2020 may herald a new year (and decade), but today's talent trends will likely seem familiar.
Employer branding, diversity and inclusion, empowering managers and developing employees all remain priorities for talent pros. For example, HR Dive identified "talent acquisition panic" as one of the driving forces of 2019 — and while recruiting won't necessarily remain in a panic state, most experts agree that it will be a strategic focus for all company leaders in 2020.
But experts also said that certain trends may rise in importance in the new year, and five, in particular, will likely stand out.
Talent management will move from reactive to proactive
The workforce now encompasses a large swath of employees, independent contractors and even robots, requiring a new approach, Michael Stephan, Deloitte's US human capital leader, told HR Dive in an interview. "It's going to change the way HR business partners approach … workforce planning," he said. "Not just how many heads you need, but 'where is the best place to access this particular talent?'"
That means employers will need to move from reacting to talent needs to anticipating them, Mark Brandau, principal analyst at Forrester, told HR Dive. "Most organizations look at it from a reactive perspective and not enough time is done on planning," he said.
Expect more proactive talent strategies that encompass tech's undeniable impact on work. Kristen Ruttgaizer, director of human resources at Igloo Software, agreed that employers will have to put more effort into initiatives that draw candidates in over time, such as solid employee experience.
Diversity and inclusion efforts provide a good example of what this shift may look like, as a successful D&I initiative requires that an employer address "the entire employee life cycle," according to Randstad US's report on 2020 trends. Talent is no longer about simple efficiencies; it's now a driving force for C-suite decision-making, Stephan explained.
Contingent hiring will be more integrated
While employers may no longer be in panic mode about talent acquisition, the rise of contingent worker hiring has complicated recruiting by introducing a new variable: When you need more help, do you hire an employee or bring on a contractor?
Employers are "trying to figure out the workforce ecosystem or strategy that cuts across the different sources," Stephan said. "They realize how important figuring out that ecosystem is to that future strategy. They're in rapid investment mode."
In other words, recruiters are starting to press third-party vendors to provide offerings that would allow them to see both employee and contractor availability from the same place, Brandau said. "Why aren't they in the same place and with a nod toward skills?" he said.
Some of this transition also may include adopting development structures that create "gig-like" models within an employed workforce, WorldAtWork's CEO Scott Cawood said in his Top 7 Workplace Predictions emailed to HR Dive, giving workers opportunities to work on a project-by-project basis and understand how their career will develop in the long-term.
'Super jobs' will become more prevalent
Employee learning and talent management are more intertwined now than ever; learning was the No. 1 trend in one of Deloitte's 2019 human capital trend reports. But that push is driven in part by the looming talent shortage and heightening competition. As employers adopt tools that can do some of the work that talent would previously be hired to do — think robots in Amazon warehouses — they're also inadvertently creating "super jobs" that require skill sets that cross multiple domains, Stephan said.
"A package organizer now has to be an expert in robotic tech," he said. Someone who is managing fellow organizers may now have to combine those key leadership skills with minor capabilities in robotics. To make up that gap, employers began to lean heavily on employee development — but how does a company balance necessary development time without disrupting the work?
"People need to be able to do their job and have access to knowledge when doing their job," Stephan said. A global manufacturing company that works on elevators once had a 3,000 page manual, he explained. Now, employees can use an iPad to search for ways to resolve issues on the fly, educating the worker while keeping them productive.
"They're having to adapt to a really fast changing market," Brandau said.
It's not all tech-driven. The rise of super jobs also has forced employers to redefine leadership development and what it means to be a leader in an organization that requires each worker to have a broad swath of skills, Brandau added.
'Agility' will give way to 'adaptability'
Last year, "agility" was the buzzword of choice. But employers and experts have made a semantics shift toward "adaptability" as employers consider how to best prepare for the future of work.
"When you think of agility, you think of being able to bend an arm in a certain way," Brandau said. "But adaptability is an intelligence of...which way do I need to bend and why?"
The concept is not wholly different from agility, which requires an employer to be ready for the rapid changes descending upon the business world, but it does require an employer to more seriously consider how its people work and behave. "Adaptable is about living and breathing around networks," Stephan said.
A company's culture may need to adopt a philosophy about "failing fast and learning fast," he continued. After all, a workplace can't be "adaptable" if its people aren't ready — though Brandau predicts this will continue to be a hurdle for employers to overcome.
"You have to have a workforce that is ready to adapt to change. We hate change," he said. "Adaptive workforces thrive in change. How do you do this in real ways?"
Employers will have to use data to dive local — whether they're ready or not
To find talent faster, some employers have invested in data and "workforce sensing" to get a more accurate assessment of the local talent market. The pressure to do so — and quickly — has only risen in recent years as employers grapple with talent gaps. That data can inform the type of tech an employer needs or even a new location strategy, Stephan said. And that doesn't even account for HR's use of internal data to gauge employee experience.
Unfortunately, HR teams aren't exactly prepared for this deep dive, even if the branding around it has been centered on employee experience, Brandau said. "HR and these areas have not typically been very good at dealing with data," he added. "How are managers going to deal with an intelligent suite? They aren't ready for it."
Employers that want to improve their workforce sensing capabilities will need to invest serious time into understanding external data sources. Where are the "pockets of workforce capabilities"? "Our clients really aren't there yet," Stephan said. But this talent market might just push them there.