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What Workforce Trends Will HR See in 2014?
Mobile apps at work, cloud computing, data analysis round out a new list

By Aliah D. Wright  12/3/2013

Social media is not on the list of top workforce trends for 2014. Mobile applications (apps) for work, however, are. In fact, they’re No. 1.

So said HR software developer PeopleMatter in a webinar it gift-wrapped just in time for the holidays called Naughty or Nice? Top 10 Workforce Trends and Whether They’ll Be Good or Bad for Your Brand in 2014.

Why mobile apps?

Well, for one, more and more people are tethered to the Internet from the palms of their hands. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 56 percent of American adults have smartphones. Most cellphone users (67 percent) check their phones for calls, messages or alerts—“even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”

In 2013 smartphone and tablet users racked up 102 billion app downloads. In 2014 many apps will be geared toward getting work done: PeopleMatter predicts more companies will develop apps that help schedule and record time and attendance; aid employee engagement; create digital to-do lists and productivity trackers; and complete a range of other tasks. What’s more, these apps will have the ability to access data stored in the cloud and be accessible from multiple devices.

Other trends:

Health care reform. Cited as a “naughty trend,” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.

The law requires that all Americans have health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine for each month they lack coverage. The employer mandate, which will go into effect in January 2015, states that all full-time workers at companies with more than 50 employees must be offered job-based health coverage.

Employers that do not offer this coverage will pay a per-employee fee of $2,000. Many small companies will continue to get around the mandate by either hiring part-time staff or by limiting the number of employees they hire, said Ryan Glushkoff, director of product marketing at PeopleMatter.

“With the employer mandate now scheduled to go into effect in January 2015, 2014 will be a pivotal time,” he said.

Going paperless. Storing HR data in the cloud will continue to be a “nice” trend as companies focus on saving money and having their data available anytime, anywhere. Software-as-a-service (SAAS) will continue to provide optimal solutions for workforce system needs.

Point solutions. More companies will continue to use “point solutions,” although it is a trend that PeopleMatter hopes will decline. These are technology solutions that help companies solve single problems. However, they’re expensive, often require a separate technological infrastructure, provide inconsistent experience (sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t) and are fraught with a host of other problems. Part of the reason they remain popular, Glushkoff said, is that “more than half of customers want a single solution and about one-third are willing to sacrifice functionality to stay with one vendor.”

Job boards. “The question is not whether job boards are still relevant, but are they relevant for their users?” Glushkoff said. There are niche boards and boards that aggregate jobs (think Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder). Indeed sees 30 percent of all job-search traffic, according to recent data from comscore.com. “Social media is [also] getting an increasing share of recruiting dollars because platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are able to make connections in a candidate’s natural habitat. Plus, since these networks know you, the connections made between employee and candidate have high relevance.”

Why is this a naughty trend? Well, “as an employer, you might be wondering how you can surf this wave of change in the job industry—and the answer is not much,” he said. However, Glushkoff advises companies to use “unique URLs for each job posting and measure the performance of each URL on each job board. You should be measuring which job boards are generating you the best return—some will be better than others, and those are the ones you need to focus on.”

In a separate interview, Jobvite Chief Marketing Officer Kimberley Kasper said job boards will continue to be a declining trend in 2014.

“Social recruiting and the referral method is the only way recruiters can hire better people faster who will stay longer and, ultimately, be better cultural fits.”

She added: “There’s also something to be said about the candidate experience. All too many job seekers feel like their resume is sent to a black hole when they apply through a job board ... and that’s because it is. Hundreds of applications are submitted for a single job opening, and recruiters simply don’t have the time of day to sift through them and respond individually. It’s not a good use of the recruiter's time, and, ultimately, it’s a waste of the candidate’s time, too. Job boards have their role, but they are a hiring solution of the past.”

Screening employees. According to PeopleMatter, in 2014 companies will use a funnel-like hiring approach to filter out mediocre candidates. Online application systems are important, as these systems will allow employers to sift through candidates, assess them based on a series of questions to see if they’re a good fit for the business, and see skills and personality traits. Background checks and screening will continue to be important, as well.

Focus on fit. “Picking the right person is critical to running a business,” said Jay Bredenberg, director of software architecture at PeopleMatter. In many cases it’s important to hire someone who fits the culture and shares the same values—“this is a big change in how we hire,” he said.

“Qualifications can be taught; fit can’t.”

Compliance. “This is a naughty trend,” Glushkoff said.

“Compliance means different things.” Is your organization following federal and state employment laws that govern your industry and company size? He said HR will be paying close attention to compliance when it comes to compensation, wages, new-hire orientation, employee payroll, recruitment and hiring, employee separation and performance management.
“One of the big areas also is immigration,” he observed. “What’s changed lately is [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] is no longer just targeting large employers—they are ‘moving down market’ and are looking at the smaller and medium-sized businesses.” The number of audits is increasing dramatically under the Obama administration. Fines have risen in tandem, and these are just for I-9 violations. “Expect these enforcement trends to continue in 2014,” he said. “You can also expect government regulations to continue to evolve, just like they did in 2013.”

Business analytics. That term is often “mixed in with big data, but these are more than buzzwords,” Glushkoff said. “If you look at the last 20 years or so, we’ve had online applications; we’ve been accumulating lots of data. The amount of data in the world is getting bigger, and without doing something with it, it doesn’t have much value.” The goal with analytics is to find out what’s in the data and try to predict what might happen in the future. Data analysis can help increase transparency, improve decision-making and identify new opportunities, he explained.

Get more out of people. “If you’re hiring better-quality people, your turnover is going to be lower,” Glushkoff said.

“When you have to find, hire, interview and onboard—all of that effort is very expensive—it costs about $3,000 per employee. That can be countered by training people better, providing them real-time feedback on their performance. Lowering the time to hire also lowers risk.

“Good employees who can deliver great service and connect with customers are gold. Bad ones are going to make it even harder to survive on your already-thin margins.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM. You can reach her via Twitter @1SHRMScribe.

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