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25 Employee Relations Trends That Will Impact The Workplace in 2016

Jan 7, 2016
Deb Muller


With the close of 2015, many of us are reflecting on the year that passed and, of course, the one that lies ahead. The employee relations landscape changed dramatically over the past 12 months. There were demographic shifts in the workforce, a myriad of complications from technology, new marriage equality rules and more relaxed views towards the company dress code. Shifting attitudes were often the catalyst for a changing workplace, and the complexity of issues frequently made the way forward unclear. Employee relations in 2016 promise more of the same.

At HR Acuity, we’re looking ahead too. Here are 25 employee relations trends that we believe will impact the workplace in 2016, list-style! As Maria Konnikova, contributor for The New Yorker, explains, humans love lists:

“…lists tap into our preferred way of receiving and organizing information at a subconscious level; from an information-processing standpoint, they often hit our attentional sweet spot.”

We hope our list will give employee relations practitioners lots of food for thought in the new year. Please comment and share yours!

  1. Gen Z start to enter the workforce. Currently 25% of the US population and growing, they have been referred to as the population tsunami.
  2. 3.6 million Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1954, become of retirement age. By some estimates, the total population of Baby Boomers is 33 million.
  3. The first Millennials start to move into leadership roles in their organizations.
  4. One in three American workers are Millennials and represent the largest share of the US workforce. Employers develop employee relations strategies specific to Millennials.
  5. Paternity leave becomes more commonplace, think Reddit, Zappos and Facebook.
  6. Dress code policies will reflect a more lenient stance towards tattoos and body piercings.
  7. The Internet of Things (IoT) will prompt more companies to geotag devices, equipment and even workers.
  8. Boomerang employees in the workforce rise as employers lighten up on rehiring former colleagues.
  9. Affordable Care Act penalties complicate benefits management.
  10. Wearables continue to grow in popularity and companies consider wide-scale enterprise adoption.
  11. One-third of Americans already work as freelancers and the number will keep rising.
  12. Companies roll out on-going feedback in lieu of the annual review.
  13. Companies continue to eliminate employee stack ranking.
  14. To facilitate growing numbers of older employees, reverse mentoring programs become more prevalent.
  15. Companies allocate resources for more structured monitoring of employee social media posts.
  16. Medical insurance and retirement plan documents are updated to include same-sex spouses as beneficiaries.
  17. OSHA maximum penalties rise significantly due to catch-up provisions in the approved bipartisan budget.
  18. Workers report an increasing number of mental health related issues.
  19. Human resources continue the shift towards data-driven insights.
  20. As more states legalize marijuana, employers will establish internal medical marijuana policies.
  21. Organizations will reconfigure dress code policies to be more gender neutral.
  22. The use case for case management systems will grow alongside the increasing need by companies to quantify the costs of employee-related risk.
  23. Mentorship programs will help companies establish inclusive work environments for transgender employees.
  24. Phased retirements will be more commonplace.
  25. Companies will be forced to tighten use of company WiFi rules as personal social media usage and wearables in the workplace strain bandwidth.
Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.