20 Business Trends Leaders Will Adopt in 2016

December 31, 2015

Category: HR Tips & Trends

20 Business Trends Leaders Will Adopt in 2016

It’s the end of December, which means everyone becomes clairvoyant. So what’s in store for businesses in the new year? In 2015, changes to workplace structure became part of mainstream conversation. Companies experimented with flattened hierarchies and flex time. Employees focused less on climbing the corporate ladder, and more on acquiring a diverse set of transferrable skills. Everybody talked about analytics and automation. Expect more of all this next year, and follow the wisdom of these 20 thought leaders to keep your company on-trend in 2016!

  1. Foster a diverse and inclusive work culture. “Is 2016 going to be the year of diversity in business?” asks HR analyst Josh Bersin. “I believe the answer is yes. If you aren’t taking this topic seriously, you should be.” Bersin lays out a framework for diversity and inclusion—which, he points out, is a business strategy, not an HR program. “People perform best when they feel valued, empowered, and respected by their peers,” writes Bersin. “Companies that build a truly inclusive culture are those that will outperform their peers.” Full story >
  2. Spend more time engaging top talent…through technology. Engagement is a no-brainer in today’s competitive talent market, but CEO Sheeroy Desai suggests a means to make the extra time: decrease manual tasks by using recruiting technologies. Desai predicts widespread adoption of video interviewing technologies as companies focus their talent acquisition strategies on remote workers: “We’ve already seen Saas and similar recruiting technologies alter the talent landscape; looking ahead, all I can tell you is: you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Full story >
  3. Anticipate the future, don’t dwell on the past. “In 2016, finance teams will be increasingly driven to convert their position of financial-information stewardship to leadership in information-driven innovation,” writes Celina Rogers, VP of CFO Publishing. Rogers echoes other thought leaders in predicting increased use of analytics and social media to gain a competitive advantage. Full story >
  4. Stand out on social with video. “It’s quite clear to me that 2016 will be the year when recruiters really have to up their game if they want to be the real winners on social media,” writes recruiter Tony Restell. Having only an average social media presence isn’t going to cut it in the new year. Like Desai, Restell sees video playing a big part in 2016, both in terms of video interviewing and creating videos to attract job candidates. Full story >
  5. Embrace digital—it’s the new norm. Neil Krefsky, Senior Marketing Director at SAP, predicts that CFOs and finance teams will continue to turn their attention to the next wave of digitalization. However, in 2016, they’ll recognize this as the new norm for the environment they work in: “Superior performance will be perceived by and depend on how well [finance teams] leverage disruptive technologies to unlock financial data, turning it into forward-looking business insight that elevates their influence throughout the corporate enterprise.” Full story >
  6. Enable strategic initiatives by automating administrative tasks. HR Director Emily Disston predicts a shift from piles of paperwork to proactive initiatives. “Thanks to the recent momentum in new HR technology, the role of an HR person is becoming less administrative and more strategic,” writes Disston. She points to HR software solutions like Zenefits as allowing her to “move away from reactive, administrative work and focus more on long term planning and new initiatives.” Full story >
  7. Constantly evaluate your company’s value proposition. Steve Boese, co-chair of the HR Technology Conference, shares a story of how even Google isn’t immune to being bested by its competitors when it comes to top talent. “If Google, with its history, success, mythos, and bucketfuls of cash is getting beat out (at least in the perceptions) of top recruits,” writes Boese, “it reminds everyone that while chasing companies like Google might seem like a great strategy, it eventually is a failing one, since Google can’t even keep up with Google, if that makes sense.” Full story >
  8. Be an emotionally intelligent leader. CEO Meghan Biro asks: how can leaders better understand what drives employees? The answer: emotional intelligence and awareness. Knowing how to deal with employees’ feelings helps leaders balance, engage, and inspire the workforce: “Many leaders think emotion is a handicap in the workplace, but it’s actually critical to good management.” The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology and The Harvard Business Review agree. Full story >
  9. Know when it’s time to reach out for help. Workplace tech blogger Dennis O’Reilly said it took him 30 years to realize that fear of being seen as inadequate was messing with his ability to be a truly effective team member. “The way to serve the customers is to make the best product possible at the best price possible,” writes O’Reilly. “The only way to achieve this goal is by working as a team, putting the needs of the team above your own.” Full story >
  10. Get a better night’s sleep. Non-profit trainer Beth Kanter’s research shows that self-care is critical to avoiding burnout…and self-care begins with a good night’s sleep. “One surefire way to ruin your sleep is to use your mobile phone as an alarm clock,” writes Kanter. “And, of course, if you don’t sleep well, you wake up not feeling refreshed.” Kanter proposes solutions ranging from banning the iPhone from the bedroom to practicing mindfulness in the morning. Full story >
  11. Increase workplace morale by optimizing environmental factors. “Most zoos have made a huge effort to make the animals’ homes more like their natural habitats,” writes Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, “but offices often go the opposite way.” Like many others, Lucas sees the shortcomings in the previous years’ trend toward open-plan offices. She predicts a rise in remote employees and an interest in re-establishing respectful in-office collaboration: “None of us need someone standing over our shoulders saying, ‘Move that there. That should be a semi colon. Hey, what about changing fonts?’” Full story >
  12. Be prepared for honest conversations and transparency. Honesty and transparency continue to be on-trend for 2016, and HR analyst William Tincup doesn’t sugarcoat things: “Job candidates in 2016 want to know what the job, the company, and the culture are about. Recruiters must be prepared to have robust and honest conversations about every aspect of the job. If you can’t handle this, you’ll lose talent.” Tincup extends the value of honesty toward actionable feedback: “Recruiters can no longer be situationally honest and create white lies to avoid lawsuits. If a candidate doesn’t fit, tell them why it’s not going to work out.” Full story >
  13. Pay attention to ‘weak signals.’ Weak signals are unexpected experiences that alert us to things we have not previously considered. Although it’s difficult to cultivate these experiences, you can make moves to put yourself in their path. HR strategist Lynda Gratton writes that “by getting out of my normal routine, I was faced with new experiences that presented me with weak signals and new insights.” To wit, she explains how a surprising incident in East Africa lead her to create the Future of Work Research Consortium. Full story >
  14. Evolve to become leaders of change. Enabled by digital technology, CFOs and finance teams will step up and become true business partners and entrepreneurs. “Finance processes will simplify to more effectively ensure data integrity and a single source of truth,” writes Richard McLean, regional CFO Asia-Pacific and Japan, at SAP. “Finance teams will collaborate and influence business performance on a broader basis, and provide timely, actionable insights that improve data-driven decision making.” Full story >
  15. Drill deeper into data. Analytics was a 2015 buzzword, and it’s getting bigger in 2016. HR and finance teams will need to become less reactionary and more predictive, using analytics to understand why something happened and what will happen next. “For HR teams to climb out of the metrics trap and realize their full strategic potential,” writes workforce analytics expert Ian Cook, “they need to get past the first rung of the analytics ladder—descriptive analytics—and move up to exploratory, predictive, and guided analytics.” Only then can HR improve the company’s workforce decisions by a “substantial margin.” Full story >
  16. Shift to passive collection of data. “Moving forward, the real disruption to the [performance] testing industry will be a shift from an ‘active’ model to a more ‘passive’ approach,” writes psychologist and thought leader Dr. Charles Handler. Instead of administering performance assessments, data will be collected through applicants’ and employees’ ongoing interactions with various technologies. This is true of the entire talent lifecycle: “Injecting richer, more varied data on the post-hire side will drive the continued evolution of the pre-hire predictors.” Full story >
  17. Be a bit weird to change the status quo. CEO Jason Averbook is on a mission to fix performance management and engagement: “They have been [broken] for a long time, and it is time to think different (WEIRD) and push changes NOW.” Averbook sees the solution as a combination of coaching, education, technology, and research. Full story >
  18. Prevent exit interviews with stay interviews. As competition for top talent heats up in 2016, HR Bartender’s Sharlyn Lauby points toward a renewed interest in stay interviews.“If you don’t have time to conduct stay interviews,” she writes, “then chances are you don’t have time to deal with an employee resigning, hiring their replacement and training them.” Lauby quotes Dr. Beverly Kaye, who wrote the book on stay interviews (literally). Full story >
  19. Compare best practices, but keep in mind: context matters. “Best practices” abound, but how do you know what’s right for your company or culture? It’s all in the context, says former SHRM CEO Sue Meisinger. “I believe the best learning for HR professionals usually comes from other HR professionals,” writes Meisinger. “Hearing from professional peers about how they helped their businesses by implementing particular practices, where the context is shared, can be incredibly informative and useful.” Full story >
  20. Don’t try to predict the future. You knew this was coming, right? “Every 2016 prediction for HR will be wrong,” writes “recovering HR pro,” Lance Haun. More pragmatic than pessimistic, Haun reminds us to take a wider view of the near future. After all, changes to talent acquisition and healthcare compliance took years. “In 2016, my hope is that we’ll spend less time talking about the inevitable march to the cloud or cool tools and more about the people making the changes necessary that will show up in the bottom line three years from now. Those people have a vision that goes beyond 2016—and that’s a good thing for everyone.” Full story >



Jeremy "Sprout" Brautman is a writer, problem solver, and big fan of growth. When he's not trying to solve problems to help small businesses grow, he can be found developing amenities to increase occupancy at his urban Ladybug Hotel.

Category: HR Tips & Trends

  • Jacob Clark

    I always enjoy reading your articles Jeremy! Keep up the great work!

    • Sprout

      Thanks so much, Jacob!

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