Staffing Management

4 HR Trends to Put in Play for 2017

By Greg Moran

Dec. 31, 2016

A new year means new goals, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that HR folks have no problem making lists of important things to do — only to get stifled by budget or resources.

As we look ahead to 2017, we’re watching for trendsetters who have already done the heavy lifting. That way, even small HR teams can keep up with the competition for talent and deliver impressive business results without reinventing the wheel.

To align your efforts with high-impact outcomes for the year ahead, here are the most important trends to follow in 2017:

  1. Adopting a start-up mentality to fuel growth in HR.

It doesn’t matter how “established” your HR organization is. Whether it’s big or small, sturdy or agile, everyone in HR is riding the waves of change.

HR has become a strategic player, and that means you’re not just doing transactional work — you’ve also got to find time to add business value, and a lot of it. That’s where we can take a lesson or two from the start-up world.

As Workforce columnist Kris Dunn said in a recent webinar, “People who are best in start-up environments aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do some of the dirty work, along with the high-level stuff.” Here’s his advice for thinking like a start-up: Do fewer things, but do them very well. Make them sustainable, and build from there.

  1. Treating employees as individuals, not as Gen X, Y or Z.

Stop worrying about millennials taking over the workforce, and put down that article on “10 Things You Should Know About Hiring Gen Z.”

It’s tempting to segment the workforce like this, and it used to make sense. But that was before we had sophisticated science and people analytics. Now we can predict capabilities, preferences and motivations of employees at the individual level, rather than use assumptions like “younger generations need flexible schedules” to design companywide policies and career tracks.

Just as Amazon, Facebook and Netflix deliver custom content to the consumer world, trendsetters in HR are making greater use of predictive technology to understand behavioral patterns of employees, and then acting on those insights with tailored programs and interventions.

  1. Resurrecting the performance review (instead of letting it die).

The annual performance review has been on the chopping block in recent years, and for good reason. Waiting that long to get feedback on anything, especially performance, which determines how we pay and promote people, is completely out of sync with modern business.

But organizations that have killed the annual performance review are now experiencing a void of no data where some data (albeit crude and retrospective) used to be.

Without performance data, there’s no performance management. That’s why the innovators among us are finding creative ways to keep the performance review alive — with some major improvements, like gathering data in real time, and moving from idle performance ratings to dynamic and individualized employee action plans.

  1. Choosing best-of-breed solutions over core HR systems.

Data and automation have rapidly transformed the HR function. If you’ve embraced the HR technology trend, you’ve probably gotten more comfortable wearing your systems administrator hat.

You might also be realizing that big systems aren’t necessarily the best solutions. In other words, a convenient investment (like a big “do it all” system from a single vendor) isn’t always the smartest choice. Why not?

  • Big systems come with big price tags — and big expectations. Promises of increased efficiency and seamless scalability had better pan out, or you’ll have some explaining to do.
  • Big systems are inflexible and keep you from being agile. You need interchangeable parts so you can add, remove, and optimize your systems without disrupting normal workflows.
  • Big systems are usually bundles, like cable plus internet plus phone (but who uses phone service, anyway?). It’s a package deal, and you’re left paying for “add-ons” you don’t want or need.

Savvy HR leaders are opting instead for best-of-breed solutions in different areas, and then integrating them together in a way that enables comprehensive reporting and big-picture analytics.

Greg Moran is the president and CEO of HR technology firm OutMatch. Comment below or email

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