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Every year, Human Resource professionals, and the companies they represent, are in fierce competition to hire the very best talent in the workforce. They are always looking for ways to retain and incentivize their workforce. But 2018 will carry specific challenges with respect to workforce regulations and transparency. This combination of factors suggests that corporate agility and flexibility are an absolute necessity to remain competitive.  Some organizations have adopted their own in-house approach to meet these challenges head on. But for those who have not, workforce requirements and regulations will push enterprises to move fast or lose out. The good news: there is an enormous opportunity for HR professionals to seize this moment and transform their roles into strategic change makers for their organizations. With the right combination of technology and moxie, HR professionals can provide the transparency and clarity that their C-suites and workforce are demanding.

Today’s Workforce

Generationally speaking, today’s workforce is a tremendous mix of ages, experiences, ideas and assumptions. Baby boomers , many of whom are still working, have been strong leaders for many years. Millennials , once considered the ultimate “disruptors” in terms of technology prowess and new workplace demands, have now been working for a full decade! Gen Z is quickly moving in. And the Gen X, your company’s diligent “ middle child ,” is also part of the changing dynamic.  What each group needs and expects is a little different, and perhaps overhyped; in many respects, all employees are simply searching for flexibility, work/life balance and common purpose.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics, telling trends and new government rules that lend valuable insight into where the future of HR is headed.   

Technology Plays Role

The digital age will continue to push workers as well as enterprises to rethink, refocus and revolutionize the way things are done.

Work from Anywhere

Remote working is a great example of a new reality thanks to technology, and it continues to be more normalized for all generations. For Gen X, remote working can be a game-changer for those balancing the needs of young children or caring for an elderly parent. For younger generations, technology is so imbued in their day-to-day work, that a lack of flexibility to work from anywhere seems downright antiquated. The number of telecommuting workers has increased 115% in a decade, according to a report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs . About 3.9 million workers, or almost 3% of the total U.S. workforce, were working from home at least half the time in 2015. Remote working spans government, mortgage and real estate, human resources and recruiting, accounting and finance. For employers, this phenomenon can mean better productivity from happier workers, reduced costs for offices with the rise of shared spaces, and less disruption due to specific events (weather, traffic, etc.). But, perhaps most important benefit of remote working is the widening of the talent pool. Such result can be mutually benefitting to companies and the talent pool. Organizations and enterprises who have adopted remote working options not only expand their hiring options, but also level the playing field for those who may have physical limitations that make a commute more challenging. Definitely a win-win in the grand scheme of things.

Forward-thinking companies using technology to bring together the best talent pool is not just a phenomenon in the U.S.  A survey of global business leaders found that 34% said more than half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020.

AI and Automation

Advances in technology – particularly in automation and AI -- have created massive efficiencies and productivity gains for companies, but have also left workers feeling anxious about their future roles. From manufacturing, to accounting , to HR, there are simply some things that are done better, or faster, with technology. But particularly for specialized roles like finance and human resources, this can be an opportunity to let go of more mundane bookkeeping tasks in order to become more valued strategic business advisors within the organization.

The future role of Human Resources

2018 will see an even greater need for human resources professionals to serve as strategic change makers within their organizations, serving to bridge the needs of a diverse, modern workforce, while intelligently guiding the C-Suite on operational initiatives. A recent report from Deloitte aptly notes that HR must continue to close the gaps among technology, individuals, organizational benchmarks, societal changes and governments. And it is not just societal changes and technological advances that are pushing HR. There’s also the role of local and federal government and new pressures for transparency.

Gender, Pay and Diversity

Media headlines suggest that the gender pay gap continues to persist in most sectors, but there is an ongoing debate as to whether and how governments should get involved in fixing this discrepancy. States like California are already looking at local solutions whereas countries like the UK are ahead of the curve and have implemented new regulations with respect to transparency and reporting. We anticipate that much like the SEC’s rules regarding CEO pay ratio disclosure , as well as some progressive companies voluntarily providing data to attract and retain great talent, the norm for 2018 will be greater transparency, not less.

Diversity also continues to be a key theme for organizations. Inclusive workplaces that encourage success among all employees outperform their competitors . And more and more companies are acknowledging that you can’t make gains toward a diverse workforce if there isn’t corporate transparency . You need a mechanism to report progress, failures and lessons learned, or lose an opportunity to improve hiring and retention strategies.

Corporate Social Responsibility

It’s not just investors and consumers who are insisting on greater corporate social responsibility initiatives from companies. It’s also a critical pillar for attracting and retaining top notch talent . Human resources has the opportunity to shape corporate social responsibility by ensuring that the company aligns its entire supply chain and resources to ethical and transparent practices. As human resources helps create a stronger brand, a domino effect ensues. It’s easier to persuade key talent to join your organization, and clear KPIs can be established so employees can rally around a common call to action.  People feel good doing business with a brand they trust, and human resources can be a vital strategic resource in bolstering brand equity.

Human Resource professionals sit at the intersection of so many social, generational, governmental and technological changes and challenges. 2018 is an opportunity for HR to strategically address these phenomena head on. Not only will HR be tasked to implement strategies that will adhere to regulations and support corporate initiatives, they will also need to have easy access to data to analyze if their efforts are successful. Transparency will continue to be a key component as HR navigates issues like workforce empowerment, diversity and gender. Interested in learning more about the future of HR as well as predictions on other topics? Read on to learn more.

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