Industry Trends

HR Trends 2017 Round Up

By Advanced Resources on February 3, 2017

Are you prepared for the challenges 2017 will bring to the workplace? Technology evolutions and revolutions, changes in laws and procedures, and a massive shift in when, how, and where people work will make 2017 an interesting time for HR departments across the country, across companies of varying size, and across industries. To help you meet the challenges ahead, we’ve rounded up our top 17 HR trends of 2017. Enjoy! 

HR Trends Roundup

1. Recruiting will be data driven.

Since it keeps getting easier and more affordable to access information, experts expect that much of recruiting will become increasingly data driven. Instead of relying largely on applicants’ honesty and references, HR teams can access information almost instantly online. This allows leaders to be more strategic in their hiring decisions, while also helping them to be more efficient and better able to understand the current and future markets.


2. Freelance work will become more common.

In the near future, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers and part-timers. Don’t have many (if any) part-timers or freelancers now? Don’t skip over this one. There is a key takeaway from this trend.

Regardless of whether or not you currently have freelancers and part-timers on staff, look for opportunities to use them. Are there tasks that could be done by a freelancer that might free up some of your employees’ time to focus on other areas of their job? (Hint: This could make a great survey question to employees.) Sometimes, if you aren’t “in the weeds” with employees, it’s hard to know whether or not there might be room for freelancers to help your workforce become even more successful.


Want to stay up-to-date on HR trends?  Subscribe to Advanced Resources’ HR Insights Digital Magazine.

3. Use an agile approach to recruit and develop employees.

An agile approach is typically used in software development to operate with speed and manage unpredictability. This approach is now being used to recruit and develop employees. When Amber Grewal was the global head of talent acquisition at GE Digital (Amber is now the VP of Talent Acquisition at IBM) she led a transformation of talent acquisition by applying an agile approach used to develop software. In the process Grewal created a new role, “Agile Recruiting Scrum Master.” The result: recruiters were able to deliver top talent to clients within 2 to 6 weeks versus an average of 10-15 weeks. Agile is not only being applied to recruiting but also to learning and development. I've interviewed many heads of learning and identified a number who considered themselves intrapreneurs of the learning function rather than learning and development subject matter experts. What they did differently was apply an agile approach to corporate learning by making it easy for employees to find, rate, tag, and consume learning. They saw their job as learning curators rather than content creators. Companies like IBM, Visa, MasterCard, Adidas, and General Electric, to name just a few, are adopting new intelligent digital platforms to create a Netflix-like experience for corporate learners.


4. Employers made progress with LGBT, diversity initiatives.

The Human Rights Campaign reported in its annual Corporate Equality Index that more top employers in the U.S. support LGBT inclusivity than ever before. The group gave 100% ratings to a record 517 businesses, many of them Fortune 500 companies.

LGBT employees also have access to more favorable benefits in most states, with a number of cities covering the costs of hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery incurred by municipal employees. On the legal front, a group of former Walmart employees won settlement on a class action suit over benefits denied to them because they were in same-sex marriages.

Employers enter 2017 with a measure of optimism and anxiety around this issue, however. Diversity both in hiring and in the workplace continue to remain a challenge, and the industry is still waiting for the results of a landmark Title VII case to update LGBT workers' protections.


5. People analytics become predictive.

People analytics aren’t new, but HR professionals will apply them in new ways during the next year. Culture survey questions and answers will help HR professionals identify who to interview. Better HR technology also means that 2017 prediction models can help corporations ensure better hiring outcomes, optimize the existing organizational structure and diminish attrition rates.

6. Prepare for new roles in HR.

What will the “new normal” look like for the HR function? McKinsey coined the phrase the “new normal,” referring to the fundamental changes in the business landscape following the 2008 recession. For HR, I see the “new normal,” as the convergence of consumer marketing with digitization of HR creating a more personalized employee experience powered by artificial intelligence. This means a growing number of HR roles will become more specialized and technical. Consider Dave Putterman, a computer software engineer who brings his skills in technology, and an agile approach to software development, to the talent acquisition department of GE Digital, where his title is Agile Recruiting Scrum Master & Technology Leader.

I also see more specialized consumer marketing type roles such as Mark Levy, Global Head of Employee Experience at Airbnb, or Stephen Hamm, Chief StoryTeller at IBM.  Finally, we will see more HR organizations who have an entire department focused on Employee Experience. It’s this convergence of technology and consumer marketing which holds the most promise for how HR will transform itself.


7. The demand for HR talent with analytics and digital marketing savvy increases.

As companies increasingly outsource routine functions, the role of HR talent is changing. In 2017, many companies will begin to recruit individuals with specific technology-driven talents. Top contenders include HR analytics, data analysts, and marketing talent with an interest in more effective candidate outreach and employer branding. By adding more digital marketing and analytics capabilities, companies can expand their ability to make data-driven decisions and effectively expand their sourcing programs.


8. The evolving market for learning.

The corporate learning marketplace is rapidly evolving due to an increasing rate of job change and new ways of thinking about what learning is. We now consider ‘learning’ to be more dynamic and self-directed.


9. Employee engagement targets morph into employee experience goals.

HR professionals know that high employee engagement correlates with enhanced productivity and performance, but many companies struggle to create adequate workplace engagement. An employee engagement survey may indicate a problem, but it won’t offer a solution. In 2017, smart HR teams will develop ways to strengthen the employee experience as a part of an arsenal of effective employee engagement tools. Company culture survey questions will also become more important as employers look for ways to reaffirm their cultural touchstones. 

10. Resurrecting the performance review.

The annual performance review has been on the chopping block in recent years, and for good reason. Waiting that long to get feedback on anything, especially performance, which determines how we pay and promote people, is completely out of sync with modern business.

But organizations that have killed the annual performance review are now experiencing a void of no data where some data (albeit crude and retrospective) used to be.

Without performance data, there’s no performance management. That’s why the innovators among us are finding creative ways to keep the performance review alive — with some major improvements, like gathering data in real time, and moving from idle performance ratings to dynamic and individualized employee action plans.


11. Pay and performance decouple.

One knotty question these same companies have run into is what to do about pay. Should firms that swap a traditional annual review for continuous and/or peer-based performance evaluations keep making compensation decisions the way they used to? And for those that have reformed (or trashed) their employee ranking systems, how do you then calculate pay fairly and competitively?

As 2017 gets underway, some HR professionals are coming around to the idea that linking performance management to compensation can actually undermine the intended purpose of ditching the annual review—to create a more learning-based approach with increased feedback conversations. The solutions are still evolving, but there are already some ideas being tossed around about how to separate pay from performance and get the desired results.


12. Real-time engagement evaluation.

Companies are embracing digital tools which allow them to survey employees more regularly, and obtain deeper insights about their staff. Using this technology, employees feel more comfortable sharing their personal observations and feedback with their employer.


13. Increase in employee surveys, along with demand for action.

As technology advances, there are more ways for HR professionals to collect data on their employees. This trend is a continuing one. As time goes on, there are more opportunities to collect data in efficient ways and report on the information collected. While all of this big data is great to collect, don’t forget that in exchange for giving feedback, employees want to see action. Collecting and storing big data is a thing of the past — now, while more and more opportunities to collect data present themselves, in 2017 it’s time to take some action.

What areas of your business do employees see room for improvement? Are there new processes or new technologies you can put in place to improve any of these areas? Start harnessing the power of technology to make improvements and show employees you really appreciate them and the time they put in to the surveys you distribute.


14. Wellness and fitness apps to improve engagement.

Companies are putting more and more emphasis on work-life balance, understanding the role it plays in fostering a sustainable workforce.


15. Focus should be centered on resilience and well-being.

The resilience and well-being of employees should already be a primary focus of HR personnel, and more emphasis will be placed on this in the future. Well-being refers to an employee’s mental, emotional and physical state, and some companies are now providing external support when needed for staff and their families. The future is slated to bring about changes both social and economic and employees need to be resilient to meet all of these challenges. When they have the support that they need, these employees are more likely to stay engaged and remain productive members of the company.


16. Engagement strategies move into real-time.

Employee engagement can have an impact on every level of your organization, from productivity levels to morale to profits. Many companies rely on surveys to help them understand employee engagement which provides a somewhat historic picture of how levels were previously, or how levels stand at one moment in time. In reality, engagement levels aren't static. A great bonus or a terrible interaction with a manager, for example, can cause engagement levels to skyrocket or plummet. As a result, HR managers are recognizing the need to have a pulse on employee engagement and use real-time tools and technology to monitor and respond to engagement levels.


17. Treating employees as individuals, not as Gen X, Y or Z.

Stop worrying about millennials taking over the workforce, and put down that article on “10 Things You Should Know About Hiring Gen Z.”

It’s tempting to segment the workforce like this, and it used to make sense. But that was before we had sophisticated science and people analytics. Now we can predict capabilities, preferences and motivations of employees at the individual level, rather than use assumptions like “younger generations need flexible schedules” to design companywide policies and career tracks.

Just as Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix deliver custom content to the consumer world, trendsetters in HR are making greater use of predictive technology to understand behavioral patterns of employees, and then acting on those insights with tailored programs and interventions.


For additional insight from the eyes of other HR industry leaders, download Advanced Resources HR Insights Magazine.

Recommended Articles

Subscribe and stay up to date