Top Four Workplace Trends of 2019

Top Four Workplace Trends of 2019

6 May 2019

Anthony J. Schulzetenberg

The US economy is doing what it does best: growing. According to reports by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (2019), the US gross domestic product (GDP) is steadily growing, real consumer spending is rising, and personal income is up.  These strong economic vital signs don’t come without caution.  With more job openings than job seekers (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019), many companies are struggling to fill vacancies.  What this means for US organizations today is that their traditional employee recruiting and retention tactics might need updating. 

We took a deep dive across organizations that represent, service, and poll industry vanguards and found four top emerging trends in how leading companies are staying ahead of employee attrition.

#1. Focus on Employee Well-being

The most popular workplace trend that we are seeing is employee well-being.  The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) listed well-being related topics twice in their top ten trends in 2018 (#1 and #3).  While some definitions may vary, well-being, put simply, is the psychological health of the employee.  It includes topics related to the employee’s happiness in life and at work, including stress, sleep, life satisfaction, harassment, and ability to be their true self (Schulzetenberg and Colihan, 2019).  This measure is considered to provide a more a complete picture of the employee, therefore, providing a better prediction to their productivity and intentions to stay with the company. 

Another good reason to focus on well-being is the effects of stress on employees.  Schawbel of Forbes (2017) predicted an uptick in employee burnout leading to turnover.  Korn Ferry’s (2018) recent publication reports that workplace stress has been on a steady increase for the past 30 years. Stress not only impacts employees’ sleep, but it also depresses their motivation and is a major reason workers quit.  Well-being has been linked to positive organizational outcomes, such as employee retention, improved worker productivity, increased turnover savings, improved benefit cost management, and ultimately superior financial performance—giving well-being a strong argument for its ROI (Carver, Davenport, and Nyce, 2015).

#2. Work on Diversity and Inclusion—Seriously!

While focusing on diversity and inclusion (D&I) has been espoused for many years, most organizations have only halfheartedly put in any effort to improve it. Until now. Organizations are beginning to see the value in a diverse workforce that is truly inclusive for everyone.  D&I efforts are often synonymous with improving fairness, and fairness is linked to well-being. Colihan and Schulzetenberg (2018) found fairness to be the number one predictor of well-being at work (r = .51), higher than engagement and six other factors. 

According to a large meta-analysis, racial minorities perceive more race-based mistreatment in the workplace than white employees, and women perceive more sex-based mistreatment than men (McCord, Joseph, Dhanani, and Beus, 2018).  This would explain why ethnic and cultural minority employees are voluntarily staying in jobs for shorter periods of time and reporting they are less happy with their job when compared to employees from racial and cultural majorities (Paolacci & Chandler, 2014).  SIOP (2018), Forbes (2018), and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) all predict that successful companies will do more to create an equitable workplace—something that’s not only right for society, but also business savvy. 

#3. Develop and Leverage Soft Skills

The newest LinkedIn Talent Trends report (2019) shows that 91% of human resources (HR) professionals believe soft skills are very important to recruiting and developing employees.  With the growing use of artificial intelligence to accomplish many tasks, soft skills are where humans have the edge.  Companies still value hard skills, however, 80% of surveyed professionals say soft skills are increasingly important to company success.  Companies seem to not only focus on soft skills for hiring, but also within their current workers.  Forbes (2017) reports an increase in companies upskilling their employees—a reasonable approach given the difficulty companies are having filling vacancies.  With only 41% of organizations having a formal process to assess soft skills, the push find accurate assessments will also grow. 

#4. Embrace Technology and Data Analytics

In a somewhat overarching theme, the fourth trend we’re seeing is related to the use of technology and accurate assessments to measure and track the trending focuses.  SHRM’s (2018) #1 listed strategy to prepare HR professionals for the future is to use analytics to predict and assess their workforce.  Industry leaders like IKEA, measure and tract their diversity efforts to ensure they are producing measurable outcomes (Lighthouse Research, 2018).  While data literacy is infamously low among many decision-makers, implementing an assessment and using technology to track HR efforts doesn’t have to require a PhD.  There is a growing number of consulting companies that will measure a company’s well-being, D&I, or soft skills for them.

Lawrence (2018) of PSI, a giant within the testing world, offers some solid advice when deciding on your next HR assessment. They warn against free, one-size-fits-all surveys. These often will not provide a reliable or valid measure of the topic of interest. They also suggest assessments should be short (about 10 minutes), engaging, and compatible with mobile devices. 

The bottom line: companies are moving toward taking better care of their current employees by focusing on their well-being, workplace equity, their soft skills, and using data to support their efforts.  These workforce decisions can improve retention, attract new talent to the company and, according to Forbes (2017), are beginning to sway consumer behavior (think Wal-Mart and Uber’s employment practices).  These trends point to the importance of a healthy workplace climate for employee retention and overall organizational health. 


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Colihan, J., Schulzetneberg, A. (2018). Fairness in the Workplace.

Korn Ferry Institute (2018). Workplace Stress Continues to Mount.

Lawrence, A. (2018). 5 Employee Assessment Trends that Could Change the Future of Hiring.

Lighthouse Research and Advisory. (2018). Analyitics for Diversity: How IKEA Uses Data to Improve D&I Outcomes.

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McCord, M. A., Joseph, D. L., Dhanani, L. Y., & Beus, J. M. (2018). A meta-analysis of sex and race differences in perceived workplace mistreatment.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 137-165.

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Schawbel, D. (2017). 10 Workplace Trends You’ll See in 2018.

Schulzetenberg, A., Colihan, J. (2018). Well-being at Work: Worth a Second Glance.

 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2018). SIOP Announcing Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2018.