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The Human Resource (HR) field is continuously changing. Over the years, we’ve seen the department evolve from one solely focused on personnel management and administrative staffing to one focused on broader responsibilities around enhancing employee engagement management and strengthening company culture. A lot has happened to yield the HR trends we are witnessing in 2020.
Today’s HR departments are also tasked with managing employees at an individual level to boost retention and minimize turnover.
As a result, the industry’s challenges, the solutions it uses, and the tools it needs are also constantly evolving. Bonusly recently conducted a survey to find out what new trends are taking place in the field, particularly in the five key areas: interests, responsibilities, challenges, learning channels, and tools. The findings were eye-opening.
Interests may be better defined as the topics that are getting the most attention in the industry. According to the report, employee engagement leads the way, followed by company culture and employee recognition in that order. More recently, remote work, leadership, teamwork, and diversity/inclusion have also found their way into the HR trends and industry topics.
In total, 66% of respondents say their primary focus in 2020 has been employee engagement, compared to 58% for company culture and 55% for employee recognition. Two key reasons these three were the biggest topics in 2020 are the record low unemployment rates at the beginning of the year and the covid19 pandemic.
The pandemic, especially, totally changed the industry. Last year, retention and turnover topped the list of interests in the industry. But, the pandemic has cost a lot of people jobs and created a sense of helplessness and panic among those still employed. As a result, getting these remaining employees to focus and stay engaged is the priority for many organizations.
Employee engagement tops the list here, too. The majority of HR heads concede that their biggest responsibility so far has been keeping workers engaged. At least 69% of the respondents cited employee engagement as their biggest responsibility.
Onboarding came in at a close second, with 67% of HR departments feeling it’s been their biggest responsibility in 2020. Onboarding involves getting new hires up to speed, which has become incredibly difficult as more workers go remote. Company culture and employee recognition (67% each), and employee experience (66%) follow. Remote work is reported as the sixth largest responsibility at 50%.
Although it’s further down the list at seventh, it’s worth noting that diversity/inclusion is another area human resource departments feel they need to work on a little more. This may have been influenced by the George Floyd incident and the protests that followed and may well feature more in the future HR trends.
In which areas are HRs struggling? Predictably, most of them are the same as priority areas cited as the biggest interests and responsibilities. However, retention and turnover (37%) is at the top of the list. The pandemic has forced many organizations to trim their workforces and put even greater pressure on the now smaller teams, meaning that work has become more stressful for many workers. Retaining employees who feel overworked is a massive challenge.
Aside from retention and turnover, performance management and recruiting are other key challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has made the HR department’s work incredibly tricky in these two areas.
Remote work (21%) and diversity/inclusion (19%) are at the end of the HR trends list of 2020. Both are likely to become even bigger challenges towards the end of the year and may even top the list next year. Inclusivity, particularly, is getting plenty of press lately and will certainly require more attention going forward.
HR departments want to ensure that they use the best platforms to execute day-to-day functions. Here, two trends that stand out are online conferences (71%) and online communities (59%). In-person meetings have become less important (the trend was already in decline even before the pandemic), and webinars and teleconferencing have taken their place.
HR departments also need to keep in touch with their peers at other companies as well as the latest industry best practices. Online communities are now the leading channel for such activities, with PeopleGeeks and Resources for Humans being particularly popular platforms. Other key engagement channels in 2020 include newsletters, social media, and podcasts.
What’s surprising, however, is the strong performance of newsletters and books. Newsletters are some of the oldest peer engagement channels to date. Books (41%) are also an age-old channel. Maybe these two just can’t be replaced?
Finally, HR tools are also evolving, though there hasn’t been drastic change in this area. Payroll software (64%) is still the most important tool in the HR department’s arsenal, followed by Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) software (50%), which is similar to last year. Feedback tools (46%), ATS (42%), and Recognition (33%) follow in that order as the largest HR trends in the first half of the 2020.
The study also sought to discover what informed personnel decisions about HR tools when picking a tool. Why would they pick one tool over the next one?
On this too, there were no surprises, as ease of use, customer service, and integrations led the way. Since the roles and responsibilities of the HR have expanded, they are looking for tools that are easier to implement into their existing systems. People analytics and enterprise experience were also mentioned as key considerations.
2020 has been one of the worst years for many industries, and HR wasn’t an exception. The turmoil caused by the covid19 pandemic and tension occasioned by the George Floyd protests have combined to make the HR’s work incredibly challenging. As a result, new trends are popping up in the industry as HR departments adjust to the incredibly challenging environment.