Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eleven Workplace Trends that will Impact Our Work in 2012

As part of our annual goal setting process for the human resources team, we brainstorm trends and observations that may impact our work. We use this exercise as a way to get us to a 30,000 foot level before setting our team goals for the year. These are the most interesting things we discussed. 
  1. Employees are using their personal iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices to work. This brings up issues about where work is stored and whether it's tied to the business or the individual. Employees expect integration and a unified experience across platforms. Employers are using more web-based collaboration tools to support day-to-day operations.
  2. Communication is focused on real-time interactions. Email is viewed as too slow and is beginning to go the way of the fax machine. People rely on text messaging and various social networks to communicate instantly.
  3. Video is becoming increasingly important. Companies save time and money by conducting first interviews via Skype. Meetings and training are held by video conference. Employees look for "how to" videos instead of written instructions. Job Seekers look for "day in the life" videos to get a realistic preview of a jobs. 
  4. Job seekers target specific employers instead of responding to advertisements. This makes branding a business as an employer of choice a higher priority if you want to attract the best talent. 
  5. User built content becomes more prominent and more visual. Consumer behavior and attitudes are heavily influenced by connections in a social network. People look for tools to organize information that are not chronological. Think Pinterest. Reports show it's driving more traffic to company websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined
  6. Companies continue to focus on controlling the cost of benefits. Many shift costs to employees in the form of higher monthly contributions and imposing benefit limitations like drug formularies. Consumer driven health plans become more popular and lead to the promotion of healthcare consumerism. Carriers have consolidated leaving fewer insurance options to employers. Healthcare Reform continues to have a significant impact. W-2 reporting requirements go into effect this year and lay the groundwork for taxing "Cadillac" plans in the future. Payer-Provider lines continue to blur as more insurance companies own providers. There is a shift toward bundled payment structures. Medical data will be shared more easily between providers and insurers. 
  7. mHealth slowly transforms healthcare. I've written about reverse innovation as a healthcare trend before. It refers to developing products for emerging markets and then distributing them globally. There was another great example in this month's Fast Company -- As Smartphones Get Smarter, You May Get Healthier: How mHealth Can Bring Cheaper Health Care To All. The first example is about a MIT professor who created an app and attachment for a smartphone to measure refractive error -- a reading needed to prescribe eyeglasses. 15 more examples follow in the article. Many traditional service providers appear resistant to this trend. Many consumers seem interested in the ease of access and the affordability. 
  8. Wellness efforts continue to focus on data integration and reaching out to people "at risk." Expect to see an increased focus on building activity into day-to-day routines as opposed to structured exercise. This trend may be helped along by new gadgets like the Fitbit, Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband. There's lots of talk about gamification, but I'm doubtful it's going to be much of a game changer in workplace wellness. More employers are offering incentives and penalties to employees to improve their health. This may contribute to an increase in stigmatization and discrimination against individuals that are overweight. 
  9. Emphasis is placed on blended approaches to learning that include gaming and apps. Organizations are making efforts to map informal learning opportunities. Employees seek more sources of feedback and personalized learning plans. Free services like the Khan Academy support online learning. 
  10. Increase focus on transparency and disclosure. Regulatory focus will be on the financial sector. 
  11. Leading an exhausted workforce. The economy has taken its toll and people are worn out from helping family members who have lost jobs and other financial worries. Maybe this at least partially explains another trend we noticed -- adults are reading teen lit. First there was Harry Potter, then the Twilight series and now the Hunger Games -- maybe people just need an escape. 
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