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What are the top 5 workplace trends for 2019?

By Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources

2018 was a year of significant changes within the world of work. The multi-stage career path has been a popular topic of conversation, raising many questions about how this could affect employees and employers alike. Another prominent topic is AI and conversation has been growing surrounding how it will impact learning and teaching. We have also reflected on whether technology could ever replace the human touch.

It’s a time of ongoing change, to say the least, changes which look set to continue well into 2019. So which trends should you be aware of?

1. The arrival of multi-stage careers

With life expectancy increasing, it has been estimated that we will work well into our 70s and 80s. And because we will be working for longer, we will be inclined to inject more variety into our career journeys, so that we stay engaged and challenged throughout.

As Hays CEO Alistair Cox outlined in a blog earlier this year, this means opening ourselves up to having a non-traditional, ‘multi-stage’ career. Alistair explains how: “We will increasingly start to seek out more and more variety and flexibility… whether that be by switching jobs more regularly, changing industries, taking time out to travel the world, have a family or return to university.”

Business leaders hoping to hold on to an employee for as long as possible during their multi-stage career journey will, therefore, need to provide a working environment rife with opportunity to upskill, switch path, relocate and so forth.

2. The rise of age-diversity

As the age of retirement becomes higher and higher, with new generations entering the workplace at the same time, we are seeing a more diverse group of ages working together. In fact, it is thought that by 2020, we will have five generations working side by side.

As such, employees will need to adapt accordingly. For example, it’s been reported that over 50s prefer to communicate face-to-face, whereas younger generations prefer to use digital communication. Therefore, job seekers, especially digital natives who grew up online, will need to go one step further to prove that they possess the communication skills and the adaptability needed to thrive in an age-diverse world of work.

Business leaders will not only need to prioritise hiring for the above soft skills during the recruitment process, but also take steps to mitigate any generational tensions within the workplace. This includes simple measures such as ensuring every perspective is included during discussions, to implementing more complex initiatives such as reverse mentoring.

3. Adaptable policies concerning employee wellbeing

On that note, a longer working life means a lot more change happening to an employee during the life-span of their career. And as Hays CEO Alistair Cox quite rightly surmises in another recent blog: “That length of working life is obviously not all going to be smooth sailing. So, to guide them through those tough times, they are going to need to work for employers who will offer up the support they’ll need along the way.”

Therefore, employers will need to be flexible enough to allow for various life events; from tragedies and celebrations to health issues and family commitments. They can offer up support in the form of remote working, flexible hours, sabbaticals, employee wellness programmes and so forth, and many are already taking these initiatives.

Speaking to the Hays Journal earlier this year, Global PR company Golin shared with us how they allow employees to work flexible hours, from anywhere, and take unlimited holidays. They were also one of the first businesses to implement “returnships” to professionals wanting to return to work after taking time out from their career. Following this initiative, they reported that 80% of employees felt more engaged at work.

So, if you are a business leader looking to appeal to current and future generations of workers, take note. If you are a jobseeker looking to make your next move, you owe it to yourself to find an employer who can adapt to your changing needs.

4. AI will continue to be the centre of attention

Artificial Intelligence (AI) now has the capacity to automate repetitive tasks across almost every department, and the question ‘could a robot do my job?’ dominated media headlines and everyday conversations in 2018.

We have seen HR departments use chatbots to respond to simple employee questions. Marketing departments have been using AI to analyse large sets of data, put together social copy, or produce SEO optimised headlines for blog content. And customer service departments have been using virtual assistants to handle incoming enquiries. But do we need to worry about humans being replaced by robots altogether? Certainly not.

Research conducted by the World Economic Forum studied the roles of over 15 million workers across 20 different nations and found that AI will create more jobs (133 million) than it culls (75 million). It is more likely that the use of AI will transform roles, as opposed to destroying them, and will free up our time for more high-value, human tasks which cannot be automated. For instance, whilst a customer may be able to get a quick answer from a virtual assistant, they won’t receive a personalised service that they can trust to deal with more complex enquiries – only a human can deliver this. Workers will, however, need to learn how to integrate with this technology, which takes me to my final point.

5. Adaptability is key

In summation, the trends which dominated the business landscape in 2018 look set to evolve further in 2019 and present knock-on trends which will impact both employees and employers alike, from the impact of AI on the way we learn, to the effects of the ageing population on traditional career paths. Therefore, it’s crucial that we all keep our ears to the ground, and never stop adapting in the face of change, not just in 2019, but in the years to come.

For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.

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