6 HR Trends for 2020

January 7, 2020

6 HR Trends for 2020

As we enter a new decade in the world of work, here are six trends HR leaders should keep in mind. 

1. Pay equity and transparency will remain a priority. 

Analyzing pay records for gender pay gaps and pay inequities is becoming standard practice, with remediation efforts not far behind, according to results from the Pay Equity Practices and Priorities Survey by WorldatWork, an association of total rewards professionals.

"Pay equity is one of the single fastest-growing topics the HR profession has seen in decades," said Scott Cawood, CEO of WorldatWork. "It's not just about salary, though. Organizations are expanding their understanding of areas where potential bias or gaps may exist," including hiring and promotion.

Based on responses from 1,872 HR professionals to a July 2019 Korn Ferry survey, three quarters of employers say transparency on pay and rewards will become even more important in the coming year. "In the coming year, we will see an even greater focus on transparency, agility, culture and purpose-driven leadership," said Byrne Mulrooney, who leads Korn Ferry's professional search and recruitment process outsourcing operations.

2. Personalization of benefits is paramount. 

"Companies need to offer benefits that meet the needs of today's diverse, multigenerational workforce and bring real value to their lives," said Jeff Oldham, senior vice president of BenefitsPlace at Benefitfocus, a cloud-based benefits management platform firm.

Presenting a broader array of options that address employees' needs during all stages of life is becoming critical, he said. "Progressive employers are beginning to understand this and have begun to offer a spectrum of options across not only traditional health care, but also financial and lifestyle categories. These are the employers that will be most competitive moving forward."

More companies are helping workers pay back their student loans. The Society for Human Resource Management's 2019 Employee Benefits survey, which polled 2,763 HR specialists, found that 8 percent of respondents worked at organizations that offer tuition-repayment benefits, up from 4 percent in 2018.

Employers will offer more benefits and initiatives to support employees at all stages of their mental-health and well-being journey, said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the nonprofit National Business Group on Health (NBGH), which represents large employers. 

3. Continuous and customized learning will support upskilling and reskilling. 

Personalized learning will boom in 2020, thanks to the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to assess a learner's needs and offer customized learning content, predicted Celeste Martinell, vice president of customer success at BenchPrep. 

And Atlanta-based Randstad U.S. identified upskilling as an urgent employee demand and a trend it expects will shape the world of work in 2020. Companies must address the expectations that Millennials and members of Generation Z have about learning and growth on the job, it said, and develop meaningful training programs not only for skills critical to business now, but also for those that will matter in the future. 

"In today's fast-paced society, it's important for professionals to keep their skills up-to-date," said Joe Miller, vice president of learning design and strategy at BenchPrep. 

Employers will put time and resources into developing different training programs or implementing upskilling initiatives in 2020 to retain employees and grow internal talent for jobs of the future, according to Jodi Chavez, group president, Randstad professional staffing group. 

An increased emphasis on behavioral skills—also known as power skills or soft skills—will become a top priority for companies to address in 2020, said Will Foussier, CEO and co-founder of AceUp, a Boston-based talent management platform offering personalized executive coaching. He pointed to an IBM report that showed behavioral skills dominate the list of core competencies that global executives seek in employees, supplanting technical skills for the first time.

4. AI implementation continues—slowly. 

HR will continue to deploy technologies with embedded AI and machine learning as those tools mature and pass more real-world tests. Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics for Sierra-Cedar, believes that in the next 10 years, up to 50 percent of organizations will have HR technology that provides daily recommendations and workforce insights based on AI and machine learning.

While AI is regularly used today in recruiting, HR service delivery, and learning and development, Harris sees a broader adoption timeline, in which AI expands into new areas of HR and is used as a common practice, unfolding as HR cloud technologies did, which took about a decade for mass adoption.

"Part of the reason for the longer timeline is that we are beginning to see more pushback against AI and a growing need to enact more ethical standards and regulation around its use," Harris said. "There are still a lot of managers and employees who aren't comfortable with the technology or don't fully understand how it works. We've also seen some recent lawsuits regarding potential bias in the use of AI."

5. Technology is revolutionizing recruiting. 

Predictive analytics, chatbots, increased use of AI and texting are all helping recruiters and HR professionals hire better and faster. 

"Analytics assist an employer in analyzing current workers and top performers and predicting which candidates may translate into high-performing employees," said Beth Zoller, J.D., legal editor at XpertHR, an employment law and regulations company in New Providence, N.J. Zoller says that with predictive analytics, employers can move beyond basic measures, such as time-to-fill and cost-per-hire. 

"The rapid growth of instant messaging and automated chatbots that can integrate into existing [systems] will allow recruiting and HR teams to start scaling workflow processes," said Jonathan Duarte, founder of GoJobs, an online job board based in San Francisco.

Economically, chatbots already seem to be a money-saver for HR teams. IBM, for example, and its Watson chatbot, which engages with job applicants daily and significantly eases the HR workload, helped save Big Blue $107 million in 2017 alone.

An online survey of 484 human resource professionals by HR Research Institute, sponsored by Oracle, found that in two years, 77 percent of HR organizations will be using AI for talent acquisition to some extent.

L'Oreal used artificial intelligence tools to screen 12,000 applicants for an internship program with 80 spots. The deployment of AI saved 200 recruiting hours and enabled L'Oreal to hire the most diverse group of interns to date, noted says Vinita Venkatesh, vice president of marketing at the San Francisco-based Mya Systems, which offers a AI-powered recruiting platform that converses with job applicants.

"With the number of people using [mobile] phones worldwide expected to surpass 5 billion by 2019, human resource professionals are frequently adding texting into their recruiting strategy," said Aman Brar, CEO of Jobvite, which provides recruiting software, based in Indianapolis.

"SMS messages have a 98 percent open rate, are read within three minutes or less, and have a response rate three times higher than e-mail," added Cliff Holsenbeck, senior director of product management at iconectiv, a division of Ericsson in Orlando, Fla. "Unlike e-mail marketing efforts, which often end up filtered into a junk or spam folder, mobile marketing initiatives have a proven track record of success."

6. Politics will be talked about at work. 

With the coming presidential election in 2020, expect politics to be a key discussion topic at work, said Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of Hibob, an HR services company based in New York City.

He noted that companies seem to have grown more comfortable aligning themselves with politicians or political issues and even making their political stances part of the corporate culture.

That said, employers should probably keep checks on political debate and disagreement that might disrupt the workplace, he said.

"Companies will learn to navigate this, putting pressure on HR departments to establish guidelines and policies for political discussion in the workplace. Despite [individuals' constitutional right to] free speech," he said, "private employers have the right to restrict employee speech and behavior, and many will implement a ban on what you can say, how you can say it, where and to whom. As a general rule of thumb, it's best not to advertise your political views in the office."

The Authors: 

Deborah Stadtler is Managing Editor at SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy.