4 HR Predictions for 2019

There’s never a dull moment (or year) in HR. The last twelve months have been witness to IRS surprises, political intrigue, and exciting advancements in HR technology. As 2018 comes to a close, one can’t help but wonder what next year will hold for the workplace.

It's time to dust off the crystal ball. Every year, Namely forecasts what might come to pass in the industry. Some of our predictions have proved spot on—others not so much. From a “rise of the machines” to a spike in employee ghosting, read on to learn what we expect to see in 2019.

1. Artificial intelligence will revolutionize the candidate and employee experience.

Until recently, talk of artificial intelligence's potential to impact everyday HR garnered dismissive eye rolls and even memes.

When the Namely team visited the HR Technology Conference and Exposition earlier this year, there was no shortage of AI assistants on display. But unlike past years, the products demoed seemed more fact than science fiction. When asked how much paid leave an employee had access to, one assistant was intelligent enough to ask for specifics. “Did you mean family or sick leave? Are you the primary or secondary caregiver?”

While the profession is by no means on the cusp of being fully automated, we predict that the practical application of AI in HR and recruiting will make it easier than ever for employees to get the answers they need. Whether a candidate wants to know a job’s salary range or an employee needs a benefits carrier’s support line, intelligent “chatbots” are poised to save us all time in 2019.  

2. Recruiters and HR teams will continue to grapple with “ghosting” in 2019.

Ghost stories aren’t just for Halloween. Earlier this year, the Namely team reported on the phenomenon of workplace “ghosting,” or when job applicants or employees go radio silent and vanish without a trace. The term, which has long been used in the context of dating, has officially entered the HR lexicon. We predict that ghosting will become even more of a workplace issue in 2019.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve referred to ghosting by name for the first time in its quarterly Beige Book report. Staffing and recruiting agencies are also keenly aware of ghosting. In a recent Washington Post report, one prominent executive search firm reported a 20 percent increase in candidate ghosting since last year.

3. Anti-harassment programs will evolve to incorporate respect, advocacy, and sensitivity training.

Given the sheer number of state and local requirements today, it’s likely that you’ve gone through anti-harassment training at one point in your career. Over 90 percent of U.S. businesses have implemented some form of anti-harassment training, helping establish it as a billion dollar industry.

But here’s the catch—there’s nearly unanimous agreement among psychologists that most of these training programs are ineffective. Why? Critics point to workplace harassment being a symptom of broader cultural issues, and not simply a compliance checklist item. As put by Johnny C. Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management, “culture always trumps compliance.”

Call it “culture training.” We predict that today’s programs will broaden their scope to other areas, including respect, advocacy, and allyship—in other words, everything that an individual needs to know to be a model colleague. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has already made headway here, announcing the creation of a new “respect in the workplace” federal training program.  

4. Equal paid family leave becomes an employee expectation—much to the benefit of new fathers.

Paid family leave has historically been seen as a benefit reserved for new mothers, not fathers. But according to a Boston College study, nearly 90 percent of men today view access to paid paternity leave as an important condition of employment. And when companies offer it (or the state mandates they do), nearly a third of men will make use of it.

With unemployment at historic lows, it’s an employee’s market. To meet demand, we expect a fast-growing number of businesses to offer an equal share of paid parental leave to mothers and fathers. According to survey data from the Society for Human Resources Management, 29 percent of U.S. employers offered paid paternity leave in 2018. That figure has climbed 8 percent in the last two years. The benefit is especially popular among Silicon Valley technology companies, with brands like Netflix and Amazon generating headlines for their generous policies.

While employers across the country are making the move voluntarily, it’s safe to say that local governments have given them a nudge. In 2016, New York State enacted the most generous paid leave mandate in the country, which today entitles mothers and fathers to eight weeks of paid leave to bond with a newborn or recently adopted child. In 2017, San Francisco enacted a requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees offer six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents. The requirement has since been extended to businesses with 20 or more employees.

The new year brings more than just workplace trends. In 2019, HR and payroll professionals will need to stay on top of an imposing slate of compliance deadlines, bank holidays, and other important to-dos. 

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