The world is changing quickly, and that includes the world of human resources. From rapid advances in technology to the transformation of the modern workplace, it’s enough to make your head spin. Report from HR-Playbook.

Report from HR-Playbook.

Paper job applications and insurance forms have made way for digital communication and online open enrollment. A decade ago, we thought social media was just a distraction. Now, it’s found its way into our everyday working lives. And, just when you thought you had a handle on managing millennials, Generation Z is entering the workforce as a wave of baby boomers ponder retirement.

Your job as an HR professional requires you to look to the future and spot opportunities that can help you maximize a company’s most valuable resource, its employees.

Here are 10 human resources trends to consider as you strive to stay at the top of your game.

1. The evolution of performance reviews

What makes an effective performance review and how often should they take place?

There’s been a lot of talk about eliminating the annual review, but companies that have tried it aren’t getting the most positive results.

Research from CEB found employee performance dropped by 10 percent at companies that eliminated qualitative review processes in which employees formerly received a performance score, grade or ranking. While there may be positive aspects to eliminating this type of review, the research shows managers aren’t having enough informal performance conversations. Plus, top employees become dissatisfied with compensation and recognition while overall employee engagement declines.

More organizations are moving toward a continual review process. In this case, managers touch base with staff on a regular basis (such as bi-weekly) to discuss performance goals. This allows for more focused feedback rather than trying to sum up an entire year’s worth of an employee’s work.

This style could make sense for millennial workers, too. A survey from the HR solutions company, TriNet, found 85 percent of millennials want more frequent feedback on their performance.

Another approach to employee evaluation involves a shift to team or department reviews rather than focusing solely on individuals. This allows managers to evaluate how groups perform together.

The solution to what works best is still unknown, as explained on SHRM’s HR Today blog:

“While experts believe that the move away from a once-a-year gathering of feedback is a step in the right direction, nailing down the best process for evaluating employees in a way that benefits both company and worker remains elusive.”

2. Working wherever and whenever

Another common theme in the modern workplace is the desirable perk of flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities. A growing number of employers are finding that strict schedules and requiring everyone to work at the office are not necessarily the best ways to encourage productivity.

A SHRM study found the number of employers allowing remote working opportunities tripled between 1996 and 2016, and a recent Gallup poll found 37 percent of U.S. workers are at least occasional telecommuters.

Technology has made location less important. You can send and receive emails from anywhere, and a host of innovative tools allow teams to easily share and collaborate. So, why force people to work in cubicles five days a week?

Timely, high-quality work is more important than sitting at a desk for eight hours. Flexibility on such matters also helps you provide proper work-life balance.

Making room for remote employees can even expand your search for top talent. If you don’t need a candidate to relocate, why should you? Learn more about the trend of working remotely on HR-Playbook.

3. The blended workforce

Along with an increase in working remotely has come the growth of freelance or contracted employees. It’s part of a shift toward what some call “the gig economy.” A report from Intuit suggests freelancers could make up 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.

When you have onsite and remote employees working with freelancers and other temporary workers, you’re dealing with a blended workforce. The challenge for human resources will be finding ways to help these blended teams communicate effectively while ensuring corporate culture is passed on to those who get less face-time.

As Dan Schawbel of Future Workplace wrote in a contributed opinion piece for Forbes, companies need to develop the ability to “manage without borders.”

4. Increased scrutiny of workplace policies and ethics

There were several corporate scandals that sent shockwaves through the business world in 2017. As a result, many organizations are putting things like sexual harassment policies under the microscope.

There was the controversy at Uber, which led to the CEO’s resignation, and a viral anti-diversity memo from a Google employee as well as harassment scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Fox News and a news executive at National Public Radio (NPR).

These headlines and others brought a focus on corporate culture and prompted moves to make sure people of every gender, race and belief are being treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace.

HR professionals share a responsibility for creating safe and ethical working environments. Not only do we need to review our policies, we also need to ensure they are being followed by people at every level of the organizational hierarchy.

5. Hiring blind

Do you head straight to a job candidate’s social media profiles after receiving an application? Do you critique appearances following job interviews? What if your own unconscious bias is negatively impacting your search for the most-qualified individuals?

Blind hiring is a process that provides some anonymity in recruitment. It could help reduce bias and discrimination in hiring by eliminating elements that indicate age, gender, ethnicity and even educational background.

Don’t think it’s really a problem? A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found people with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get an interview than people with black-sounding names and 75 percent more likely than candidates with Asian names. Women with similar résumés to male candidates were 40 percent less likely to get a callback.

There are a variety of blind hiring techniques, and it’s difficult to make the entire hiring process anonymous. You’ll need to decide how far your company will take things, but moving in that direction could help build a more diverse workplace. Get advice on implementing blind hiring practices from Fast Company.

6. Cost-saving generic medications

Vizient Inc.’s 2017 Drug Price Forecast predicts the cost of pharmaceuticals will rise 7.6 percent in 2018. That’s mostly due to price increases for specialty medications and less use of generic medications.

Human resources can help control health care costs by encouraging people to explore the possibility of using generic versions of their medications. While you can’t specifically recommend medications to employees, you can suggest they talk to their health care providers about options and review the company health plan to find out if certain medications are preferred.

In a Forbes article on health care predictions for 2018, contributor Annabel Acton suggests there will be a growing number of generic medications available in the near future.

“As patents expire, there will be more generics than ever before … In the coming years, we’re likely to see the FDA create more favorable policies towards generics. This will mean more generics will get approved and prices will come down accordingly.”

For more information on controlling the cost of specialty medications in your company’s health plan, check out an article from our sponsor, Security Health Plan.

7. Health savings and retirement

Employer provided health insurance coverage, including a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA), is becoming more prevalent. According to a SHRM study on benefits, 55 percent of employers offered plans with an HSA in 2017. That’s up from 42 percent in 2013.

While higher deductibles are bound to be unpopular with employees, there are also many positives that come with this type of health plan. One such advantage that’s been getting attention is the ability to use an HSA as a tax-free retirement savings resource. As an article from Fidelity Investments explains:

“Health savings accounts enable people to put aside money both for today’s health care expenses while investing for medical costs they may incur in retirement.”

Fidelity also mentions a study indicating that eight out of 10 employees with an HSA-eligible health plan report being satisfied with it. Need some advice explaining this type of insurance coverage to employees? Read our article Help employees understand HDHPs with an HSA in five simple steps.

8. Improving and increasing wellness benefits

The 2017 SHRM Benefits Study reveals how employers are budgeting for health insurance and other types of employee benefits. Results show the individual category most likely to experience growth is wellness.

The survey indicates 24 percent of respondents plan to increase spending on company wellness initiatives in 2018. SHRM research also found 77 percent of employers surveyed said their wellness programs were somewhat or very effective in reducing health care costs, and 88 percent said the same about improving employee health.

Keep in mind, wellness initiatives can be about much more than getting in shape and eating healthily. Mental and financial wellness are also earning attention from forward-thinking employers.

Could investing in wellness benefits make an impact in your organization? HR-Playbook’s sponsor, Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, offers robust wellness program options. Resources include wellness webinars, fitness center discounts and health coaching.

9. Gamification gains steam

An interesting way to encourage engagement and participation in wellness initiatives is to turn it into a game. Gamification can bring lighthearted competition and rewards to all sorts of tasks, especially work that is essential yet mundane. Author Gabe Zicherman, who wrote the book “The Gamification Revolution explained the concept this way to CIO magazine.

“It’s about figuring out ways to create alignment with incentives and motivation. You increase productivity [and] performance and you can attract a higher-quality employee …”

According to Zicherman, material rewards aren’t as important to successful gamification at work as much as employee recognition. It’s exciting to get that first paycheck, but after a while, even getting a typical raise loses its thrill. Turning work into a game creates something new that ignites the reward center of the brain and subconsciously encourages people to achieve.

Want some creative inspiration for implementing gamification in your workplace? Check out this list of more than 90 examples from countries around the world.

10. Welcome the next generation of employees

Gamification could be an ideal way to attract, engage and retain younger members of the workforce. Doing so will be crucial as millennials move into their 30s and a new generation of employees graduates from college and looks for work.

Members of Generation Z will soon be arriving for job interviews and internships. These young people have some interesting traits compared to millennials, baby boomers and Gen-Xers. Check out our free eBook, Are You Ready for Gen-Z in the Workplace?, for key insights including recruiting tips and cultural differences. You may be surprised to learn about Gen-Z’s career expectations.

Young people and boomers will need to learn to work together despite their differences because many baby boomers plan to work past retirement age. In fact, a 2017 Gallup Poll found 74 percent of all Americans plan to work past the age of 65. An interesting challenge for HR professionals will be managing multiple generations.

A helping hand for human resources

HR-Playbook exists to provide support to the human resources professionals in Wisconsin who are striving to make their organizations stronger. We work in partnership with Wisconsin-based health insurance carrier Security Health Plan to provide tools and resources that can make your job a little easier.

Because Security Health Plan is located where you live and work, their people understand who you are and how to best serve companies in Western and Central Wisconsin as well as the Fox Valley region. That includes access to a statewide network of trusted health care providers.

Interested in learning more about how Security Health Plan can work with you to implement employer-provided health coverage that fits your company’s needs? Give them a call today at 1-800-622-7790 and someone will gladly answer all your questions.

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