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Top 4 HR Trends for 2019

Steffen Maier
Steffen Maier

We may see a stronger emphasis on a data-driven yet people-first approach.

It's time to think about what we can look forward to in 2019.

The world of work has been going through some massive changes, like the rise of the gig economy, increasing use of artificial intelligence, and the scary fact that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't even been invented yet. How can one prepare for the unknown?

Before you start thinking about how you will reskill, here are the top four trends you should watch in 2019.

1. People enablement

The changes in the way we work (remote teams, the gig economy and an ever-growing millennial workforce) are disrupting the way people think about their careers. While it's traditionally been the role of HR to foster performance and development in the workplace, people are no longer waiting for this to happen, increasingly taking their professional development into their own hands.

People enablement is precisely about adopting a people-first approach. It's a belief that seizing moments to celebrate, learn and improve has the power to transform roles into careers; and forging cultures where individuals feel valued, motivated and empowered.

Implementing a culture of feedback in your organization is one way of bringing people enablement to the table. To start with, encouraging regular moments for people to grow and develop gives them the opportunity to continuously improve and keep the momentum in their role. For example,  in a survey through my company, Impraise, 72 percent of users said feedback exchanged through Impraise contributed to their performance improvements. When people are enabled to request feedback and become accustomed to sharing it with each other, it gives them greater autonomy over their careers and development opportunities.

By incorporating regular moments of feedback, you can support better recognition in the workplace. Recognition is an extremely important yet often overlooked key to a more engaged workforce. Did you know that 69 percent of people said they would work harder if they were recognized? It seems obvious, yet companies are still learning how to do it in a meaningful way. Recognition done well can help with retention (which is increasingly important), engagement, company culture and productivity.

People enablement will continue to rise as a trend. According to Deloitte's 2018 Human Capital Report, companies are shifting from a focus on careers to a focus on experiences.

2. Investment in developing better managers

While people are increasingly taking charge of their professional development, that doesn't make managers or their function obsolete. People enablement – or a people-first approach – needs to be embraced at all levels of the organization, including leaders. 

There has been a growing call for managers to be better coaches. In fact, according to The Business Backer, 93 percent of employees feel that trust in their boss is essential to satisfaction at work. But if managers are not properly trained and their development not invested in, this strategy seems doomed to fail. Moving forward, companies should think about the following:

  • Ways they can support the training and development of their managers
  • The skill sets that make managers good coaches
  • How to evaluate managers' abilities to engage teams and individuals
  • Developing stronger leadership skills in their people
  • Supporting managers to create clarity and alignment within their teams
  • Encouraging the practice of one-on-ones and teaching managers how to conduct them
  • Education on giving good, candid feedback

Most importantly, it's time to recognize that developing leadership skills isn't a one-size-fits-all exercise. Standardized, HR-designed processes and trainings are not necessarily the answer in this case – it's more about enabling people to do it for themselves.

3. Data-driven HR decisions

As the internet and technology have provided us with endless data, companies need to start harnessing it to draw meaningful insights. While software and technology companies have always done so, corporates are just starting to catch up. Particularly in HR – a people-focused department with tons of data it never fully uses – a data-driven approach seems only logical.

There's a plethora of tools to help HR departments streamline and improve processes, and it's increasingly important to make good use of the data technology provides. If you use engagement surveys, what are you doing with the answers? What can you learn from all the data you are collecting, such as how your people prefer to work, how often they are exchanging feedback, and which of your content they are consuming and why? The answers are an opportunity to strengthen your company culture and bridge any gaps that appear.

For example, IBM's Lee Andrews mentioned during 2018's Onboard.Amsterdam how the company is using data from a learning portal set up for new joiners to improve its onboarding experience and provide relevant content. This is further confirmed by companies like LinkedIn and SAP, which are refining their offerings through people-driven insights. LinkedIn recently launched Talent Insights, allowing companies to use LinkedIn data in a smarter way, such as by matching skills and interests of individuals with current company vacancies. Meanwhile, SAP purchased Qualtrics, a platform that enables engagement surveys and brand tracking, proving the increased desire from companies to learn more about their people.

Again, it's not just about having the data – it's what you do with it to create an improved and more meaningful employee experience.

4. Mental health in the workplace

Last but not least, a topic gaining attention is mental health. We've seen a disengaged workforce, the search for purpose, people breaking away from the more traditional career paths. A parallel can be drawn between these trends and the increasing mental health issues affecting people at work.

The Thriving at Work report published by the British government in 2017 found that the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50 percent higher than those who did so due to physical health conditions. In the World Health Organization's Mental Health Atlas, results show there are not yet enough human and financial resources in place to support mental health issues.

Initial steps are being taken to address this. In 2018, Prince William launched the website Mental Health at Work, specifically designed to raise awareness and support those in need of it. Employers are also increasing wellness programs and related benefits, but for the time being, these are just scratching the surface, more focused on physical well-being through exercise and diet.

As people become more open to talking about their difficulties, employers will need to find smart ways to support them. A first step is education: What are the issues people might come forward with? How can we foster an environment where people are comfortable talking about issues they are experiencing? How can we support each other? After education, what simple steps can companies create? British mental health charity Mind has some starting points here.


When thinking about trends, it can be easy to jump to technology. In what other ways will it make our lives easier? What are the latest tools we can use to increase efficiency? But in reality, HR remains a human-centered topic. We should always remember to look at things through the lens of a human experience. How do we want people to feel? What do we want them to experience? Then, consider how technology can enable it.

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
Steffen Maier
Steffen Maier Member
Steffen Maier is an expert in the field of HR tech and performance management and a recognized thought leader in Human Resources innovation, with extensive experience and knowledge surrounding feedback, engagement, organizational culture and successful workplace practices. Steffen’s position as co-founder and CMO of New York based HR tech company Impraise also sees him assist organizations with the transition from the annual performance review to a more impactful approach of real-time, 360-degree feedback and peer coaching. He has successfully implemented this beneficial approach to performance management in a variety of international organizations. Steffen has won multiple awards in the field, including 2nd place in the JIBS Entrepreneurship challenge and 4th place in the Lisbon Challenge, beating over 500 applicants. He also holds a master's degree in strategic entrepreneurship, and regularly contributes to a large variety of publications, some of which include Fast company, BizzJournals and CMS Wire. Steffen also has a long-standing role as a regular contributor for Entrepreneur & CMSWire among 30 more blogs, where he shares his insights into organizational culture, feedback and other trending topics in the Human Resources, management and business sectors. He is Y Combinator alumni, and a founding board member of HR Tech NL: an Amsterdam based initiative which seeks to build a community of like minded industry members to establish how technology can help develop current HR practices. Steffen is also a recognized public speaker and has shared his knowledge at multiple events including HR Core Lab, HR Tech World, the Accenture Innovation awards and Beyond HR.