With 2018 just around the corner, it’s not too early to think about how the workplace is being transformed and the potential issues involved. Business owners need to know how to adapt, to ensure their organizations keep humming. After all, retaining employees and recruiting the right mix of talent offers employers many benefits.
Related: 5 Workplace Trends That Will Impact Your Business in 2017
How has the workplace changed? The answer includes how we work, whom we work with and where we work. Factors like these impact employees of all ages and their happiness levels.
Those levels aren't always what owners would like. Human resources company Robert Half U.K. surveyed more than 2,000 U.K. employees and found that one in six of the British workers polled who were over the age of 35 said they were unhappy at work; that was more than double the number for those under 35. While many factors come into play here, it’s important to note that the changing workplace affects all workers.
Here are a few workplace transformations that could have a big impact on your business:
The gig economy
The gig economy refers to workers of all ages who are either remote or transitory or provide their services as a contractor or freelancer. This growing segment provides employers many benefits but also a host of new problems, if not handled efficiently. For example, how well is your office environment set up to handle internal and external collaboration? Do you have document repositories that can be easily (and securely) accessed by on-premise employees as well as by those working from home or in other offices?
For many small businesses, where a culture of community and family is natural and desirable, how can this extended workforce feel that same sense of community? You might consider that some of the time and money saved by employing remote or transitory employees be used to unite and foster good working relations. This could occur in the form of company off-sites or regular time set aside for team-building within departments, even if that's done remotely.
When companies hire workers on a seasonal or project basis, bringing these employees up to speed quickly is an important aspect of the business’s success. In an age where every brand can be represented in social media by any employee, the ability to train employees about your brand, rules of conduct and processes can be challenging.
Stephen J Gill, who helps companies with training and development plans, suggests that ethical behavior cannot be learned in a training course but is instead something supported by a company’s culture. With a remote or transitory workforce, however, that company culture cannot be observed as closely.
To help employees with their observations, assess your company's onboarding tools and processes and evaluate how quickly new employees can get onto a path of training with appropriate checks and balances so that managers can ensure that no one gets lost in the cracks. The emphasis should not always be about the quantity of work completed but the manner in which it gets done.
Digital efficiency (technology)
While most organizations are making their customer-facing interactions digital, there remain employees who have only antiquated processes for handling a variety of paperwork, whether it be HR-related forms, invoices and expense reports or other paperwork related to their individual jobs.
In a recent U.S. study, 52 percent of employees ages 18 to 44 thought their companies had too many paper-based processes, which could be digitized. No one likes being bogged down in bureaucratic paperwork, as it takes away from the enjoyment and pride in the job. Take a look at the many repetitive paper-based processes that exist in your organization and work with employees and available technology to turn those processes into digital workflows.
Other types of technology are finding their way into the workplace. Unilever, for example, is using artificial intelligence in its recruitment efforts, to engage with candidates through a series of games and tests. The point is to analyze keywords, body language and intonation to see if the candidates match the desired profile. Only upon passing this initial screening are candidates moved through to meet with hiring managers. The results are impressive.
In a similar way, virtual reality technology is being used in recruitment and to enhance conference calls. While technology for technology’s sake can be counter-productive, investment in digital technologies that keep employees inspired can help your bottom line.
Ongoing data hacks and breaches at large companies have made us aware of risks associated with sharing our personal information. The Equifax breach has shown us that we often lack a choice as to where our information is shared. Yet, as employees, sharing our personal information is a must, to be considered for employment, and again during the hiring process and post-hiring paperwork.
As an employer, you may need to revisit your own personnel processes to ensure employees’ and customers’ expectations of security around their personal identifiable data. You want to be sure that data can be deleted if requested and that it complies with state and federal guidelines. In fact, according to a PwC survey, 92 percent of U.S. companies said they were paying attention to and adhering to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that will start being enforced -- with fines -- in May 2018 in Europe. While GDPR is a European Union regulation, it applies to any company doing business in Europe or with European citizens.
While most companies realize the seriousness of protecting customer data, employee information should have the same protection. Review your hiring processes to ensure that a candidate's personal information is not shared with the hiring team, that information is stored securely and that procedures allow for the deletion of personal data, according to GDPR and local U.S. laws.