It seems like just yesterday that we were popping open the bubbly and welcoming 2014, but here we are again, heading full steam into the holiday season and the end of another year. Now that 2014 is winding down, it’s a good time to stop and reflect upon the past year, and start looking ahead and planning for the future.
Part of that planning process involves looking at trends, both those that have passed and those predicted for the future. And when it comes to looking ahead, there are some significant workplace trends on the horizon that employers — and more specifically, their HR departments — need to be prepared for in 2015.
Trend #1: New Types of Benefits
While employees expect certain types of insurance coverage from their benefits package (health, life, disability, etc.) there is a growing trend toward offering additional optional coverages. For example, some employers have begun offering employees the opportunity to purchase identity theft protection, pet insurance, even property insurance, through work. While most employers are not subsidizing these coverages, it’s usually possible to purchase the insurance at reduced rates due to group purchasing power. Benefits are often listed as one of the primary factors in employee satisfaction and engagement, and conveniently providing unique and useful insurance coverage at a low rate can help boost those numbers.
Trend #2: New Vacation Time Policies
For many people, the standard has been two weeks of vacation annually, with vacation time increasing with seniority or position. Some companies are shifting away from this model and allowing employees more flexibility with their time off. In some cases, employees are allowed to take unlimited vacation whenever they wish, provided they are on track with their work and meeting their targets. More companies, though, are shifting to an earned time off model, with employees accruing paid time off for every hour they work. That accrued time can then be used for vacation time when the employee wishes, with hours often rolling over from year to year.
Trend #3: Mobile Technology in the Workplace
In recent years, the number of employees using mobile technology, either via their own or company-supplied devices, has increased markedly. Estimates vary, but by most accounts, about three-quarters of all employees use mobile technology for work. This means that employees are beginning to expect access to mobile apps and tools that will allow them to do their jobs more efficiently, whenever and wherever they happen to be. In addition, employees want to be able to handle HR tasks, such as reviewing and enrolling in benefits plans, via mobile devices.
Trend #4: New Hiring Priorities
In the past, candidates were hired for open positions based primarily on their skills and experience. The ability to “do the work” was traditionally valued over other skills. With more competition for jobs these days, and a deeper talent pool than ever before, many employers are considering candidates’ so-called “soft” skills just as much, if not more, than education and experience. Employers want to hire applicants who are a good cultural fit for the organization, and share its values. Traits such as honesty, flexibility, positivity, creativity, and leadership skills are being looked upon as just as important as the ability to crunch numbers or write code.
Trend #5: Appealing to Millennials
Millennials are quickly becoming the largest portion of the overall workforce, and as a result, workplaces are changing in response to their expectations and ascension into leadership roles. Everything from dress codes to working hours are shifting to a more flexible, individually driven model, spurred in large part by Millennials’ more casual approach to life and their careers.
Employers are being forced to adjust everything from their communication and training models to their retirement plans, career paths, and engagement programs to better appeal to Millennials and meet their needs. At the same time, there is a significant percentage of Millennial leaders who are largely unprepared for their roles, particularly those who have been thrust into leadership positions due to the retirement or transitioning of older workers. This means that HR and senior management must be prepared to deal with not only issues caused by age disparities within teams, but also those caused by unprepared or inexperienced leaders.
While there are certainly other trends influencing business in 2015 — we can’t overlook the continued growth of social media, for example — these five trends appear to the ones most likely poised for significant changes in the coming year. By understanding and preparing for them, you will be in a better position to manage your company effectively in 2015, and beyond.