6 Trends That Changed HR Over the Past Decade




Technology, social media and the gig economy are among the forces that have impacted the practice of HR.



The world of work has changed dramatically in the past decade, shaped by factors that include a brutal recession, technological advances and a new generation of workers with very different ideas of what employment should look like.

Ten years ago, companies surveyed by the https://www.shrm.org/foundation/pages/default.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SHRM Foundation said their top future challenges were succession planning and providing leaders with the skills needed to be successful. Today, employers say the increasing competition for skilled workers is a top concern. As a result, the workplace is much more employee-focused and individualized. That’s pushing employers to, among other things, provide flexible schedules to people with family obligations or give tuition help to entry-level workers so that they can get a new job — somewhere else.

“I would say [HR is] moving from processing paper to making sure individuals feel valued in the organization,” says Kate Bischoff, SHRM-SCP, an employment attorney at https://thrivelawconsulting.com/">tHRive Law & Consulting LLC, which is based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The work is “much more personalized than it has ever been before.”

The trend toward an employee-tailored workplace is likely to continue, and you may need to adjust quickly if you haven’t already started. “We’re going to now see this shift to employee value, and this is critical. It’s the deficit we see today in HR,” says Rusty Lindquist, vice president of human capital management strategy and intellectual property at HR software company https://www.bamboohr.com/">BambooHR, which is based near Salt Lake City. HR’s traditional emphasis on payroll, benefits and procedures will need to broaden. “The HR of the next decade has to be more focused on performance and productivity. And that’s going to require a seismic shift in thinking.”

So what has changed over the past decade, and how will those trends evolve in the years to come?

1. Companies Get Social

https://cdn.shrm.org/image/upload/c_crop,h_1020,w_1019,x_421,y_2/c_fit,f_auto,q_auto,w_767/v1/Magazine/55_26_vgmmgc" alt="" data-transbtoa="eyIxeDEiOnsieCI6NDIxLCJ5IjoyLCJ4MiI6MTQ0MCwieTIiOjEwMjIsInciOjEwMTksImgiOjEwMjB9fQ==" data-publicid="Magazine/55_26_vgmmgc" />THEN: Ten years ago, social media was fairly new and a little unsettling for business leaders and HR. Twitter was just 1 year old, and Facebook was thought of mainly as a distraction that threatened to decrease productivity. Two-thirds of employers used technology to block connections to banned websites in 2006, 3 out of 4 monitored which websites workers visited and more than half monitored employees’ e-mails, according to a https://www.bamboohr.com/resources/infographics/decade-changed-the-workplace/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">BambooHR study of HR trends.

NOW: A more relaxed attitude prevails. Last year, just 30 percent of organizations blocked access to certain sites and even fewer kept an eye on what workers were viewing and e-mailing, according to BambooHR.

https://cdn.shrm.org/image/upload/c_crop,h_980,w_980,x_215,y_65/c_fit,f_auto,q_auto,w_767/v1/Magazine/76_29_rnbzqc" alt="" data-transbtoa="eyIxeDEiOnsieCI6MjE1LCJ5Ijo2NSwieDIiOjExOTUsInkyIjoxMDQ2LCJ3Ijo5ODAsImgiOjk4MH19" data-publicid="Magazine/76_29_rnbzqc" data-caption="Percentage of companies that track which websites employees visit" />
Percentage of companies that track which websites employees visit

Of course, company leaders fully understand that social media can be distracting—and will continue to be for as long as there are cute cat videos to share—but they also realize that trying to control employees’ online lives at work is likely futile and perhaps even counterproductive. Social media is “how people are used to finding information and communicating. If you limit it too much, it’s going to stifle them,” says Donatella Verrico, chief human resources officer at law firm https://www.lowenstein.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, N.J. 


WHAT’S NEXT: In the next decade, companies may well abandon e-mail and use social media or other instant messaging tools as their primary internal communication vehicle, predicts Shawn Casemore, president of Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm http://shawncasemore.com/">Casemore and Co. Inc.

2. Benefits Go a la Carte

THEN: Health and retirement programs were among the most common benefits employers provided, and benefit offerings were relatively limited.

NOW: Employees still value the basics, but they also want more flexible and individualized benefits. Companies have responded by recalibrating their perks to remain competitive in the war for talent. Retail giant Amazon, for example, offers its hourly employees a generous tuition benefit and onsite schooling. The startling detail? The company trains workers for jobs outside of Amazon.

The https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/fsp92a2bhozr3wj">Career Choice program offers up to 95 percent reimbursement of tuition and fees (up to $12,000 over four years) to train employees in high-demand fields in regions where they work. They can learn about aircraft mechanics, machine tool technologies and nursing, for example.

“Being able to advertise such a program helps with recruiting,” says Juan Garcia, Amazon’s global leader for associate career development. And internal studies show that participants have one-fourth the attrition rate of nonparticipants. Nearly 10,000 people have taken advantage of the benefit.https://cdn.shrm.org/image/upload/c_crop,h_1192,w_1192,x_81,y_169/c_fit,f_auto,q_auto,w_767/v1/Magazine/inout1_eqbbpm" alt="" data-transbtoa="eyIxeDEiOnsieCI6ODEsInkiOjE2OSwieDIiOjEyNzQsInkyIjoxMzYxLCJ3IjoxMTkyLCJoIjoxMTkyfX0=" data-publicid="Magazine/inout1_eqbbpm" />

Student loan help is another popular perk with modern workers. “Years ago, the employee entered the workforce wanting to know right from the beginning, ‘What is my retirement plan?’ The entry-level employee is now burdened with educational debt that didn’t exist previously, and they’re asking, ‘What kind of benefits can you provide for student debt?’ ” says Skip Spriggs, senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer at https://www.tiaa.org/public/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">TIAA, a New York City-based financial services company.

WHAT’S NEXT: More companies may embrace a benefits model similar to the approach behind consumer-driven health plans: Employees are allocated a set amount that they can spend on the perks that best meet their needs. That’s the direction LinkedIn went in after it offered a generous paid-parental-leave policy—and heard from employees without children. “We got quick feedback: ‘This isn’t fair. If I don’t have kids, what will you do for me?’ ” says Pat Wadors, the company’s senior vice president of global talent organization. So in 2015, the business piloted Perk Up, a benefit that provides up to $500 a quarter for workers to spend on lifestyle perks such as massages, a personal trainer or a professional dog-walker.  

3. Feedback Becomes Fluid

THEN: Companies relied heavily on annual reviews to assess employees’ performance and provide feedback—and some used draconian strategies that pitted workers against one another. At Microsoft, for example, managers relied on stacked ranking, or the “rank and yank” style of employee assessment, in which the employees with the lowest ratings tended to end up looking for other opportunities in the company—or elsewhere.

NOW: Companies are adopting a less formal and more flexible approach. After Microsoft moved away from stacked ranking in 2013, managers began using a process called Connects, in which workers get real-time feedback without structured reviews. Instead of numbered rankings, it’s about the employees’ impact over the last two to three months, their anticipated future impact, what they learned from various experiences and how they grew professionally, says Chuck Edward, head of global talent acquisition at Microsoft, which employs 110,000 people worldwide. And instead of encouraging competition among colleagues, the system fosters collaboration. Employees are assessed on how they worked with their teams and contributed to others’ success. That’s a welcome approach, especially among Millennial workers. Nearly 6 out of 10 said they have been upset by a performance review, and most prefer ongoing conversations about their performance, according to a study by HR outsourcing company TriNet.

85% of Millennials would feel more confident in their current position if they had more-frequent performance conversations with their managers.


WHAT’S NEXT: No one is sure. 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. “Ten years ago, I told people if I could find a good appraisal system, I’d be rich,” says Pamela Harding, SHRM-SCP, CEO of Enumclaw, Wash.-based https://www.metzano.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Metzano, which operates the LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/351062/">Linked:HR. “Ten years later, it still doesn’t exist.”

4. Technology Moves Work Beyond the Office

THEN: People were starting to take advantage of digital technology to work remotely and outside of traditional business hours, but employers that offered telework options were still the exception rather than the rule.

https://cdn.shrm.org/image/upload/c_crop,h_1078,w_1078,x_127,y_102/c_fit,f_auto,q_auto,w_767/v1/Magazine/20_60_cpwyag" alt="" data-transbtoa="eyIxeDEiOnsieCI6MTI3LCJ5IjoxMDIsIngyIjoxMjA1LCJ5MiI6MTE4MCwidyI6MTA3OCwiaCI6MTA3OH19" data-publicid="Magazine/20_60_cpwyag" data-caption="Percentage of employers offering telework options" />
Percentage of employers offering telework options

NOW: A https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2016%20SHRM%20Employee%20Benefits%20Full%20Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Society for Human Resource Management study showed that three times as many companies offered telework last year than did in 1996. That gives leeway to both workers and employers, who can vastly expand their pool of job candidates. “It doesn’t have to be someone local for a job,” Harding says. Companies “can work with someone across the world.”

Flexible work arrangements and schedules have also brought about a different way to evaluate work. Long hours and face time used to be mandatory at some companies. Now, it’s not so much about time served but rather about what gets done. “It goes right back to getting your work judged by getting the task completed,” Harding says.



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