We so often get hung up on industry trends. A business center will always know the hottest ideas and trends in their specific industry. But we tend to not say as much on people trends. People are our most important asset, and that means we should know what’s going on in the people industry and how that’s changing.

There are 5 key trends I’m seeing that are going to be important for companies to leverage.

Generation Z entering the workforce. In the past it’s been all about millennials. Sorry millennials, it’s all about Gen Z now! These are the ones who were born in the late 1990s-present. Yes, my daughters fall into this category. Anybody else?

We don’t know a lot about them yet in terms of their attitudes towards work and the workplace. But we can make some assumptions. These kids even more so than the millennials have had technology in their hands since they were able to hold the technology. We expect that this generation is going to value the ability to get information through technology and have that ability at their fingertips.

Those millennials I mentioned above are going to be supervising the new Gen Z workers. Our focus needs to shift from worrying about how to engage millennials to thinking about how we begin turning them into company leaders now that there’s another generation coming in behind them.

Companies can prepare by beginning to train millennials to become leaders, and by working on recruiting. Recruiting these Gen Z-ers isn’t just going to be companies figuring out if candidates are a good fit for the organization. It’s going to be companies proving to candidates that they are a good fit for them, too.

Restructuring of performance management. In the past 7 years there has been a bandwagon of folks calling for companies to do away with performance management, calling it antiquated and useless. In reality, performance management is very valuable. It’s just the way we’ve done it that’s outdated.

Performance management is becoming more of a process where managers and employees are discussing performance throughout the year. Workers want that feedback and don’t want to wait for it. Leaders must be trained to think of performance management this way instead of “oh, it’s time to fill out a form.”

I see performance management as a very cyclical process that can be broken into three stages.

  • Planning stage.  What do you want to measure? What does the employee want to measure? Where do they want to grow? How do we plan out what that looks like over the next year?
  • Managing performance. Throughout the year, provide opportunities for feedback, support and learning so that when you get the actual performance management review it’s just that- a review.
  • The review.  Employees should already know where they succeeded and failed. The review should be a chance to plan your growth for the next year.

Increased online collaboration between teams. Companies are starting to recognize that there’s a place for online collaboration for both workplace teams and contingent workers. As such, technologies are developing around that to enable folks to collaborate. A few of the simplest examples are Google Docs, Skype and screen sharing software. These tech capabilities are becoming critical for companies as their teams become more geographically dispersed and start to include contingent workers, like freelancers and consultants.

Embracing technology helps us become more efficient and smart with our time. Of course, this comes alone with financial benefits too. If you make workers more efficient, then you can give a reduced headcount more work and get results to your customers faster, resulting in greater customer satisfaction.

On demand learning. There is becoming a great need for companies to have a tech-based learning platform in place. I was out to dinner a few weeks ago with a younger guy and we were talking about trivia. He said, “I don’t have to know that stuff! I have my phone right here.”

That’s an important mindset shift. When younger workers want something, they want it now. That includes how they learn. They don’t want to go to a seminar; they want to eat lunch and do a quick webinar on a topic that’s hot for them.

The view of what is work is changing! Why shouldn’t I watch a ten-minute YouTube video talk or read a blog about the latest HR trends between client calls? That’s all on demand learning.

Increased “game-ification” to improve engagement. We’re starting to see various apps centering around employee wellness and productivity that allow people to stay engaged in their work. I like to call this “game-ification.”

These apps that game-ify the workplace to allow workers to measure themselves against fellow workers based on commissions, productivity, project statuses, etc. We see it having huge impacts on the younger workforce and I suspect that with Gen Z we’re going to see it even more.

As companies embrace apps that increase engagement in workplace, this will bleed into other areas, resulting in increased tenure, improved quality of candidates in recruiting, better customer service from happier employees, better products and services from employees who care, and even higher stock prices at publicly held companies!

When I think about workplace trends, I don’t look at them as predictions. They’re going to transcend because they’re like waves on a beach. The waves are coming, but they haven’t hit the beach yet. Some of these are cultural things that are going to take 18, 24, 36 months to really create a swell in the workplace.

Are you starting to see any of these trends beginning already? Or are there other trends on the horizon you’re preparing for? Comment below and let us know!