Well, here we are in 2017. I do hope the year has been treating you well so far.

As usual, the end of last year and the beginning of this one brought with them the expected rash of predictions for HR in 2017 and beyond.

To help you ease back in to the new year, we’ve looked at what some of the top thought leaders have to say. We’ve distilled their predictions down into what we believe are the top 4 to keep an eye on this year.

1. Companies will start focusing/continue to focus on creating a positive candidate experience

Until quite recently, even though employers knew they should provide a good recruitment experience for their candidates – one that was quick, efficient and gave them regular feedback on their progress – it almost seemed to rank low on the list of priorities for many organisations.

These days, as many commentators have noted, employers are recognising that getting those very best candidates depends on many factors, including the employer’s reputation, which in turn relies on the recruitment experience they offer to their candidates.

A recent study by Future Workplace found that nearly 60% of job seekers have had a poor candidate experience. 72% of those shared their experience online on an employer review site. And 80% of job seekers say they would be discouraged to consider other relevant job openings at a company that failed to notify them of their application status.

In 2014, Virgin Media discovered that they had lost around 7,500 customers who were either directly rejected or had a negative candidate experience. And, it was costing them approximately £4.4m in lost revenue each year.

They decided that they needed to map the candidate journey from end to end, to understand it from the candidate’s experience and identify and fix the pain points. They’ve since improved their process and have vowed to be one of the ‘good guys’ of recruitment. Oh, and they’ve also turned their previously rejected candidates into a £5.3M revenue stream.

With journey mapping taking hold across numerous disciplines, from sales and marketing to government infrastructure projects, Chad MacRae from Recruiting Social thinks its application to recruitment will continue to grow:

Design thinking… really helps you empathize with your client, your hiring manager, your candidate. It helps you come up with unexpected, imaginative solutions that really benefit the stakeholders you’re working with. I really believe that we’re going to see design thinking practices and tools, like candidate journey mapping, used in recruitment.

It’s an excellent opportunity for employers to not only fix negative candidate experiences, but also identify creative and imaginative solutions that will make their recruitment process stand out from the crowd.

2. The continued growth of the blended, contingent, part-time, gig workforce and the rise of AI

It’s called many things, but the shift is here to stay: the standard full-time job is being replaced by part-time, contract, freelance and casual workers.

An article last year by Business Insider reported that the figures for part-time employment were the highest on record, while for full-time the figures were the lowest ever recorded. A study by Ardent Partners predicts that ‘traditional’ workers will decrease to 41% this year from 54% in 2015.

Faith Popcorn recently spoke about the impact millennials will have on the gig economy. The largest cohort in the workforce “inherited a bad economy, have little prospect of home ownership, and come bearing deep college debt,” Popcorn says, so “the idea of one career seems increasingly untenable.” She believes that automation and AI will only accelerate the rise of gigging. “Ironically, automations like self-driving cars will eliminate some jobs (i.e., driving for Uber), and give way to new forms of gigging yet undiscovered,” she says.

The impact for HR is significant and widespread, impacting every aspect of the workplace.  And it goes hand in hand with the rise of AI technology, such as robotics, speech recognition, sensors, and natural language processing.

As Josh Bersin writes, mundane tasks are rapidly being taken over by ‘augmented intelligence’, which means that jobs are changing quickly and significantly.  He notes that today’s organisations were based on an industrial model, in which the workers could be highly productive doing repetitive tasks and the company could gain from economies of scale.

Now, he says, we know there’s a better way: “to empower people in small teams, link these teams together, and build an organizational culture that keeps people aligned and lets people innovate, deliver, and serve customers on the front line. While we are in the early stages of this massive revolution, one of the biggest impacts it has is on the nature of work itself. GE, Cisco, Deloitte, and of course disruptive companies like AirBnB, Uber, and many others are moving in this direction.”

These continued changes simply underscore the need for organisations to continue to grow, develop, improve and innovate their approaches to people and careers.

3. Creating an ethical and fair work culture

Culture and engagement have been on every HR agenda for years, and with good reason: a strong culture means engaged workers, and engaged workers have a high level of commitment and loyalty, are invested in the business, are more innovative, and are more likely to stay. Organisations with highly engaged employees also see better profitability.

It’s a no brainer really – but the difference this year is the focus on creating an ethical and fair culture.

2016 saw some disasters: MylanWells FargoMitsubishi and Zenefit, not to mention the recent stories about some Australian politicians spending excessive amounts of taxpayers’ money on things that weren’t necessary, chartered flights to the Gold Coast and expenses to attend Malcolm Turnbull’s New Year’s Eve party.

While these examples might be quite extreme, according to a report by Queens University IRC, Kingston, Ontario unfairness at work – whether it’s at the low end of the spectrum or higher up – can lead to low morale, productivity, and engagement, as well as high rates of attrition and absenteeism.

Queens University Spectrum of Unfairness Graphic

It’s all part of the ongoing focus we saw in 2016 on creating a more diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace, but perhaps taking a broader view towards fairness in all aspects of work.

Our own research in 2015 showed that younger generations rank a fair workplace, in which they could uphold their morals, in their top 5 workplace values. As more millennials and Gen Z enter the workplace, organisations will expand their focus on diversity and inclusiveness to include more fairness and equity across all areas of the candidate and employee experience.

This also includes identifying and working to address unconscious biasesGoogle and Facebookhave shared tools they’ve developed to try and recognise biases, in the hope that understanding them can help people become more aware and less susceptible to biased thinking.

Other organisations are turning to blind recruitment as a strategy. We think 2017 will see more organisations adopting a multi-faceted approach across the entire candidate and employee journey to further enhance diversity, inclusion and fairness at work.

4. The rise of employee wellness programs as part of an overall ‘human performance’ strategy

When we attended the HR TechFest in Melbourne in 2016, one of the hottest topics was employee wellbeing. It’s an incredibly broad concept, including everything from helping employees to cope with stress and get enough sleep, through to providing a choice of workspaces to best suit their needs. At its core: the desire to provide people with the environment, skills and tools they need to be happy and engaged at work and, ultimately, more productive and effective at their jobs.

Virgin Pulse CEO Chris Boyce agrees: “The most forward-thinking companies are seeing the business value and benefits of providing employees with resources and tools to help individuals overcome challenges and meet personal goals — anything from managing diabetes to saving for a child’s college tuition to cooking a healthy meal.

As an ABC report last year found, wellness initiatives are becoming increasingly commonplace and many of them work. They cite studies showing that “properly designed wellness programs can deliver significant benefits, with an average rate of return of between 2:1 and 5:1 for every dollar spent.”

However, studies also show that a piecemeal approach to wellness simply doesn’t work. A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the best corporate wellness programs addressed both the individual risk factors affecting employees’ health, and the organisational factors that helped or hindered employees’ efforts to reduce those risks.

Josh Bersin believes that the entire spectrum of human performance at work can be summarized in the diagram below, and that organisations need to take a holistic approach across all of these areas.

Deloitte Business Performance and Employee Happiness Graph

Regardless of who (currently) owns the different functions and the technology used to deliver them, as HR professionals he believes that we now “…have no choice. You should consider things like email policies, nap rooms, exercise programs and hundreds of other environmental programs as part of your ‘human performance’ strategy.”

We think that this year will see more organisations increase their commitment to employee wellness and adopt a more cohesive and holistic approach.

Debbie Peacock | Manager, Customer Success

Deb Peacock joined Revelian in 2007. A continuous learner, she is passionate about HR, recruitment technology and best practices, customer success, user-centred product development, instructional design, copywriting and communications. She has degrees in both law and art, but her main passion is helping HR professionals to succeed by identifying and hiring the right people.