10 HR Trends for 2017

The last two years we published an overview of the HR trends of which we expected that they would have an impact on HR in the coming year (“9 emerging HR trends for 2015” and “11 HR trends for 2016“). Number one on the 2016 was “HR embrace agile”. Although we have seen this topic appearing on the agenda of many conferences, the reality is that many HR teams have great difficulty to work in an agile way.

Here we present the 10 trends we think (and partly hope) that will be important for HR in 2017. The list could have been longer, but this year we stick to the magical number 10.

1. Consumerisation
In her excellent article “Consumerization of HR: 10 trends companies will follow in 2016” Jeanne Meister captured all the trends she describes under the label “Consumerisation”. People are more and more expecting an experience at work that is comparable to the experience they have at home. Netflix knows their movie taste and makes good recommendations. With the help of Tinder they are able to find new partners, and all their devices at home are connected through the internet. What most people experience at the workplace is still far from ideal. The percentage of people who are not very happy at work is still remarkable high. Where is the algorithm that has suggestions for new opportunities? (“You like these type of assignments, you might also like …..”). The “Employee Experience” is very much related to this trend. The organisations that consciously design a positive employee experience, for the complete life cycle of an employee, are still scarce.

2. Performance Consulting
Redesigning the performance management cycle was high on the agenda of many organisations in 2016. Earlier we made a plea (“HR: don’t kill performance measurement!“) not to stop with performance measurement. It is positive that we get rid of the traditional paternalistic process, where a boss who had limited observations has to give feedback to her employees. It is positive that we are getting rid of labelling people with performance ratings (“You are a 3.5…”). 2017 can be the year with more focus on performance consulting: how can we help good people to become better, by providing very concrete feedback and very concrete suggestions on how to improve performance. Most people want to improve their performance, and frequent relevant feedback from various sources is an important element of performance improvement.

3. From individuals to teams to networks of teams
In their article “Organizational Design: the rise of teams” McDowell et. al. describe how new shapes of organisations are emerging. From static hierarchical organisations to networks of teams that are able to adapt to the continuously changing environment. Traditionally the focus of HR has been on individuals. Many of todays HR practices (as recruitment and performance management) take the individual employee as the starting point. The view of HR is also often limited to the people on the payroll of an organisation, with less or no focus on people and teams who are important for the organisation but not on the payroll. The focus of HR is slowly shifting, from individuals to teams. Looking at networks of teams and how to improve the way teams are working together still gets less attention.

4. Man Machine collaboration
The notion that it is less about man (woman) versus machine than about how men and women can benefit from machines is slowly gaining ground. Dirk Jonker of Crunchr told me about a recent experiment in the area of succession management. The MD officers of a multinational were asked to take a pile of cv’s of employees and rate them to what extend they were considered to be candidates for certain positions (1=highly unlikely, 5=highly likely). The results were fed into the computer. The next step: the computer was asked to look into the HR information system, and suggest candidates that were not in the initial pile, but were comparable to the profiles of the people with high ratings. MD Officers and machine working together to create a richer succession bench. It is still early days, but the signs are there that artificial intelligence will enable HR to increase their impact in various areas.

5. Algorithm Aversion
Alas. Even when an algorithm beats human judgment, people tend to trust human judgment (especially their own judgment) better. When you sat next to the driver in a Tesla, you have probably experienced the feeling. You prefer the driver to keep his/her hands on the steering wheel, above trusting the Tesla technology. Algorithm aversion is also one of the obstacles in the use of people analytics. If HR provides solid insights, many managers still tend to rely on their own judgement. How to overcome algorithm aversion is an important topic for 2017.
Additional reading: Walter Frick in HBR: “Here’s why people trust human judgment over algorithms”.

6. HR Operations
HR operations has been highly undervalued. Of Ulrich’s HR roles “Administrative Expert” certainly got the lowest ratings. All the HR professionals wanted to be a strategic business partner, the role with the most positive connotation. The last years we have seen an upgrade of HR Operations that will continue in 2017. Most likely HR can add most value in the HR operations area. The requirements for the people in HR operations are different though, and probably we need a new breed of HR professionals who can run HR as a service organisation.

7. Data ownership
In 2014 we wrote (“9 emerging trends for 2015“) that privacy seems to be less of an issue. For 2017 our prediction is that there will be more discussions about privacy and data ownership. As part of their effort to improve people analytics, organisations are capturing more and more data of their employees. There are numerous new instruments available that can capture people data realtime, and use it to give an indication of the mood in various parts of the organisation. In the discussions about people analytics we sense a growing resistance. Employees are starting to wonder what is in it for them. Who is the owner of the people data? This trends is clearly related to trend number 1 (“Consumerisation”). People are willing to share data, if the benefits are clear. You don’t mind Netflix to measure what series you are watching, if they use the data to give you good suggestions.

8. The end of Open Space
In 2015 we mentioned as trend for 2016 “Back to the Office”. If people return to the office, they do not want to work in open space. They prefer an individual approach, where they are able to choose their working location in line with their individual preferences and personal needs. Not one-size-fits all. and this will require more creativity and flexibility of the office designers. Tech can help to make the best match between current needs and available space. Generally individualisation continues to be an important trend, and HR has difficulty to cope. HR likes equality, transparency and neatness, and these values do not always fit well with an individual approach.

9. The battle of the Apps
The amount of clever HR Tech solutions is increasing rapidly. The list of successful HR Tech companies is not so long yet. The big HR systems have not lived up to the promises. Implementation is expensive and takes a long time. If you have the money and a relatively stable organisation, the investment in one of the big core HR systems can certainly be worthwhile. The providers of the neat modern HR solutions are struggling to convince HR to add their solution to the mix. HR does not want to take risks, and the IT department still does not like to have too many providers. But increasingly HR gets the notion that currently a good mix between a solid core HR system, payroll solutions and focused innovative HR solutions might be most effective. This leads to the questions: which solutions to choose, and how to capture the data from the different systems for your people analytics?

10. Choose your own
Many more trends are emerging. Add your own, or choose on of the list below, to make this a list of 10 HR Trends for 2017.
From vacancies to opportunities
Selecting on value fit
The end of classroom training
No more leadership journeys
Purpose, purpose, purpose….
Less multitasking
Working from 9-5

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