Hundreds of thousands of knowledge workers have shifted from commuting to the office every morning to walking to the kitchen table to start their workday. And they’re, undoubtedly, the lucky ones. Millions of others have simply lost their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.1 million Americans were unemployed in March, up 1.4 million from February. It’s the largest month-over-month increase in the unemployment rate since January 1975.
And the April unemployment numbers didn’t offer any reprieve from the economic pains the US is facing. In fact, some reports indicate the real unemployment rate in April is 13%, despite other reports showing it hovering around 4%. And that’s the highest rate since the Great Depression.
So, suddenly, new HR trends that seemed important in January may be less important going forward, as the future of the workplace changes. Here are three HR trends that are taking shape to respond to these rapidly changing conditions.
1. Welcoming Generation Z
Admittedly, this is a trend that was as important before as it’ll be after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ends. Generation (Gen) Z—those born between 1995 and 2010—are entering the global workforce en masse throughout 2020. In fact, according to research by the ManpowerGroup, 24% of Gen Z will make up the 2020 workforce. And with this influx of a completely new generation comes new expectations and work preferences. Adjusting and accommodating to this new generation is one of the top priorities for HR pros.
According to a survey by Monster, 76% of Gen Z respondents said they feel responsible for driving their own career. And it appears they’re eager to prove themselves, with nearly 60% willing to work nights and weekends for higher pay.
But salary is far from the only driving force of Gen Z. More than 70% of those same respondents said they rank purpose ahead of a paycheck. Clearly, the work they do is just as important as their salary. And be ready to provide health insurance, as 70% described it as a “must-have” benefit.
Generation Z is ushering in a workforce that’s highly motivated, engaged, and willing to perform for the right price—which is great news for employers. But understanding this new generation and its preferences will be necessary for HR pros to attract and retain talent.
2. Improving employee experience
Employee experience refers to anything and everything an employee . . . well, experiences at work. From an employee’s interaction with their superiors to the day-to-day workflow, it’s a term that attempts to capture a “day in the life” of the employee. And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, much of improving an employee’s experience consists of helping them manage a unique work-life balance.
With many employees working from home, many are unsure of when restrictions will come to an end, and juggling childcare and other responsibilities, flexibility in workflows will be critical. You may remember the viral video of two young children interrupting their dad’s BBC News interview in 2017. This type of unforeseen interruption during video conferences and phone calls shouldn’t be seen as a break of corporate protocol.
Human resource teams should remind employees that this is an unprecedented time and should perhaps, even find some humor in the current situation—when appropriate. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), remote work policies should stress flexibility and outcomes rather than workflows and processes.
Right now, remote work and flexible schedules are the norm. But, when the pandemic comes to an end and offices fill, it’ll be important for HR teams to remember that employees may expect continued telework or flexible schedule options. According to one report, 54% of office workers say they’d leave their current job for one that offers flexible work time.
Investing in employee development is also an “employee experience” trend. In fact, a lack of career development is consistently ranked as a top reason employees leave their jobs. And this could be even greater among the growing Gen Z workforce, as some have said “opportunities to grow” are their number one priority.
Employee development opportunities can include:
- Courses and certifications
- Online learning
- Building a coaching culture
During this time of economic downturn, some employees are finding extra time on their hands. Providing employee development programs right now is a surefire way to keep your employees engaged, productive, and satisfied at work.
3. Emphasizing performance management
Performance management is a continual process that optimizes the fulfillment of responsibilities and workplace attitudes. But more than that, it effectively measures employee progress—both professional and personal—and verifies that a worker’s development is moving in a strategic direction for the company.
Much of performance management relies on continual feedback and communication between supervisors and their employees. And that influx of Gen Z we mentioned earlier? Well, implementing a performance management strategy appears to be even more critical for keeping this new generation happy at work.
According to one survey, 97% of Gen Z are receptive to receiving feedback on an ongoing basis, or after completing a large project or task. And 63% prefer to receive timely, constructive feedback throughout the year. In fact, 65% of this same group have even said they need frequent feedback from their supervisor just to keep from leaving their jobs.
Adopting a performance management solution is important during these uncertain times to maintain lines of communication between managers and employees. It can also help to ensure the professional development that’s taking place is strategically aligned for company growth. But it’s even more important to keep the incoming generation of workers engaged and free from sharpening their resumes.
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has changed everything, including how HR professionals adjust and manage the workforce. Welcoming and adapting to the growing Gen Z workforce is a trend that remains unchanged by this unprecedented turn of events. But other HR trends have taken shape since the world changed—most notably an emphasis on flexibility and outcomes instead of workflows and processes in remote work policies, and a continued focus on improving performance management.
These may be challenging times, but HR professionals are at the forefront to lead employees through them successfully. But it’s also an exciting time for HR teams to find and take these opportunities to innovate.