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Top 10 Workplace Trends For 2016

Dec. 18, 2015
Big data wins big in 2016, technology and changing nature of work continue to rise.

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists study workplace issues of critical relevance to business, including talent management, coaching, assessment, selection, training, organizational development, performance and work–life balance. These are the workplace needs members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) are predicting businesses will need to address in 2016.

10. Using Social Media to Make Employment-Related Decisions

Over the next year, organizations increasingly will leverage social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to recruit and screen potential employees as well as make other employment-related decisions (e.g., employees have been fired for showing bad judgment on Facebook or when they reveal confidential information in blog posts).

The legal ramifications and potential concerns for using social networking sites when making these types of decisions are being raised by legal professionals and I-O psychologists alike. Organizations need to balance the risks while maximizing the benefits associated with using social media in employment practices.

9. Building Healthy, Diverse Workforces

As organizations continue to recognize the importance of diversity to the success of their businesses, they will spend more time building workforces that value and appreciate this diversity. Employers should consider implement strategies that result in a healthy, diverse workforce that is able to tap into the collective power of everyone within an organization.

This may include implementing hiring practices and selection procedures that assess diverse characteristics or changing performance management processes to reward those who collaborate effectively within and across diverse teams. It may also include offering training that focuses on teaching employees to recognize unconscious biases, allowing them to not only understand how those biases influence their behaviors but how their behaviors might be interpreted by others.

With this understanding, behaviors can change to allow for more effective collaboration that leverages diversity and results in better business decisions and outcomes for customers.

8. Work–Life Balance Across Generations

Because of increased reliance on social media, smartphones and virtual work, the lines between personal and professional lives will continue to blur. Each generation within the workforce manages this overlap differently. For example, Millennials want to stay connected 24/7, meaning that they likely will be on Facebook throughout the day and working at odd hours. Older generations, on the other hand, are less likely to see this constant connection as positive or desirable.

Work–life integration issues, including the debate between offering flex work versus having face time, are becoming increasingly important for organizations, and various options for managing work–life balance are likely to be more effective for some than for others.

Employees need maximize performance and thrive in a world with fewer boundaries between work and life and provide solutions for managing the different needs across generations.

7. Increased Focus on Business Agility and Flexibility in Work and Business Processes

To be competitive, organizations must be agile. Work and business processes must be flexible so that organizations can respond quickly to meet market demands and changing customer needs. An important part of this is a willingness to take risks, learn from mistakes, and respond quickly so that innovations become a natural part of organizations’ ecosystems.

Organizations need to streamline processes and remove roadblocks to productivity that allow employees to focus on developing innovative solutions that meet their customers’ needs more quickly and effectively.

6. Increasing Focus on Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Simply put, happy, healthy employees are more productive than those who are not. They take fewer sick days and generally are more engaged in their work. Providing the right perks and incentives to drive health-conscious behaviors and improved mental and physical well-being – both at work and at home – only will increase organizational effectiveness.

Employers need to adopt the best approaches for determining the “right” incentives and how to ensure employees take advantage of them. An organization may have a great combination of health-related benefits and perks, but if employees don’t take advantage of them, the organization will not realize the associated gains in productivity.

5. Employee Engagement

Research shows that engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond their job duties, roles, and responsibilities to do more than is expected, help colleagues accomplish their work, and look for opportunities to drive innovations and improvements within their organization. While interest in employee engagement peaked several years ago, it is regaining momentum as organizations again realize its importance to their success. Employers should measure the level of engagement within organizations and identify opportunities to increase it.

4. Changing Nature of Performance Management and Development

More and more organizations are changing the way they approach performance management, moving from forced distributions and ranking systems to processes focused on continuous improvement that truly foster the development of employees rather than competition between them. Such approaches drive increased collaboration, foster healthy workforces and result in better outcomes for customers.

Performance management no longer is an event-driven process where conversations are held once or twice a year, but it is becoming an ongoing conversation between a manager and employee that encourages performance development.

Managing performance is critical to the success of organizations, but few organizations do it well. Perhaps this trend in how organizations are approaching performance management will change that story. Organizations should explore the different options related to performance development and define a process that works for their business.

3. Managing Virtual Teams

Increasingly, work is becoming more about what you do rather than where you do it, as more people are working remotely from their homes or satellite locations. How do organizations help their employees manage themselves and their work in an increasingly dynamic, virtual workplace? How do organizations maintain high levels of productivity and employee engagement when fewer and fewer teams are working in the same location? Employers need to ensure virtual teams collaborate effectively and remain productive.

2. Trends in Technology Are Changing the Way Work Is Done

We are becoming increasingly reliant on technology and automation that likely will change and possibly eliminate jobs. What does that mean for the work that your organization does?

Will you need fewer employees in the future? Will they need different skills? What will your workforce look like? Are you planning for those changes in the way that you are currently hiring and training your employees? Organizations must envision the impact that technology and automation will have on business in the future and help identify the skills their workforces will need to be successful in that world.

And the No. 1 trend this year…

1. Leveraging and Maximizing Big Data and Applying the Correct Analytics to Make Better Business Decisions

This topic has become so popular within I-O psychology in recent years that SIOP is devoting a Leading Edge Consortium to analytics and big data in October 2016. Organizations need to understand what secrets can be unlocked from their big data sets, what questions to ask, what hypotheses can be tested, apply the proper analysis for the data and provide appropriate interpretations to drive meaningful business decisions.

The big change was that corporate social responsibility has dropped off the SIOP list for 2016. “Growth of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs” edged in at No. 9 last year, but CSR is nowhere to be seen in this year’s top 10. Will it be back in future years? Only time will tell.

New trends on this year’s list include “health and wellness” and “virtual teams,” as well as a greater emphasis on development over recruitment and selection.

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