5 HR trends to watch in 2020, and 4 things you can do about them

When it comes to the workplace, it’s clear the times are not only a-changing — they’ve already changed. The relentless acceleration of technology and disruption in political, economic and social spheres is impacting work, workers and employers like never before, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report.

In light of this, human resource (HR) professionals around the world face a daunting challenge: they must not only support the organization’s digital transformation vision by accessing the best talent, but also lead the way in educating employers to adapt to the new realities of the workplace.

5 HR trends

To set yourself up for success, here are five HR trends to watch in 2020.

1. The gig economy is here to stay

Traditional work and full-time employment is shifting towards freelancing, working part-time and independent contracting — often known as the gig economy. Spurred on by major players like Uber, Lyft and Fiverr, the gig economy is proving to be an attractive option for extra income, in addition to a regular job.

In fact, 36 percent of U.S. workers generate a substantial part of their income (up to 40 percent) by working independently, according to data from the latest Gig Economy Index. In 2015, U.S. workers spent 72 million hours a week freelancing; this jumped to a billion hours per week in 2018, according to a study by Freelancing in America.

If the gig economy keeps growing at its current rate, more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will participate in it by 2027.

At the same time, the number of full-time freelancers is also on the rise — from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2018, according to the most recent Freelancing in America study. For the first time since the annual survey began, the same number of people now views freelancing as a long-term career choice as those who see it a temporary necessity to make ends meet. Additionally, 60 percent of independent workers say they started freelancing by choice rather than circumstance — up from 53 percent in 2014.

2. Rise of the social enterprise

Driven by the changing priorities of customers and employees, organizations are increasingly prioritizing their societal impact. Asked to rate their most important measure of success, 34 percent of CEOs cited “impact on society, income inequality, diversity and the environment” as their number-one issues, according to the 2019 Human Capital Trends study. In comparison, only 17 percent cited “financial performance.”

Today’s employees, particularly the younger generations, care less about the company’s bottom line than the potential detrimental effects of the business on the environment, public health and so on. More importantly, they want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world.

This means organizations are increasingly expected to go beyond a purely economic role and create meaning — recognizing that while businesses must generate a profit, they must do so while also improving the lot of employees, customers and communities.

3. Gen Y dominates the workforce

Millennials — those born between 1980 and the mid-90s — will comprise half the workforce in 2020, and are forecast to make up 75 percent by 2025. Much has been said about the disconnect between this generation and their Boomer colleagues, including their infamous tendency to leave (57 percent of Millennials expect to move jobs within two years; 40 percent within one year).

But there’s no denying their influence on workplace culture, such as the use of digital collaborative tools and emphasis on teamwork (74 percent of Millenials prefer to collaborate in small groups).

Meanwhile, Generation Z — the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s — is also starting to enter the workforce. This self-identified digital native generation is expected to bring its own digital appetites to the workplace.

In 2020 and beyond, organizations need to consider these generations’ expectations and priorities. The traditional career ladder, for example, is somewhat obsolete, as their concept of career development is personalized and dependent on learning and growth. They expect responsive management that gives immediate and continuous feedback, rather than an annual performance review. And these younger workers expect to be rewarded by the value they bring to the table, rather than length of service.

Their expectations of work-life balance also differ from previous generations — in fact, for generations Y and Z, it’s not a matter of compromise or even a reconciliation of opposites, because there is no clear line between professional and personal lives, according to consulting firm Oliver Wyman. Instead, employers must take into consideration an integrated “balanced life.”

4. Workplace flexibility is the norm

Flexibility is no longer a perk offered only by start-ups, it’s an essential feature of the job if your organization hopes to attract and retain talent. More than 80 percent of U.S. employees would choose a job that offered a flexible work schedule over one that didn’t, according to the latest survey by International Workplace Group.

Besides better employee retention (a Stanford study found a 50 percent drop in attrition among employees that work from home) adopting flex policies also produces positive results for employers, like increased productivity and cost savings. More than 80 percent of companies that adopted flex work policies say that productivity has increased as a result, according to the same IWG survey.

Amazingly, in 2018, U.S. companies with flex work policies saved approximately $5 billion in real estate.

5. Encouraging talent mobility

The competition for talent is only going to get tougher, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. As the biggest potential source of talent is the organization’s own workforce, it’s becoming more important to improve internal talent mobility to more effectively move people among jobs, projects and geographies.

However, companies often find it difficult to access their own people, according to Deloitte. With an internal talent market often undervalued and even overlooked, more than 50 percent of employees generally find it easier to find new and more attractive opportunities in another organizations than to explore and move to new roles at their current companies.

4 ways HR can evolve and strengthen your organization

Next year and beyond, HR must play its part by strategically leveraging the organization’s most important asset — its people.


1. Define your company brand

Getting buy-in to the company vision is becoming imperative for employee engagement. Younger generations prefer organizations that have a vision beyond making money. People want to work for – and with – a company that boasts a good reputation and a strong mission.

For HR, this means working hand-in-hand with marketing to “brand” your company internally.

The challenge is tailoring the message to many different employee segments. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t engage all employees and waters down your message.

2. Support a flexible work culture

HR should be prepared to support flexible work arrangements, over a specific period or permanently. Among the flexible work policies that you can leverage are compressed work weeks, flexible hours and telecommuting, either on a needs basis or regularly.

3. Support continuous learning

Evolving work demands and skills requirements have companies playing catch up to close the skills gap. That’s why “the need to change the way people learn” emerged as a top priority in the Human Capital Trends 2019 report — 86 percent of those surveyed cited this as an important or very important issue.

The growing adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation also means the nature of jobs as we know them will continue to evolve — becoming more digital, more multidisciplinary, and more data-driven. Human resources can play the critical role of supporting continuous learning to prepare employees and narrow the skills gap.

4. Leverage technology

Data analysis will increasingly become an important tool for HR to understand employees better and measure the impact of HR initiatives on employee experience, performance and retention.

HR professionals will also see their own roles evolve — from merely administrative players to strategic partners in the organization. But to do so, HR needs to move away from manual and paper-based processes.

Content services for HR

A content services platform can be an invaluable tool for any HR organization, complementing the human resource information system (HRIS) by supporting employee data with a powerful combination of document management and process automation. More importantly, it enables HR to achieve improved efficiency with confidence in compliance and security — empowering people, not problems, take center stage.

Learn more about what content services can do with HR.

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Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate paper-based processes and improve operations across accounting and finance, human resources, and contract management. Danielle joined Hyland after more than six years with a research and advisory firm devoted to helping senior executives manage their departments and teams more effectively. She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate... read more about: Danielle Simer