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These 3 Talent Trends for 2020 Focus on Empathy

A group of people sitting at a desk in an office.

​In 2020, more employers will seek to understand both their candidates and employees more deeply to recruit and keep skilled workers in a tight labor market. 

Employers will strive to design better candidate and employee experiences, become more proficient with talent analytics and shore up retention by improving internal career paths.

Over 7,000 recruiters and hiring managers across 35 countries identified these trends as being the most impactful when they were surveyed by LinkedIn for the professional networking site's Global Talent Trends 2020 report.

"As we enter the 2020s, empathy will reshape the way employers hire and retain talent," said Mark Lobosco, vice president of talent solutions at LinkedIn. "Instead of putting shareholder value over all … a company's purpose now includes investing in employees. Companies are becoming more empathetic not only to attract candidates, but also to retain their workforce amid increasing expectations of what employers owe to their people."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

1. Creating Employee Experience

Companies have begun to collaborate more actively with employees to create a workplace experience that improves retention and employer brand. Bettering the experience of candidates and applicants is still viewed as an integral work in progress.

Ninety-four percent of talent professionals surveyed by LinkedIn agreed that employee experience will be very important to the future of recruiting and HR.

"Work used to be about conforming—organizations pushed out rules and plans, and employees complied," Lobosco said. "But as competition for talent tightened and workers became more skilled, power shifted from institutions to individuals. Today, more businesses are looking at everything they do through the lens of employee experience."

For a long time now in HR, "we've been over-indexed on talent acquisition, finding the right people and building talent pipelines, and not investing enough on what happens to that talent once they're hired," said Lars Schmidt, an industry thought leader and founder of Amplify, an HR executive search and consulting firm in Reston, Va. "The reality is that in competitive markets, talent is fluid and has a lot of options. If we're not creating a meaningful employee experience—that's environmental, through development and management and all the things that make the actual experience of working meaningful—then all the efforts we've put into attraction and recruiting are for naught."

Employee experience is a must, said Mahe Bayireddi, the CEO and co-founder of talent experience management technology company Phenom People in Philadelphia. He added that employee experience must be personalized and based on collecting and acting on feedback.

Lobosco said that because the concept of employee experience can feel unwieldy, the trick is to break it down into four core components: relationships, the physical workplace, the work itself, and processes and technology. "For each key moment along the employment journey, from hiring through exiting, seek to understand and improve the health of each component," he said.

But while companies agree that improving employee experience is valuable, most struggle to find the resources to meet the challenge. Over half of respondents said there aren't enough people or funds dedicated to employee experience.

Jobs dedicated to employee experience have sprung up in some companies. Amy Rossi, vice president of employee experience at cybersecurity firm Expel, based in Herndon, Va., feels the concept of "human resources" is dated and doesn't properly capture the journey of employment.

" 'Human resources' creates a picture of spreadsheets and cost savings and thinking of people as numbers and not as humans," she said. "When I think about the employee experience, it's about designing a journey and the moments that matter in that journey, from the recruiting process and onboarding through all of the many programs and systems that support employees at the company."

Rossi uses a "4 M's" framework to help guide growth in scaling the employee experience at Expel: mantras to communicate what's important, measurement to help track progress and spot problems, machinery investment to support processes, and management.

"Building strong management capabilities is so important to the employee experience because the managers support the employees through each part of their journey," she said. "We have created an intensive 12-month management development program for each people manager, and that includes giving every single manager a coach for those 12 months."

Candidate experience is still a top priority among business leaders, said Courtney Cook, vice president of strategic development at global consulting firm Korn Ferry. However, candidate experience is not what it should be after more than a decade of highlighting it as a talent acquisition priority.

"We've certainly made progress, but I don't think we've fundamentally changed how we treat candidates, especially for the amount of energy we've spent talking about it," Schmidt said. "The same frustrations candidates felt then remain. Candidates still deal with the black hole, a lack of engagement, a lack of respect."

Cook noted that companies are investing in recruitment process automation to make applying for jobs easier, clarify the job for the candidate and help applicants know where they are in the process. "The faster you can provide a candidate with insights and information," she said, "the higher interest they will have in moving forward."

2. Adopting Talent Analytics

Gleaning critical information from company data helps talent leaders be more strategic in workforce planning, measuring recruiting spend and predicting attrition.

"That data is invaluable and can be used to create programs that increase talent mobility and retention, reduce turnover and make operational decisions that more effectively drive business strategy," said Emily He, senior vice president of marketing for Oracle's human capital management cloud business.  

But challenges in effectively using HR data abound. One of the biggest is understanding where to start, what to measure and how to apply insights, He said. "Many are afraid to fail and expose a perceived deficiency to their executives. Others are bombarded with a tsunami of data and end up feeling overwhelmed."

She said a good place to start is with simple data correlations. Measure employee turnover and identify any trends that spark it.

Data infrastructure is another issue. "There are great technologies out there to help add value, but oftentimes they are not leveraged the right way," Cook said. "There are too many siloed data systems that don't talk to one another, and bottlenecks are happening."

Capitalizing on the data is the biggest hurdle for employers that have the infrastructure in place and are already engaged with talent analytics. "Almost half of companies feel good about maintaining clean, accurate data," Lobosco said. "We see a drop-off, though, in the analyzing stage, drawing meaningful insights from their data."

Bayireddi said HR has used analytics and "generated reports and pretty graphs, but most companies do not know how to turn the data into actionable intelligence. That's where HR is lagging."

Similarly, companies struggle to transition from solving existing problems with insights from data to taking advantage of new opportunities with insights.

"Many might be comfortable acting after a spike in attrition," Lobosco said, "but fewer would be able to proactively hire ahead of that spike."

3. Recruiting from Within

At a time when competition is fierce and external talent is expensive to recruit, companies are increasingly looking inward to find the people they need.

"For all the focus on mapping the external talent marketplace, the irony is that there's not enough focus placed on the talent underneath one's own roof," said Chuck Edward, head of global talent acquisition at Microsoft.

With the unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, it's not enough to hire great talent, Cook said. "You must think about how to retain them. Talent acquisition should be not only hiring for skills, but also for potential, so employees can pivot and move into different roles, be developed to maximize performance and evolve the business for the future."

Promotions and internal transfers have increased steadily by 10 percent over the last five years, according to LinkedIn data. But while 73 percent of talent professionals say internal recruiting is becoming increasingly important at their organization, it's been mostly ad hoc, experts say.

"Currently, internal mobility is driven by employees," Lobosco said. "Recruiting teams are largely passive. Very few employers have an organized process in place, and it's time for recruiters to take a more active, intentional role in internal hiring."

According to respondents, the top barrier to internal hiring is managers who hoard talent.

"If someone's hiring an employee from your team, that's not poaching," Edward said. "That's two managers collaborating for the win of the company." 

Schmidt recommended organizations use internal career coaches, especially for younger to midlevel talent. "I'm talking about a dedicated team of career coaches whose job it is to support employee growth."

That could even mean helping push someone out for a job in another company. "You've got to think about the long game," he said. "You're creating an incubator environment where early-career talent know they can go and get developed, have a range of opportunities and are valued for their potential. If you can provide that kind of guidance, that's incredible. It's counterintuitive because you will guide some people to leave the organization, but employers that do that effectively will have a real advantage as employees who move through the company and beyond it rave about the experience."


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