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HR Trends: 5 Major Human Resource Innovations in 2019

Author : Courtney Moran

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HR Trends in 2019

Five Major HR Trends for 2019

  • Engaging All Employees
  • Fighting Unconscious Bias
  • Improving Essential People Training
  • Expanding Our Concept of Wellness
  • Streamlining HR Operations with AI

1. Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the level of an employee’s emotional connection, involvement, and commitment to their organization. When employees feel valued—their dedication and enthusiasm for their jobs, coworkers, and companies grow. This, in turn, increases employee retention, performance, and productivity.

As research shows time and time again, companies suffer when employee engagement is low. We recently surveyed both HR and non-HR employees to get a pulse on employee engagement.

We wanted to know if employees feel differently about engagement based on their role in the company; either they are making the decisions around engagement initiatives (HR employees) or, they are working in any other field or department (non-HR employees) with no real say over how their company attempts to engage them.

Eighty percent of HR employees surveyed found that using HR technologies improved employee attitude toward the company. Meanwhile, 57% of HR employees strongly agree that employee engagement initiatives will help their company retain productive staff. The majority of employees surveyed overall believe that employee engagement is important for a thriving company culture. When employees are engaged, everyone wins.

And yet, there remains a disconnect between who at a company is feeling engaged. HR professionals claim to provide engagement initiatives but many non-HR employees remain unconvinced that their companies are using these solutions, or that they will help. We are at a turning point when general employees want to be engaged but remain skeptical as to how software can help.

HR departments, teams, and personnel oversee and deliver comprehensive employee engagement programs that run the gamut from recruiting through offboarding. Increasingly, HR personnel will turn to employee engagement solutions to improve engagement and increase retention. The challenge will be in deciding which solutions will most benefit their employees, company, and culture.

There are many options for improving employee engagement. HR personnel can use employee engagement software to solicit and track feedback from their employees, recognize employee achievements, and promote positive activity. These tools draw actionable insights from employee feedback essential for improving engagement.

Furthermore, there are a variety of solutions to help engage employees beyond employee engagement software. These include solutions that provide continual training and education, career development, employee recognition, as well as creating programs around topics like wellness—physical, mental, and financial.

Businesses and HR employees have a wide array of options to improve employee engagement and we can expect business to increase their use of these solutions in 2019.

2. Blind Hiring Technology

The focus on increasing diversity to improve company-wide performance and workplace culture is already on the rise. An HR survey by Harvey Nash found that organizations are increasingly expanding diversity hiring goals to focus on inclusion around gender, ethnicity, culture, age, and LGBT-identifying individuals.

And yet, implicit, or unconscious, bias is still prevalent throughout the resume screening process. In a recent resume audit study, researchers identified pervasive racial discrimination throughout the resume screening process.

They found that resumes with “white-sounding” names were 75% more likely to get an interview request than identical resumes with Asian names, and 50% more likely to get an interview request than identical resumes with “black-sounding” names. Meanwhile, resumes with traditionally male names were 40% more likely to get an interview request than identical resumes with “female-sounding” names.

Although the study itself is slightly hindered, as it suggests that race and gender are locked into a predefined selection of names, it illustrates how unconscious bias might play out in the hiring process. Now just think of the more insidious ways implicit bias affects recruiting, hiring, interviewing, pay equity, career development, and the like.

We all know that diverse organizations perform better. A recent report from McKinsey & Company found that gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace positively correlate with profit. The biggest hurdle to creating a diverse workforce is in identifying one’s own bias, acknowledging it exists, and taking the appropriate steps to reduce or, better yet, remove it from the hiring process.

Julia Hartz, the CEO of Eventbrite, made it a personal goal to reach 50/50 gender representation on their board. They recently achieved gender balance on their 10-person board when they added Jane Lauder, the global brand president of Clinique. Hartz recently told Fortune, “Since I founded this company, I’ve had a strong desire and commitment to build a team that looks like the world.”

Increasingly, companies will set diversity goals which HR personnel and hiring managers will then need to meet. To do so, they will need to start by designing clear roadmaps for achieving gender, ethnic, cultural, and generational diversity. Luckily, there are a growing number of technology solutions aimed at helping HR personnel do just that.

To reduce the prevalence of sexism, racism, ageism, and classism during the hiring process, HR personnel can implement a variety of recruiting, applicant screening, interviewing, and assessment tools. There are an ever growing number and variety of these solutions available to companies today. I recently demoed a few such products at HR Tech in Las Vegas in September 2018 that can help companies hit their diversity goals by removing unconscious bias.

These solutions provide an array of features to help companies diversify their talent. Some provide diversity filters to remove unconscious bias during recruiting and passive candidate sourcing. Diverse analytics, for example, can help businesses understand and compare how their company ranks in diversity against their competitors. Additionally, some solutions focus on redacting information such as gender, race, ethnicity, or education during the resume scanning and interviewing process, highlighting instead job skills and experience.

HR personnel will increase their use of blind hiring technology in 2019 to remove unconscious bias from the entire hiring process. These solutions will expand the candidate pool to include qualified talent that have been left out for far too long.

3. VR Sexual Harassment Training

At the federal level, sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other physical or verbal misconduct. The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion. It only applies to employers with 15 or more employees—which is precisely why having state and local law coverage, as well as effective company policies, is so important.

Even though we find ourselves in the midst of the #MeToo movement in the U.S., the Women in the Workplace 2018 study by Leanin.org and McKinsey & Company report discloses minimal progress. The statistics are harrowing. Currently 35% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Although 98% of companies report having sexual harassment policies, only 32% of women think that inappropriate behavior is properly addressed. Furthermore, 73% of employees claim that their managers do not challenge the use of inappropriate language or behavior in the workplace.

This study addresses the experience of full-time employees working in the corporate sector. So, this is obviously only a small slice of the workplace pie, and does not illustrate the entire picture of sexual harassment throughout all sectors. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported a 50% increase in lawsuits challenging sexual harassment in 2017. The fact remains, that women, and men at lesser rates, are being sexually harassed at work.

Sexual harassment training, as HR departments have deployed it, and managers and employees have experienced it, does not work. Sexual harassment training has historically been provided in person, or in the form of computer based training (CBT) which includes text, slideshow, and video learning. These methods of training do not actually reduce sexual harassment incidents but walking a mile in the victim’s shoes might do the trick.

We all know that sexual harassment training is stuck. VR is going to break the deadlock.

Morgan Mercer of Vantage Point VR training is setting the bar in developing this groundbreaking technology. This fully immersive training increases the retention of preventable techniques as well as bystander intervention. This market is sure to grow. Since April 2018, 2,000 people have completed public-facing beta and as of August 2018, Vantage Point announced a seed funding round of $1.3 million led by The Venture Reality Fund.

The VR software and hardware market is projected to reach $40.4 billion by 2020. And according to IDC, more than 1 billion people are expected to use VR regularly by 2020. VR is already improving a variety of industries; it’s already improving physical therapy treatment, helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) overcome social interaction disabilities, and advancing surgical training, to name a few. VR is destined to become ubiquitous across homes, schools, and industries, alike.

Virtual reality software is the obvious solution to our sexual harassment problem and funding for this type of technology will inevitably increase. As VR sexual harassment training technologies progress, they will quickly outgrow the standard, and outdated, model of sexual harassment training. And 2019 will be the year that it takes off.

4. Corporate Wellness Initiatives Expansion

According to a recent survey, only 35% of U.S. employees reported feeling satisfied with their finances in 2017. Thirty-five percent of employees surveyed miss 3–5 days per month as a result of workplace stress, and yet another 85% of workers who have experienced stress at work rate the efforts of their workplace to reduce stress as fair to poor. Investing in employees’ well-being is an essential part of improving employee engagement and promoting a healthy workplace culture.

As we continue to embrace mental health wellness as a necessity and not just a pleasant (after) thought, corporate wellness programs are expanding beyond focusing solely on employees’ physical health. Technology can help companies improve their corporate wellness programs to include financial and mental health well-being solutions. These well-being programs are catered toward improving employee engagement by providing employees the support that they need to be their most present and productive selves.

More than half of American employees are stressed about their finances, and that stress has increased over the past year. Millennials, for example, are the largest working generation and are the most burdened by crippling school loan debt. Meanwhile, the sandwich generation is stretched thin between caring for children and aging parents.

Financial wellness technology, otherwise known as finwelltech, provides solutions for everything related to an employee’s financial health including 401ks, debt, savings, mortgages, earnings, microsavings, and investments. This technology provides a holistic solution to employees looking to manage their finances. From student loan repayment benefits to assisting employees with short-term financial issues, employers are increasingly providing financial education, assistance, and solutions.

To provide a comprehensive corporate wellness solution, businesses will increase their budget allocated to wellness, focus on integrating solutions to improve employee access, and embrace digital solutions. Businesses will focus on emotional well-being initiatives including offering stress management workshops, providing meditation rooms, and focusing on mindfulness and work-life integration. Companies will also have the option of using wellness apps to better promote and deliver these solutions to all of their employees.

These solutions not only work to reduce employee burnout but provide employees with holistic wellness solutions to improve their overall health and wellness. An improved focus on corporate wellness decreases stress and burnout, resulting in more productive employees and a positive organizational culture.

Well-being is an essential building block for a positive, engaging, and inclusive company culture and corporate wellness initiatives will continue to grow in 2019.

5. AI to Improve HR Operations

The new industrial revolution is all about artificial intelligence - evident from our artificial intelligence trends report. Companies are increasingly leveraging AI technology to help identify data opportunities, improve internal workflows, and increase productivity, to name a few.

AI-embedded HR technologies can also help companies improve the employee experience. The employee experience begins with the candidate experience, and AI enhances the entire employee lifecycle from recruiting through offboarding. AI can help businesses treat their candidates and employees as if they are loyal customers. Improving the employee experience increases employee engagement and enhances company culture.

Machine learning, an application of AI, uses data to learn, identify patterns, and make decisions. These tools reduce the amount of human power needed to perform a job quickly and effectively; meanwhile, they increase both response time and access to information.

As employees demand more and more from their employers — the pairing of machine learning with HR technologies couldn’t come at a better time. A common thread that ties all of these HR trends together is AI. From engaging employees to fighting unconscious bias, and expanding our concept of wellness—embedding HR tools with machine learning as a service (MLaaS) streamlines all of these HR processes, from the specialized blind hiring solution to the ubiquitous ATS.

Take, for example, our blind hiring trend for 2019. AI can help to remove unconscious bias from the recruiting and interviewing process. AI can be trained to avoid unconscious bias by ignoring information such as names, universities, locations, and dates previous positions have been held. However, these systems are still at the mercy of human-based decision making and therefore require constant innovation. When AI systems learn by looking at existing systems (and biases) they run the risk of inheriting and applying those biases within the hiring process.

Meanwhile, HR service delivery software, for example, helps organizations and HR personnel simplify complex HR operations. These solutions combine service center and help desk technology by standardizing how HR personnel provide services and interact with employees. AI can learn commonly asked questions and automate responses thereby reducing the time HR personnel need to spend reviewing and responding to employee requests.

Furthermore, AI is implemented throughout applicant tracking systems (ATS) that is commonly used to streamline the process of scanning resumes. These systems reduce the time HR personnel and recruiters need to spend on that small but timely part of the recruiting and hiring process. These systems can be programed to rate resumes that best fit the criteria for the open position and now can be used to reduce bias, too.

AI-driven technologies will continue to improve and increase throughout the HR sector. As the demand for these technologies expand, there will be no shortage of new innovations in the coming year.

HR Trends 2019 and Beyond

We all understand that the bottom line benefits from a diverse, engaged and mentally, physically, and financially healthy workforce. HR solutions that benefit employees are on the rise. The growing market include solutions that promote employee engagement, diversify companies, rethink sexual harassment training, expand corporate wellness solutions, and employ AI to improve HR operations.

To create a thriving, productive, engaged workplace culture, companies need to recruit, hire and retain top talent. And today, that talent is everyone and everywhere. After all, it is a candidate's market. For companies to attract and retain diverse and competitive talent, they will increase their spending on HR solutions, which will push the variety of HR innovations to new limits in 2019 and beyond.

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