HR trends affect everyone both inside and outside of work. Because people either want to improve their own career path or recruit those that can do it for them. During the past twelve months a lot has happened and a lot has changed in the HR world. So let’s take our collective heads out of the day-by-day HR sand to gaze into the distance at some of the likely HR trends coming down the road for 2019. The twists and turns of the Trump administration have given HR managers great pause to think things over. The ongoing crisis of Brexit has roiled markets and left many companies of long standing wondering how much longer they can stave off further downsizing and consolidation. Northern Ireland is still a conundrum that keeps the European Union up at night. The list of this past year’s controversies and policy decisions that affect the HR climate for next year is long and complicated. So what is there to look forward to and plan for in 2019?
Continuing pay gap flaps
In the United Kingdom the recent Gender Pay Gap White Paper highlighted the continuing pay inequalities between the sexes. Female representation at boardroom and senior management level remains shockingly low. And pay equality is still so lopsided that the World Forum on Economics recently reporters that it would require over two hundred years to fully close the gap worldwide. HR managers realize that this problem is not going away in 2019 and will need to be dealt with forcefully and diplomatically if further and stricter government oversight is to be avoided.
#MeToo grows in strength and influence
This leads directly to the #MeToo women’s movement to stamp out sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. As the glaring headlines all this year have made painfully and shamefully clear, men in positions of power and authority, as well as their underlings and spin doctors, have been objectifying women in the office, factory, and all other workplaces in a terrible manner — and usually with complete immunity. Companies from CBS to Google have been guilty of hiding their male employees’ indiscretions and criminal activities from federal agencies and law enforcement officials — and have done little or nothing to protect and reaffirm a woman’s right to report sexual abuse in the workplace and get a fair and impartial hearing.
But that all is changing fast, thanks in large part to the #MeToo movement. Today, and most certainly long into the future, HR departments everywhere are going to be scrambling to make up for past ignorance and/or suppression. The major sensitivity training taking place in companies like Starbucks, which closed all its shops for one full day to do in-house sensitivity training, is going to increase in scope and complexity. HR managers and their staff have to face up to the fact that 2019 is the year when inequality and abuse in the workplace has finally become not just a liability not to be tolerated, but a criminal offense that can lead to serious jail time for offenders — and huge fines for the companies that shield the perpetrators, whether intentionally or not.
“Along with that is the challenge facing HR departments of increased and much more detailed monitoring of employee behaviors at work, and even out in the parking lot and company campus,” says Makai HR. Every interaction an employee has with a company computer is now tracked and analyzed by algorithms to red flag inappropriate communications and security breaches. Tiny video cameras, no bigger than a marble, are routinely placed everywhere at work — except in bathrooms. This leads to an avalanche of raw data and video that HR staff are obligated to run through and judge when to act on something flagged. Even personal communication devices like smartphones that employees bring to work can now be compromised by hightech bugging devices — and the law is still a bit gray and indecisive on just how legal and necessary that kind of monitoring is in the workplace.
The nondisclosure agreement
Standard policy in many businesses for decades past, the nondisclosure agreement between employer and employee is a basic protection for patented technology and intellectual property. 2019 will see an enormous increase in the use of these agreements in every type of industry and business, from fast food franchises to accounting firms to the factory floor of a tool and die business. This is, in part, a knee jerk reaction to the increasing threat of in-house hacking — which takes an enormous amount of policing to be effective in even a mid-size company. HR managers are charged with keeping this documents up to date and legally enforceable.
Yet at the same time there is a growing legal challenge to the validity of nondisclosure agreements. Circuit courts up and down the United States are carefully weighing the viability of contracts that, some lawyers claim, has become a violation of civil rights for certain classes of employees. This is being decided in a state by state pattern right now — so HR managers have to be sure to keep up with what their state(s) are ruling in their local courts of law. And there’s no guarantee that the federal government will not step in at any moment with a broad and sweeping mandate of its own to try and settle the issue. This could take HR departments by surprise, rendering their current agreements null and void.
The gig economy continues to grow
Also known as ‘atypical working’ in the UK, the gig economy is looming as the major game changer for HR in 2019. People simply don’t want to work the traditional 9 to 5 anymore — they feel it’s too constricting. So the gig economy lets workers choose their own hours and how many they are willing to work each week. For HR managers this means the challenge of staffing offices, warehouses, and factories full-time is going to increase tremendously in 2019. The smart HR manager has already got a strategy approved and in place for this coming challenge — whether it be increased base wages and tweaking the benefits package to suit the individual needs of each full-time employee.