The modern workplace is on the precipice of a massive shift as baby boomers’ transition into retirement and the labor force becomes dominated by Millennial and Gen Z workers. In 2018, we bore witness to a number of new workplace initiatives - from companies experimenting with microchip implants for their staff to more thoughtful strategies, such as Vermont dishing out a $10K incentive for any remote workers willing to relocate to the area.
So, here we are. We’ve watched the Time Square ball drop, raised our glasses to the New Year, and officially crossed the threshold into 2019. As we welcome the New Year, it’s time to explore some of trends slated to shape the workplace in the coming months and beyond.
Employee Engagement Metrics Will Take the Spotlight
Productivity, revenue, and sales metrics will always be a central focus for businesses; but D-day has arrived and employers are at a pivotal moment where it’s time to get strategic with employee engagement efforts. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged – an issue that not only handicaps individual performance, but can have dire implications for the economy.
Investing in initiatives that drive engagement, such as framing a culture around meaningful work, encouraging professional development, fostering an environment that values transparency and autonomy, and motivating employees through individual praise and recognition platforms, is essential for creating high satisfaction levels and bolstering performance. As employee satisfaction continues to rise to the top of employer efforts, we will start seeing more and more companies incorporate goals and metrics surrounding their engagement numbers.
An Emphasis Placed on Wellness Programs
Next to salary, wellness benefits are one of the top factors that influence a candidate’s decision to accept a job offer. From tech wearables to gym reimbursements to workplace-sponsored yoga classes, employers have begun revamping their corporate wellness strategy to boost staff engagement, increase productivity, and minimize burnout. Employees value personalization, and that’s no different when it comes to wellness preferences, particularly when it comes to the different generations that make up your staff.
Flexible hours, remote work capabilities, wellness programs, mental health support, and even sabbatical opportunities are a few of the many initiatives employers have begun to adopt as both a way to compete for talent in today’s tight labor market and as a means for demonstrating the value they place in their employees. Offering flexible policies, as well as incorporating things like weight loss programs that provide winners with a gift card or extra PTO, will play a significant role in a company’s ability to retain its staff.
The Use of Wearable Tech
Piggy-backing off the emphasis being placed on corporate wellness programs comes a rise in wearable technology, such as Apple Watches or Fitbits. These gadgets are usually associated with an organization’s wellness initiatives in an effort to track and reward healthy lifestyles. By tracking activity and monitoring heart rate numbers, employers can reduce illnesses associated with burnout and unhealthy lifestyle choices. These devices can also help drive cost savings for employers as insurance companies are providing financial incentives for companies and employees who elect to participate in wearable tech programs.
A Surge in Remote Workers
The days of the 9-5 office employee is slowly becoming obsolete, as research continues to show us time and time again that remote workers possess higher engagement, productivity, and retention levels for businesses. Accessibility via smartphones, laptops, and tablets has allowed the traditional workplace to loosen its grip, as employees can remain connected from virtually any location around the globe. With this increased mobility comes the opportunity for companies to employ workers from regions across the U.S. and even overseas, broadening their access to qualified talent.
Laying the Foundation for Employee Growth
Micromanagement and organizations that suffer from a case of measurement-madness have seen their engagement and retention numbers plummet in recent years. Where the focus needs the lie is in staff development and helping employees reach their full potential. Being an effective leader requires empathy and patience, where failure is encouraged as a part of the learning process rather than criticized. The workplace environment has made a tremendous shift; nourishing individual ideas and innovation and helping employees feel like their work is contributing to the greater mission of the company.
Placing an emphasis on learning, encouraging employees to think outside-the-box, and establishing mentorship programs will help usher your organization into a new era – one that genuinely values and recognizes the importance of each employee’s capabilities. Not only that, but expands upon individual skill sets and provides the resources necessary for employees to thrive.
Open-Forum Dialogue vs. One-Sided Conversations
Many organizations are already focused on their people success strategies, incorporating more initiatives that are created on the basis of purpose rather than superficial elements. Transparency in the workplace, along with remolding one-sided conversations into coaching opportunities, will motivate and guide employees towards success rather than making them feel like you’re just unloading a bunch of issues on them.
Leverage one-on-one conversations, as well as group discussions, to pose open-ended questions to your team. This gives employees space to craft solutions and put forth their own ideas rather than be handed an answer by management. It also allows the individual or team to formulate an action plan moving forward, so they are taking measurable steps towards satisfying a need or goal.
An Augmented, AI-Powered Workplace
Machine learning, robot workers, and even self-driving cars used to be the stuff of science fiction. But now, technological advancements have propelled AI and augmented reality into the mainstream, infiltrating how we do business and how the modern workplace operates. AR technology, like wearable goggles or glasses, is already allowing professionals from a number of sectors, including the healthcare and automotive spaces, to use this tech for enhanced visual guidance and intelligence.
Artificial intelligence has become a permanent fixture among headlines this last year, with fears mounting of a ‘robot revolution’ and machines replacing workers. While some feel threatened by the prospect of bringing AI into the workplace, 56% of employers say they have a positive outlook when it comes to automation, analytics, and robots, according to research conducted by MetLife.
Rather than taking the place of employees, there's a mutually beneficial relationship forming between man and machine, one that enhances performance and allows employees to focus their efforts on high-value work in lieu of time-consuming, repetitive tasks. A recent World Economic Forum study analyzed the roles of 15 million workers from over 20 different nations and found that artificial intelligence has the potential to create more jobs than it replaces.
Between customer service chatbots, predictive analytics to optimize marketing efforts, and virtual assistants to schedule meetings, artificial intelligence will be instrumental in boosting operational efficiency across all departments.
The workplace is constantly evolving and while there’s no crystal ball to accurately predict what the future of work holds, we can certainly see where the trends are heading. There are a ton of predictions surrounding what we can expect from technology and the labor market in 2019, but the most important takeaway is to remain flexible, keep an open mind, and be ready to adopt new practices as more traditional ones start becoming obsolete.