HRM takes a look at the apparent 2018 HR trends, and figures out what’s fact and what’s just wind.
Publications love to start a new year by looking at the trends that will affect their readers. This style of article is great; it’s time appropriate and appreciated by the audience.
But they can have flaws. Old trends can change and new ones emerge at any moment, so the articles tend to tell readers things they already know. To buck tradition (okay, just modify it a little) HRM is instead going to look at three HR trends the community is talking about, and figure out whether or not they have any substance.
Employee experience vs employee engagement
Apparently the victory of “employee engagement” over “employee experience” is at hand. HR Dive has a quote saying it’s a trend for 2018. But is this a real change in HR philosophy, or just a change of words?
Well, both terms have existed independently for years, and seemingly shouldn’t overlap. In a literal sense, engagement is a staff member’s commitment to their organisation and a strategy to increase it is the attempt to get that commitment. Employee experience, on the other hand, is an employee’s total experience at work.
But as soon as you hear “we need to focus on experience, not engagement” everything gets mushed. Because isn’t any effort to change staff experience so that they work more effectively essentially an engagement strategy?
Not according to some. People who support the change from engagement to experience argue that engagement is top-down and experience bottom-up. From HR Zone: “There is a new perspective – one that reverses the lens of what you’re looking for in your employees – and it’s called employee experience. This new approach “flips the script” and is concerned with learning, from the employee’s perspective, what it will take for them to deliver for your business.”
Pardon me, but talking to employees is not some fundamentally new strategy, it’s just a smart part of an engagement strategy.
But there are other arguments. In one of the more concrete articles on the topic (found on SDMHR.com), the authors refer to a survey outlining how senior leadership, management and job fit have a higher impact on voluntary turnover, customer satisfaction and/or financial performance than does engagement.
But the survey has a few holes. Other topics it lists as being seperate from engagement include work-life balance, career development, and communication. If your approach to engagement doesn’t touch on any of those things, what exactly are you doing?
At heart, most articles about replacing engagement with experience are saying the same thing as articles encouraging you to not have a superficial engagement strategy. It boils down to something like: “Don’t get foosball tables, figure out what actually drives your employees”.
It’s good advice, but hardly what you’d describe as a new trend.
Zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace
This is an interesting one. Because to what extent will this be a trend in 2018, considering some are afraid the movement is going to face a backlash?
Late last year, the Weinstein scandal was followed by a string of high profile men being accused, shamed, and frequently losing work in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Because so many of them were in media, entertainment or politics, it was easy to forget that almost all of the alleged behaviour happened during work – that it was a labour issue.
It certainly revealed the far reaching damages of such harassment. Even when it doesn’t cause significant trauma, it results in (mostly, but not exclusively) women losing opportunities to advance or being forced out of a job or a whole career. In other words, sexual harassment is both a cause and symptom of gender inequality.
But will #metoo have a lasting impact? So far it’s been mostly egregious offenders who’ve been accused, and in Australia that’s been limited to Don Burke, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, and a handful of others (for a small list, see this New Matilda article).
Part of the problem for workplaces is that a lot of current sexual harassment training hasn’t been proven effective. Less conventional methods have, but whether they will be widely adopted is yet to be seen. And whether a broad cultural change will stick is never a sure thing.
So while it’s definitely a new trend; it’s one you can only hope lasts all of 2018 and beyond.
AI and automation
Technology – the kind that takes either an aspect of your job or your whole job – is simultaneously on the rise, already here, and an unknowable phenomenon.
In 2017 we learned that it has already decreased total employment in US manufacturing by 6.2 workers per each robot. We also learned that a CEO thinks blockchain technology will eventually remove any need to have HR professionals work in recruitment.
On the more positive side are predictions that AI won’t so much replace our jobs as make us more effective at them, increasing both our productivity and our happiness. Forbes, in an article predicting what AI will do this year, says we will see greater augmentation from AI but also greater scrutiny as the initial shine wears off and more problems reveal themselves – such as the very public (and racist) failure of Microsoft’s Tay bot.
So of course the continuing rise of technology is a trend, but we still have no idea whether that’s a good thing.
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