2016 workforce trends the fight to attract and retain workers

2016 Workforce Trends: The Fight to Attract & Retain Workers

Editor’s note: This was originally published as a 2013 workforce trends post and has been completely reworked for accuracy and relevance in 2016.

What trends should employers expect to encounter in their talent acquisition efforts for 2016? We studied the workforce trends people are talking about for the coming year and found that much has changed in a few short years. Yet, it’s interesting to note how the current projections are rooted in prior years’ events.  

When we first looked at projected workforce trends for 2013, America’s businesses were still climbing out of the Great Recession.  As part of their recovery, employers at the time were forced to streamline operations and become more focused and specialized. Fat was trimmed wherever it lurked. Across the country, HR’s primary directive was to maximize ROI.  The mood was still overwhelmingly cautious. In 2013, we were talking about the growing productivity gap, disengaged employees and the difficult job market for younger talent (with major future implications). 

What Hasn’t Changed In Recent Years?

In 2016, just as it was in 2013, strategic hiring is imperative.  Even with the recession further behind us, employers can ill-afford to gamble on chance-based hiring. In 2013, we were already talking about the hiring challenges posed by a talent shortage, a dominant workforce trend we’ve already discussed for the coming year. In 2016, employers will need to fight for talent, not just in the hiring process, but perhaps more than ever before, they will need to fight to retain the talent they already have

employee loyalty is deadWhatever Happened to Loyalty? 

Back in 2013, we were worried about employee disengagement in the aftermath of rampant cutbacks and layoffs.  In those years, even the more fortunate workers were disabused of any notions of job security. In 2010, Towers Watson did a Global Workforce Study that exposed the lasting damage done to the employer-employee relationship in the wake of the Great Recession. According to Max Caldwell of Towers Watson, “for many employers, the recession has put the final nail in the coffin of the traditional ‘deal’ that once existed between employees and employers.”

What does that have to do with hiring in 2016? In many ways, everything. Today, more employers are vying to fill positions with fewer qualified, in-demand candidates, making it a candidate’s market for that coveted group. And, though employees now feel more comfortable about exploring options, they haven’t forgotten how disposable they can be. They want to make career moves to jobs with companies that are worth their time. Employers that meet these candidates’ expectations will get the skilled workforce they need while employers who fail to go the extra mile may struggle to compete. This dynamic is a common thread across nearly all of the projected 2016 workplace trends.

Significant Workforce Trends We Expect to See in 2016:

1. Employee Raises. When preparing for the retention battle, bear this in mind: your employees are likely to expect a raise this year. With the recession in the rear-view, more employers will be giving salary increases, and as that becomes more common, more employees will expect it. According to Kerry Chou of WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association quoted in Money.USNews.com, most “workers should expect an increase around 3.1% this year…[with] raises for top performers [possibly reaching] around 4.5%.”

2. Intensified Recruiting Efforts. Did someone say, “war for talent?” The competition to fill your seats and keep them filled may start to feel like the “Game of Thrones.” More of your employees are probably open to being poached than you realize, based on data from Indeed.com (in Fortune) that says “85% of employees seek new work outside of their current job.” As the pool of qualified candidates continues to shrink, competition over candidates (whether or not they are actively searching) is expected to intensify, according to Susannah Snider in Money.USNews.com).

3. Generational Change. Baby Boomers are retiring, Millennials now represent the largest share of the workforce, and Generation Z will be starting to trickle in (those are the guys born after the Millennials, between 1995-2012). Make sure you are educated about what that could mean for your business, particularly for recruiting and retention. It may be time to revisit long-standing company policies and procedures. Also important is that Millennials will increasingly be taking over leadership roles.

4. Greater Flexibility. Millennials are more likely to expect flexible work arrangements, which include the option to work remotely. As Chris Heivly notes in his Inc.com post, “tomorrow’s workers wish to be judged…by their results, not by their hours worked.” To appeal to this critical chunk of the workforce, more employers are going to be re-evaluating their work environments and whether hours spent in a seat are more important than meeting the job’s requirements effectively. Employers that offer more options will be at a greater advantage.

5. Building Future Leaders. Remember the fat that was cut out back in the early post-recession era? You know, the company-funded training and development, mentorship programs, etc.?  In 2016, be aware that the employees you’ll likely want to hire will expect to have a clear path to upper management and support for rapid career progression. They will want to know what’s in it for them if they invest years of their life into growing your company. Be prepared. On the plus side, developing your talent can be an excellent win-win for your company and your employees.

Doing Battle: Tips for Your Recruiting & Retention Arsenal

Make the new workforce trends work for your organization. After quickly mourning the death of employee loyalty, move on to investing in attraction and retention strategies that will make your company a desirable career destination.  

Here are some things you can do to improve your position:

  • Continue to invest in employee engagement initiatives to decrease the likelihood of turnover.
  • Develop your employer brand.
  • Give the talent supply chain and all other talent sourcing initiatives the same attention as any other part of your organization’s resources. Don’t underestimate its impact on your bottom line!
  • Develop new strategies that will appeal to a Millennial workforce.
  • Leverage incentive programs, keeping in mind that not everyone is money-motivated. Use assessment tests to help identify what motivates your workforce.

Have other ideas? Share them with other readers in the comments, or take it to Twitter (find us at @Hire4Impact).

Don’t forget, if you are in the Ohio area, join us on Friday, January 29th for our next session of Choosing Winners System Training. We’ll cover hiring systems and how to attract top performers, among other important hiring topics.

Choosing Winners System Training VisionSpark


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Image credits: Copyright: osiris59 / 123RF Stock Photo; Copyright: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo. Both modified by resizing and text overlay.


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