The function of human resources (HR) has undergone significant changes and growth over the past few years. Today, perhaps more than ever, a strong and mission-driven HR department is vital to running a successful business.
HR’s constantly expanding functions include recruiting top talent, shaping a company’s culture, building better leaders, and maintaining legal and effective company policies. We’ll explore cutting-edge HR trends that can help HR professionals support employees and their organizations.
Editor’s note: Looking for the right HR Software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Here are 10 HR trends businesses should be aware of, along with some changes companies can make to keep up with the future of human resources.
During the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, companies across the country were forced to reckon with their biases, including racist, exclusionary hiring practices and hostile work environments for Black and Indigenous employees and other employees of color.
Many businesses responded by creating diversity and inclusion training programs in the workplace and making promises and plans to adopt more equitable hiring practices. As a result, clients, customers, community members and employees want to see results. Companies now often release diversity reports and other results to demonstrate the efficacy of their efforts and create a culture of inclusion.
HR departments will release information publicly to outline the steps they’ve taken to address racism in the workplace and the progress they’ve made toward their goals, thus demonstrating that their genuine commitment to racial justice goes beyond optics.
Jared Rosenthal, CEO and founder of the automated onboarding and screening system StaffGlass, pointed out the growing trend of adopting cloud software to automate and manage workflows. The workplace automation trend is expected to keep growing, spreading into industries that have traditionally been slower to adopt automated tools.
Although many companies already use software to recruit new employees and aid in the employee onboarding process, these processes are becoming more digitized. Automated onboarding tools, in particular, continue to become more commonplace, thereby accelerating and optimizing the hiring process for employers and employees.
Additionally, the popularity of the best HR software will continue to grow, and even small business HR processes will benefit from technological innovations and cloud-based computing, including remotely hiring and onboarding new employees.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to shutter their doors in 2020, in-office employees abruptly transitioned to working remotely. Managing a remote workforce has since become a permanent situation for many businesses, and remote work options are now ubiquitous in the workplace.
“Employees love the flexible schedule and the absence of a commute so that there is more time in the day to spend with their families,” said Angela Rochester, former assistant general counsel and human resources consultant for Engage PEO and current deputy general counsel for labor and employment at GoHealth. “Employers should leverage technology as much as possible to maintain employee engagement.”
Despite the popularity of remote work and flexible work policies, some employers and employees prioritize in-office time to collaborate more efficiently as a team or to get a change of scenery. In response, more offices are adopting hybrid policies for remote and in-office days, offering employees the flexibility to make the best decisions for their situations.
Depending on your company’s size, a flexible work arrangement might include a schedule or sign-up sheet for your team to coordinate their in-office days.
Remote working tools can help your team communicate and stay connected. For example, Slack makes messaging effortless, and Microsoft Teams combines workplace chat, video conferencing, cloud storage and app integration.
Entirely or partially remote organizations must find creative methods to keep remote employees engaged and foster a positive company culture. Without a physical office space and daily routine to connect with co-workers, employees — especially new hires — may feel isolated or disengaged.
“Maintaining employee engagement is crucial,” said Nicole Reid, chief people officer at Xero. “To keep people engaged, they need to be connected to a purpose. It’s important that every member of the team has a clear sense of the company’s direction and how their role contributes to it.”
Prioritize employee engagement and culture by hosting virtual meetings and hangouts, surveying employees about their interests, and increasing internal communication. Keep in mind that employees can suffer from the online-meeting fatigue known as Zoom burnout, so it’s crucial to consult your team to find the perfect communication balance.
Health and wellness are hot topics. Employers are more aware than ever of the importance of employee well-being and its impact on business success. However, employees’ well-being and mental health will undoubtedly fluctuate during stressful and uncertain times.
Company leaders can help improve their employees’ health and wellness by maintaining transparency and clear communication within their organization.
“Make sure that people aren’t getting too exhausted and burning out,” Reid said. “Have conversations so you know how your team is feeling as well as what they’re doing.”
Employers will also continue expanding employee-assistance programs to provide a broader range of tools, including mental health days, more access to counseling, health and wellness plans, and updated services that can help employees take a holistic approach to their health.
Reid also advised small business owners to lead by example. Take the time for self-care, and set boundaries and expectations so your team can follow suit.
The pandemic shifted employee benefits and working arrangements. As employers seek to provide their staff with the best possible health insurance and benefits, they should consider their employees’ evolving needs. For example, free lunches and commuter benefits aren’t as attractive; instead, employees prioritize healthcare, wellness programs, and job perks such as home office credits.
Reid also recommended supporting employees by offering flexible work arrangements.
“Enable flexible work, whatever that means for the individual,” Reid said. “Some parents of young children, for example, might need to juggle childcare and work during the day, and being able to work in the evening instead could be one less stress. A key point is that everyone has their own unique circumstances, and you’ve got to open those conversations, listen and take actions that are supportive.”
Employers are also offering more thoughtful vacation options that suit workers with unconventional schedules. For example, some companies have adopted a policy of offering new employees two paid weeks before they start their new positions.
Gartner recently surveyed more than 850 HR leaders spanning 60 countries, finding that 47 percent see the employee experience as a top priority.
Professional growth and access to resources are significant aspects of the employee experience that employers must consider to attract and retain top talent. Employers should keep the following points in mind:
HR professionals are increasingly concerned about leadership development within their organizations. The Gartner survey revealed that 60 percent of HR managers cited leader and manager effectiveness as a top concern. As work environments evolve, so must leadership training and development. Today’s leaders need upskilling in coaching, mentoring and inclusion initiatives.
As laws and guidelines change, HR departments will grapple with new compliance requirements. HR managers will rewrite employee handbooks and reevaluate rules pertaining to workplace harassment measures, leave benefits, and drug testing.
HR departments will also have to navigate the pay transparency laws that are rapidly becoming more common across states. Illinois and California have laws requiring businesses of a specific size to report aggregate pay data to their labor departments.
Perhaps most notable, however, is the preponderance of laws mandating salary range disclosures in job listings. California, Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut, Washington state, Rhode Island, Nevada, New York City, Cincinnati, and Toledo, Ohio, have laws requiring employers to provide salary data upfront. As this requirement becomes more commonplace, more HR departments will move toward increased transparency around compensation.
Some state business labor laws protect residents even if they work remotely for businesses in other states. If your company hires remote applicants across the country, ensure that your practices don’t violate state laws.
In the past few years, more states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use to various degrees. Currently, 38 states and four U.S. territories have legalized medical marijuana use, and 21 have also legalized recreational use.
Although employers still have a right to implement drug-free workplace policies, companies operating in multiple states should understand that testing policies can vary by location, Rochester said. Employers should stay current on marijuana laws and regulations in their states and local jurisdictions.
“If an employee or an applicant tests positive for marijuana, employers should be mindful of ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] considerations in connection with medical marijuana use and proceed accordingly,” Rochester said. In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, employers can prohibit use at work or during work hours but can’t prohibit use outside of work. Some states, like New York, do not allow employers to test their employees for marijuana unless the role requires testing based on state or federal law.
HR departments must adjust their policies to recognize these complex changes in laws surrounding marijuana usage.
Today’s HR efforts continue to expand beyond policies and procedures. The modern workplace requires balancing appropriate policies with emerging technology, new business needs and employee desires. As employees demand more from employers than ever before and the competition to retain top talent continues, HR professionals will play a crucial role in ensuring business success.
Casey Conway and Skye Schooley contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.