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  The Herman Trend Alert

January 8, 2020

2020 Workforce-Workplace Forecast

Every year at about this time, The Herman Group issues its annual workforce-workplace forecast. This Herman Trend Alert is intended to provide employers with insights about what to expect in the coming years, so that they may position themselves for success.

We expect 2020 to be a banner year for marketers and salespeople. The increases in disposable dollars will mean companies will continue to prosper and we expect unemployment to stay low for most of the year: however, that success has a dark side for employers looking to hire experienced, qualified people. Last year, we positioned our forecast as advice; this year, we start with the trend, then move to the advice. Be sure to look at the very end of this Alert for a BONUS TREND---not exclusively for HR leaders, but for all business leaders.

1. Changing demographics are reshaping the workplace. Almost 75 percent of the workforce will be Generations X, Y, and Z and that means we will have five generations from diverse backgrounds at the same time in many workplaces. This diverse workforce will offer opportunities and challenges to today's employers. The varied perspectives will be a great advantage in problem-solving and continuous improvement. At the same time, taking care of these employees wants and needs will present companies with unique challenges. Our advice: Remember, "People support what they help to create." Ask for help from the frontline in solving these issues; prepare to be surprised at how creative your associates can be and welcome their ideas.

2. Employees will keep working longer. As I projected in these annual forecasts, older workers are staying in the workforce in greater numbers; in fact according to the United States' Bureau of Labor Statistics by the year 2022, 25.6 percent of the civilian labor force in the US will be composed of folks 55 years of age and older. But this reference does not address the younger generations. We expect to see many young people taking months/years off of work at a time to travel, go to school, or be with children. Later in life, they will be healthy well into their 70s and 80s, and some of them will choose to say in the workforce. Help your employees to stay physically and financially healthy; platforms like and can help. When employees are worried about finances, the stress takes a toll on their physical health as well.

3. Diversity and inclusion are more important than ever. With so many young people in the workforce, it should come as no surprise that cultural diversity will be an important element of tomorrow's workplace. This development means that businesses will need to incorporate a broader set of values than today to be inclusive. Some companies will need to radically rethink their internal interactions, especially when it comes to their deployment, development, and retention of people. Make sure that honoring diversity and inclusion is one of your values; it's imperative, if you want to retain your millennials.

4. Continued movement towards virtual work. Evolving technology will support the expansion of virtual employees. They will play an increasing role in the changing landscape of the workplace; supervisors will need to focus on results and practice trust.

5. An expanding role of Big Data in HR. Today, companies are just beginning to apply Big Data to the important elements of engagement and retention. The wisest are using Big Data to prevent employee turnover. However, Big Data can also be applied in the recruiting space to help find the "right" retainable employees who will not be new-hire-turnover statistics. Dig into your data for all of the treasure buried there---if you are not already doing so.

6. Creating positive experiences for employees. Most companies have already realized the significance of focusing on their employees' experiences. When looking at creating these experiences, it is vital that you remember that one size does not fit all, even within a generation. Childless couples will have different values than young parents and singles may have even different values from the other groups. Having explained the differences, there are some over-arching values the generations possess. For example, millennials are looking for more than just job stability, competitive salaries, and benefits; they want and need to feel like they play an important part in the Big Picture of the organization---some organizations call it "purpose." Many organizations are even abandoning their mission in favor of having a purpose. The first step in creating positive experiences for your employees is to find out what they value---besides money.

7. Chatbots can be your friends. Every week, another human resource process is automated. Wise human resource professionals will embrace these technologies for the time they can save for more important work and welcome the data-gathering bonuses. Use that saved time to think strategically about how to position your organization for recruiting, engagement, and retention success in the future.

8. Continuing importance of being an Employer of Choice®. With unemployment rates continuing to drop in many cities, most of the United States is in a workforce shortage condition. Employees are once-again in the drivers' seats and employee turnover is beginning to climb at rates not seen in 20 years. Companies not recognized as the preferred employer in their fields will be at a distinct disadvantage. Better yet, consider being recognized as a certified Employer of Choice®. There are compelling reasons to take this step for both recruiting and retention. Find out where you stand in the hearts and minds of your employees. You may already be their preferred employer; if you are, take steps right away to be recognized.

9. Millennials expect to be able to learn and work online. For these workers, it is all about convenience, connectivity, and functionality. An on-demand learning platform for training and mentoring with easy access will be very meaningful to them. Consider subscribing them to a platform like or; it is a painless way of giving your employees access to training and development without investing in travel.

10. Perks get creative---again. With employee turnover about to soar, companies know they need to be resourceful about coming up with unique perks and benefits they can offer employees to keep them engaged and willing to stay. State-of-the-art campuses, employee discounts, resting and play rooms, and flexible schedules are only the beginning. It is time to look at things like offering each employee $100 to give to a local team or charity of their choice (the check is written to the charity, not the employee); it could be the employee's child's soccer or baseball team or even the school band. Does your local school have a car wash event? Find out how much they typically make in a day and have them wash all of your employees' cars. Little things mean a lot.

11. Employer litigation increases. Though some actions by the current administration in Washington have eased restrictions on employers, the "Me, too" Movement has meant a huge uptick in court cases. Sexual Harassment and Workplace Violence training are more important than they have ever been before. Make sure that all of your employees have the training and understand their responsibilities to report any violation.

12. Workplace violence will continue to be an issue. With the consistent lack of legislation regarding guns in most of the US, sadly, workplace violence will persist. Until the nation addresses the mental health issues leading to workplace violence, unhappily, we expect this trend will grow. If any employee appears to be in distress, ensure that s/he receives the help they want and need.

13. Flexibility and Adaptability are qualities employers are particularly looking for. With change happening at an ever-increasing rate, employers are looking for people who can be flexible and adaptable to populate their workplaces. Originally forecasted over 20 years in our founder Roger Herman's book Turbulence: Challenges and Opportunities in the World of Work (Oakhill Press, 1997), "The Adaptables" have many skills they can call upon when needed. They are able to handle whatever circumstances demand and are your most valued employees. They may also be your "thought leaders." Be sure to take special steps to ensure high engagement by your thought leaders; if you lose them, there is often a trail of other employees who respected and followed them.

14. BONUS: Expect organizations to re-engineer around delivering positive experiences to all of their stakeholders, not just employees and customers. My new book Experience Rules: How Positive Experiences Will Drive Profit Into The Future (Indie Books, March 2020) will raise the consciousness of business leaders to the profit opportunity available when they focus on all of their stakeholders---not just employees and customers. Watch subsequent Herman Trend Alerts for a chance to pre-order this valuable new book or email me at and I will put you on my special list to be the first know when it is available.

If you take this advice to heart and implement our suggestions, you are much more likely to have a less-stressed and more successful year! Make it a great one! (and let me know if I may help in any way)

© Copyright 1998- by The Herman Group, Inc. -- reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From "The Herman Trend Alert," by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 1.336.210.3548 or To sign up, visit The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc."

With the workforce I detailed in lastt week's Herman Trend Alert, you could really use a leg up in competing for top talent. Winning the Employer of Choice® Award could be your competitive edge in this very tight labor market. Celebrate your employee-centered corporate culture! This coveted award is well worth the effort, yet is not easy to achieve. Download the extensive application at; or for a Word® version, drop a note to or call Joyce at 1.336.210.3548.

Every week, my cohost Rom Gayoso and I will give you the highlights of this week's Herman Trend Alert. Look for it on LinkedIn Live on Wednesday afternoons (when I am not traveling) or on YouTube on the IMCI Channel.

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