5 Changes HR Leaders Can Expect to Manage in 2019

Recurring themes are on the radar for HR leaders in 2019, including #MeToo, issues around pay equity and workforce tech.

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As I spoke with HR leaders about what we are likely to see happen in the workplace this year, several recurring themes emerged. They touch on the many different subfunctions and facets of HR — from performance management and total rewards to learning and development.

The large and long-lasting impact on organizational performance means HR leaders need to know and prepare for the trends that will shape how and what they do. To that end, I’ve come up with my 2019 workplace predictions.

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The #MeToo movement will accelerate

In 2018, organizations that ousted leaders for sexual misconduct received support from their workforce and society at large. We may see just as many executives dismissed this year, if not more — not because more harassment is occurring, but because corporate boards and senior leaders are expected to have a greater awareness of their organization’s culture. This will lead to a shift in how companies respond, moving from a “We didn’t know we had a problem” stance to actively looking for unacceptable behavior and handling it directly, proactively and openly.

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More companies will use nontraditional listening tools

Employee surveys have long been the main method for collecting feedback; in 2015, 89% of organizations conducted an annual employee survey. However, the tide is changing as more companies begin to explore alternatives, using listening tools such as email scraping, monitoring and tracking workspace usage, and aggregation of data to obtain better insights about employee sentiment and/or problems that leaders need to address. In 2015, 30% of organizations were using employee monitoring data outside of surveys; in 2020, we expect 80% of organizations to do this type of listening.

Workplace tech will go beyond observation and start nudging

Organizations will implement more advanced technologies that don’t just observe behavior, but suggest to employees and managers how they should work. For instance, to help employees stay productive, technology is being built into desks that will observe how long you’ve been working and remind you to get up and take a walk so you don’t burn out.

In fact, Amazon recently filed a patent to have people in their stockrooms wear bracelets that keep track of their hand movements when handling packages. In an effort to increase safety, the bracelet will alert the person wearing it when they are holding a package the wrong way.

Pay discrepancy issues will get worse not better

Despite the recent focus on pay equity, very few organizations have actually fixed the problem. Rather than adopting sustainable practices and processes to correct and prevent pay gaps, a handful of companies made ad hoc adjustments in 2018, leaving the door open for pay gaps to re-emerge. The fate will likely be the same when it comes to pay transparency — CEO/median-employee wage ratios will effectively remain flat in 2019, although we could see the gap increase due to stock market performance.

A new wage gap will emerge for new hires vs. current employees

In the current tight labor market, the best way to get a raise is to find a job at another company. And with more jobs available today than there are people to fill them, employees are more willing to make the jump and switch employers. As people switch jobs more often, companies will have to pay a premium to lure in new workers. This will lead to pay disparity between long-term employees and those who have been newly recruited.

These predictions are centered around the most important part of any organization: Talent. Organizations that are aware of and address these issues will be able to gain a competitive advantage.

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Brian Kropp, HR Group Vice President, Gartner, oversees the research, tools, services and support that we provide to CHROs and their leadership teams.


This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.


Gartner for HR clients can read 4 CEO and CHRO Debates on the Future of Work and other articles about the most important issues related to managing human capital and how CHROs at leading organizations tackle them in the CHRO Quarterly Magazine.

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