by Sharon Florentine

4 ways tech will shape workforce management in 2017

Nov 28, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

What lies ahead for workforce management next year? Here's what experts in their field are saying.

It’s not too early to start thinking about your workforce management strategy for 2017. In 2016, organizations realized the importance of organizational efficiency, employee well-being and workplace wellness as well as engagement, flexibility, career growth and planning. You can expect those trends to only accelerate in 2017.

We asked three experts — a chief product officer, a senior technical recruiter, and a partner at a workforce management consulting firm — to share their thoughts on what lies ahead for in workforce management. Here is their take on workforce management trends to watch in 2017.

1. Technology in the driver’s seat

Technology will continue to impact workforce management and HR in incredible ways, says Karen Williams, chief product officer for workforce management solutions company Halogen Software.

“Especially around the area of data analytics, technology is helping to drive the conversation around employee sentiment, happiness, engagement and organizational performance. It’s all about making sure CIOs and other C-level executives understand how to leverage data to be more effective,” Williams says.

This is important because human resources, as a general rule, has been slow to adopt technology that improves its capability to find, screen and hire talent, she says. That has been changing in recent years, and 2017 will see the further adoption of new tech, Williams says.

“Some of it stems from HR not being willing to move out of its comfort zone, some of it is because of organizations not being willing to invest in new technology for their HR and recruiting departments — but now, as talent is recognized as critical, technology is seen as a way to enable things like better and faster hiring, retention, and once people are on board, performance management,” she says.

Look for a resurgence in areas like SEO/SEM marketing, too, says Zachary Avalos, senior technical recruiter for IT recruiting and staffing firm Mondo, as HR and recruiting professionals leverage platforms like Marketo and Eloqua to help better target and segment their potential “customers.”

“This is going to be everywhere in 2017, as more organizations start to see their potential talent pool as ‘customers,’ and begin using marketing methods to reach them, to make sure they’re putting relevant job-related content in front of potential candidates at the right time, in the right place,” Avalos says.

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2. Focus on team intelligence

Until recently, individual performance and growth have been the focus for gauging talent within organizations, says Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an HR and recruiting consultancy and research firm. But now, many companies are realizing that teams are the heart of increased performance, efficiency and effectiveness; that’s driving many mergers and acquisitions as larger companies poach whole teams from competitors, according to Meister.

“We’ve now realized that it takes high-performing teams to produce the kinds of results organizations want. So, future-focused companies will look at what makes a great team? How they communicate, how to reward and recognize them, how to push intact teams through growth and development,” Meister says. This is a pretty major mindset shift for many organizations, so expect the emphasis on teams to continue through 2017 and beyond, she says.

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3. User experience in the workplace

User experience has become an important metric for judging products, but look for user experience to become a major part of how companies are gauging their workplaces, too, says Meister.

“Chief Marketing Officers were once the only ones concerned with the experience of users. Now, though, heads of HR are leveraging marketing tools and approaches like design thinking and sentiment analysis to create a compelling employee experience,” Meister says. That includes new positions like chief employee experience officer, a role that encompasses areas as diverse as real estate, technology and marketing to make sure that employees are as engaged, motivated and productive on the job as possible, she says.

Part of the emphasis on user experience includes using technology tools like mobile and video both for hiring and screening of candidates and for enabling remote work and flexibility, she says.

“A major client of ours is using mobile in their recruitment and hiring processes, and they’ve saved something like $330,000 annually on paying for job postings and been able to boost their number of hires by 35 percent. And video is fast becoming the de facto way people are going to be screened, interviewed and hired; many organizations already require that you send a video cover letter when you apply,” she says.

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4. The gig economy heats up

The gig economy continues to play a significant role in the workforce, especially in IT, says Mondo’s Avalos. It’s a great way for companies to scale their workforce based on demand, but also for workers who want to quickly add new skills to their resume by taking on short-term projects.

But some companies also are developing their own, internal pool of contingent labor, which is a new twist on the trend, says Future Workplace’s Meister.

“For example, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Talent Exchange allows freelancers and independent professionals to sign up for available projects with the firm, and it benefits both sides. For the company, there might not be enough ROI to hire a full-time employee, and maybe for independent contractors, they want the flexibility and freedom to be able to work for themselves,” Meister says.