Chee Tung Leong , CONTRIBUTOR Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
You may have already noticed it.
Subtle changes in your office space allowing you to concentrate more. Your boss being that little bit more concerned about your professional growth. Maybe it’s also gotten just that bit easier to get your application for time off approved.
2017 has seen people analytics arrive “with a vengeance”: this year, 69% of companies studied have been actively taking steps to improve the way they look at people data, compared to only 10-15% before.
If managers are able to effectively analyze and predict staff needs accurately, making the office environment more productive, improving career development, and implementing human resource processes should become much easier.
The increasing adoption of human resources (HR) software has helped streamline the data analytics process and expedite “social connections” by providing management with the speed to act on these real-time and actionable insights.
With this as a strong foundation for progress, 2018 promises to have some radical changes to the HR landscape.
1. Shift from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience
With the growing influence of millennials and the increasing transparency catalyzed by the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience. 2018 will finally be a year where leaders start to focus on developing the “Employee Experience”, an ecosystem that integrates three core dimensions: engagement, culture and performance management.
This new focus will drive leaders to examine their employee journey map and optimize it much as customer experience teams do for customer journeys. It will be an exciting time where HR will continuously experiment with technology in the market such as pulse feedback tools, employee wellness apps, modern communication and productivity tools that will help facilitate the understanding and development of the employee experience.
2. Race to Digitalize HR
An important corollary to improving the employee experience through analyzing employee data is the digitalization of the workplace itself. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools like GetLinks or Arya have disrupted recruitment practices, effectively lowering costs and obtaining candidates with the better fit.
Josh Bersin shares his perspective, “just as many digital disruptors have toppled businesses in travel, retail, and other industries, we should essentially ‘topple’ our HR thinking with the adoption of digital solutions,” he says. “HR organizations now have to learn how to ‘be digital,’ not just ‘buy digital products.’”
In this vein, Singapore-based OCBC Bank recently developed an in-house mobile app, HR In Your Pocket, giving employees a holistic HR resource center for submission of leave and claims, tracking medical and lifestyle benefits, and internal job postings. It also features an in-app chatbot to address questions employees might have about HR.
As this rolls out, such practices are getting high visibility in many other companies. In Asia, where HR practices in some countries are still relatively nascent, there is a significant opportunity for ‘leapfrogging’ – skipping legacy technologies and processes altogether and progressing directly towards a more digital HR that would rival developments in more advanced countries.
3. People Analytics Entering Organization Structures
What was once a technical discipline owned by data specialists, people analytics is now a business, as well as a managerial discipline. This means that in 2018, more organizations would evolve a people analytics function, with the attendant challenges of prioritizing numerous data requests, merging multiple data sources with disparate organizational stakeholders, and the constant tension between centralizing the analytics function in ‘Business Intelligence’ or specializing it within functional disciplines.
The people analytics team would be responsible for developing models and dashboards that will bridge communication gaps between team leaders and senior management. Governance teams will be erected to ensure the security and privacy of employee data, as well as coordinating people data. They will be challenged to go beyond producing fancy data visualizations and reporting, to generate real actionable insight to support people decisions.
While 2018 would see many more companies enter this journey, it would only be the first step. Success will require a prolonged period of commitment and investment.
4. The ‘Gig Economy’ Redefining the Workplace
The BBC defines the ‘Gig Economy’ as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”. On-demand hiring promises lower costs, but it also creates more competition for talent where traditional workers’ career paths are phased out and are now replaced with temporary jobs focused on skill. Talent sourcing practices need to build speed and agility in order to quickly identify work/projects in need of attention, source employees with the required skills, and staff project teams that can quickly perform the necessary task.
Also, the decoupling of location from productivity has been accelerating: research has shown that the volume of employees who have worked by telecommuting has risen to 44%, up from 39% in 2012. Having flexible work provisions will drive a firm’s employer value proposition, expand the candidate talent pool and is a great way of retaining highly valued employees.
A Better Workplace in 2018
All of these trends point to having a slightly better workplace for all of us in 2018, and while companies have new challenges in making this possible, they are likely to be rewarded by higher productivity and greater employee loyalty.