Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2015
Author: Natalie Singer, Talent 3sixty
Each year Dan Schawbel, American author and management consultant, writes up his top 10 workplace trends for publication via Forbes.com and this year I have taken his predictions and applied them to the South African context.
Although South Africa definitely needs to be considered part of the global village, our socio-economic situation does make things different for us than for an advanced economy like the US.
Schawbel’s highest level trends include the skills gap, workers dropping out of the corporate system, use of automation, outsourcing and then pressure for companies to become leaner. I would concur that these are among SA’s greatest trends too.
There may be many challenges facing the workplace in 2015 but equally opportunity abounds for organisations willing to invest in understanding the changes and making adjustments as required.
Trend 1: Companies hiring youngsters
Globally organisations are realising that in order to win (or rather build) the best talent they are having to engage them sooner than traditionally expected. In the US and Europe many multi-national companies are recruiting interns straight out of high school in a bid to address the skills gap that exists, particularly in the areas of science, mathematics and technology.
Whilst I believe that South African employees will, at least for the time being, still recruit at graduate level, the incentives provided by the Youth Employment Scheme and others are making the option of employing (and investing in) youngsters more attractive.
Trend 2: Millennials are taking up leadership roles
Increasing some of the youngest members of the workforce are taking up leadership roles. A recent survey by CareerBuilder, the largest global job board, found that 38% of the workforce is already managed by millennials and that is already causing problems including a sense of arrogance and favouritism towards others of their generation. The main problem it seems is that these youngsters have been promoted early, having not gained sufficient work (and life) experience nor appropriate management training.
Certain industries in South Africa may find this trend more apparent, such as IT, where the younger generation’s ability to adapt to rapidly changing technology is seeing them jump the corporate ladder at warp speed.
Trend 3: Honesty becomes a revered leadership trait
A recent global study found that more than half of Generation Y and their younger siblings, Generation Z, state that honesty is the most important quality for being a good leader. Social media may account for this as organisations and the individuals within them are pushed to become more transparent and to share their activities on a daily basis.
Whilst there may be some questions about leadership within the Government and public sector in SA, the private sector is being shoved towards greater transparency daily. Leaders will no longer just have to be good at inspiring and educating their employees, they will now need to instil trust though honesty.
Trend 4: The skills gap continues to widen
Ask any HR practitioner or business leader and they’ll tell you that skills shortages or mismatches are their biggest challenge. Despite a lot of talk about this, the gap seems to be widening rather than closing. Globally the education systems fails to keep up with needs of the current workplace.
In South Africa the education crisis is reaching epic proportions as FET colleges continue to produce abysmal throughput rates of just 9% and tens of thousands of graduates remain unemployed years after they’ve qualified. Until business and the education fraternity are able to sit down and co-create a curriculum that meets the needs of the market, the sad paradox of unfilled jobs and drastic unemployment will continue.
Trend 5: The continuous job search picks up
Technology has enabled individuals to easily find new jobs and to allow recruiters to identify, approach and “steal” talent in numbers. As a result employees are undergoing continuous job search and never really settle. Companies who wish to increase their retention rates need to focus on creating a superior work culture where employees make friends, are consistently engaged and get perks that appeal.
The average job tenure in South Africa is not quite two years, with younger generations “hopping” regularly. It seems that this trend is not likely to be reversed and so employers – and recruiters – need to adjust their perceptions and to find advantages to the myriad of jobs, environments and experiences that these individuals have been exposed to and what advantages these provide to their next employer.
Trend 6: Mobile hiring and the mobile job search explosion
Mobile access to the Internet and in particular job search functionality is increasing globally. According to Schawbel, 83% of jobseekers in the US use their smartphones to search for opportunities and yet just 20% of Fortune 500 companies have a mobile friendly career site.
In South Africa, just as it is across the continent, the vast majority of individuals access the Internet via their mobile. It is therefore no longer optional for an organisation, especially recruitment companies, to have a mobi-friendly website and ideally a mobile app.
Trend 7: Social media posts used to attract and retain talent
Employer brand is ever more critical in attracting and retaining top talent. A snazzy website and carefully constructed employer marketing material are no longer sufficient. Interested individuals wish to see into the culture of the company and social media provides a great platform to share work culture related posts and leveraging current employees to promote the brand.
People want to work for interesting companies and when they see their social media posts they get a better sense of what the organisation is all about. Platforms such as Glassdoor, although relatively new to South Africa, give a glimpse into the true state of affairs within an organisation, ensuring a balanced perspective of employer brand.
Trend 8: Succession planning becomes a top priority
Loss of skill and experience is always difficult and as the workforce ages and more Boomers are set to retire, many organisations are facing a serious challenge: how do they ensure effective succession? Luckily more than 60% of older workers surveyed in the US indicated that they are not ready to retire entirely, requiring an opportunity to continue to earn into their “retirement”.
South Africa too faces a threat of too many skilled individuals retiring at the same time. Unfortunately too few organisations have amended their antiquated retirement policies, expecting 60-year-olds to pack up and go – with more than 20 years retirement facing them. Opportunities to remain employed, via contract or third parties, exist and will continue to be utilised by individuals who’re not ready to retire and their organisations who simply cannot afford to let them go.
Trend 9: Woman continue to seize power positions in the workplace
Pay gaps continue to exist across the world with woman earning as little as 75% of their male counterparts. Whilst research indicates that this gap is narrowing, woman in the workplace continue to hit glass ceilings although advances are happening to improve the representation, especially at senior levels.
South Africa’s constitution has always promoted equal treatment and in this regard SA must rank amongst the best in terms of female representation in the workplace and at senior levels of management. In 2015 more woman were enrolled at universities across the country and this bodes well for increasing the pool of skilled, experienced and ambitious young women in the workplace.
Trend 10: More people stepping out of traditional career paths
Every year an increasing number of individuals become freelancers, either through choice or out of necessity. Companies are opting to hire more contingent workers as they attempt to keep their organisations lean and mean, employing skill on a project, rather than permanent, basis. Technology makes accessing the world of work from wherever easier by the day, encouraging the growth of freelancers.
Although South Africa is grappling with the concept of flexibility and organisations will now have to manage increasing complexity of regulation, South Africa will not lag behind the global trend. Research conducted by Boston Consulting Group in 2011 clearly indicates that global competitiveness requires organisations to have 30% flexibility in their workforce.
How is your company adapting to the trends?