Top 5 HR Trends that Start-ups Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2020

[This article, ‘The top five HR trends that start-ups can’t afford to ignore in 2020’, was originally published on Hindustan Times]

The last couple of years have seen some interesting things happening in the HR industry. On the one hand, cutting-edge technologies have found their way into HR software, and the post-globalization internet economy continues to change workforce patterns in a big way. At the same time, companies are struggling when it comes to creating a work environment that makes employees feel nurtured, productive, and creative.

In the 2019 Deloitte report on Global Human Capital Trends, a whopping 84% of the respondents comprised mostly of CXOs said that they need to reimagine their workforce experience if they have to improve productivity.

top 5 HR trends

Given that such an overwhelming majority of executives feel that the workforce experience is broken, there’s a lot of thinking that needs to go into designing and executing our HR practices. This is especially true for young, high-growth companies where employee passion and engagement is often the key driver of success.

2020 will bring with it some major shifts in HR that have the potential to solve this major problem. Here’s our breakdown of the biggest trends in HR next year and how companies can get ready for them and stay ahead of the curve:

#1 The Gig Economy can make or break things In the United States

42% of the workforce aged 18-34 did freelance work in 2018. While the numbers may not be as high in India, the trend towards freelancing is growing to be a strong one. In this technology-centric, post-globalization era, skills occupy a place of supreme importance — whether it is in programming, project management, content marketing, data architecture, or something else.

Hiring remote workers and freelancers open up a global talent pool for companies that are looking for specialized skills for a limited time. While the freelancers get the flexibility and autonomy they need, companies get access to some of the most expert minds out there, without the complications of hiring them on the payroll.

Unfortunately, developed economies seem far ahead when it comes to exploring more flexible work arrangements. In fact, companies like Zapier, Articulate, Edgar, and Buffer operate 100% remotely.

Unless Indian organizations reimagine their work structures to incorporate more flexibility, they might end up losing world-class Indian talent to global companies.

#2 A more diverse and inclusive workplace won’t be desirable but mandatory

The numbers speak loud and clear: diverse workplaces are simply better for business. According to a Harvard Business Review study, diverse companies are 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market.

And an EY study says that companies that are in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely. These trends go both ways; according to a Glassdoor survey, 67% of candidates preferred to join a diverse team.

The Indian corporate structure is also trying to make room for more diversity and inclusion; in fact the top Indian business schools like IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode, and XLRI, Jamshedpur have changed their admission criteria to favour a more diverse classroom.

This also seems to be reflecting on the hiring decisions. According to a report by HRTech startup CutShort, women have a (how much higher?) higher shortlisting ratio on their platform than men. But there is still a lot of room for improvement for Indian startups to how maturity and prepare for a fast-changing workplace fabric.

#3 Cutting-edge technologies will become essential to manage increasingly complex HR operations

AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been transforming all parts of the HR function. For starters, AI has transformed the recruitment process — whether that’s candidate sourcing, screening, lead nurturing, interviewing, or matching.

As per Nikunj Verma, CEO of CutShort, an AI-based recruitment startup, AI is not only able to save 75% time but also increase success percentage by 300% by letting recruiters focus on the right things at the right time. Apart from automation-led efficiency, AI is also helping HR executives overcome human-bias in decision making.

AI is also transforming HCM (Human Capital Management) by helping HR teams reimagine talent processes and improve the employee experience. AI impacts a number of areas including performance management, workforce planning, career pathing, mentoring, and leadership.

Finally, AI allows companies to delve into the root cause of employee dissatisfaction and come up with in-depth solutions for employee engagement. AI-powered tools like intelligent surveys, real-time feedback platforms, personalized rewards and recognition programs, etc go a long way in building meaningful and lasting engagement.

#4 Gen Z is entering the workforce for the first time and will have very different expectations

While much of the discussion in the last decade has centered around millennials and how they approach the workplace, its now time for Generation Z to enter the workforce. Gen Z comprises people who were born after 1997.

Unlike millennials who were mobile pioneers, Gen Z is a mobile-native generation. They have unprecedented levels of ease with mobile devices to the extent that 80% of them actually feel distressed when kept away from their mobile devices. Unlike millennials, who are more idealistic and focussed on experiences, Gen Z tends to be pragmatic and focused on saving money.

When it comes to the workplace, they prefer to work with brands that feel authentic. Similar to millennials, they really value an empowering work culture along with a high potential for career growth. As this generation enters the workforce for the first time, it’s important for companies to keep their unique outlook in mind and tailor employee engagement accordingly.

#5 Employee Engagement will need to be improved or companies will see increased attrition

In the last decade, employee engagement has become increasingly but it’s only now that companies are designing their entire HR structure around employee engagement. Employee engagement has so many facets to it that it can be hard to compartmentalize.

Work-life balance and wellness is a big part of employee engagement. In fact, 87% of employees expect their employers to support them in maintaining a work-life balance.

Another critical aspect of employee engagement, especially when it comes to startups and other high-growth companies, is alignment to the vision and mission. If the top leadership does a good job of showing employees the ‘big picture’ and how their work impacts this big picture, employees tend to take much more ownership of their work.

In fact, employee engagement now starts even before the employee joins the company. In fact, it begins at the interview stage itself. A CutShort survey of over 1400+ modern professionals reports that more than 50% of candidates said they really value professionalism in an interview process.

This includes things like transparency, timely communication, and respectful conduct. In fact, this plays a major role in candidates deciding whether they will join a company in the first place.

At the end of the day, most companies are struggling with building a workplace that people truly love being at. These HR trends reveal key insights into building an employee-first approach and designing a workplace that really works for its employees.

These HR trends underline major shifts in the entire HR function and it will be interesting to see how companies respond and adapt to them. Those that adopt a flexible and proactive approach should see major gains in productivity in the coming years.