5 workforce management trends to watch in 2017

5 workforce management trends to watch in 2017What will 2017 hold for the human capital management (HCM)/workforce management space? Organizations will focus on strengthening relationships between their workers and managers, leveraging data to improve engagement, and lowering attrition and demand more from their technology solutions, according to a new report from The Workforce Institute at Kronos.

"Each year, we ask our board of advisors to weigh in on what they think will be the top trends in the next year. Then, we take all those predictions and distill them down into larger trends," said Joyce Maroney, senior director of customer experience and services marketing at Kronos Incorporated and director of The Workforce Institute.

Here's what you can expect this year.

1. The year of the middle manager

Organizations spend a lot of time and money at the top developing a strategic vision, and equal time, energy and money at the bottom engaging employees. But this leaves out a critical part of the equation: middle management, said Maroney.

"We know that employees join companies, but they leave managers; for all the bad press middle management gets, they are the folks that have the greatest impact on overall performance. And, especially in tech, the competition for talent is fierce and people have more options. That means organizations have to pay attention to employee engagement and things like management and leadership development through their existing workforce, and middle managers are exactly the right people to do that," Maroney said.

Savvy companies will invest in front-line management as a means to engage and retain valuable employees in 2017, Maroney said, and will emphasize that middle managers are crucial to ensuring transparent, authentic communication between top leadership and the greater workforce.

"Good managers are key to helping identify goals and strategies, translating them into manageable chunks of action and tying those back to the larger business goals for the workers on the ground," Maroney said.

2. Focus on the employee experience to drive engagement

Leading companies work hard to deliver a superior customer experience to attract, engage, retain, and cultivate brand-loyal customers. Organizations will apply a similar approach to their workforces, looking for ways to make the employee experience easier, rewarding, more transparent and professionally fulfilling, according to Kronos.

"We believe we'll see increasing parallels between the customer experience and the employee experience in 2017, because the same principles apply: organizations need to understand what's most important, and that starts by asking. In this case, asking which benefits matter most to employees? What technologies, training and processes can help workers succeed without suffering burnout? How can the performance evaluation process be enhanced to provide real-time feedback for employees -- both salaried and hourly workers -- while relieving overbearing processes for managers?" Maroney said.

Unfortunately, though, many organizations spend more on recruiting new talent than developing the top talent they already have; that has to change in order for companies to be successful in a tight talent market, Maroney said.

"Part of creating this engaging employee experience is making sure resources are added, dollars spent and management is on board. We've seen that, assuming a company's compensation is competitive, people want 'bread-and-butter' benefits like PTO, flexibility -- really, the mantra should be to treat your people like the adults they are, be clear about the objectives and their role in achieving them, and make clear the benefits to both the company and to them," Maroney said.