5 trends that will shape Australian HR in 2019 and beyond

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There are five critical trends which are of critical importance to Australian HR executives and managers if they intend to thrive in what is a fast-evolving and challenging field of work, writes Andrej Kovacevic

There are a number of important trends which are impacting employers all over Australia, who are going through a digital revolution that’s changing much about the way they do business. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the primacy of human capital as the foundation of innovation, productivity, and success.

Digitisation is, however, having a profound effect on the makeup and skills that Australian businesses require in their workforces, which is creating a widening skills gap that’s putting pressure on companies both large and small to recruit and retain the talented employees they need to thrive.

At the centre of the new digital maelstrom that Australian businesses face stands the nation’s HR leaders, who are relied upon now more than ever to help businesses of all types to keep their talent pipelines full and their workforce needs met as they continue to evolve.

To meet the growing challenges, human resources executives and managers have to work harder than ever before to stay abreast of the latest developments in the labour market as well as the myriad ways that the human resources industry as a whole is continuing to evolve. To assist with the latter imperative, here’s a look at the trends that will shape the human resources industry in 2019 and beyond.

1. Digitisation inside and out
As digitisation has been driving change in industries of all types, it has also made significant inroads in the world of human resources. That means the HR professionals of today and tomorrow need to be digital natives; comfortable with data-driven processes and analytics.

It also means they’ll have to be fluent in the use of social media platforms to reach out and communicate with existing employees and potential new hires and should also possess a deep understanding of concepts like cognitive gaming, which is becoming a staple of the modern recruitment process. In short, remaining effective in an HR role requires an understanding of the very same digital concepts that businesses are beginning to prize in other parts of their business operations.

“There’s a growing trend toward using employee feedback (sometimes via an integrated employee engagement software platform) to inform retention efforts”

2. Engagement and professional development
As skills and labour shortages continue to worsen in various sectors throughout Australia, businesses are placing a renewed emphasis on employee engagement as a means of retaining their top talent. Historically, Australian businesses have lagged behind their global counterparts in this all-important talent retention area, but the renewed focus seems to be starting to show results. For HR professionals, this means there’s a growing trend toward using employee feedback (sometimes via an integrated employee engagement software platform) to inform retention efforts.

To address difficulties in acquiring the types of specific skills they need, businesses are also turning to bigger investments in professional development and training programs. To make sure that those programs achieve the best possible results, HR professionals must manage educational programs and other training on an employee-by-employee basis. That, in turn, requires an understanding of broader business strategies and an ability to work one-on-one to create and manage customised professional development paths for employees with a wide range of needs and levels of ability.

3. Building inclusive and diverse cultures
In recent years, more work than ever before has gone into increasing workplace diversity in Australia, but recent studies have revealed that few organisations in the country are succeeding in their efforts. Still, it’s an area that no business can afford to ignore any longer.

From an HR perspective, that means going through training in the latest workplace diversity strategies to learn how to craft inclusive hiring and career progression policies. What’s more, this is also an area that will require sustained efforts over the course of many years to make progress toward changing entrenched diversity and inclusion issues, so it’s also a trend that’s guaranteed to have staying power.

“HR professionals will need to employ creative, values-based solutions like this to stem the tide of employee turnover”

4. The elevation of values
Right now, the tight labour market is continuing to fuel an ever-rising churn rate among Australian businesses in every industry. It’s become such a pronounced trend that 67 per cent of employers have reported an increase in turnover over the past three years, and analysts expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. That new reality is causing a wholesale rethinking of the ways that employers create a welcoming environment for their workers – and display their core values in the process.

For example, trade job site hipages has set up a holiday daycare program that invited the children of their staff into the office to learn about robotics and technology and work on various science experiments. The effort not only signalled to employees that their family lives mattered and that the business itself was more like an extended family than merely an employer. Going forward, HR professionals will need to employ creative, values-based solutions like this to stem the tide of employee turnover.

5. A challenging and evolving discipline
The trends identified above are of critical importance to Australian HR executives and managers if they intend to thrive in what is a fast-evolving and challenging field of work. With no relief on the horizon in terms of labour shortages and other skills deficiencies, HR departments everywhere must leave no stone unturned to adequately fulfill the needs of the businesses they serve. For the executives that lead them, that means a laser-focus on current and emerging best practices as well as no small measure of creativity. It’s apt to be the challenge of a career for today’s HR leaders, but one for which they should be well prepared and ready to overcome.