· 3 min read · Features

Rita Trehan: Eight HR trends for 2017


Workplace flexibility, the rise of nationalism and the explosion of the gig economy are all key trends in 2017

Trends are very important to HR. They can inform us to make smart selections for the future, and help us predict situations both good and bad so we can steer the business accordingly.

Here are some trends — some HR-related, some not — that will affect HR greatly in the coming year:

The retirement of baby boomers – According to Forbes more than 3.6 million baby boomers are set to leave the global marketplace, and more than 25% of the millennial workforce will step up to management. Not only does this mean generation X will become a predominant force in the management structure, but the millennial management style will work its way into leadership development and overall corporate management. It’s been widely discussed that the millennial management style is transformative versus the baby boomers' autocratic style. We must take their lead and look for ways to help our employees become the best they can be while making a greater social impact along with making money.

Generation Z enters the workforce – The children of generation X, born between 1994 and 2010, will be the graduating class entering the workforce this coming summer. They’re known to be even more loyal, entrepreneurial, realistic and flexible than the millennial generation, despite living through the recession and being saddled with extraordinary student loan debt. They need structure, mentors, and a supportive infrastructure to channel their ambition. We must be prepared to support them.

Workplace flexibility – As millennials enter the workplace and more freelancers take over task-based positions to fill in workflow, we must focus on how our productivity transcends time zones, global expansion, virtual teams, and technological advances such as cloud-based file systems and mobile work and sales platforms. HR must get in front of these technological advances or we’ll be buried beneath them. The rise of wearable technology is set to continue, which means we’ll progress to even smaller screens and more expedient means of connecting.

The rise of nationalism – The US presidential election, Brexit, the recent election in Italy – as borders start to collapse from a technological perspective many are resisting a truly flat, essentially borderless world. This brings with it the rise of racism and persecution based on religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and a whole host of productivity-killing human rights violations. We must get ahead of this before it poisons the well, and we must continue to be diligent in addressing workplace diversity and reinforcing inclusion for the continued capacity of not just our companies but society as well.

The war for talent vs modernisation – Two opposing forces will be quite prevalent over the next year. The first will be the continuing war for top talent. As technological advances and more sophisticated business platforms challenge a global workplace, competition for much-needed skillsets will be higher than ever. However, many organisations are modernising and mechanising many tasks previously held by human beings. As people become obsolete layoffs and retraining costs will increase. We need to be ahead of both trends.

The explosion of the sharing and gig economies – Many people are choosing to move to sharing economies and freelancing as opposed to full-time positions. As headcount shrinks but operational headcount increases, the need to impart and protect corporate culture with those who have no real skin in the game will become complex. We must be mindful and in front of this trend.

The expansion of personal branding – Employees are working on expanding and nurturing their own personal brand, sometimes to the help or hindrance of their employer. How HR handles this explosion of personalities will be a top line item in 2017, as social media platforms and their stars stay at the front of the marketing and talent management conversations.

Climate change – With the millennial generation leading the way with their focus on the environment, community and society impact businesses will have a strong opportunity for both customer and employee connection as well as ethical global leadership. The time to focus on carbon footprint has come and gone; we are advancing to conversations about the future of the planet and how our daily actions will affect the world we leave behind.

These are just a few of the trends coming in 2017. We must be ahead of them or they will leave us behind.

Rita Trehan is business strategist and former CHRO at Honeywell and AES Corporation