Diversity, Data, and Day-to-Day Engagement: 2017 Predictions From SAP North America's Head of HR

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What does 2017 have in store for the recruiting and hiring fields?

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No one can say for certain – but that hasn't stopped any of us from trying. Last week, we brought you ten trends we thought everyone should keep an eye on this year. Today, we have three more trends that merit consideration, courtesy of SAP North America's Head of Human Resources Jewell Parkinson.

Here are three forces Parkinson predicts will play major roles in the coming year:

1. Analytics: Not Going Away Anytime Soon

HR and recruiting analytics have been gaining momentum over the past few years, and Parkinson believes that momentum will keep building throughout 2017.

Workplaces are changing, industry lines are blurring, and there is an overwhelming amount of information available to companies – information about markets, about candidates, and about current employees. The only problem is parsing all that data in a rapidly changing world. While many organizations have already embraced analytics for exactly this reason, there still exist stragglers that need to get on the ball.

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"Our ability to actually understanding the data, make sense of it, and act on it is compromised by not being able to analyze it," Parkinson says. "HR needs the ability to provide [insight] in a more strategic way, so businesses will be able to react, respond, and try to get a step ahead. [Analytics] gives HR the ability to no longer rely on guesswork or have feelings about what a decision should be; instead, they can drive faster and better decisions based on facts and information."

Organizations may also begin using analytics in more refined and targeted ways in 2o17, according to Parkinson. She notes that SAP has recently begun using analytics to manage business growth, leveraging data to answer questions like "Where are we growing?"; "What do our generational demographics look like?"; and "Where do we see trends around attrition?"

"From there, we can look even further at attrition to see if it is impacting a certain population, like top talent or high performers," Parkinson says. "Being able to see information, ask the right questions, and go to the root cause ... allows you to be more surgical in terms of where you focus your energies."

Parkinson also sees analytics as a boon to corporate learning and development programs, allowing leaders to ensure their programs actually spur on visible improvement.

"When looking at how to grow skill sets and equip your workforce, there's data around how learning is being consumed and whether or not it is having an impact on things like business performance, productivity, turnover, and customer satisfaction," Parkinson says. "You can see all these interdependencies through the information."

But this is only the case if your organization has armed itself with the right analytics tools. If it hasn't done so yet, 2017 may be the last chance before competitors leave your company in the dust for good.

Finally, Parkinson predicts that many organizations are going to have long-overdue conversations around data privacy this year.

That's unsurprising, considering all the high-profile hackings of 2016. Yahoo, the Democratic National Committee, and even the National Security Agency itself were struck by hackers this year, among other targets. If hackers could bypass the NSA's security systems, it's probably time for your organization to audit its data protections.

2. The Reimagined Employee Experience

Employees' expectations for work are changing. According to Parkinson, today's workers increasingly want their workplace experiences to mirror their personal experiences at home in some respects.

"They want something intuitive and connected that allows them to be productive and get things done in the way they want to get things done," Parkinson says. "This demand really raises the bar. Employers have to ask, 'How do we equip people with the right information and tools to help them be successful and keep them engaged?'"

Organizations have begun to see things through their employees' eyes. In order to attract top talent, they have to make sure workers have opportunities to grow, feel challenged, and are able to navigate their careers in "empowered ways," Parkinson says.

This behavior stands in sharp contrast to the ways employers have treated employees in the past.

"It used to be more of the organization dictating things, that mentality of 'You're lucky to have a job here,'" Parkinson explains. "Now, workforces are putting the pressure [on employers], and organizations are keenly aware that they have to respond to what employees want if they want employees to stay engaged."

One of the key employee wants to which organizations need to respond is increased career transparency. Today's workers want to navigate their career paths without all the bureaucracy and politicking that often characterize the workplace.

3. Chief Diversity Officers Will Become Key Members of the C-Suite

Like analytics, diversity and inclusion have been hot topics of conversation for a couple of years now. In 2017, Parkinson sees those topics gaining new weight as executives see the financial benefits of diverse workforces.

"We live in a world that is increasingly multinational, multigenerational, and neurodiverse, with people from various economic and educational backgrounds," Parkinson says. "Companies should view an investment in diversity and inclusion as an investment – not a nice-to-have or a check-the-box, but something that actually improves the financial performance of the organization."

Bringing a variety of opinions, backgrounds, and experiences to the table better equips an organization to generate solutions and products that are relevant to a growing customer base. To make sure such diversity is present in the company, organizations are starting to hire chief diversity officers to oversee their efforts.

But it's not just a matter of hiring diverse employees, Parkinson notes. It's equally important to foster an environment in which employees from all kinds of backgrounds can feel safe, respected, and supported.

"It's a matter of having a workplace or culture where everyone is made to feel respected and valued," Parkinson says. "It's one thing to have different experiences at the table, but it's another thing when [everyone] feels they are appreciated, valued, and being called upon to represent their experiences in positive ways that impact the business and its decisions."

Data, diversity, and day-to-day engagement: three major forces shaping the world of work in 2017, according to SAP's Jewell Parkinson. Think we missed something? Share your own predictions for 2017 below, or email me at matthew@recruiter.com.