Hiring may have dominated in 2016, but this year, analytics will become a larger part of the human resources department, the gig economy will reach a tipping point, and employers will return to more traditional benefits packages, one researcher predicts.
After studying the job market over the past year, Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, saw big labor-market trends unfold in 2016, and he expects some of those trends to carry over into 2017.
According to Chamberlain, several job trends defined 2016. There was a significant increase in hiring (about 2 million new jobs added), but employers had difficulty finding the right candidates: Millions of those new jobs went unfilled, said Chamberlain. [See Related Story: Quiz: Are You Making the Right Hiring Decisions?]
"Today, the ratio of unemployed Americans to open jobs stands at 1.4 to 1, down sharply from 6.6 to 1 during the last recession in July 2009," Chamberlain wrote. "That shrinking pool of job seekers translates into fewer available candidates — leading to today's growing reliance on recruiting from passive, already employed candidates."
Of those new jobs, many of them were tech-focused, as evidenced by the increase in data scientists, mobile developers and databased engineered hired in industries like healthcare, finance and retail. Finally, Chamberlain noted that there was an increase in pay growth and transparency, thanks to new federal reporting rules.
Overall, the U.S. labor market is at one of its strongest points in decades. "However, technology and automation are changing the way we work forever, creating both opportunities and challenges for 2017 and beyond," Chamberlain said in a statement. "In this environment, the future of jobs, employer branding and recruiting is top of mind for job seekers, employees and employers."
Based on what he saw in the job market over the past year, Chamberlain said there are several trends he expects to be "game changers" in 2017:
1. HR will embrace data science. While data science has become a dominant aspect of most industries, it will now start to transform how human resources and recruiting operate. Chamberlain predicts that low-cost workforce analytics that provide data on the employee life cycle will allow the HR industry to catch up to other industries already reaping the benefits of data science.
"Using data science in HR to make even small improvements in recruiting, hiring and engagement has the potential for huge benefits to organizations," Chamberlain wrote.
2. The gig economy will plateau. While many people expect the gig economy to continue picking up steam in the year ahead, Chamberlain believes the majority of the workforce is moving to higher-skilled roles that aren't a fit for gig workers.
"The fastest-growing jobs today are ones that require human creativity, flexibility, judgment and 'soft skills' like personal relationships — such as health care professionals, data scientists, sales leaders, strategy consultants and product managers," Chamberlain wrote. "Those are exactly the kind of jobs least likely to function well in a 'gig' economy platform."
3. Automation will change jobs. Jobs in all industries will start to feel the impact of automation in 2017. While Chamberlain isn't predicting that automation will take jobs away, he does think it will change all jobs in some way. He said the growing reach of mobile devices, cheap data storage and innovations in machine learning will have a big impact on how people work.
"2017 looks to be the year when these big advances in automation will start changing the daily work of more Americans," Chamberlain wrote. "The jobs that will be most affected by automation are routine jobs that need to be done the same way and that don't require much flexibility or much creative judgment."
4. Employers will take gender-pay-gap action. HR data will allow more employers to start taking action against gender pay gaps, rather than simply talking about it.
"Companies are beginning to realize that having a gender pay gap isn't just about avoiding legal liability or negative publicity," Chamberlain wrote. "It's about having a positive employer brand, and attracting values-driven millennial workers for whom gender pay fairness is a core workplace issue."
5. Traditional benefits packages will return. Employers will move from exotic perks — like free meals, dog-friendly offices, video games and on-site yoga classes — to more traditional benefits, such as great health insurance, 401(k) matches and generous paid time off. Tech companies pioneered the flashy perks, but Chamberlain predicts that, as the industry begins to mature, those organizations will begin reassessing their benefits packages.
"We're likely to see large tech employers re-evaluating their benefits packages, more carefully focusing them on core benefits that offer the biggest bang for the buck in terms of engagement and productivity — rather than splashy headlines about unusual workplace perks," he wrote.
Chamberlain predicts that in 2017, it will be critical for employees to find ways to keep up with the technology that is changing today's workplace.
"Today’s labor market is doing a better job of matching individuals with their best possible career opportunity than ever," Chamberlain wrote. "However, the same rapidly changing technology that is making job markets work better today is also changing jobs themselves, putting workers who fall behind technology trends at risk."