11 Legal, Tech, And Cultural Trends That Will Shake Up HR In 2016

Jonathan Duarte

Many changes rocked the HR world in 2015. How prepared are you to handle the changes that 2016 will surely bring?

Here's a look ahead to the key trends and likely outcomes that will shape your plans in the coming year.

Workplace Trends

The rise of the startup economy, millennial workers, and the Internet of Things, are revolutionizing the concept of how people work "“ and what it takes to engage and retain top talent:

1.Telecommuting continues to grow.

More than 90% of millennials want to work remotely, and employers are taking note. Fortunately, this trend seems to bring many benefits:

  • 82% of employees working from home report lower stress levels and 80% report higher morale.
  • 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time.
2. An increasingly blended workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, 40% of workers in the U.S. will be part of the "gig economy." This means American workers are starting to capitalize on their own personal brands, providing freelance and consulting services for a variety of employers rather than working full time for a single employer.

Knowing this, many employers are leveraging freelancers as part of a "blended workforce." Companies have found that a mix of full-time, part-time, and freelance workers is beneficial in hiring top talent on a project by project basis, getting very specialized expertise for ad hoc needs, and reducing costs.

According to Accenture, freelance workers make up 20-33% of the workforce, and one-third of respondents to a recent study indicated that they're increasingly relying on contracted staff in addition to their full time employees.

3. Growing use of wearable technology and fitness competitions.

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that more than two-thirds of U.S. employers offer wellness programs as part of their benefits package. Many focus on preventive programs, such as smoking cessation programs and health risk assessments.

For 2016 however, we'll see an increase in more engaging wellness program and competitions. Fitness trackers and activity-based competitions have increased participation and engagement, and encourage an active lifestyle.

4. Broader family leave and benefits policies.

Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement that he is taking two months off for the birth of his daughter has renewed the conversation around paternal benefits and family leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't have a national paid family leave policy. California is one of only three states that has legislation providing paid family leave for all full-time employees.

Other major companies are already offering more family-friendly policies. Netflix for example, offers up to a year of full paid leave for new mothers and fathers for one year after the birth or adoption of a child. The program gives all Netflix Employees the option to work part-time, full-time, or not at all during the one-year post birth or adoption period.

Legal Trends

A new year brings legal and compliance issues, too. Here are some to brush up on, and keep in mind for 2016.

5. Ban the box spreads.

President Obama gave a boost to the movement to help individuals with a criminal record to reenter society. His support for ban-the-box policies for all federal employees resulted in the Office of Personnel Management's announcement that it will propose a rule prohibiting federal agencies from asking about criminal history on job applications. So far, "ban the box" legislation has been passed in 19 states and 100 cities and counties in the United States. Many nationwide retailers have implemented ban-the-box practices, including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target.

We predict that more companies will ban the criminal-history box on their applications.

6. Health care reform reporting requires more HR time.

Since Affordable Care Act (ACA) employee reporting requirements are changing in 2016, this prediction hardly requires a crystal ball. Employee healthcare benefits will remain a top consumer of HR professionals' attention. This Affordable Care Act Employer Shared Responsibility Provision requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees (or part-time equivalents) to provide affordable health insurance options to at least 95% of their full-time employees and dependents up to age 26 or to pay a fee to the IRS by 2016.

7. More workers qualify for overtime pay.

Also new in compliance for 2016 is overtime payments. The Department of Labor has proposed changes to overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and is expected to issue its final rule altering white-collar exemptions from overtime pay sometime in 2016. This change will have a significant impact on employees and employers across all industries.

The Department of Labor is proposing that the minimum salary requirements and compensation levels for executive, administrative, and professional employees change. The agency proposes to raise the salary threshold for exemption to the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers (to $921/week, $47,892 annually). This proposal is intended to minimize the risk that "employees legally entitled to overtime will be subject to misclassification based solely on the salaries they receive," according to a Department of Labor fact sheet.

Technology Trends

At the HR Technology Conference and International Association for Employment Web Sites Event, it became obvious that there are a lot of tools and technologies available to ease the HR professional's job. Here's a look at what will likely be trending in the New Year.

8. Employee-first tools emerge.

In an age when retaining top talent is a priority, a lot of HR technology is being developed for employees. New tools are making it easier to manage people, to learn and develop skills, and to allow employees to steer their own careers. In the words of Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, think of 2016 as the year to change from "systems of record" to "systems of engagement."

Having employees develop their own success with employee check-in tools, self-assessments, and constant feedback capabilities will increase work-life balance, on-the-job skills training, and productivity.

9. Gamification livens up recruiting.

Recruiters and HR departments in general have started to find significant benefits in gamification. A system of reward and recognition in the workplace can increase engagement among existing employees as well as provide an effective way to assess skills and abilities for particular roles.

For example, Pulse Active Savings, a microsavings company, created a business-case competition to allow job candidates to showcase their skills. This type of gamification can assess candidates in a quantitative way before moving through the whole inteviewing process.

10. New software advances feedback, engagement, and culture management.

From pulse surveys to engagement monitoring, several new tools help benchmark employee engagement and happiness. After a 2014 Gallup poll found that 70% of U.S. workers say they're not engaged at work, companies turned to new assessment and feedback tools such as Small Improvements, Reflektive, and Impraise to engage employees in their work and with their managers. These software tools allow for real-time feedback rather that formal annual reviews as well as periodic check-ins, and development planning to make sure that employees are on the right track for success. Look for more options and adoption in this space.

11. Mobile apps take over everything.

Mobile is now the primary computing platform for many in the United States. In 2014, mobile Internet growth increased 69%, and people are spending almost three hours a day on mobile phones. With the increase in usage, expect employee demand for apps that make work easier.

And vendors and employers will likely respond. Today, most companies have optimized web pages for mobile devices. In 2016, companies will create smartphone apps for their software. Whether it's an online job application, performance management tools, attendance management, or expense reimbursement, apps will make it easier to recruit and engage with employees at any time.


What's on your wish list for 2016? What are your predictions for hot HR trends? Join the conversation @goodhiretweets #trends #2016


Jonathan Duarte

Jonathan Duarte


With 20 years’ experience in the HR tech market, Jonathan writes about upcoming trends and the latest HR developments. Outside of work, you’ll find JD on the soccer field, on a road-trip, or training for his next triathlon.

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