As 2018 draws near, employers need to take a long hard look at their workforce and gear up for the challenges that lie ahead. To get a pulse on what the top HR and employment issues are in the workplace for 2018 and the ways in which technology, society and culture converge and impact employers and their workforces, XpertHR recently conducted a survey of approximately 1,000 respondents from a wide range of industries including small, medium and large employers. Based on this survey and other XpertHR research, here are the top challenges for 2018 that employers need to recognize and prepare to address:
The Trump presidency and the Republican federal administration will continue to have a major impact on workplace polices and issues. From immigration policies to proposals for paid maternity leave to proposed health care and tax overhauls, there is potentially a lot of change in store for employers. Further, employers should be aware that the Trump administration has been significantly rolling back the authority of agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to be more employer friendly.
2.State and Municipal Issues
Against this uncertain federal backdrop, states and municipalities have been rising to the challenge and enacting various laws to protect workers and enhance their workplace rights. From pregnancy accommodations to attendance and leave (i.e., paid sick leave) to salary history bans to laws addressing e-cigarettes and safe driving, employers need to recognize varying state and municipal requirements and work to incorporate them into their workplace policies, rules and employee handbooks.
3.Workforce Planning Amid an Evolving Workforce
With an evolving workforce and changing societal demographics, workforce planning remains one of the top challenges for employers as 50% of the survey respondents stated this was among their top three workplace challenges. In today’s increasingly global environment, 21st century employers need to respond to both external and internal factors that shape and impact the recruiting, hiring and retention of workers. Employers must face critical issues, such as the rise of the gig economy, the increased use of technology and automation in the workplace and how to address the management of five generations in the workforce.
4. Cyber Breaches
In an increasingly digital world with so much information on the cloud belonging to employers, employees and customers, data breaches carry high costs in terms of time, money and resources. They may also tarnish an employer’s public image and reputation. In fact, the XpertHR survey revealed that 64% of respondents viewed data security and the threat of a cyber breach as very or extremely challenging. Since employers must be particularly vigilant about safeguarding confidential information and protecting against cyber breaches, it is important to implement enhanced security measures and methods of authentication and create policies to achieve these goals.
Recruiting and hiring in the 21st century presents tremendous challenges for employers who need to attract, hire and retain the right talent given shifting business needs and evolving technologies. Additionally, employers also must comply with rapidly changing federal, state and local legislation affecting the hiring process (i.e., ban the box laws, social media password protection laws and salary history bans). In fact, recruiting as a whole was one of the top three workplace challenges for over 50% of survey respondents, and finding high-quality applicants was very or extremely challenging for 59% of respondents. To meet the challenges recruiting presents, an employer should closely review and assess its job advertisements and applications as well as review its interviewing and onboarding processes to make sure they are up to date and legally compliant.
6. Technology, the Internet and Social Media
Technology has become a big issue for employers in the era of Facebook, Twitter, smart offices, artificial intelligence, robotics and mobile devices. It has revolutionized workplace communications, productivity, efficiency, safety and security and impacted recruiting, hiring, training and performance management.
However, the use of technology carries a good deal of risks for employers as 47% of survey respondents said they were extremely or very challenged when it came to managing mobile devices, wearable technology and the Internet of Things. Therefore, it is incumbent upon an employer to implement and enforce strong policies to protect confidential information as well as the privacy rights of its employees and the employer’s legitimate business interests. While it is critical to monitor the use of technology, an employer must comply with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and other applicable federal and state laws.
7. Active Shooters and Workplace Violence
In today’s world in which acts of terror and violence are all too common, an employer should work to minimize the risk of workplace violence and be prepared to address such situations. In fact, in XpertHR’s survey, 45% of respondents identified preparing for or responding to an active shooter or workplace violence as very or extremely challenging. Background screenings, weapons policies and workplace violence prevention programs can play an important role. Further, employers, managers and employees need to be physically and mentally prepared and know what to do and how to respond in case of a crisis.
8. Employee Leaves
The expansion of leave laws on the federal, state and local level continues to present multiple challenges for employers who are tasked with understanding, providing and tracking such leaves. According to XpertHR’s survey, 46% of respondents found it very or extremely challenging to comply with rapidly changing state laws, while 43% found it very or extremely challenging to comply with rapidly changing municipal laws.
Depending on the circumstances, an employer may be required to comply with a variety of different leave laws, including ones addressing paid sick leave, paid family leave, military leave, bereavement leave, blood donor leave, domestic violence leave/safe leave, emergency responder leave and school activities leave. Employers should know which leave laws apply to them, how to manage such leaves and how to incorporate them into their employee handbooks, policies and notices.
9. Benefits and the ACA
Benefits and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are still a top challenge for employers that may struggle to remain competitive in their markets and are now faced with myriad requirements under the ACA and various other federal, state and local laws. To stay ahead, an employer may want to consider:
• Enhanced benefit offerings, such as gym membership and student loan assistance;
• Incorporating technology into benefit programs: and
• Tailoring and customizing benefits to different segments of the workforce.
10. Employee Well-Being and Mental Health
Employee mental health and fostering a healthy and stable workforce is a top concern for employers with 39% of survey respondents finding mental health concerns to be very or extremely challenging. Employers should recognize that mentally stable and healthy employees may translate into a more productive and efficient workforce. To achieve this, an employer may want to consider extending mental health and wellness benefits, as well as employee assistance programs and measures that can assist employees in obtaining a better work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle.
11. Employee Handbooks
An employee handbook can play an essential role in an organization by setting forth the employer’s mission and goals and providing a useful guide for both employees and supervisors. An employee handbook can also promote fairness and consistency. However, handbooks can be challenging when it comes to keeping up with changing laws on the federal, state and local level, complying with the NLRA and making sure handbook policies do not infringe upon employee rights.
12. Drug Testing and Substance Abuse
In the age of marijuana legalization and a growing opioid epidemic, addressing and managing drug use and drug testing remains one of the most challenging issues for employers. To respond, employers should develop, implement and enforce drug-free workplace policies prohibiting the use of unlawful drugs on both the employer’s premises and during working time. Employers should also comply with the various federal, state and local laws and address drug testing in a careful and strategic manner.
13. Diversity and Inclusion
In an increasingly global society, employers need to recognize the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace and work to foster a tolerant and respectful workforce. Employers should be prepared to take concrete steps to increase diversity, including implementing equal employment opportunity policies, providing reasonable accommodations and focusing on sensitivity training for employees and supervisors.
14. Pay Equity and Salary History Bans
Employers should be aware of the increased focus on pay equity and increasing pay transparency in the workplace. This year in particular, a number of jurisdictions have enacted salary history bans prohibiting employers from requesting prior salary history as part of an effort to counter any past discrimination. Employers should be aware of these new laws and audit their pay practices to make sure pay scales are fair and based on known and measurable criteria.
Given the avalanche of sexual harassment allegations and claims that have come out in the world of government, business and entertainment, employers must be proactive and work to implement and enforce zero tolerance harassment policies. Employers should institute comprehensive training for both employees and supervisors and secure a commitment from individuals at all levels of the organization that they are dedicated to ending harassing conduct. Further, employers need to work to eradicate their workplaces of harassment by promoting transparency and should aim to end a culture of complicity by bringing issues to light and allowing women to ascend and succeed in organizations.
As 2017 winds down, it’s always a good idea to evaluate what is on the horizon and get ready for the next year. Are you prepared to meet these challenges in 2018?
For more on the top HR compliance issues, download XpertHR’s white paper.