Only a few weeks remain in 2016, and as we look to the next year, there is no denying it’s a truly dynamic time for HR professionals. We work in an environment that is constantly changing and filled with new opportunities to enhance the way we lead and manage our most important asset, our people.
Today, business leaders are faced with a challenge those who have come before them have never encountered – assimilating five different generations into today’s workforce and leading teams comprised of individuals with unique priorities, interests and expectations.
Generation Z is stepping foot into the workforce for the first time, millennials are settling down and starting families, and baby boomers are faced with the responsibility of caring for elderly family members. While the priorities may be different, the theme is the same: when you hire an employee, you employ the whole person, including their family, their health and their interests.
As we look to next year, the major HR trends I see will be surrounding rethinking employee benefits. Retirement benefits were en vogue across workplaces in the 80s, but today, employees are thinking less about the future and more about the now. Their mindset has shifted to how employers can help them maximize their time with family or to pursue individual experiences, as opposed to emphasizing retirement benefits and pensions.
Here’s how we anticipate that mindset shift will affect HR in 2017:
Paid Family Leave
Today, we’re realizing a gap in the family leave laws concerning who is covered and who is paid. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers job protection, but it is unpaid and only offered for up to 12 weeks. Currently, only 12 percent of employees (via United States Department of Labor) have access to paid leave, which tends to be offered by technology and financial services companies as well as some businesses located in California and on the east coast.
An emerging trend across organizations that is gaining increased traction is placing more emphasis on paternity and family leave. Millennials who are starting families are pushing employers to acknowledge the importance a father plays in raising and bonding with their child, and on the flipside, Generation X and Baby Boomers are caring for ill family members and require additional leave to support their time away. California was the first state to implement paid family leave, which has also spread to the corporate level. Deloitte is now offering employees up to 16 weeks fully paid of family leave to support range of life events like maternity and paternity leave, elder care and aid for sick family members and partners.
Unlimited Vacation – The Ultimate Flexible Benefit
When surveyed, many employees reveal that a top benefit they look for when considering a role is the amount of vacation offered. Surprisingly, studies have shown that while employees earn 20 days off, the majority only use 16 of those days. Employees today are using a full work week less than they did in 2000, and it’s having a major impact. Work expectations and demanding schedules are causing employees to take less time. As a result, employees miss three notable events a year and only 38 percent of employees feel supported to take time off.
A handful of employers are trying to reverse this trend by offering flexible unlimited vacation opportunities for employees. Unlimited vacation empowers employees to decide what to do with their time off while ensuring that the necessary work is completed and the absence is not damaging. Experts analyzing this trend believe that employees are motivated not to let their peers down or to damage their own career by misusing the benefit. While unlimited vacation is not for every company or environment, look for more organizations to consider this benefit.
We’ve all experienced it – sick family members, an unexpected doctor’s appointment, or an emergency home repair. Life happens and employees are looking for employers to be cognizant of responsibilities outside of the office. I can’t recall an interview where I wasn’t asked about our company’s expectations concerning work time commitments and the flexibility we offer. The question for HR is how to encourage flexibility for employees and how to teach managers to embrace flexibility to attract the best talent. Consider implementing work from home or flexible hours policies to help employees balance work and home life.
A growing trend that will affect even more businesses in 2017 is the “gig” or freelance economy. Work or “freelance gigs” are being organized into a variety of arrangements that can easily be bid on by a variety of freelance or consulting positions. One out of three millennials currently freelance, and by 2020, the Bureau of Labor predicts that 40 percent of American workers will be independent contractors. In areas of specialized skills, those types of talent are looking for freelance opportunities and organizations will be tasked with offering the same type of flexible arrangements for employees that freelance positions receive.
While many trends are affecting the HR industry, we as leaders have a real opportunity to challenge the status quo to enhance our employees’ experience. How do we disrupt the typical routine? Emerging trends are driving us to look at the employee experience in new ways and to listen to consider our people in everything we do.
About the Author: Karen Crone is Chief HR Officer at Human Capital Management company Paycor.