago, and that’s a good thing. A tight labor market and an ever-increasing focus on culture and employee engagement mean Human Resources departments must now be agile, accurate, and efficient. If they’re not, they risk losing the constant battle for talent that drives innovation and market share.

This dynamic environment is exactly what compels modern HR leaders to embrace trends – both technology-based and conceptual – that other business functions have already implemented into their operations. Given our forward-looking place in the industry, we’ve identified seven such HR trends to look for in 2020.

Collectively, these trends speak to the HR function’s evolving relationship with new technologies and ideas, as well as how they can impact employees and the business. For organizations that choose to embrace them, these tools can help them both identify and retain the human capital that’s the lifeblood of any organization.

Increased AI Integration

Artificial intelligence has long been a trendy term in organizations – HR included – that promised to reinvent nearly every facet of operations. And while AI and its many subsets have certainly been instrumental in streamlining everything from logistics to marketing, it’s only in recent years that it’s started to gain a solid footing in HR. In 2020, we expect AI to seep into more areas of HR through a variety of different applications.

Bots, for example, can handle most of the standard questions from employees that have traditionally consumed much of an HR department’s time and resources. These AI-driven bots can tell an employee how much PTO time they have left, explain the 401(K) vesting rules, or provide virtually any information regarding their employment.

Open Enrollment

Recruiting is another key area where AI will make significant inroads in 2020. HR can now streamline the once time-consuming task of sorting through stacks of resumes, both hard copies and digital, to significantly decrease the time involved, all while zooming in on greater detail. HR technology can now automate these processes and, just as importantly, use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to identify personality traits that would otherwise stay hidden within a resume. As more organizations adopt such technologies, they’ll be able to identify talent that fits well within their existing culture, thus, combatting forces that contribute to attrition and lower engagement levels.

Similarly, NLP and machine learning also play a critical role in employee feedback and engagement strategies. These technologies can transform the unstructured portion of engagement survey data into quantitative information that HR and leadership can then analyze and interpret. This is an especially powerful tool for larger companies, where converting qualitative data into actionable insights has been extremely challenging, if even possible. Like our other examples, AI streamlines this process for HR with scalable tools that enhance their people analytics and free valuable time.

HR in the Flow of Work

Between email, SMS, Slack, mobile apps, and other channels, the modern employee doesn’t lack for ways to communicate and learn. Thankfully, these different tools allow HR to meet the expectations of younger generations of employees, where millenials and Gen Z already consume information in a variety of ways and through numerous tools.

Flow of Work

HR needs to ensure that it communicates with these critical employee segments through their preferred channels and flow of work, whether that’s email, mobile app, Slack, or anything else. Doing so benefits both the employees and employer, fitting within an individual’s preferences while also enhancing communication across the organization.

For instance, when a company wants to make an announcement, distribute a survey, or conduct training, it can use mobile-enabled technology for deskless workers that don’t have easy access to a workstation, and email for employees sitting at a computer most of the day. Further, many HR-centric processes become far more convenient and efficient when employees can quickly and conveniently access information and participate in training, year-end surveys, and meetings. Things like requesting PTO, responding to interview requests, and countless other small but essential tasks are much faster and easier when using an employee’s preferred flow of work.

Data Analytics Guiding Decision-Making

HR might have been slow to join the big data party but, as the saying goes, better late than never. Data analytics now drive how organizations make their decisions in everything from finance and marketing to recruiting and employee engagement strategies. From an HR perspective, data analytics can streamline something like recruiting efforts by quickly absorbing vast amounts of data, sifting through that information, and identifying ideal candidates to target.

For employee engagement, analytic tools let HR automate the sorting and analyzing of people data that used to be extremely cumbersome and consuming. With these tools, HR and management can collect the feedback they need to reveal critical employee insights without weighing down an already busy HR department. By coupling an employee feedback platform with people-based data analytics, HR can look for the underlying forces driving absenteeism, turnover, stagnant engagement levels, and even diminished productivity. Naturally, recruiting and engagement are just two of the many ways that analytics are transforming HR for the age of big data.

Inclusive Leadership

Given the people-centric approach preferred by many of today’s most successful organizations, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the distant, ivory-tower management model of decades past is now a fossil. Instead, inclusive leadership drives today’s enterprises and their culture, a concept we expect to only accelerate in 2020.

Although inclusive leadership can entail different things to different organizations, trust, respect, and diversity always exist at its core. Not only does it rely on a more hands-on and integrated management style, but also a commitment to treating all team members fairly and respectfully. Employees need to trust that management genuinely wants to improve the employee experience and office culture. Inclusive leadership helps establish these essential traits, making it a critical factor that distinguishes organizations with high levels of productivity and engagement from those struggling to establish them.

In other words, leadership needs to walk the talk rather than merely speaking about a sense of belonging and value for employees without corresponding actions. According to recent research, two-thirds of leaders already view diversity and inclusion as either important or very important to their operations. Others studies have found that inclusive environments can yield a 30% jump in innovation while decreasing operational risks by 20%.

Employee Experience Technologies

Today’s employees don’t lack places to air their opinions and grievances towards their employers. Obviously, a positive employee experience that encompasses every stage of employment, from the initial interview to an employee’s exit, helps boost an organization’s employer brand and reputation. That’s precisely why we foresee many more companies embracing employee experience platforms (EXP) as a way to develop and maintain a healthy and satisfying employee experience.

An EXP integrates into existing HR applications and becomes a single place to create, maintain, and analyze all employee interactions across an enterprise. Not only do they save significant time and expense compared to custom employee portals, they also streamline information, giving workers one destination to ask questions, find answers, and collaborate.

We also foresee companies relying on an EXP to drive organizational design, moving away from the traditional top-down approach, and embracing more employee-driven models. Since this team-oriented approach requires an empowered and informed employee voice, tools like an EXP and engagement surveys can help HR push organizational redesigning to deeper levels of an enterprise, becoming more inclusive along the way.

Continuous Performance Management

Today’s dynamic markets and work environments make it incredibly challenging to adequately manage people using outdated concepts like the annual review. Things simply change too quickly and frequently for anything other than continuous performance management that takes place on an ongoing basis.

This model incorporates regular one-on-ones between a manager and each member of his or her team, setting short-term objectives that they can actively assess throughout the year. During these check-ins, the two can track and discuss individual performance goals, career development, action plans, workplace issues, or anything else that impacts the employee’s relationship with their work, coworkers, and the organization as a whole.


While there’s still a time and place for annual reviews in this feedback loop, managers must supplement them with these check-ins, preferably every one to three months. Therefore, the annual review becomes more of a bigger-picture exercise rather than the primary basis for performance management. Interestingly, employee engagement and feedback strategies are also moving towards smaller, more frequent surveys and polls instead of a single, massive annual survey. This only further highlights the need for constant, ongoing communication between an organization, its managers, and employees.

Providing Options to a Dynamic Workforce

In what Josh Bersin refers to as The Pixelated Workforce, employees don’t look at their jobs or employers as they did decades ago. To that point, there are now over 40 million consultants, freelancers, and contract employees in the United States alone. The same dynamic is sweeping global labor markets as well, where a rapidly growing economy like India’s, for instance, now constitutes nearly 25% of the entire global gig economy workforce.

What does this mean for organizations in 2020? Flexible working options will be even more critical to attracting and retaining key talent. The modern workforce obviously has no issue divorcing itself from the traditional employee-employer model and fending for its own. This is particularly true for millennials and Gen Z, two-thirds of whom already have side jobs. Employees now demand “work” according to their individual skills and preferences. If an organization can’t cater to those demands, then workers will find one that can, or, as the statistics demonstrate, work for themselves.

At Betterworks Engage, we couldn’t be more excited and enthusiastic to see these different trends flourish throughout the coming year. Suffice it to say, we’re proud to play a fundamental role in helping organizations leverage improved engagement and company culture for bigger and better things.


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