5 Emerging HR Trends To Watch
July 20, 2015
Millennial managers, the gig economy and more: are you keeping up with HR trends?

Millennial managers, the gig economy and more: are you keeping up with HR trends?

Here are 5 emerging HR trends to watch in 2015 and beyond.

1.) Millennial managers.

Heaven forfend! But the best of your millennial employees are now beginning to nudge into management in big numbers. Those numbers will expand as baby-boomers continue to retire, unclogging promotion pipelines and creating opportunities for meaningful leadership among these younger employees.

By most counts, Millennials now make up the majority of the work force, having just recently outstripped both the retiring baby boomers and the mid-career Generation X workers in terms of sheer numbers.


Your next hire is very likely checking your company profile out via Social Media on a mobile device during his or her lunch break. Your decision to hire may not even hinge on a resume.

Generation X was probably the last generation to embrace the resume as the primary recruiting and application tool. From here on out, HR managers will be turning more and more to social media, online portfolios and networking strategies to identify, recruit and land new talent. A recent survey from the Altimeter Group found that younger workers were 58 percent more likely to apply to a company that uses social media compared to those that don’t.

2.) The Emerging Gig Economy.

The traditional bond between talent and their employer is eroding, and more workers are entering into ‘contract’ arrangements other than traditional employment, in a development some are calling the “gig economy.” The controversy playing out now over ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are just the tip of the iceberg. Contractor and freelance websites like UpWork and TopTal represent a challenge to HR professionals looking to keep the best workers in house. Despite warnings about the lack of benefits and employee protections in the contractor world, the best talent can do quite well in this economy – especially after the ACA. And employers are adjusting themselves to a “workforce on demand” approach to staffing, with many companies contracting their headcounts to a small corps of full-timers, a bunch of part-timers who are ineligible for health and other benefits (by design) and a pool of creatives and other “experts” available on demand for specific projects.


Meanwhile, policymakers are struggling to apply the current crop of employment laws to an increasingly on-demand workforce. More than a third of the work force in the US are contract workers, rather than traditional employees. No one knows yet precisely how the FLSA and nondiscrimination laws will play out when it comes to this group of workers that hovers between contractor and employer status.

3.) Expansion of federally protected classes.

Under a strict and traditional interpretation of the 14th Amendment and federal nondiscrimination laws, employers may generally discriminate in hiring and firing as they please, except when it comes to specific and well-understood and defined classes of employees and applicants. Specifically, until quite recently, federal law prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, veteran status, obligation for reserve military status (under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act), and the handicapped (under the Americans with Disabilities Act).


State legislatures have occasionally been increasing the scope and breadth of the number and type of protected classes when it comes to discrimination, and the momentum in that direction is overwhelming. In the latest development, a federal panel decided to extend protections against workplace discrimination to gays, lesbians and bisexuals – but not, at this point, to transgender individuals. Just this last Wednesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled 3-2 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex and national origin” and doesn’t mention sexual orientation at all, shall henceforth be interpreted to include sexual orientation.

In this regard, the federal government is just catching up to a number of state legislatures which have enacted similar anti-discrimination laws naming gays, lesbians and in some states (but not all), transgenders.

There is still some tension between the Commission’s ruling and a 2012 Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled 9-0 that religious institutions such as schools still had the right to discriminate when it came to ministerial and educational employees, and some potential for litigation around the fringes of what may be considered ministry-related employment: A religious studies teacher in a Catholic parochial school seems clearly covered, even if the teacher is not formally ordained. But what about a history or classics instructor? Or a literature and language teacher if religion is a significant theme in the books covered in the syllabus?

4.) Increased automation of multiple HR functions.

According to a recent survey by the Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit, nearly 60 percent of employers surveyed plan to upgrade their legacy Human Resource technology platforms within the next 12 months. Map that out over several years, and that’s pretty much everybody.

It’s not just limited to large companies, either. 60 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employee full-time equivalents reported plans to purchase HR software this year. 59 percent of employers with between 100 and 999 employee-equivalents plan purchases this year, and 53 percent of employers with more than 1,000 FTEs reported plans to upgrade systems.

Areas of emphasis include performance management, employee engagement measurement, learning, leadership development and HR analytics.

5. Wearables.

Tying into that automation trend is the use of employee wearables. A decade or so ago, employers had to make adjustments to their employment manuals to account for the ubiquitous presence of digital cameras and smart phones with cameras in them. Over the next year or two, employers should be alert to a new generation of Web-enabled wearable devices, including wristwatches and glasses.


These gadgets have a lot of potential utility – but employers also have to carefully manage potential liability issues. What kinds of things can and can’t be recorded in the workplace? When everything is a potential recording device, employers have to be extra careful about data leakage, and, of course, about potentially saying something that could be construed as being discriminatory or creating a hostile work environment.