6 workplace trends of 2016

2016 is more than halfway over. The first two quarters are finished, and the third is now underway. Organizations should have a good idea of how they’ll perform on their annual goals and whether or not their goals thus far have been realistic. This is a great time to sit back and reflect on what the year has brought, not only in terms of hard numbers but in overall workplace trends and changes. Has your company experienced any transformations in culture or operations?

The reality for many organizations is that a sea change in company culture is coming, if it hasn’t already arrived. This is thanks, in a big part, to the global connectedness brought by enterprise digital tools, as well as the growing influence of Millennials in the workplace. Tracking workplace trends and projecting their future consequences will help organizations stay ahead of the curve and attract top talent, which is sure to make their competitors jealous. It’s important to project further into the future, but don’t underestimate the power of staying on top of the current year’s trends either. With that in mind, here are the top 6 workplace trends of 2016.

The rise of telecommuting

50% of the American workforce now hold jobs that are at least partially compatible with working remotely, and somewhere between 20 and 25% telecommute with some level of frequency. This means a few things for the average company. One is that they must have a plan in place to keep all workers connected, even those who aren’t joined with one another in a physical office. Second, they can expect demand for the option of working remotely to rise. The convenience of working from home is tempting, and there is even evidence that it increases productivity. Third, with telecommuting becoming more popular, expect to see newly founded organizations embracing a model of remote work over a central office. This not only benefits productivity and keeps workers happy, it saves huge costs on rent and furniture. While an established company may not have these newcomers on their radar, they should as these smaller organizations will set the status quo and employee expectations that will soon enough bleed over into larger businesses.

Continued proliferation of big data

With the percentage of business that is conducted online, especially interactions with customers or potential customers, organizations have access to a treasure trove of data that never existed before. This opens the door to more precise market research and targeting, better SEO, a more personalized user experience for customers, and more. Internally, data on productivity and worker habits can help organizations to optimize their processes and goals. Aside from employing data scientists to wrangle and make sense of these numbers, companies would do well to encourage data literacy among employees in all departments.

Freelancers as far as the eye can see

With the rise of telecommuting comes a greater number of freelancers. In fact, estimates put the number of freelancers in America today at 53 million. By 2020, it’s likely that 50% of the workforce will freelance, even if that’s not their main source of income. This process is being helped along in part by Obamacare, which goes into full effect in 2016. Smaller companies are now required to provide health insurance for fulltime workers, alongside large corporations. Some of these organizations that are unable to afford the cost of healthcare are likely to respond by employing more freelance workers instead of hiring them as fulltime employees. This “freelance economy” will pose a challenge to managers as independent contractors not only are less likely to be physically present at an office but are much more fluid in their employment. Especially for those freelance only part time, managers will have to learn new ways of encouraging their dedication to the company.

Employee engagement (again)

We’ve been hearing about employee engagement for a while now, thanks to the Gallup polls that have been highly publicized since they first appeared half a decade ago. Yet the numbers haven’t changed, with around 70% of workers still being either not engaged or actively disengaged. In fact, that number is higher for certain groups – with both Millennials and government workers reporting at 71% non-engagement. The consequences of disengagement have been made clear at this point, with companies collectively losing multiple billions of dollars each year. Approaches to engagement vary from pool tables and company happy hours to better compensation. What works best for your company ? One way to assess that is to ask your employees. Maybe they want more on-the-job skills training and career advancement, or maybe their work-life balance equation is off. Either way, listening will get you far.

A singular digital workplace

Productivity tools and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are more popular than ever, as are many other types of digital tools and applications. They exist for all areas of business and can bring impressive benefits to an organization. However, one blind spot for companies using these tools is that clumsy nature of using numerous systems that don’t communicate with one another. Collaboration among digital tools is just as important as collaboration among employees, and for this reason companies would be wise to seek out more connected systems and “digital workspaces” than disparate tools.

Millennials in leadership positions

Around 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring daily, which adds up to over 3.6 million each year. That’s opening up lots of leadership slots, and who’s going to start filling managerial positions? Millennials. Of course, Gen Xers will also be moving to senior positions, but they’ll also be evacuating their managerial slots with their upward mobility. This means that the values Millennials bring to the office will have much more clout behind them. Since many of these values and experiences are tied with the other trends mentioned here, expect those to be solidified instead of passing. All in all, the future of work is chugging along and businesses would be wise to pay attention and adapt.