As 2016 barrels towards us at a frankly terrifying pace, it’s natural to start wondering what the new year will hold for you and your business.
2015 saw a number of HR trends that changed the landscape of the modern workplace – from Netflix’s unlimited parental leave scheme, to LinkedIn’s unlimited vacation leave, to 7/11’s underpaying scandal.
So what trends can you expect to see in 2016?
For the last few years, a seemingly endless parade of bloggers and journalists have delighted in telling us What’s Wrong With Millennials. They’re entitled. They’re lazy. They’re disloyal. How do we communicate with them? What do they want?
The uncertainty of how to manage millennials, and the myriad articles that it inspired, implies that millennials are a minority in the workplace. However, in 2015, Millennials officially surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the US labor force, having surpassed the Baby Boomers the previous year. This trend is only set to grow in 2016.
As Baby Boomers move into retirement, Millennials are moving up the ladder, into management and leadership positions. With more influence than ever (and a new, younger generation entering the workforce in the form of Generation Z), 2016 will see Millennials being embraced, rather than vilified.
More remote workers
The ubiquity of devices – smartphones, laptops, tablets – that keep us connected 24 hours a day has made telecommuting and working from remote locations easier than ever. In 2015, 23 percent of employees reported doing some of their work remotely, up from 19% in 2003.
Telecommuting has experienced something of a branding crisis over the years, with some people viewing it as little more than manager-approved skiving. However, more research is emerging to indicate that telecommuting and remote work can be of huge benefit to both organisation and employee (we wrote about some of those benefits back in September), making it an attractive proposition for a lot of businesses in 2016.
72% of Australian workers want access to flexible working arrangements. However, despite the fact that there’s ample evidence to suggest that flexibility can increase productivity and improve morale, only 44% of Australian workers are in roles where they can take advantage of flex time.
Service is everything
Regardless of what industry you’re in, it seems like the general consensus is – and has been for awhile – that times are tough. Across the board, consumer confidence is down, competition is up and globalisation is making everything more challenging.
One thing that’s sprung from this challenging environment is the realisation that truly exemplary customer service is what underpins brands that are performing well.
By 2017, Millennials will have more buying power than any other generation. However, they spend a lot differently to the generations before them, and authenticity is one the most important factors for them. They’re seeking meaningful, genuine interactions with brands, which helps build the kind of consumer relationship that will last.
In 2016, brands that realise the sheer power of personal, authentic customer service will focus on providing employees with the training that will help them provide that service.
Workplaces will focus on engagement
One of the things that vexes Baby Boomers the most about Millennials is the fact that they perceive them as being disloyal to the organisations for which they work. The generation that came of age during the Global Financial Crisis is more loyal to their own career advancement than their employer.
However, given that many Millennials are moving on from roles after only a year, the workload for HR departments has increased significantly. While some agile businesses are seeking to get the most of their employees in the short time they have them, other businesses are focusing their attentions on retaining their talent for as long as possible.
To attract and retain great talent, organisations need to focus on engaging their employees. In 2016, this will involve HR departments developing their understanding of what it is their employees really want.
Minimum wage will be challenged
The minimum wage in the US hasn’t exactly kept up with inflation over the years. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in the US hit its peak in 1968 – nearly 50 years ago.
2015 saw a great deal of lobbying, particularly from workers in the fast-food industry, to raise the minimum wage. As of November 2015, 29 states in the US, plus D.C., had minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25.
The emphasis on ensuring employees earn a living wage has also begun to influence the deeply-ingrained tipping culture in the US, with a number of restaurants trialling a ‘no-tipping’ model.
With the next US presidential election looming, and primary elections set to take place from February, the issue of minimum wage will likely dominate news cycles throughout 2016, encouraging businesses to look at their own pay structures.