Businessman on compass illustration Looking forward into 2020 we will see a major shift in howHR policies reflect their changing workforce with the unique skillsand disparate requirements they each bring to the table.(Image:Shutterstock)

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Today's workforce is more diverse, dynamic and fluid than everbefore. Baby Boomers—the youngest of whom have been eligible forAARP membership for five years–occupy the majority of C-levelpositions, but as more Gen Xers turn 50 and more millennialsapproach 40, they've ascended into leadership positions.

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Add to this the first wave of Gen Z college graduates enteringthe job market and the many members of the Silent Generation (bornbefore World War II) who haven't retired yet, and we're looking atup to five generations of employees in the samecorporate environment.

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Related: More moms are in the workforce—how are companiesresponding?

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Looking forward into 2020 we will see a major shift in how HRpolicies reflect their changing workforce with the unique skillsand disparate requirements they each bring to the table.

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Here are my top four trends for HR teams and leaders in2020:

1. Soft skills will be emphasized over digital ones

Research indicates that the biggest skill gaps in an increasingly automatedbusiness environment are behavioral and not technical. Years oftelling workers to improve their digital skills have created avacuum of empathetic managers and caring colleagues. More than 45%of chief HR officers say college graduates entering the workforcealready have the digital skills they need. And over the next yearand beyond, companies will be looking to address the growing gapsin "soft skills" such as influencing, negotiating and creativeproblem-solving that are essential when fostering greatercollaboration between teams.

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Training for managers will begin to focus not on what they do,but how they do it. Are they cultivating a culture that helpsemployees feel supported in their work and invested in itsoutcomes? Do they regularly communicate with their staff abouttheir expectations and provide actionable feedback on performance?It's managers' acquisition of these skills, and their subsequentability to look frequently (and holistically) at employeeperformance, that will make them truly effective leaders–and helpthem to develop the next generation of corporate leadership.

2. Employees will take ownership of their performancemanagement process

When it comes to developing their skills and careers, today'semployees expect and demand more from their employers than everbefore. Feedback once a year simply isn't enough for youngerworkers who will increasingly push for more frequent and morecomprehensive feedback on their performance because they view theiremployment as an investment in their own future—and you should seeit the same way.

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Engaged employees are high-performing employees, so HR will needto help companies create a culture of corporate performance thatmotivates employees to take ownership of their work and meet clear,mutually agreed upon goals that can be reviewed and measuredregularly. And rather than the usual top-down approach, HR willalso have to help companies learn to be receptive to feedback fromtheir employees, who may have strong thoughts on why their goalsare (or are not) being met. Recruiting, hiring, and training staffis costly and time-consuming, so making future-focused changes likethese in your performance management approach can significantlyimpact whether and how long employees stay at an organization.

3. HR will catch up to the most diverse workforce inhistory

Diversity drives innovation, and next year's workforce will bevery diverse indeed. As I mentioned above, this means fivegenerations of adults may work in the same company, and HR policiesand practices will have to adapt to fit all of their uniquecommunication styles and approaches to their work.

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Diversity of age is an asset to an organization, not ahindrance. While many companies are vying to capture youngercustomers and employees, there's a lot to be said for bringingolder employees on board. But age isn't the only element of diversity that HR will need toembrace in 2020. We're also looking at an increasingly raciallydiverse workforce, one with more visibility for LGBTQ people, andin which college-educated women will continue to enter theworkforce in larger numbers than their male peers.

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I see the thing that will require the biggest shift in corporateculture and HR policy is a diversity of location and schedule. In2020, you'll see more and more workers who wish to have the optionto work remotely or on a flexible schedule at least part-time. Thisis something that's good overall for employee morale andproductivity, but challenging in more established corporateenvironments.

4. Job growth will slow, but don't panic

The US job growth rate began to slow in 2019 and I predict thisslow-down will continue. Though this sounds scary, there isopportunity here for employers: fewer open jobs means youremployees are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Employersshould take advantage of this opportunity to develop the skills andtalents of their workforce, ensuring lasting competitive advantagein a crowded and competitive market.

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Doug Dennerline is CEO at Betterworks.


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