5 workplace predictions for 2020

What trends should HR leaders watch for that will impact the workforce in 2020?

5 workplace predictions for 2020

In this age of constant disruption, HR professionals cannot afford to take their eyes off the challenges that might be just around the corner.

Leah Johnson, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice, said that recent research indicates that HR leaders’ priorities for 2020 reflect the critical needs that organisations need to tackle in order to successfully operate in today’s uncertain conditions.

“While digital transformation has already generated skill gaps and strained leadership capabilities, we are also seeing that companies are missing the skills needed to restructure their businesses and manage the change that every organisation is facing.”

Moreover, Gartner research also shows that only 9% of chief HR officers agree that their organization is prepared for the future of work.

The following are Gartner’s key trends that HR leaders should watch for that will impact the workforce in 2020.

Psychological safety will become the new physical safety and organisations will have a Chief Mental Health Officer (CMO) as Australia’s workplace mental health epidemic grows

Mental illness is the leading cause of absenteeism and long-term work incapacity in Australia. Yearly, it’s costing the economy over $12 billion in lost productivity. With mental illness far outweighing physical illness when accounting for absenteeism, it’s critical in 2020 that policies and procedures are put in place to support mental wellbeing, particularly for those who are living with a mental health illness

Several companies will have an AI-ethics scandal based on how they are using their talent management

Companies have substantially increased their use of AI in a variety of talent management processes.  Companies have moved beyond using AI just to help within their recruiting processes and have started to use AI in everything from compensation, promotion and reduction in staff decisions. 

As these relatively poorly understood technologies become more commonly used, so too will risk that the decision outputs of these technologies create ethical challenges. 

For example, companies are started to use AI to make compensation decisions based on how much other people in the marketplace are paid.  However, given the pre-existing bias that already exists against women from a compensation perspective these AI technologies are likely to only worsen the bias by recommending disproportionate increases in compensation for men compared to women. 

Companies will decrease the number of managers that they need as more managerial tasks become automated (Gartner predicts that 69% of what a manager currently does will be automated by 2024. This includes tasks like approving expenses, reviewing a project’s status, even onboarding new employees.)

Technologies have already been introduced into the role of managers to free them up from administrative tasks.  The next wave of managerial associated technologies will start to replace the more social/emotive/relationship based tasks of managers (e.g. providing feedback). 

Gartner predicts that 69% of what a manager currently does will be automated by 2024. This includes tasks like approving expenses, reviewing a project’s status, even onboarding new employees. Gartner research shows that in 2010, the average company spent $471 per manager on training, which equates to more than $5,000 per manager over the last 10 years. These efforts have achieved zero net improvement in the effectiveness of managers.

Climate activism will be the next chapter for employee activism

Organizations have responded to the demands of interests of employees along a variety of employee activist issues, e.g. #metoo.  The next wave of employee activism will focus on the climate impact that organizations have.  Will this already has a strong emphasis amongst manufacturing, transportation and other industries that have a relatively large environmental footprint, it will expand beyond those industries as companies rethink their supplier relationships.

Tech talent will become more available to non-tech companies

While the tech sector has gobbled up most of the tech talent across the last decade, this trend is about to change for two reasons. First, many of the largest employers of tech talent are actually not in a financially sustainable position to maintain the number of tech employees that they currently have. 

As financial losses continue to pile up for these companies, they will need to reduce their headcount to move to a more sustainable financial position. 

Second, the average age of a tech talent is increasing. As these employees age, their value proposition for working at a particular company will also change.  As millennials age into life stages where they have children and a mortgage, they will become more interested in working for companies that are more stable and less risky. 

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