Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal, a Skillsoft company

Five workplace trends for 2019

2018 has been an eventful year for HR. Across every industry, digital transformation is making its, with disruptive technologies like AI and blockchain starting to permeate the workplace. This is changing how we work and the skills employees need to do their jobs proficiently. For HR departments, 2019’s focus will be preparing the workforce for the digital future and an increasing reliance on digital processes.

In particular, HR will see the five following trends:

**Digitalisation and automation will shape the jobs of the future **

As stated by the World Economic Forum, between now and 2022, jobs that are routine-based – such as data entry clerks or auditors – will be more susceptible to advances in new technologies and process automation. This does not mean people will lose their jobs, but that their roles will be augmented. HR’s task is to start thinking about how they can laterally move employee across the organisation, and ways they will be able to deliver value in an age of automation.

HR departments will need to think about the skills of the future. Firstly, organisations will need skilled workers who can programme, fix and maintain emerging technologies. Given the current technology skills gap, HR departments should look internally for employees who are interested in learning these skills. Upskilling current employees is good for a company’s bottom line and can increase employee retention rates.

HR departments will also need to focus on cultivating their employees’ soft skills. As machines automate routine tasks, competencies like critical thinking and people management will become very valuable, as machines cannot replicate these… yet.

**L&D will become a differentiator **

As was the case in 2018, next year will be a job-seekers market. As HR departments continue to face a limited talent pool, they will need to ensure that they are offering potential employees an offer they will not want to refuse. One of the most important facets of this will be career development. People want to work for companies that care about their personal development and offer them a good career path.

More organisations are starting to use talent management systems to engage employees and ensure that their development needs are being met. Forward thinking talent management systems can be used for succession planning and will give employees tailored development paths. For example, if an employee is keen for a promotion, the system will give details on what skills they need to qualify for this job and offer the employee the necessary training.

The rise of data analytics in HR

Many organisations have employee data siloed in three or more HR systems, as well as other internal and external systems. This makes effective workforce analytics near impossible. Next year, we will see more HR departments breaking down these siloes. They will rely more on data analytics to help them manage everything from performance and learning opportunities to identifying trends.

The decline of the typical 9 to 5

Flexible working is on the rise and is seen as a key employee benefit for many. While flexible working has many benefits, such as improved work-life balance, less commuting and improved employee retention, there are also concerns about how it impacts collaboration. A quick brainstorm over a cup of coffee in the office, for example, can often spark an idea, but if your workforce is remote, these opportunities rarely arise.

To facilitate employees’ continued demands for flexible working without losing productivity, next year, we will see HR departments lay out strong ground rules for flexible working. As more organisations allow flexible working, we will also see a rise in digital collaboration tools to connect teams virtually.

Localisation and adaption

Many companies today are global – with offices in multiple regions. While it is important for a company to share its key values with their global workforce, it is also important that local practices are taken into account. This is not only true for dealing with clients and adapting sales structures but also for dealing with employees. While a specific model might work extremely well in California, for example, employees in Tokyo might have very different expectations and needs. It is therefore very important that organisations cater for local differences in their HR policies.

Ultimately, 2019 will be another interesting year for HR. As the way we work continues to evolve and digitalise, HR departments will see themselves relying more on digital tools for insights into the workforce, and changing their policies to adapt to the new ways of work.

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