The labour market is never constant. Industry demands on the workforce change, new work health and safety concerns arise that must be addressed and opportunities for employee engagement emerge and decline regularly.
For HR professionals, keeping abreast of new trends and shifting employment patterns is essential for effective workforce management. Recent research from some of the sector's leading authorities reveals a number of key areas in which HR is expected to evolve in the coming months, with the new year expected to yield exciting ways for businesses to engage with their workers and improve performance and safety.
Below is a look at four ways in which experts agree HR is likely to change in 2017, from impacts on the way we operate to ensuring employees are supported through more robust communication and promotion of healthy living and working.
Traditional arrangements giving way to on-hire workers
The shifting makeup of the Australian workforce has resulted in a large number of temporary and contracted workers across the nation. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) notes that over one million residents were contractors in August 2015, a figure that recruitment firm Hays estimates will continue to grow through 2017.
The blending of permanent and temporary employees presents significant workforce management challenges for businesses. Without the relative stability afforded by a traditional contract, ensuring workplace health and safety obligations are met – and procedures followed – must be a high priority throughout the duration of the temporary arrangement.
Keeping abreast of new trends and shifting employment patterns is essential for effective workforce management.
Additionally, Hay's expects to see the increased use of "super temps" – highly-skilled professionals brought in to work on specific assignments in an interim executive or senior role. Given the experience and ability of these candidates, businesses may feel confident enough to forgo certain aspects of WHS induction. However, every workplace is different and the importance of thorough induction should never be overlooked.
New generation employees desiring flexibility
Just as employee contracts are evolving for a large number of workers, so too are the ways in which people work. The demand for flexible arrangements and conditions is a hallmark of the younger generation of workers, and again, additional consideration must be given regarding the engagement and safety of these individuals.
Many health and safety processes remain relevant for traditional, nine-to-five, on-site arrangements. However, with increasing numbers of employees working remotely at least some of the time or not keeping regular business hours, existing guidelines may need to be adapted.
Making regular feedback a cornerstone of engagement
Beyond flexibility in working arrangements, the new generation of employees are also beginning to demand an increased level of feedback on their progress, achievements and development. The modern workforce is perhaps more empowered than ever before, so fostering engagement depends on providing clear, concise information on performance, requirements of the role, and guidance and support for successful tenure.
According to Bersin, integrating new tools that facilitate much more consistent and valuable feedback to employees is transforming engagement. Traditional annual surveys of the workforce fail to deliver the regular communication appropriate for modern employees – real-time, local engagement generates insight of much greater value and allows any issues or concerns to be addressed more effectively.
The modern workforce is more empowered than ever before.
Writing for Forbes, Josh Bersin cites research from Workboard – a provider of performance management software – that shows the most highly engaged employees are those who receive more positive, constructive feedback.
"In this new world we have to redefine this word and look at feedback as a positive, constructive concept that can unleash innovation, solve problems, and create empowerment in the organisation. If we think about feedback in this way, we can open the floodgates to constructive suggestions – and find a myriad of ways to run our operation better," he says.
Leveraging innovation to promote wellbeing
By harnessing the potential of our increasingly connected lives, engagement can be increased through workplace health initiatives that don't necessarily relate to safety. Managing wellness, work-life balance and overall well-being is an often-overlooked element of WHS, but the rise of mobile fitness apps and tracking devices can be leveraged to promote a healthy workforce both inside and outside the office.
Research from Bersin suggests that high-performing workplaces offer a variety of initiatives to help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle. Providing smart dietary choices in the office, having dedicated time for exercise and mindfulness, running fitness competitions and company sports teams – examples like this can develop a healthy culture and promote collaboration and social benefits.
MRINetwork's Recruiter Sentiment Study has found that, over the past few years, the labour market is increasingly candidate-driven – 86 per cent of survey respondents agreed on this in the 2016 study. Offering the support and services that the modern workforce demands ultimately leads to a safer, more productive environment where organisation can thrive.