Top 4 HR trends for 2019

With 2018 behind us, it’s time to think about what we can look forward to in 2019. The world of work has been going through some massive changes: from the rise of the gig economy, to increasing use of artificial intelligence, and the scary fact that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet!

How can one prepare for the unknown? Before you start thinking about how you will re-skill, here are the top 4 trends you should watch in 2019.

1. People Enablement

The changes in the way we work (remote teams, the gig economy and an ever growing millennial workforce) are disrupting the way people think about their careers. While traditionally it’s been the role of HR to to foster performance and development in the workplace, nowadays people are no longer waiting for this to happen, and are increasingly taking professional development into their own hands.

People Enablement is precisely about adopting a people first approach. It’s a belief that seizing moments to celebrate, learn and improve has the power to transform roles into careers; and forging cultures where individuals feel valued, motivated, and empowered.

Implementing a culture of feedback in your organization is one way of bringing People Enablement to the table. To start with, encouraging regular moments for people to grow and develop gives them the opportunity to continuously improve and keep the momentum in their role. For example, 72% of users found that feedback exchanged through Impraise contributed to their performance improvements. If people are enabled to request feedback and become accustomed to sharing it with each other, it gives them greater autonomy over their careers and development opportunities.

In addition, by incorporating regular moments of feedback, you can support better recognition in the workplace. Recognition is an extremely important yet often overlooked key to a more engaged workforce. Did you know that 69% of people said they would work harder if they were recognized? It seems obvious, yet companies are still learning how to do it in a meaningful way. Recognition done well can help with retention (increasingly important), engagement, company culture, and productivity.

People Enablement will continue to rise as a trend. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital report, companies are shifting from careers to experiences: instead of a steady progression along a role-based pathway, leading organizations are shifting toward a model that empowers individuals to acquire valuable experiences, explore new roles, and continually reinvent themselves.

2. Investing in developing better managers

While people are increasingly taking charge of their professional development, that doesn’t make managers or their function obsolete. People Enablement - or a people first approach - needs to be embraced at all levels of the organization, including leaders. Heather Hanson Wickman, of Untethered consulting, and author of 'The Evolved Executive', says “We need leaders who understand what it means to create an environment where individuals can explore and reinvent themselves. More importantly, leaders need to reinvent themselves at the same time.”

There has increasingly been a call for managers to be better coaches, in fact according to Business Backer, 93% of employees feel that trust in their boss is essential to being satisfied at work. But if managers are not properly trained and their development not invested in, this strategy seems doomed to fail. Moving forward, companies should think of:

Most importantly, it’s time to recognize that developing leadership skills isn’t a one size fits all exercise. Standardized HR designed processes and trainings are not necessarily the answer in this case, it’s more about enabling people to do it for themselves.

3. Data driven HR decisions

As the internet and technology have provided us with an increasing amount of data, companies need to start harnessing it and drawing meaningful learnings. While software and technology companies have always done so, corporates are just starting to catch up. In particular in HR - a people focused department with tons of data it never fully used, it seems only logical that they start to turn to a data driven approach.

There are a plethora of tools to help HR departments streamline and improve processes, and it’s increasingly important to make good use of the data the technology is providing. If you are using engagement surveys, what are you doing with the answers? What can you learn from all the data you are collecting? For example: how your people prefer to work, how often they are exchanging feedback, which of your content are they consuming and why? The answers are an opportunity to strengthen your company culture and bridge any gaps that appear.

IBM’s Lee Andrews mentioned during Onboard Amsterdam how they are using data from a learning portal set up for new joiners, to improve their onboarding experience and provide relevant content.

This is further confirmed by companies like LinkedIn and SAP, who are refining their offering through people driven insights. LinkedIn recently launched Talent Insights - allowing companies to use LinkedIn data in a smarter way, for example, matching skills and interests of individuals with current company vacancies. Meanwhile, SAP purchased Qualtrics, a platform that enables engagement surveys and brand tracking amongst others, proving the increased desire from companies to learn more about their people.

However as mentioned under “People Enablement” it’s not just about having the data, it’s also what you do with it to create an improved and more meaningful employee experience.

4. Mental health in the workplace

Last but not least, a topic that has gained increasing attention is mental health. A disengaged workforce, the search for purpose, people breaking away from traditional career paths, a parallel can be drawn between these trends and the increasing number of mental health issues that are affecting people at work.

The “Thriving at work” report published by the British government in 2017 found that the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than those with physical health conditions. In the World Health Organization’s “Mental Health Atlas” results show there are not yet enough human and financial resources in place to support mental health issues.

Initial steps are being taken to address this, for example in 2018, Prince William launched at mental health at work website, specifically designed to raise awareness, and support those in need of it. Employers are also increasing well-being programs and related benefits. However for the time being these are scratching the surface, more focused on physical well-being through exercise and diet.

As people become more open to talking about their difficulties, employers will need to find smart ways to support them. A first step is education: What are the issues people might come forward with? How to foster an environment where people are comfortable talking about issues they are experiencing? How to support each other? After education, what simple steps can companies create, British mental Health charity Mind has some starting points here.


When thinking about trends, it can be easy to jump to technology. In what other ways will it make our lives easier? What are the latest tools we can use to increase efficiency? But the reality is, HR remains a human centered topic. We should always remember to look at things through the lens of a human experience. How do we want people to feel? What do we want them to experience? And then consider how technology can enable it.

Download our 2019 Guide to Modern Performance Management to learn tips on how to improve company culture and employee engagement.

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