Top five areas for HR to be aware of in 2019…

By Anthony Wolny | 21st December 2018 | 11 min read

With 2019 fast approaching, many HR managers will be looking ahead to the key trends, discussion points and legislative changes that are undoubtedly due to dominate the business landscape as the year unfolds.

The true questions that hard-working professionals require enlightenment on include: what will be the biggest hurdles in 2019? Where will the difficulties lie? Is the industry equipped to tackle upcoming obstacles, and what role will technology play?

With uncertainties surrounding Brexit, Equal Pay reporting, and legislation still looking to govern the business headlines in the coming year, we commissioned our very own survey of 400 HR directors, managers and executives to discover their feelings on the twists and turns of 2018, and their predictions for what exactly lies ahead in the new year.

The results were extremely informative, with employee engagement topping the list as the biggest perceived challenge for HR professionals in 2019 – 40% of 423 respondents believed it would be the issue most likely to keep them awake at night in the new year. Recruitment and retention were a close second and third (37% and 36% respectively), followed by absence management (29%) and wellbeing (22%).

It appears that similar themes have posed the biggest headaches as 2018 has unfolded too. When asked to reflect on their toughest encounters from the last year, HR directors, managers and executives ranked recruitment as the clear front runner (45%), followed by absence management (36%), with retention and GDPR compliance in joint third place (35%).

With these findings fresh in our minds, and in line with widely-shared industry viewpoints, we thought it prudent to put together our very own top five predictions for HR personnel to be aware of as we move into 2019:

Fighting unconscious bias

Utilising smart HR technology in order to remove unconscious bias, particularly during the recruitment process, is likely to become a big trend in 2019. The strong focus on Equal and Ethnicity Pay Reporting in 2018 has meant that a focus on improving company-wide performance and culture through diversity has already made it on to the agenda of many UK companies.

However, the biggest hurdle to a diverse workforce is the ability to remove your own pre-established bias, by both acknowledging that it exists, and also taking steps to remove it from your current hiring process. With this in mind, an increasing number of businesses are setting diversity goals that HR managers and recruiters will be expected to meet in order to reduce the prevalence of ageism, sexism, and racism during the recruitment process.

Those able to utilise an intuitive HR system will find that the ability to create, design and manage clear business roadmaps to promote diversity and inclusion within their workplaces will be a huge aid to their efforts. Adding recruitment software to your current HR and payroll solutions can also improve efficiency in this area and help you make better-informed decisions.

Enhancing the employee experience

Countless research illustrates that business productivity and profitability suffers when employee engagement is not made a priority, yet HR professionals continue to struggle to make significant changes to the morale of their staff. However, many underestimate the positive impact that HR technology can play in supporting and developing their existing engagement strategies. Promoting wellbeing, social and financial initiatives through your HR software solution could be the key to raising awareness of such schemes with your wider business.

Many businesses find that they are at a turning point in terms of employees stating that they are keen to be engaged, yet they unsure as to how their software can be utilised to reach them effectively. The real key is for HR personnel to create, manage and develop their own comprehensive employee engagement programs, that span the employee life cycle through from recruitment to exit interviews. Embedding this basic structure can then allow for link building to be achieved for solutions that aim to improve engagement, increase retention, and raise awareness of wider company ethics and culture.

Embracing the growing innovation of payroll

Payroll co-exists alongside HR to form the backbone of UK companies, yet many HR professionals are voicing an increasing disconnect between the innovation efforts are invested within each area. As 2019 approaches, and key stakeholders review the longevity of their infrastructure solutions, many are looking ahead to understand what other options could be available to them as they look to upgrade their payroll experience.

Research from the HR Federation shows that organisations planning to replace their current payroll application in the next 12 months have been using their system for eight or more years, whilst those planning to make a change within the next two years have on average used their current system for 10 or more years.

With an increasing number of HR companies offering an integrated HR and payroll software solution, it makes sense that many HR managers are looking to streamline and simplify their current payroll infrastructure. Those already utlising modern, responsive payroll software can also look forward to a heightened focus on pay transparency and pay modelling, as 2019 looks set to bring a continued focus on Gender Pay and the clarity around business pay deductions.

Expanding our concept of wellness

With 2018 bringing an increased focus on the importance of mental health, alongside physical wellbeing, the new year looks set to spell a new era of corporate wellness initiatives. Many businesses will be looking to expand their current wellness initiatives to cover financial, as well as mental and physical health. A recent US survey indicated that only 35 percent of employees felt satisfied with their financial situation in 2017 – a statistic that is likely to be mirrored within the UK labour market.

Those businesses keen to innovate ahead of the pack will therefore be looking to expand their existing healthcare or wellness packages beyond a focus on employee physical health. Technology can be utilised to help businesses to improve their current offering – reaching employees with thoughtful, targeted messages, that offer the support and guidance that they might need, can really help them on the journey towards being their most productive and present selves within the workplace.

The right HR technology solution can provide support, advice and guidance on areas spanning pensions, debts, savings, mortgages, childcare and investments – giving your employees a singular, secure place in which to proactively tackle and manage their individual financial situation.

Streamlining HR operations with AI

The past year has seen much noise around the increasing prevalence of AI technology, and its potential impact on the UK business economy. With many HR professionals understandably confused and concerned as to the breadth and depth of its impact, 2019 looks set to be the year that many companies begin to truly understand that they can leverage AI technology to enhance their business endeavours.

HR professionals will also discover that leveraging AI technology in the right way can allow them to identify new data opportunities, improve internal workflows, and increase the productivity of their wider team. Utilising data to learn, identify new patterns, and make compelling business decisions that could in turn streamline processes, can also reduce the amount of input that HR would have historically needed to impart in certain tasks.

As employees begin to expect more from their employers, the combining of AI with existing HR technology systems looks set to become the way forward in terms of improving employee experience, recruitment and overall business satisfaction levels.