Top Three HR Trends to Watch in 2020


As we embark on 2020, three big trends in Human Resources are on the horizon.  Many industry pundits had pegged 2019 as “the year of the employee” – the same year that was also called “the year of the skills gap.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that at the end of September 2019 there were 7 million job openings. With just 5.8 million looking for work, the labor shortage marches on. 2020 will be all about how well an employer can compete to attract and retain employees.  To combat that shortage, here are the top three trends you’ll want to embrace to stay competitive in 2020.

Employee Assistance Programs

You may recall the September 2019 announcement from Starbucks about mental health benefits. This new initiative will consist of an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers. Programs like these, and an overall adoption of more robust employee assistance programs, will be prevalent in 2020 and beyond.

Employee assistance programs can take many forms. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as:

“A voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.  EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders.  EAP counselors also work in a consultative role with managers and supervisors to address employee and organizational challenges and needs.  Many EAPs are active in helping organizations prevent and cope with workplace violence, trauma, and other emergency response situations.”

Key concepts in that definition are voluntary, free and confidential – all of which are crucial to EAPs. Types of assistance offered can vary. Examples include: stress management, child or elder care, retirement planning, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, financial counseling, nutrition/health counseling and life coaching, to name just a few.

As you can see, today’s EAPs cover quite a bit more than just health benefits. Smaller companies that don’t have the resources to offer outsourced programs might want to consider a progressive approach. We’ve seen companies offer ‘mental health days’ and even ‘unlimited vacation days’ with authorization safeguards built in of course.

Remote Workforce

Many smaller businesses are dipping their toes into the pool of the remote workforce. The benefit of working from home has typically been more prevalent with larger companies. In an effort to stay competitive during the current labor shortage, small businesses are giving it a go.

If you’re considering offering this benefit, you may want to initially offer it on a trial basis. Before offering this option to employees, the most important thing to do is to set very clear expectations. These expectations should spell out:

  • Exactly how often employees can work from home
  • How they are expected to communicate
  • What metrics will be used to measure their performance
  • The use of company owned technical equipment to protect the confidentiality and integrity of personal, proprietary, and other sensitive company data—whether stored or transmitted on a company-owned or personal device.

Of course, many employees simply cannot work from home due to the nature of their work. But offering it as an option to those who can often contributes to drastically reducing turnover. For more tips on whether the remote workforce option makes sense for you, read our previous blog.

Talent Development

Small businesses are taking heed of something Fortune 500 companies have long invested in: talent development.

If you don’t know where to start, find out where your employees’ skills gaps lie. Internal skills gaps assessments are the primary tool used by professional talent developers. At its core, the skills gap assessment is simply an analysis of existing skills or capabilities vs. the desired or necessary skills for a certain job. Taking the time to do a skills gap analysis gives you a good starting point for identifying what workplace learning topics to offer. In addition to improving internal capabilities, you will also be investing in your employee’s career development, which is great for employee retention. Not surprisingly, 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Even if your company is small and there is not much upward mobility available, investing in workplace learning is worthwhile.  Online and mobile learning is on the rise and is easily accessible. And it resonates with tech-savvy millennials who are up and coming in the workforce. Apprenticeship programs are also increasing to help bridge the skills gap.

LinkedIn Learning reported that, “The number one challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning.” So make time. Build it into responsibilities. Incorporate learning programs into onboarding and manager training, and encourage managers to be ambassadors of talent development opportunities.

It’s All About Well-Being

A recent study published by ClassPass tackled the topic of employee burnout and how wellness programs can help. “Seventy-five percent of professionals surveyed believe it is their employer’s responsibility to contribute to their health and well-being, with 88% of professionals reporting they would be more likely to recommend an employer who supports their well-being efforts.”

Putting employee well-being front and center with assistance programs, flexible work arrangements, and talent development is what it’s all about in 2020. If increasing employee well-being is of interest to you, let us know.


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