The Best of #WorkTrends 2018

Happy holidays! To celebrate the end of the year we’re looking back to our favorite #WorkTrends conversations in 2018. We put together out first ever Best of #WorkTrends, with excerpts from our favorite conversations throughout the year.

As we sifted through the conversations we’ve had in 2018, two big themes stuck out to us. I’d argue they’re the most significant challenges we face in HR today: building better connections at work and the future of HR.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Best of #WorkTrends 2018. Congratulations to our selections! You can listen to the two-part special episode below.

Part 1: Building More Authentic Connections at Work

Part 2: What’s Next for HR

Keep reading for our top takeaways from our featured guests.

Why Do We Feel So Far Apart?

Leadership coach Lisa Prior shared a statistic that most of us know all too well: 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged. It’s a stupefying number that seems to contradict so many of the trends that have made our working lives more personally convenient. In a world with flex hours and remote work, shouldn’t we be more engaged?

But maybe there are some reasons why it’s especially difficult to foster that personal connection at work:

  • Workers are changing jobs faster than ever before.
  • Companies are relying more on the Hollywood model (bringing talent together for short-term projects), as opposed to a traditional corporate hierarchy.
  • We’re seeing more and more gig-based work.

To workplace strategist Erica Keswin, the answer is much simpler: We’re overly reliant on electronic communication. “Many of us really want to get to inbox zero, and we’re prioritizing that over some of these human connections,” Keswin says.

Put the ‘Human’ Back Into Human Resources

The harsh reality is that it’s very easy to see our co-workers as objects — human extensions of their email addresses or Slack profiles. “Your employees do not just exist to do the job,” author Kimberly White says. “They have their own backstories. They have their own perspectives.”

You’ll notice many of our guests emphasize the importance of face-to-face interactions. But they also talk a lot about the responsibility of leadership to set an example with their behavior. Leaders must be aware that their behavior will be modeled throughout an organization.

“Building a culture occurs from the top down,” emotional intelligence trainer Valerie Sargent says. “There’s an emotional culture to every company, and unfortunately a lot of leaders don’t know what kind of emotional culture they’re creating.”

But engagement with your co-workers is only part of renovating the connections in your workplace. A more connected organization also engenders a greater sense of trust among employees.

Leadership expert Heather Hanson Wickman has a helpful exercise to build these bonds. She suggests taking a look at your calendar and seeing what tasks you can assign to someone else: “Is there a decision you run into this week that someone else can take on, that you don’t have to take on, and actually they can do and maybe learn something through the process?” Doing so not only empowers an employee but it also gives her the tools to thrive and grow.

Preparing for Change

Another challenge is the future of HR itself. The pace of change in our industry has already tested many of our assumptions about what HR is supposed to be about. Dawn Burke, founder of Dawn Burke HR Consulting, has worked in HR for 20 years. She looked back with us on the evolution of the industry. “The old HR function was one that was really driven by compliance,” she says. But now HR is multifaceted, with an emphasis on professional development as much as ticking the right boxes on forms.

Ready or not, the future is going to be different. Disruptive technologies are coming, and they may cause serious tension at your workplace. Many people will be threatened by new technology, feeling that it could cost them their job.

That’s why HR professional Ryan Higginson-Scott emphasizes patience when proposing changes. Don’t fight with those who resist, he says: “Help them find the value in change.” It’s key to a smooth transition, and it will ensure a greater sense of respect as your organization navigates the road ahead.

The ‘A Word’

Automation is the dreaded A word. We hear so much about it, but it’s already changing HR. One of our most fascinating conversations this year was with Carisa Miklusak, whose company Tilr is automating the application and selection process. It’s worth a listen.

I do understand the skepticism surrounding automation. After all, it rarely seems like robots in science fiction movies are looking after humanity’s best interests. But as HR tech expert Anna Ott explains, automation isn’t here to replace our jobs; it’s here to make our jobs better — and to make it easier for HR practitioners to do the work that matters. “When I speak to HR people, most of them tell me that they have signed up for this job because they want to work with people,” she says.

Automation presents an opportunity to get rid of the forms and box-checking that we associate with the Old HR. “Anything that automates processes and takes the admin work of HR is definitely something that we all appreciate,” Ott says.

That’s ironic, right? Technology is creating barriers between people at work, but it may also offer tools we need to break down those barriers. Ben Eubanks, author of “Artificial Intelligence for HR,” agrees. He foresees a future where automation creates more fulfilling careers for employees.

Soon, Eubanks predicts, organizations will have tools to help them better identify candidates internally for open positions, especially unconventional candidates who may not make it to the shortlist when a human being is the one sorting through resumes. “Maybe [the candidate has] a 10 or 20 percent skill gap,” Eubanks says. With training, that employee could be prepared for a new role, and discover an exciting new challenge and career path. And promoting from within costs roughly one-sixth what it does to hire externally. Talk about value.

So who knows? Maybe all we need are some robots to get us to come together.

We’ll see you next year. But for now, happy holidays!