Human Resources & Payroll Blog

5 workplace trends to look for in 2018

Dec 12, 2017 10:00:00 AM / by John Duval

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As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time for leaders in every workplace to evaluate what’s worked well in the past year, and what needs to be changed or updated in the year to come. It’s also the time of year when every thought leader in every industry starts to share what they think (or hope) will happen in the coming year.

Based on what many writers and industry leaders have noted, it looks like rapid technological advances and changing cultural priorities—among other factors—will continue to reshape the modern workplace to become more human-centric in 2018. Here’s what we think that’ll look like:

1. More employees will work remotely.

As the technology for remote work continues to improve, and teleconferencing software becomes more reliable, it’s getting easier for companies to allow their employees to skip the commute. In some workplaces, this is a perk that’s available a few days a week, but many companies have also found that it allows them to hire the best person for the job, regardless of geography.

The idea of working from home is often idealized in the heads of those who have to slog into the office every morning. But for people who work from home regularly, they know the truth is a little less glamorous. In addition to missing out on the benefits of getting to socialize with coworkers, people who work from home regularly may find that it’s tough to draw a clear line separating work time and personal time. That’s why, as remote work becomes more common...

2. Employers will start encouraging employees to set boundaries.

One of the biggest contributors to burnout is the feeling of always needing to be available to put out fires or answer questions. Employees need to have personal time to rest, spend time with loved ones, and refresh themselves. However, many modern workers, either owing to past work experiences or their own desire to get ahead, will not be the ones to draw healthy boundaries around their personal time. That’s why we’re starting to see more and more of the best managers start to lead by example on this.

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In her 2017 book The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork, journalist Katrina Onstad explores the relationship between time and productivity that has existed in corporate America for the past several decades. She notes that research shows that working more than a 40-hour work week doesn’t actually lead to better outcomes. In fact, it’s usually counterproductive; it leads to burnout and blurs the line between personal and professional time, so employees lose the essence of what made them a great hire in the first place.

Some of the most productive people refuse to engage with their work after a set hour. Shonda Rhimes, who runs an enormous media empire, has set a rule for herself: she will not respond to work calls or emails after 7:00 pm or on weekends. As she told NPR:

“Work will happen twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year if you let it. It suddenly occurred to me that unless I just say, 'That's not going to happen,' it was always going to happen."

Managers should follow this example, and encourage their reports to do the same. Maintaining appropriate boundaries between personal and professional time is key to...

3. Improving the employee experience

Employee engagement has been a focus for many companies for a few years, as well it should be. However, some companies are starting to take it a step further. Instead of just thinking of how to get the best work out of their employees, the new push will be to create an environment that employees love working in. In addition to offering perks like flexibility and free snacks, employers will start to focus on creating a positive employee experience overall.

This means thinking critically about company culture, and being proactive about taking steps to improve it. Culture isn’t just created with company cookouts or happy hours; it’s the product of every interaction between the people in your business. To evaluate company culture, leaders should look at factors such as how mistakes are handled, how praise is given, how employees celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and how people are encouraged to develop personally and professionally. Company culture is a constantly-evolving creature; if leaders make smart decisions to guide it in the right direction, it can grow into something intangible that makes the office a more pleasant place for everyone who works there.

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Creating a positive employee experience also means thinking about how physical space and the technology used in the office impact the human experience. Offices with blank walls and cubicles may be an efficient use of space and money, but they do not create an environment that energizes and inspires employees. While not every company can afford to build a beautiful workspace with soaring ceilings and an in-house gym, most companies can afford to buy some nice large plants and a few big pieces of artwork (even framed prints) to create a more comfortable, welcoming environment for employees to work in.

It’s also important to regularly check in with employees about the technology solutions they interact with at work. Glitchy, frustrating software platforms or outdated computers may start as minor annoyances that become major grievances. Working with employees to find better, more user-friendly technology solutions will go a long way to help them have a better work experience every day.

But even companies with the best employee experience need to take a closer look at...

4. Improving the candidate experience

In addition to improving the employee experience, in 2018, more companies will start to take a closer look at their candidate experience. Even the strongest internal cultures are not able to survive poor recruiting and hiring practices. The process of applying to work at a company should be an extension of the culture, and should give candidates a positive impression about what they might experience if they chose to work there. Unfortunately, so many companies get this wrong.

According to a survey by SoftwareAdvice, some of the biggest complaints candidates have about companies when they apply are:

  • Unclear application instructions
  • Extremely long application
  • Minimal job description
  • No confirmation email
  • No notice when the position is filled
  • Unable to contact a recruiter

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Wise recruiters should regularly audit their application and interview processes to make it more user-friendly for candidates. A negative experience applying for a job, even at an ideal company, is enough to turn off strong applicants so they don’t interact with a brand or apply for other openings in the future. Without regular access to smart, enthusiastic candidates to hire, the best companies will start to see their culture and productivity suffer.

Another tactic some forward-thinking companies are implementing to create a more successful, fair candidate experience is...

5. "Blind hiring” practices to avoid unconscious bias

It’s long been established that the most successful teams are usually the most diverse. The more varied experiences and points of view that can be applied to solving a problem, the better. But in the past few years, there’s been an outcry about Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity (and in some cases, outright hostility to women or minorities). Now, leaders at some tech companies have started to do some soul-searching about how they can create a more inclusive industry. Unfortunately, it’s not just Silicon Valley tech companies that struggle to create diverse teams; this is a pervasive problem across all industries.

Even the most fair-minded recruiters and interviewers enter the hiring process with some amount of unconscious bias, leading them to gravitate toward some applicants over others. The result is that the job usually goes to people whose experiences mirror those of the final decision maker. Factors like the applicant’s age, gender, where they went to college, what other companies they’ve worked at, and many others lead recruiters to paint a picture of them in their head before they’ve ever even met. This tendency perpetuates the cycle of some qualified candidates getting overlooked because of superficial reasons that would not affect their job performance.

That’s why some companies have started to adopt blind hiring practices, meaning that their initial applicant screenings have identifying demographic information withheld. The methods for this vary from company to company. It can be as simple as designating someone to cover all demographic information on a paper, or as complicated as adopting a software solution to do the same task.

However it’s done, the result should be the same: recruiters can see an applicant’s skills and relevant experience without having access to extraneous information that might sway them in one direction or another. Adopting this practice can help create a workplace where merit and skill—not race, gender, age, or connections—are the keys to getting hired.

If more HR departments adopt these practices in 2018, modern American offices may become more welcoming and inspiring for employees and applicants. Companies who make their hiring practices transparent and fair prioritize their employees’ experiences usually find that these efforts pay off in productivity and employee loyalty.

Want to set yourself up for a successful 2018? Keep up to date about the newest HR trends and regulations by subscribing to the Fuse Workforce blog. 

Topics: HR News

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