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Industry-Defining HR Trends for 2017: A Series (Part Three)

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Mar 24, 2017 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, hiring trends

If you're feeling like you're missing a piece of the puzzle, we're now in the third installment of a blog series focusing on emerging trends in 2017. Today, we'll be going over some topics including collaboration, benefits, budgets, and the state of the workplace. You'll find the information broken down into topics so that you can take what you need from this newest installment. It's time to educate yourself for the future.  Change is coming and it's coming fast.  

Things to watch out for:

Collaboration Continues to Grow as Demographics Shift 

Today's new recruits are masters at collaboration: They sat in teams throughout high school and college. They grew up with cloud computing and collaboration tech to work on projects together at a distance. They are used to casually throwing themselves together to complete a task and then disperse just as casually when it is done. It's time that businesses take advantage of that! 

Expect a rise in collaboration opportunities and temporary teams as flatter organizations began to tap into this natural bent toward easy connections. However, for HR departments the trend has even deeper implications: It allows a push toward a new kind of workplace, with a culture that makes activities and networking much easier – benefits that new recruits will quickly notice. Never underestimate the power of a strong team and a quick, emotional connection to the company when it comes to retention.

Practical Workplace Wellness Will Prove Itself When Attracting Talent 

Workplace wellness plans! Are you sick of talking about them yet? We don't blame you – it's been a top trend for a few years now, and most HR departments have already grappled with wellness strategies and expectations – and where wellness fits in with the company brand. We don't want to rehash past territory, but we will point out that in 2017, the new wellness focus will be on more practical benefits. 

You see, there are two types of wellness benefits. One type is cheap, rarely used, and exists mostly to make the company look good. That doesn't work out very well, because the top talent knows exactly what wellness benefits they will actually use, and which they will more or less ignore. The second type of benefit, however, is highly practical and targeted directly at what today's employees want and use. These benefits are frequently based on research, and can shift to incorporate new trends as the years pass. 

This is the year to ask which kind of wellness plans your company offers, and if they need to change to keep up with the industry. We're not just talking about competitor analysis, either – it's important to know what those new employees will actually do. For example, many businesses can offer those gym memberships – and hardly anyone will use them. But a robust wellness program can offer specific exercise classes, and rewards for regular attendance, so employees actually have a reason to participate. 

The good news is that a little research here will unveil some very clear best practices. The bad news is that company leadership may not be interested in investing in practical wellness benefits unless they can see a proven return, so putting together a proposal may be challenging.

Benefits Packages are Challenged – and Reworked 

Speaking of workplace benefits, this new focus on practicality is affecting more than just wellness programs. In fact, today's recruits are generally savvy when it comes to all kinds of workplace perks and which actually add value. They are also growing less forgiving of perks that are added for flash instead of substance, which means a company can actually lose top talent by showing off perks. That's not ideal! 

The solution is reworking benefits packages so that they appeal to today's crop of professionals while getting rid of the perks they don't really care about. There's a general rule here that you can use: Recruits would almost always rather have more compensation instead of a perk. Perks are nice, but people prefer something they can take to the bank. A perk needs to provide genuine value in a way that additional compensation cannot – something a recruit cannot easily find on their own. 

So take a look at what your competitors are offering, and if you provide a perk make sure that it's worth it, an irreplaceable offering that cannot be easily found elsewhere. Chances are good that your company is positioned to create perks that no one else really has (location, contacts, specialties, and more feed into this). The coming years will be a race to find and utilize these unique perks to help create a truly attractive package.

Casual Attire Is the New Norm 

Here's the thing about dress codes: They change over time, and sometimes they change a lot in a relatively short time. There is no single handbook that HR can look at which lays down the absolute best dress code for their industry: It depends greatly on societal expectations, and those drift. 

Today's professional workplace attire is being decided by young professionals in high-growth industries, and they don't care about professional workplace attire. There's a reason Steve Jobs wore a simple turtleneck and no one complained. There's a reason that entrepreneurs rarely care about dress codes when they're busy finding the right talent. The overall perspective is, "If you are the right fit for the job, why should I care what you wear?" That old business suit/pantsuit just doesn't matter much anymore. Customers don't expect it anymore, peers don't mind, and everyone is moving toward far more casual guidelines. 

The problem here, of course, is that there's a big generational divide. Older workers, especially those who have spent their lives in management, still put great store in dress code, and actually use it to make decisions about people – a perspective that millennials struggle to even comprehend. The challenge for HR will be to ease all sides into more casual guidelines without creating conflict.

HR Teams Make Tough Budget Decisions 

Take a look back through the trends we've noted here, and you'll notice that many of them are closely connected to budget decisions. In fact, budget changes are typically a prerequisite. Budget growth, however, is not a guarantee, and many hiring managers may even be looking at budget cuts. Where does that leave you? How are you supposed to respond to any of these trends when all funding is already tied up elsewhere? 

There's no way around it: 2017 may be the year you have to make some tough allocation decisions. Here are a few ideas to find some extra room in the budget to help deal with the trends that we're talking about: 

Give old positions new skills: With all our talk about employee training, why not think of it as a current solution, too? Equipping your current team with new skills is a great way to help solve some of your data expertise shortages. 

Subsume some perks: Are certain workplace perks too expensive? Rework them into something else – including higher compensation. If you aren't sure where to begin, then try using another one of our trends – those free online surveys. See what perks are least popular among employees, and what they would rather have instead. You may be able to save some time and resources with what you discover. 

Focus on marketing: If you don't have much budget room, then focus more on marketing the perks and opportunities you already provide, but in a new way. Push growth potential and teamwork to the forefront, and underline the long-term benefits of working for the company.

Final Note: Expect a Turbulent 2017, and Prepare Likewise 

Expect the unexpected in the next couple years. 2017 is a smart year to pull back to your core efficiencies and respond to changes as they come. From the results of the election, to the changing state of globalization, to increasing worries about data security, this isn't exactly firm terrain. If we have to boil all these points down to a couple pieces of advice, they would be, 1)work on making your business friendlier to young professionals and 2)hold tight. 

From finding quick replacements to carefully building the right teams, ICS provides the talent acquisition and sourcing services you need to meet HR goals. Contact ICS today to learn more