Workplaces are becoming more defined by technology than ever before, which means more rapid change – and more opportunities for managers and recruiters. Here are seven of the top trends currently changing the workplace, and why they're worth paying attention to.
1. Wearables That Work
For a few years now, wearables – smart devices that you wear on your body in any form – have been consumer oriented, and of limited value to companies. They haven't been accurate enough to be of too much commercial use, and costs have kept interest down. 2017 will be the year that starts to change, with more accurate wearables and more health plans that include wearables or provide insurance benefits to those who wear them. Some industries even have specific uses for wearable devices, such as manufacturing and construction, where they can be used to monitor employee health and safety. However, expect pushback from insurers and legal departments that will eventual define the parameters of this trend.
2. Better Automation for Key Departments
Most companies hopped aboard payroll automation in the past two years. However, now we're seeing automation spread to more areas, particularly throughout HR. Because automated systems are able to track changing regulations and protocols very easily, they offer reduced errors in any department with a lot of paperwork. Expect automation to move from payroll and inventory to HR, finance, marketing, and other departments where it will continue to save time.
3. A Focus on Employee Relations
What do today's employees want? When it comes to young professions and their expectations, it's all about buy-in. Companies, more than ever, need to engage employees and win their loyalty to the brand. Workplace, management tactics, benefits, and much more play an important role here, but the goal is always about winning employee hearts as much as minds. Companies with disinterested employees are seeing huge losses in productivity these days, and it's only going to get worse in the future.
4. Smart Screening for Real Talent
Applicant screening has been hit or miss lately. Automated screening has been largely problematic for anything but the simplest entry-level positions. They have led to an outbreak of cheap resumes constructed to target only a few keywords – poisonous results for companies interested in hiring long-term talent, especially in the online world. However, social screening and other online tools have proven very effective (especially with a human behind the wheel). Expect recruitment to settle down into a more reliable set of screening tools with less confusing. External recruitment partners will be well positioned to help companies that need to overhaul their processes for 2017 and online recruitment but aren't sure where to start. How do you use Twitter to vet applicants? How should LinkedIn be used to make contacts? If you don't already know, then get ready to learn.
5. Flexible Employment
Flexible scheduling, remote work and home hours have become widely accepted in many industries. In the coming months we'll see more and more companies adopt flexible work practices, allowing employees to work from home, choose their own hours, and create informal teams as needed. Instead of rigid scheduling, the goals will be much more focused on productivity. If these flexible arrangements can increase efficiency – and when done properly, they often can – then expect to see a whole lot more of them. Of course, certain industries still require very strict scheduling and hours, so expect to see a rift develop between flexible employee management and the companies that just can't do it.
6. Rethinking Office Design
What is the purpose of office design? Does it actually enhance communication and efficiency, or is it just, "The way we've always done it"? This question will be asked more and more frequently in 2017. When an office is up for renovation, expect big changes to workplace design – partially to save on money, and partially to open up workspaces in a more free-flowing environment. Employee input will be key here, because different designs may or may not work depending on the company culture and the industry. Remember, it's easy to be "minimalistic" and also squeeze employees into uncomfortable spaces that lower productivity. Rather than concentrate on the design flavor, look at what helps employees become more productive.
7. "Work-Life Balance" Becomes More Than a Buzzword
While work-life balance has been used as a catch-all for a wide variety of company projects in the past, there's no denying that a vast number of terminations, lawsuits, disruptions, and mistakes are made because employees struggle to balance their personal and professional lives. As more focus is placed on reducing risk and error, companies are asking what work-life balance really means. How can companies actually help employees live healthier, more stable lives? Will programs or apps help? Should this be addressed in coaching or training? In 2017, the answer will be, "Yes" and we will see how companies support employees in new, more practical ways.