(This article originally appeared on Forbes, through the Forbes Human Resources Council, where HR executives across all industries offer leadership advice and insights.)
In 2017, the human resources industry did a lot of soul searching about the way culture and performance issues were handled within companies. In 2018, another big internal shift is coming, but this time the focus is on technology: how it can be used to find people, connect people, engage people, even replace people — and what to do when that happens. For years, technology has acted as a tool to help with day-to-day tasks, but the focus in 2018 will be technology as a way of life in the workplace. These are the five biggest trends I see coming to HR in the next year, and they all involve technology.
1. Passive candidates: Headhunting of passive candidates has always been part of the recruitment process. But these days, it’s much different from simply sifting through resumes on a career website. The advent of social media has made getting in touch with candidates easier than ever before. Similarly, talent pools can now be identified simply by searching hashtags, sub-forums or other online communication methods. By engaging these types of candidates — either in groups or individually depending on the platform — recruiters can get a sense of what they’re looking for and if they’d be willing to make a change in their careers.
2. A remote workforce: Working virtually — at home, at a coffee shop or anywhere else there’s Wi-Fi — is a growing trend in the United States. In the past two decades, the volume of employees who have worked at least partially by telecommuting has quadrupled and now stands at 37%. A significant driver of this stems from VPN technology making it easy to access work systems from nearly any computer. This makes it possible to recruit from almost anywhere in the world, and it’s no surprise that many startups are built with remote teams. From a corporate perspective, it opens up the pool of candidates, and by offering remote work capabilities, it’s a way to retain current employees and boost job satisfaction through a better work-life balance. With video conferencing and collaboration tools evolving every year, this trend will only continue on the upswing.
3. Blind hiring: The tech industry, and Silicon Valley in particular, was rocked in 2017 by accusations and counter-claims of bias in the workforce. The easiest way to minimize any controversy? Make hiring a blind process. In standard screening and interviewing, unconscious bias easily becomes part of the equation by including any data that may give away key parts of a candidate’s background: gender, age, race, even alma mater. By making hiring a blind process — that is, stripping away any info on a resume that may reveal demographic data — the first wave of screening can be done based purely on abilities and achievements. There’s even recruiting software built to automate screening and anonymize candidates. This allows for a more diverse workforce built on merit, not any buddy-buddy vibes picked up during the early interview process.
4. Gamification: Gamification is a technique that has been working its way into all different types of industries. The idea of turning engagement into a competitive game format works for a range of purposes, whether it’s marketing or teaching or hiring. In business, gamification can be used as a candidate screener, turning tests of critical skill sets and cognitive abilities into fun engagement. With the advent of smartphone apps, it’s possible to have a user base play recruitment games while under-the-hood algorithms track critical analytics. The result benefits both candidates and employers: candidates have a fun reason to try to increase their scores while showing off to potential employers; hiring managers have an ocean of data that can help predict the strengths and weaknesses of candidates — and even find diamonds in the rough.
5. Future-proofing employees: While political talking points often emphasize the return of jobs in manufacturing and manual labor, the cold hard truth is that those positions are going away because of evolving technology. In many cases, artificial intelligence is replacing repeatable tasks while predictive analytics is replacing certain levels of management and decision making. It goes beyond manufacturing — travel agents, flight attendants and more are all vulnerable. Where does this leave the human work force? In 2018, it’s up to companies to look at their human resources and determine the best way to pivot them into future positions. This means identifying the staff who are willing to embrace different aspects of jobs: management, problem solving, troubleshooting and other areas that require a human element. By planning ahead, this will save the company money as it transitions to cheaper computer-driven labor while maximizing the human potential already on the payroll.
With 2018 just ramping up, it’s clear that these technology-driven trends will impact the HR industry sooner rather than later. Many of these are already available and will simply grow in industry presence; the smart thing is to invest time and resources now to get ahead of the game. Whether it’s identifying internal positions vulnerable to AI replacement or exploring social media-enabled methods of finding passive candidates, all technology-driven changes feature some level of learning curve. Thus, it’s a worthwhile goal to start preparing for the future today.