The coexistence of workers and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A recent Gartner survey found that 59 percent of organizations are in the research stage of building out their AI plans while the rest are either piloting or adopting AI solutions.

The global workforce may have a reasonable fear that the introduction of AI will eliminate jobs from the economy. Nevertheless, next generation workers will eventually have to work side by side with these technologies in order to become more productive and free up time to do emotional labor, says Dan Schawbel, New York Times bestselling author and partner/research director at Future Workplace.

“There are many conflicting reports about robots having a net positive, neutral, or negative effect on the labor market. The one certainty is that the workforce is getting incrementally used to both using and communicating with robots in and out of the workplace, whether they realize it or not.

“We use voice technology outside the workplace, such as Alexa and Siri, so we are more likely to desire the same technology in the workplace,” says Schawbel. “Companies are starting to implement AI in order to add to the human experience.”

Using mindfulness to relieve stressed workers

A shocking 94 percent of workers are stressed out at work, with 33 percent reporting that their level of stress is “high to unsustainably high,” which impacts their health and productivity. Schawbel notes that, in the same study, more than 50 percent of employees say work stress impacts their home life at least once each week. In response to these accounts of high stress and anxiety, which can lead to burnout and high turnover, companies are investing in mindfulness programs for their people.

“Mindfulness and meditation is set to become a $2.08 billion industry by 2022, with an annual growth rate of 11.4 percent,” says Schawbel. “McKinsey, Nike, Google, P&G, Intel, Adobe, Apple, and General Mills have already implemented programs for employees.” Schawbel cites a seven-week employee mindfulness and meditation program hosted by General Mills. Results of their post-program survey show 83 percent of participants taking time every day to optimize their productivity, 80 percent of senior executives improving their decision making process, and 89 percent becoming better listeners. According to Schawbel, there is clear demand for mindfulness solutions and apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm, many of which have already amassed millions of users.

Making better use of existing employees

In their 2019 Human Capital Management Trends report, authors Ben Eubanks and Trish McFarlane point to how large organizations such as GE, IBM, DXC, and Dutch Royal Shell are beginning to focus on elements of jobs, such as specific skills, instead of looking at jobs as whole chunks. These companies examine the granular skill sets of the workforce to improve their understanding of how best to place people into available roles.

“In tight labor markets, employers must find ways to keep their people engaged. Development consistently shows up as one of the top items for driving employee engagement and retention,” says Eubanks. He adds that as new technology solutions have entered the market to help employers better utilize existing employees, more companies are balancing outsourcing with insourcing by using available internal talent to do project-based work.

“We are now seeing technologies with the ability to connect employees and skills in a way they have never been connected before,” adds McFarlane. “Watch for companies like ProFinda in this area. They are one example of how technology can map a new hire’s skills, expertise, and knowledge and follow those as the employee progresses and is looking for challenging opportunities internally.”

Providing skill gap training as a part of recruiting efforts

In the same report, researcher George LaRocque identifies several initiatives where learning content and capabilities are being offered externally, particularly for entry-level and more junior-level positions, to candidates who identify themselves with interest in a career path but lack core skills to qualify for a job.

According to LaRocque, by providing access to learning content incrementally, employers are not just investing in the training of a new candidate and the development of a candidate pool, they are also getting a glimpse of candidates’ individual levels of commitment. Some may be worthy of consideration for internships, apprenticeships, or employment in areas that offer a ladder to their desired career path. “This investment by employers and staffing solution providers [in] the general talent pool is an incredible opportunity to positively impact both the employer’s brand and the candidate experience.”

Company culture steps into the recruiting spotlight

More companies will focus on making sure they attract, hire, and retain people who really understand their business. Matthew Hamilton, people partner at Neueda, says, “One of the best ways to do this is by getting your company values and ethos into the public domain. This allows applicants to either select or deselect themselves by getting a better idea of what it is you do and, more importantly, how you do it.

“Not every applicant is going to be thrilled by lots of teamwork and collaboration, for example, so if your organization promotes a high degree of this style of working, make sure that message gets across.” Hamilton says self-aware candidates, especially, will think carefully about their organizational fit before applying.

Developing RQ (Robotics Quotient)

Robotics quotient (RQ) will be a core learning and measurement fundamental for people working alongside digital workers and artificial intelligence, says Priya Sunil, journalist at Human Resources Online.

Sunil shares Forrester research that 2019 will be the year where transformation in the business world will go pragmatic to address the scarcity of available talent in the area of harnessing the power of robots.

More aggressive recruiting using marketing tactics

“You don’t pick talent anymore,” says Kristina Martic in a recent article for TalentLyft. “Talent picks you.” This change of paradigm brings a whole new set of challenges and recruiting trends.

The current job market is 90 percent candidate driven. Research by LinkedIn states that more than 75 percent of job seekers now investigate a company’s reputation and brand as an employer before applying. Companies with poor reputations struggle to not only attract candidates but also retain employees.

Martic says to look for companies to begin “recruitment marketing”—the process of nurturing and attracting talented individuals using marketing methods and tactics. “Your goal in inbound recruiting is to attract, convert, and engage candidates.”

Equal pay and unconscious bias

According to Terry Salo, senior HR consultant at, the issue of equal pay and unconscious bias will continue to impact the workplace in 2019—and will require HR professionals and business leaders to stay ahead of the curve.

A recent Harvard Global Online Research study that included more than 200,000 participants reports that 76 percent of people—both men and women—are gender biased and tend to think of men as better suited for careers and women as better suited for homemakers.

Gender bias—and numerous other unconscious biases—spill over into the workplace every day. Look for more companies to implement employee training programs to show how bias can affect the success of employees as well as organizations.

Predictive analytics and virtual reality

“The percentage of companies using predictive analytics and advanced reporting has nearly doubled since 2014,” says Adam Rogers, CTO of Ultimate Software. “I expect to see predictive functionalities in future recruiting and learning platforms. I’m also excited about analytical benchmarking, where organizations can compare themselves to their peers and competitors in terms of L&D spending, recruiting, organizational design, and other talent measures.”

Virtual reality is the next frontier of employee training, adds Rogers. “Think about flight simulators. It’s far too dangerous and expensive to risk training pilots in real airplanes, so they train repeatedly in these digital simulations, honing their muscle memory and ingrained reactions.

“This is essentially what VR can bring to everyday corporate training. These simulations may not be necessary for every role, but many organizations will benefit from the opportunity to teach employees how to handle crucial, hard-to-replicate scenarios such as managing unruly Black Friday crowds or containing and disposing of hazardous substances.”

Refinements to digital and mobile learning

Employees today are used to YouTube and Netflix algorithms that provide content based on their consumer behavior and viewing patterns. If you want to engage them on their level you need to start doing the same, say researchers at Knowledge City Learning Solutions.

To do this, you can either provide training materials on platforms like YouTube that already use these algorithms or build similar ones into your current digital training materials to customize learner experiences based on levels of engagement.

Industry expert Josh Bersin expands on this topic. “Remember, corporate learning is very different from music and TV. We don’t watch learning to be entertained; we watch it to really learn something. We don’t want people to [become] addicted to the learning platform—we want them to learn something, apply it, and then go back to work.

“What we ultimately want to do is embed learning into the platform in which [people] work, so the systems can coach and train [them] to be better on the job.”

Bersin believes that by providing the principles of spaced learning, designed repetition, practice, and competency-driven recommendations, tools like Salesforce, Slack, and even Outlook can deliver conversational interfaces right into employees’ work environment.

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