A small business is only as good as the people it employees and the community it impacts. And because of that, business owners have a responsibility to value both their own employees as well as society around them. According to Deloitte, 2018 is the year of “social enterprise,” and corporate responsibility to employees is emerging as an increasingly important component to business.
For a business to positively impact its community, it has to start by valuing its salespeople. According to Deloitte, the major human capital trends for this year are driven by three major factors: demographic shifts, heightened expectations for social responsibility, and technological advances. Here’s how to navigate these trends, so you can ensure that your team performing at its highest level.
Trend #1: Dealing With Shifting Workforce Demographics
Two major demographic shifts are altering the current workforce: aging workers with longer career trajectories, and an increasingly fractured work ecosystem.
Prepare for Longer-Term Employees
Under the traditional model, workers were cycled out once they reached their 60s and given a pension. Now, people aren’t necessarily retiring that early. As a result, businesses must consider how to help employees continue to learn and develop over a much longer career arc, and offer opportunities to pivot if they’re looking for a change
In addition to this challenge, ageism is a concerning reality that we often don’t address. People want to work longer, but it’s harder for older workers to find jobs. There’s also evidence that older workers experience less growth in their existing jobs as a result of age discrimination.
One way to abate age discrimination in the workplace is to implement mentor programs. By pairing older workers with younger ones, you can provide both valuable information transfer to younger workers, and make older employees feel valued.
The Rise of Remote Workers
In addition to the rise of longer careers and older workers, businesses will need to learn to navigate an increasingly fractured work ecosystem.
An office full of nine-to-fivers is no longer the only viable way to conduct business. Now, companies are hiring more remote and contract workers, which presents coordination and quality control challenges—not to mention the difficulty in creating a cohesive work culture that successfully integrates employees who aren’t in the office every day. In addition, alternative workers often aren’t provided with benefits that full-time workers have access to, like health insurance and paid leave.
It’s crucial that business owners figure out how to incorporate remote workers into the work culture and internal processes, and understand that they deserve to be treated equitably as employees.
Trend #2: Delivering a Positive Social Impact, Internally
While it’s important to establish initiatives that give back to your local community, it’s crucial not to let those measures distract you from boosting employee morale.
Of course, you want to do whatever it takes to keep your employees happy because it’s simply ethical. But as an added bonus, it’s been shown that employee well-being has strategic value. Better citizenship records are associated with better financial performance, and correlate with higher-quality hiring and higher retention rates.
But what does supporting employee well-being even mean? The idea of well-being has come to encompass all aspects of a person’s life, from physical health to emotional balance. Here again, though you may just want your employees to be happy and lead fulfilling lives, there is evidence that a balanced emotional state actually leads to higher productivity.
Trend #3: Integrating People With Technology
According to Deloitte’s study, three major ways that technology is beginning to affect the workplace are through artificial intelligence (AI), people data, and productivity tools.
Interacting With Artificial Intelligence
Recently, there has been a real fear that AI will destroy jobs, and studies predicting significant job loss due to AI only exacerbates that fear.
However, researchers predict that humans will fare much better than machines in situations with high levels of ambiguity and unpredictability. In fields that require strategizing and understanding behavior on a deeper level—like teaching, marketing, and sales—AI will never live up to what human employees are capable of.
So, the real challenge here is less about how to push back on technology, and more about helping employees work alongside the machines that increase their productivity.
Securing People Data
Employee data is another area that requires some adaptation to technology. With HR departments becoming increasingly automated, there is more data collected about employees than ever before. That technology can be used to effectively address pain points and better meet employee needs, but also comes with risks and challenges. How much information is too much? When do we cross the line into invasion of privacy?
There’s also the added concern of cybersecurity. Cyber attacks are becoming more of a “when” rather than an “if,” meaning employers must be adequately prepared to protect employee data and use it responsibly.
At first, hyper-connectivity was championed as a way to increase collaboration and productivity. But now, we’re starting to see inboxes fill up and employees get bogged down with messages, even when they’re off the clock. Where is the tipping point between necessary communication and unnecessary stress? We must be prepared to address these issues if we expect our employees to be healthy and productive.
Integrating Human Capital Trends Into Your Growth
These trends may apply to human capital in 2018, but they indicate major shifts that will continue beyond this year. We must be prepared to deal with shifts in the social landscape if we expect our businesses to remain relevant and effective.
If this seems overwhelming, don’t think you need to tackle all of them at once—simply being aware of possible challenges can be enough to help you adapt.
About the Author
Catherine Giese is an associate at Fundera. She specializes in partnerships and research-driven stories to help small business owners grow and thrive in their industries.