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3 HR Trends For 2020: What’s In Store

Meghan M. Biro Contributor Careers

What are the concerns that pull people in at conferences and spark debate after the slide presentations are over? People: recruiting, hiring, tending. No matter the countless predictions on how the world of work will change in 2020, people are the focal point. We will continue to face talent shortages and skills gaps, with the job market remaining as competitive as ever. The BLS reported that today’s unemployment rate is 3.5%, and that rate has decreased every year since the height of the 2008 financial crisis. Many consider the U.S. economy at full employment and we have more open jobs than we do people to fill them. The voluntary quit rate is 2.3%, the highest in 15 years. We need to give people a reason to work for us and a reason to stay.

Is technology the answer? As we continue to try and harness tech to supercharge our own capabilities, do we understand what we’re doing? We will, but it’s a work in progress: we grasped the mystery of the Cloud and are learning all about AI and automation. What’s the best strategy? Overall, I’d say it’s to keep our North Star: the who, what, when, where, why and how of creating a phenomenal workforce is all about people. That means we need to work on both candidate and employee experiences — on ways to source, hire, engage and retain. Here’s how:


Everything recruiters do needs to be accelerated and intensified. We’re going to be leaning on super-recruiters — part sourcer, part marketer and part technologist, who embrace the power of data, and use it to forge strategic decisions based on the reach of automation and the depth of analysis. According to the Harvard Business Review, an analysis of 17 studies of applicant evaluations shows that a simple equation outperforms human decisions by at least 25%. With this approach to recruiting we may be able to actually conquer bias, at least more than we have already.

The shortage of workers is going to make employers look out of the box to create deeper talent pools based on different criteria: the potential for growth will be more important than the potential for filling a static role. To mine deeper talent pools means we’ll need a digital rolodex with a farther reach — to former employees who may wind up boomerang hires, job candidates who show promise but made didn’t make the initial cut, and talent with the soft skills we need to pay attention to, like dependability, strong communication skills, organization, adaptability and leadership, even if their experience didn’t match the job description. 

We’ll be breaking open the model of the workplace: instead of having everyone in one place, they’ll be all over the place.To get the best talent, employers will offer positions that are remote and flexible. We need to hire people who are willing to work but is it vital that they’re willing to come into the office? Many of us are already relying on teams of great remote talent. Flexibility is a key factor in work-life integration, so offering it is speaking to the true needs of talent now. In a competitive job market, this new model will be especially necessary to attract Gen Z, who will comprise 36% of the global workforce by 2020. Being digital natives who grew up in an internet-centric society, the members of this generation expect remote and flexible working arrangements.  


To keep a great hire engaged, it’s simple: provide a standout experience. Come 2020, make sure your culture holds up to scrutiny, clarifies expectations and embraces employee goals. Make sure employees understand not only the expectations regarding tasks, but also the behaviors expected, and make sure your managers are on board with fostering employee and team growth. This may be the year we no longer have to make a business case for engagement, but here’s a reminder: highly engaged employees are 21% more productiveSeventy-three percent of disengaged employees are actively looking for jobs, compared with 37% of engaged employees. When it comes to workplace culture, there’s no in-between; it’s either a lose/lose or a win/win.

Glassdoor’s Diversity & Inclusion Study 2019 found that 49% of employed adults in the U.S, U.K, France, and Germany have witnessed or experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. 2020 needs to be the year employers really commit to inclusivity and diversity. It should begin at the top: by educating leaders and managers, and should include a commitment to diverse hiring practices, listening to employees, and making a workspace physically accessible and ADA compliant. In other words, it’s time to walk the walk.

The onboarding experience is a key differentiator in how employees perceive a company, engage with the job, and stay involved (or not) with your business objectives. In 2020 we need to consider onboarding and the Day One experience as either a make or a break regarding bit just engagement but long-term retention. First lessons and impressions made are critical in determining how your hire feels about your organization. Offer onboarding that’s flexible, fixable, accessible, self-guiding, and secure. We’ll see more companies finally replacing the herd-in-a-conference room approach with digital development platforms that measure, track, respond, personalize, and are secure as well. 


Then,let’s work on tending our talent rather than managing it. Psychologists explain tending as intentional relationship-building that increases a sense of community and wellbeing. Harvard Business Review notes that tending goes a long way in mitigating the “workers as machines” phenomenon common in certain industries. Further, it makes employees “sticky” to an organization. We’ll see organizations doing their best with this – and I predict we’ll also see clear results.

We’ll also see forward-thinking organizations raising the bar on employee wellness offerings, including paternity, maternity, family and caregiver leave; medical and mental health benefits; fitness and adventure programs with rewards for hitting personal goals; and thankfully, an emphasis on financial wellness as we recognize the toll financial stress takes on employees. Daycare, education, eldercare, mobility — wellness means enabling our workforce to function better in their daily lives. Companies would also be wise to ask their employees what they want and need, and try to use a benefits and wellness platform that offers flexibility and responds to the needs of four or five generations working side by side.

What else? How’s your workspace? Are you staring at it right now? Today’s digital workspace can be a hyper-siloed, apps-by-the-dozen experience: the average employee spends nearly 65% of any given workday on busywork and in meetings, 20% searching for information and 15% doing what they want and are paid to do. 2020 should see a shift to a more cohesive workspace and seamless experience. A great physical workspace is equally important, and employers will continue to rethink the cubicle with open spaces, a pet-friendly environment, and loads of in-office perks — including spaces that resemble coworking spaces. The bottom line: it’s not about foosball, and it hasn’t been about foosball in years.  

Finally, focus on growth. 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers according to LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report. Some firms are going to key employees’ compensation plans to the growth and performance of the business, not just their personal role/performance — and that may boost alignment, positive behavior and team culture all at once. From internship to management here must be a sense of upward movement — if they don’t see a route forward they’re find one outside your doors. Don’t stop at onboarding when it comes to training and coaching. Consider ongoing, self-service, on-demand learning opportunities. That sense of the future should never stop.

2020 earmarks a new decade and undoubtedly it’s going to surprise us. But let’s aim for good surprises — and that includes making our own employees happy.

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