2016 is the first year Generation Z workers will enter the workplace, and with them come a host of changes that will affect employers on all fronts. Some are related to the rise of the younger worker, and some aren’t. Dan Schawbel, a Forbes.com contributor, lays out his predictions for 2017 workplace trends in an article that details how he thinks the office will change based on his conversations with HR professionals and detailed research.

In general, Schawbel believes that the job market will get steadily stronger, resulting in higher salaries, more benefits, and more money spent on job advertising since job seekers and current employees will have more sway in how the workplace is run. Additionally, more flexible work arrangement demands are projected to increase even more, and HR workers will have a variety of new skills, such as people analytics and branding, and knowledge about technology like wearables and virtual reality.

1.) Companies will emphasize making candidate and employee experiences better.

Job candidates often have a bad job hunting experience, according to a recent study, and 72 percent of them reported sharing their experience on employer review sites like Glassdoor.com. Applicants don’t like it when employers don’t get back to them about their application status, and that makes them not want to apply for other jobs with the company in the future. This decreases the number of good candidates a company can hire down the road. Some of the candidates may be customers of a company themselves, so a bad candidate experience can quite possibly translate into a loss of business, which can be compounded if the word spreads through that candidate’s network.

Kate Reilly posted on LinkedIn in an article that she got word from an organization she interviewed with that she did not get the job through an emailed form rejection letter. She says, “Whether or not I get the job, I’m going to tell my friends and colleagues about you [recruiter]. If you treat me with respect and manage the process well, I’ll be your advocate. If you don’t, well, I might rant on social media. But regardless, a good experience can be the difference between winning me and driving me away.” In another article, Reilly details how Zappos got rid of job postings and created an Insider program to engage candidates in a conversation around their skills and particular job hopes by having candidates connect to a specific team they’re interested in, uploading a resume, and then answering some questions about logistics and culture. As an Insider, candidates are assigned to work with one of the company’s recruiters.

Likewise, employee retention and engagement is currently a priority for HR departments. Candidates can work for many different organizations, and productivity is essential for companies to increase their profits. Another study found that 83 percent of HR workers believed that “employee experience” is important or very important to the success of their organizations. Companies are putting more money into training, improving work spaces and providing more rewards to their workers.

2.) Blended workforces will become more common.

Freelancing is becoming more and more common. In a Freelancers Union/Elance-oDesk study, it was found that 34 percent of the U.S. workforce is composed of freelancers. That’s 53 million people. While freelancing is often thought of as benefiting the workers for the most part, businesses can also take advantage of the gig economy. The authors wrote that “[b]usinesses can access the exact right skills and people they need at the exact right time.” Companies may have to cut back on employee benefits in order to save costs, and hiring freelancers is a good way to do that and to get on-demand problems solved and projects done.  Freelancers and regular employees will work together more and will have to learn to utilize a variety of technologies to communicate and collaborate as freelancers work from locations around the globe.

3.) Companies are evolving the annual performance review.

Performance reviews are nearly universally disliked. Derek Irvine of RecognizeThisBlog.com notes that performance reviews are more like a contract. They de-emphasize the relationships that employees have with their colleagues and supervisors. The goals that are in the “contract” don’t really mirror all the work that has been accomplished since the goals were created. Discussing a study that looked at how well people like performance reviews, Jena McGregor of The Washington Post points out that, “If negative feedback has the potential to discourage even the best performers and the most industrious employees, then managers need to be especially careful that what’s intended as praise doesn’t get misconstrued as criticism. This particularly applies to performance ratings, which HR professionals often plot along a bell curve and use to classify employees’ performance.”

Younger workers are impatient to know how they are doing, and they don’t want to wait a year to find out if they are performing as well as they should. Feedback should happen on a regular basis, daily and then on a longer-term, regular basis. Irvine illustrates an example: employees’ accomplishments are pointed out at the time by co-workers. Those contributions can be the basis for future discussions around performance, not just to note what contributions have been in the past or to remark about goals that are out-of-date.

4.) Companies are where Generation Z and millennials meet.

Millenials are rising to management positions, and Schawbel notes that one-third of them are supervisors or otherwise working in management-related roles, which is important as 3.6 million company chiefs were set to retire in 2016, according to Yoh.com. Generation Z is joining the workforce in 2017, and both generations are likely to push for company cultures and procedures to change, especially in the areas of rewards, flexibility, and working for a cause. According to Yoh.com, “the millennial generation of leaders is more open-minded and keener to put into practice brave, ground-shifting transformations that are more in tune with the current technological trends.”

5.) Companies will use new technology in recruiting and training.

Virtual reality is one of the next waves in HR recruiting and training. Schawbel says that 25 percent of Generation Z and millennials want more virtual reality at work, and he predicts this will happen as companies starting using virtual reality consumer technology. Augmented and virtual reality can make training more fun and interactive. It also gets rid of distractions and can be less expensive. Some companies are using virtual reality in a number of ways to enhance job candidate and employee experience. For example, General Mills offers an office tour via virtual reality, and GE uses VR headsets to share information about oil-and-gas recovery machines with students at career fairs.

And for those looking to pursue an Associates Degree in Human Resources, there are many options.

6.) Companies compete for talent, and the workplace continues to change.

Workers don’t stay with a company for a lifetime as they used to. Heather Long of CNN Money notes that a Young millennial (graduated college between 2006 and 2010) can expect to have four jobs by the age of 32. Generation Xers (graduated college from 1986 to 1990) had an average of about two jobs between 22 and 32 years of age, according to a LinkedIn study.

Long notes that many CNN Money readers worry about job security, and she quotes Guy Berger, the LinkedIn economist who analyzed the subjects of the study, as saying, “’Employers are really churning through the workforce a little faster. Companies are trying to focus on retaining top talent, not just recruiting top talent.’” Millenials are switching jobs because they want better job titles and better pay.

Still, Schawbel points out that job candidates have more options to choose from today, just as employers do. That means that organizations have to emphasize corporate culture more than they might have in the past because employees of 2017 want more from their work experience than a pay check.

7.) Companies will emphasize the team over the individual.

Even though the gig economy is rising, teamwork is going to be emphasized in 2017. Teams are the focus of companies because when they perform well, the company is better situated to compete in the future. Younger workers played sports as children, and they expect to work on a team in their jobs. Businesses want to structure themselves to enhance the customer experience, and teams empower companies to meet changing market demands quickly and effectively.

8.) Companies will focus on workplace wellness and well-being.

Companies are focusing their efforts on preventing absenteeism, save money on employee health insurance, and to get the attention of top candidates through the implementation of wellness programs. More workers are health-aware today than in the past, and going to work can definitely be a cause for stress. Stress at work can trigger or exacerbate certain illnesses and conditions, so companies that spend resources on lowering workplace stress and promoting a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle for their employees can better identify and retain top talent.  Some wellness options for the workplace include transit options; massages; yoga classes; extended lunches to provide employees time to eat, socialize, relax, or exercise; on-site gyms; smoking cessation programs; and on-site healthy snacks and lunches.

9.) Companies shake up their benefits and perks.

Employees today want to be paid a fair wage, Schawbel notes, but he also says that healthcare coverage and workplace flexibility are “the two most important employee benefits.” The latter is important in a world where employees are expected to be reachable and responsive to work-related messages no matter the time of day or day of the week. This has occurred in part because of the rise in mobile, Internet-enabled devices. Even if companies offer work flexibility, they aren’t often actively letting employees and job applicants know about them.

Other employee benefits on the rise include those that focus on education and student loans (PwC offers $1,200 per year for students to pay down their student loans), which is a major concern alone and also in the face of rising total consumer debt. Netflix offers a year of paid maternity and paternity leave and allow parents to come back to work part- or full-time and to take leave as they need during the year. Salesforce gives employees nearly a week of paid time to volunteer every year and $1,000 to give to a charity of their choice. Airbnb gives workers $2,000 to travel and stay at an Airbnb property anywhere they want.

10.) Companies will move toward a more casual workplace.

More freelance workers in the economy and younger workers work in, or want to work in, a more casual attire environment. Jeans and shirts are what employees want. A few years ago, the workplace was generally more formal. James F. Peltz of the Los Angeles Times discusses a survey from Office Team, part of Robert Half International, Inc., an office staffing firm, which found that half of senior managers surveyed reported workers wearing less formal clothing than they did five years prior, and they also said that 47 percent of their subordinates dressed “too casually.” Even so, management and baby boomers are also behind the push for more casual clothing at work. It’s not just millennials. Additionally, 32 percent of managers felt their workers showed “too much skin.” One example of a more casual workplace is J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which allows employees to wear business casual most of the time.

Employers have to appeal to today’s workforce, and in a workforce where over 60 percent are millennials, casual workwear is considered a good perk. Formal wear can also make clients nervous, so less formal attire can help relax the atmosphere.

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Leyla Norman

Leyla is a local teacher and owner of a learning consulting company in Bryan/College Station, Texas area. She focuses writing on the latest news in the training space.
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