2017 HR Trends

At Culture Amp, we’re lucky to work with some of the world’s most innovative organizations, including Adobe, Pixar, Airbnb, Box, Warby Parker and more.

We asked HR pros from our people geeks community what their focus would be for 2017. The results range from completely new ideas, to some that have been the focus of HR professionals off and on for many years.

In this blog (originally an eBook), our Chief Scientist, Dr Jason McPherson lends his view to navigating these essential HR trends in 2017, and beyond.

Maximize the employees you have

Although technology has reduced the cost of many things in business, the costs of recruiting and training new people have not dropped, they’ve increased. We require people to learn more and more to perform their roles - so when an employee leaves, that investment in training is lost too. Maximizing your existing people makes them more effective while also reducing the costs of recruiting and training new people.

Learning can’t stop once an employee is hired. When learning and development opportunities aren’t available, it creates a culture of people being focused on remuneration or other superficial benefits. Star performers are often the first to leave, craving somewhere they can reach their full potential. Those left are often poorer performing employees staying around in the knowledge that you’re having trouble keeping people.

In addition to increasing retention, continuously developing people makes for a happier workplace, because people feel proud when they achieve things and do great work.

An employee engagement survey will help identify key drivers of engagement at your organization. As we've learned from our benchmark data, it's likely one of those key drivers will be learning and development. To better understand the learning and development needs of your employees, a 360° or 180° feedback manager, individual or team effectiveness survey is extremely helpful. You’ll uncover trends that you can address through streamlined support and training across your organization, as well as understanding how you can support people on an individual level.

James Balagot heads up Learning and Development at Yelp. Their approach relies on two key practices. The first practice is that people are put in stretch roles. From the day they arrive in the business, they’re allowed to find their way, and coached through the learning experiences they come across. “They just keep promoting me, they give me more responsibility,” explains Balagot.

Read more in our Learning and Development case study ebook.

Moving from metrics to analytics

Five - ten years ago we often heard the mantra: ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ with a seeming faith that measuring things would lead to managing. More and more however we are seeing that it is the analytics and insights derived from metrics that really matter and really make a difference in what people can do with the data they collect. Data doesn’t change a thing, but people with insight and energy can.

Whenever you are collecting data/metrics you should ask yourself what questions you are trying to answer with the data. From there you need to consider what sort of analytics would be required for an answer and whether your metrics will be up to it. For example, if your question is just ‘how many widgets are we using’ then the analytic requirements are quite simple. Whilst if your question is ‘where should we focus to improve our production of widgets’ then the requirements will be more complex.

We’ve seen this done well in companies where a very clear question is identified and the metrics clearly thought out before any data is collected. One company wanted to invest in agile collaboration training programmes. Before they did this they asked themselves what analytic question they would want to answer. Their question was ‘Will this training improve people’s and team’s happiness and effectiveness?’. They then realised they would need to compare groups who had done the training with those who had not. This lead them to stagger the implementations so the comparisons could be made.

Analysis should be easy - that’s why we built Culture Amp to automatically uncover key drivers of engagement, compare cohorts of people and much more. Starting out with a clear question in mind and the right tools to answer it will give you an advantage in 2017 and beyond.

Management at JacTravel across the business see the value in engagement surveys. “There is data that makes the link between bottom line results and engagement. There was a clear business case as far as the managers were concerned as to why we were doing the survey,” explains Elaine Glass, Director of Human Resources.

Read our JacTravel case study here.

How to scale culture

It is inevitable that organization’s cultures will change no matter what happens. Every new person adds something different to a culture. All we can do is try to hold on to the most important cultural elements that we believe will make us happy and successful in achieving our vision. This is why it is important to identify what those most important elements are as early on as possible. A tool like Culture Amp's Employee Engagement can help you easily identify key drivers of engagement. Take a look at how Etsy used Culture Amp to scale culture.

Go in early and go in hard on culture. Start to think about it deeply and purposefully as early as you can. Additionally, remember that a balance is needed between defining and living in a culture - people want the culture to be purposefully designed or curated but they also want to feel involved in shaping and evolving it within certain boundaries. Reflect that in your management by clearly communicating and asking about your values but also asking for feedback and input into how it is lived.

One great example is Atlassian, who have always done an amazing job with their values. They have done that through making them unique and sticking with them steadfastly. They also regularly check in with people around how they are seeing the values being lived and whether people see them truly being demonstrated around them.

Check out Atlassian’s values here.

Employer brand strategy

As competition to attract and retain talent continues to increase, there’s more focus on intentionally shaping employer brands.

You should consider how you communicate your employer brand from the very beginning of your contact with employees - at the candidate phase, including how you interact with unsuccessful candidates. Treating unsuccessful candidates well and in line with your culture and employer brand can be one of the most powerful things to do. It also doesn’t end when someone resigns or leaves the company. So your approach should be as broad as possible and cover every experience someone might have with your organization as an employer.

We’ve seen companies that have designed their entire measurement strategy from candidate surveys all the way through to exit and even post exit surveys with their brand in mind. Consistently collecting feedback means they’re able to see whether their employer brand is coming through as intended, and smooth out any areas where it isn’t.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Linkedin has one of the most comprehensive employer brand strategies we’ve seen - they continue their relationship with employees via their formal alumni programmes and they openly celebrate the success of people even after they have left Linkedin.

Read about LinkedIn’s alumni program here.

Implementing learning and development programs

Every year in our data we see the importance of learning and development reasserted. This trend is consistent across every industry and even extends to casual/contract/part-time workforces. Five - ten years ago people in less permanent jobs were not as concerned about development opportunities but they now see it as an important development and experience gaining opportunity for their future careers. People are cognizant of the fact that employability in the future requires ongoing learning and development and they will look to your learning and development programmes as a sign of your commitment to this. Learning and development also has a significant impact on retention - we explored this in our whitepaper, How learning and development opportunities impact retention - you can download it for free here.

You should really consider going outside of traditional training models that focus on formal external or internal courses. At companies such as Google there is a greater emphasis placed on learning from other people within the organization and creating the time for play and experimentation. Allowing people time to learn from others in a creative environment and identifying internal experts and educators is the new way forward. Five - ten years ago we heard more about people implementing Learning Management Systems or hiring external trainers but today it is more about these dynamic internal self-other learning opportunities.

Google does a good job of ensuring skills are shared internally. This has been documented well by Laszlo Bock in his book Work Rules. Many other organizations adopt a similar approach of connecting people and this can even extend to managerial skills - an area where expensive external consultants are often brought in. A well-considered mentor program can ensure you have ongoing development training tailored to your people and workplace.

Measuring diversity and inclusion

It’s great to see more organizations taking an intentional approach to diversity and inclusion, and using measurement as part of their strategy. Measurement should be focused on overall trends and progress focused. In the past a great deal of measurement in this area was focused purely on the numbers of certain groups or identifications in the workplace, but successful organizations are now equally, if not more, focused on the attitudes and behaviors associated with welcoming and embracing diversity in an inclusive way. Understanding and improving diversity and inclusion at your workplace should be an ongoing journey and cultural value as opposed to a hard and strict measurement approach via quotas.

We have seen companies who have done a great job of this through a continual and persistent effort over time. But for all of these companies it began with a first step into measurement. They didn’t view measurement as the end of the journey or react to the results by feeling overwhelmed. Measurement has enabled some companies to demonstrate to managers that they are perceived more positively when they are seen to be more inclusive of diversity (and more inclusive of a diverse range of people, thought and approaches).

Navigating bias - a personal perspective

In early 2016 we launched the inclusion survey we developed with Paradigm. Y-vonne Hutchinson’s talk on How navigating bias is an exercise in navigating sanity was an eye-opening account of her experience as a woman of colour. “The truth was that I would have to work harder for longer to get the things that my white friends had. That the world was a little bit more dangerous for me. That no matter how nice or how hard working I was, some people were just not going to want to acknowledge me,” she shared.

See Y-Vonne’s complete talk here.

How can we help?

Culture Amp is the world’s most powerful employee feedback and analytics platform. Designed in consultation with our in-house organizational psychologists, data scientists and user experience specialists, it’s easy to use and uncovers valuable real-time analytics anyone can understand.

We’ve got some exciting additions to the platform coming up in 2017 and we’d love to share them with you. Have a chat with one of our people geeks and we can tell you all about them.

About Culture Amp

We've brought together experts in technology, data science and organizational psychology to ensure you can get the clarity you need, when you need it. Measuring employee engagement, experience and 360° feedback is simple using Culture Amp.

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