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HR trends to watch in 2018

By Jen Wetherow

Our workplaces and the nature of work itself are changing rapidly. Your ability to stay ahead of the curve has deep implications for the long-term success of your organization.

Looking back at extensive data and trends over the last few years, Great Place to Work® has gained valuable insights into the future of work in Canada. Applying these insights and data in new ways can help create a competitive advantage for your organization in 2018 and beyond.

Predicting the future of work

Each year, Great Place to Work® undertakes the world’s largest global study of workplace cultures across industries and geographies. Last year alone, the survey represented the voices of roughly 12 million employees. Annually, these survey results and other cultural aspects of the study are reflected in a series of “100 Best” lists published around the world, including The Globe and Mail list of 100 Best Workplaces.

By systematically analyzing workplace, cultural and behavioural data collected over the last several years, we can extrapolate key trends and changes most likely to continue through 2018 and beyond; here are four to watch.

Trend One: Agility and innovation

It’s the hottest topic in every boardroom across the country. When we ask CEOs what keeps them up at night, the most common response is “speed of change.” This is rooted in a systemic digital disruption that is, one by one, turning every industry on its head. In the first wave, we saw new technology from companies like Netflix, Uber and Airbnb disrupt incumbent players in their respective fields. A combination of small fin-techs and blockchain technology will do the same in finance. It doesn’t matter what you sell; if you weren’t a tech firm before, you’re going to be. This why executives across Canada are so fixated on innovation and agility; it’s change or die.

So, what is an agile organization? In simplest terms, it’s one with a change-ready mindset. One that moves quickly and decisively in reaction to a new competitor or shifts in the market. It means being more tuned-in and responsive to your customers. At the individual level, agile organizations favour growth-minded staff that are open, curious and able to adapt. At the top, it requires leaders to up their communication game because the corporate vision (and road map for getting there) is more fluid than ever before.

Trend Two: Resilience

The flip-side of the agility coin is resilience and it’s unfortunate that this theme hasn’t had more airtime in the C-suite. If you plan to be more innovative and agile, then you’re also assuming a higher tolerance for certain risks. Being first-to-market means that, at least some of the time, you’ll be first to make mistakes, so you need to put a safety net in place before asking employees to take that plunge.

When these core elements of trust are in place, you will be better positioned to bounce back from organizational challenges that may be associated with agility and speed.

This safety net comes in the form of a high-trust culture. As an organization, there are documented, concrete steps your managers can take to build a reservoir of trust. Great Place to Work® has identified three characteristics of a high-trust relationship between an employee and employer: credible leaders, respect for employees and a sense of fair play.

When these core elements of trust are in place, you will be better positioned to bounce back from organizational challenges that may be associated with agility and speed.

Trend Three: Inclusion

Business leaders everywhere recognize diversity in all its forms as a competitive advantage. Diverse perspectives drive creativity, innovation and foster a feeling among employees that their opinion matters, which encourages them to give their best effort. But this isn’t new. What’s new is the understanding that diversity isn’t the goal – inclusion is.

Diversity is something that can be counted; it is a measurement of the differences between people. You can tally the percentage of employees from any given demographic group. You can set diversity targets and know precisely when those are achieved.

Through recruitment efforts and good hiring practices, you may hit those diversity targets. But without an inclusive culture, all those people you brought in through the front door will slip straight out the back. As employers, it’s our job to cultivate an experience of a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected and supported.

Trend Four: Data analytics

A lot of companies are talking about this, but few have harnessed its full potential. Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. Analytics is how we utilize this data to predict critical relationships between people, culture and performance.

Google, for example, can predict the future performance of an employee based on his or her response to a specific interview question. Great Place to Work® can systematically link employee survey and culture assessment data with key performance indicators to help companies predict the individual behaviours most likely to drive success. The goal, in both cases, is to arm your executives with the empirical evidence they need to make better decisions.

Advanced analytics has rapidly ascended from the playground of technical analysts or “data geeks” to the business agendas of C-suites because of its clear impact on the bottom line. If your company hasn’t yet developed the capacity to undertake this type of initiative internally, consider engaging an external support to do so. 

Jen Wetherow is a senior director at Great Place to Work® Canada.

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