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Top 10 HR Trends Transforming the Future of Frontline Work

HR Trends Report

We are now well into the “new normal.” And no department has had to make bigger adjustments than human resources, and today’s HR trends are reflecting their new responsibilities. 

With the rise of remote work, a new commitment to improving the employee experience for frontline workers, and an ongoing labor shortage, the HR industry has had to re-imagine its entire approach to human capital management. 

Ready to learn more about the human resources trends shaping the future of frontline work? Download our report.

Traditionally, human resources have been responsible for administrative tasks related to employees, like:

  • Hiring
  • Salary negotiations
  • Recruiting
  • Benefits
  • Training and development
  • Employee performance
  • Payroll
  • Personnel-related policies and handbooks

While these fundamental tasks are still in place, HR’s role has evolved along with the workplace.

The average office occupancy rate is just 49% of what it was before the pandemic. 

HR is now managing employee experience strategies and the employee lifecycle for employees both near and far. That means much of this work is virtual. This has become a top priority in the age of an unprecedented labor shortage and an all-out war for talent: according to Forbes, there were two open positions for every unemployed person in 2022. 

HR teams are upping their reliance on digital tools for managing people and using data for a more human-centric approach, especially for frontline workers who have long been left out of the thinking behind employee engagement and retention strategies. In all areas, digital tools help improve business outcomes.

According to the Boston Consulting Group: 

“Improving the digital maturity of the human resources function is increasingly critical to conducting business efficiently and competing for talent.”

The trends in human resources management are laser-focused on leveraging technology to accommodate new ways of working, boosting retention, and making a better employee experience for every type of worker.

10 Key HR Trends Transforming Frontline Work

3. Hybrid Work Environment and a Fluid Workforce

Gone are the days of a permanent, on-site staff. The workplace is now a hybrid environment with different combinations of workers on or off-site at different times. Today’s workforce is a combination of office-based teams, frontline staff, remote workers, and freelancers. In fact, freelancers accounted for $1.35 trillion in 2022 earnings. (And they’re a great way to offset the labor shortage.)

To manage this fluid workforce, HR professionals are using mobile-first digital solutions for supporting every worker, no matter where they are. This all-inclusive approach means frontline workers can now be included in HR-employee communication, like open enrollment dates. They can also access their own payroll and schedule information to support a better work-life balance and connect directly with HR personnel through a frontline success system

HR is now as focused on frontline success as they are on the success of every employee in an organization. 

2. Virtually Managing the Employee Lifecycle

With this new, versatile workforce, HR has adopted strategies to virtually optimize the employee lifecycle, beginning with recruitment. Remote people operations are one of the biggest HR trends now that almost every company is experiencing these shifts in the workforce

Virtual and remote hiring, onboarding, and training were not just a pandemic procedure, and HR tech has become essential in hiring and retention. The faster and more efficient these HR processes are, the easier it is for employees to launch and begin their new jobs. It’s a critical period that can determine the longevity of an employee at a company.

Bringing employees into this digital world from day one will increase chances of success as HR works to strengthen connections, particularly with frontline workers. For HR leaders, platforms like Beekeeper have been indispensable for transitioning to a frontline-first mindset, especially when it comes to onboarding and training. 

Glassdoor found that a great onboarding experience can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. With a digital approach to onboarding and training, the process is streamlined and automated, which means it’s faster and easier, securing employee loyalty from the get-go.

3. Streamline Company-Wide Communication

HR’s role is much bigger than logistics and paperwork. The “human” in human resources means building connections with people in their organization. Communication is one of the longstanding trends human resources professionals have had. They streamline information for everyone in an organization. And they have become critical in spearheading digital communication efforts in their organizations, and implementing tools to get everyone on the same page. 

To accommodate the various types of workers (i.e. remote, frontline, hybrid, or freelance) HR teams are now choosing mobile-first solutions that can reach and engage everyone at every level. It centralizes communication and ensures people receive information at the same time. 

At Pike, a North American infrastructure company, the HR team selected Beekeeper to centralize communication for 11,000 employees, including 9,600 frontline field teams, who are spread across departments, locations, and sub-companies within the organization.

4. AI-Assisted, Data-Driven HR Workflows

Across industries, data has emerged as the central theme for so many business strategies and one of the top trends in human resource management. 42% of large companies (over 5,000 employees) are using AI to help their HR teams.

Onboarding, payroll, fielding questions. Chatbots are now handling basic employee interactions and fielding questions, and automation can handle other HR tasks like onboarding paperwork. It makes processes faster and more efficient. Time to productivity ramps up and HR is more available to engage with employees. 

Automation tools can also collect valuable employee insights that can help HR professionals create policies that improve employee relations and engagement. 

At SH Hotels and Resorts, the HR team was able to gather 700,000 employee data points to help match current employees with growth opportunities within the organization. 

5. Mental Health and Wellness 

Mental health and wellness have come into the spotlight after employee burnout has turned into a wildfire. Companies realized they need to do more to support their staff, especially frontline workers who have long felt left out and underappreciated in the workplace. With inflation, job security fears, and anxiety about the health and well-being of them and their families, you can understand why normalizing the discussion around mental health has become one of the new trends in HR management.

Pew Research Center found that an estimated 4 in 10 U.S. adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, a jump from 1 in 10 in 2019.

Essential frontline workers are more at risk of mental health challenges than non-essential workers. 

  • 42% of essential workers are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 25% are more likely to start or increase substance abuse
  • 22% are more likely to have suicidal thoughts

Despite these numbers, most employees fear that talking about their struggles will get them fired. As an employee advocacy team, HR has a responsibility to create a safe and welcoming workplace and to become a resource for employees who need support. 

By using a workplace communication app, HR becomes accessible to everyone with an open door to seek the help they need. HR can use the platform to send out messaging about employee well-being to let everyone know they are an available resource.

6. ESG Compliance

ESG, which stands for “environmental, social, governance” is a fast-growing trend for all industries. It represents the green strategies to lower carbon footprints, the good companies do for society and social equity, and the transparency with which companies are governed. 

Companies do need to be compliant with a growing number of mandates on corporate behaviors, but they are also under pressure from employees and consumers to do better by people and the world. 

  • One study has shown that 84% of companies that prioritize ESG investments and initiatives have greater customer retention.
  • 70% of employees and job seekers said they want to work for a sustainably conscious company.
  • ESG investments are on track to reach $33.9 trillion by 2026. 

Business leaders across the HR industry are heeding the call and making business and investment decisions that take ESG elements into consideration, factoring in the impact they have on the world around them.

7. Change Management

By now, companies are well-versed in change. And change can originate in any number of departments within an organization. But companies are now funneling the responsibility of handling any change through HR who can help shape the initiatives, create messaging, and secure buy-in since they are the singular team with the most interactions with employees.

Change management can include:

  • Announcing changes to employees
  • Explaining the reasoning behind decisions
  • Create a strategic vision and get employee buy-in
  • Fielding questions and receiving feedback
  • Training people for new processes and procedures
  • Track data regarding change dynamics

Using digital tools to navigate through the journey of implementing new processes, tools, or organizational structure can also bring employees in to give their input and feedback for a more well-developed change management strategy.

8. Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

While DEI, or diversity, equality, and inclusion, is an organizational-wide core value, managing DEI initiatives is a major HR responsibility. They are the team that heads up the recruitment and hiring of new talent, designs employee policies, handles communication, and helps set the tone for company culture. 

Companies are on track to double their 2020 DEI investments by 2026 according to McKinsey. It’s a start but there’s still work to be done. PolicyLink found that while 9 million of 24 million frontline employees in the U.S. are people of color, white employees were 2.4 more likely to be promoted than Latinx employees and 4.7 times more likely than Black employees.

As companies embrace more digital tools for internal communication and operations management, they support HR’s efforts to create a more inclusive workplace in several ways, including:

  • Unbiased/automated skills assessment via digital platforms
  • Data-driven decisions for hiring and promotion
  • Determining concrete metrics for “success” in a role
  • Using anonymous feedback on inclusivity to improve company policies

DEI has been one of the key HR trends in recent years and it will remain a top priority for a long time.

9. People Analytics

Managing a hybrid and dispersed workforce is challenging. But as the HR industry has accelerated its digital transformation, analytics have become critical tools that give them the insights they need to build a better employee experience for everyone. And it works.

Companies that use the employee insights from digital tools can boost retention by 30% to 40%

And this has been particularly important for supporting frontline teams, who make up a large percentage of the Great Resignation.

With a frontline success system, HR professionals can collect data points from every employee interaction, often called “people analytics”. HR can gain insights into productivity and engagement. They can design strategies based on specific frontline feedback, and use data to guide them as they strive to better serve all employees. While it sounds counterintuitive, analytics and data can help HR create a more people-centered organization.

10. Reskilling for Retention

According to Gartner, 51% of HR tech leaders see skills management as a top priority. And for good reason.

New technology (think: Industry 4.0) is changing the workplace and changing job descriptions. But with a shortage of skilled talent, companies need to invest in reskilling their current workforce. The ability to train workers in new skills is critical to retaining talent and building resilience. 

Acquiring new skills and having opportunities for professional growth are exactly what employees want.

One-third of frontline employees don’t receive formal training, while 81% believe that more training would help them feel more engaged and happy. 

HR often implements and designs employee training programs. But in-person training isn’t a practical investment anymore.

If HR departments want to continue providing skills training to employees, digital communication tools are the way to go with multiple benefits, like:

  • Training materials are available anytime on a worker’s mobile device, giving them control over the pace of reskilling
  • The learning process is focused and guided rather than chaotic and overwhelming
  • Trainees can give feedback on how to improve the training experience
  • HR can remotely track employees’ training progress

As the world and workplace continue to evolve, HR must remain a steadfast resource to support all workers. With this foundation, companies will increase retention and build resilient workforces for today and the future. The HR trends at the forefront have emerged to accommodate new ways of working and finally include the frontline.

Discover human resources trends that will shape the future of work in 2023 and beyond. Download the report today.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What are the emerging trends in HR?

First, there is a growing emphasis on employee well-being and work-life balance. Second, technology is playing a crucial role in HR, with the rise of AI-driven tools and automation streamlining recruitment, onboarding, and performance management processes. Third, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become critical priorities. Last, HR is shifting towards a data-driven approach, utilizing people analytics to make informed decisions about talent acquisition, retention, and development strategies.

How is technology impacting HR practices?

First, it has transformed recruitment and talent acquisition processes through the use of applicant tracking systems, online job boards, and AI-powered algorithms that streamline candidate sourcing and screening. Second, technology has improved employee onboarding and training by providing online platforms, e-learning modules, and virtual reality simulations that enhance the learning experience. Third, HR technology has facilitated the automation of administrative tasks, freeing up HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives.

What is the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR?

AI can assist in recruitment by analyzing resumes, conducting candidate screenings, and even utilizing chatbots for initial applicant interactions. AI-powered tools enable HR professionals to make data-driven decisions, optimize workforce planning, and improve the overall efficiency of HR operations.

How are companies using data analytics in HR decision-making?

Companies analyze data from various HR systems, such as recruitment, performance management, and employee surveys, to identify patterns and trends. This data-driven approach helps organizations make evidence-based decisions on talent acquisition, workforce planning, training and development, employee engagement, and retention strategies, ultimately driving improved organizational performance and employee satisfaction.

What are the key challenges HR professionals face in the current business landscape?

First, attracting and retaining top talent in a highly competitive job market is a significant challenge, requiring HR professionals to develop creative recruitment strategies and compelling employer brands. Second, managing a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial, as HR professionals must navigate cultural differences and address unconscious biases to foster an inclusive work environment. Last, staying up-to-date with rapidly evolving employment laws and regulations poses a challenge, as HR professionals must ensure compliance while adapting policies and practices to meet changing requirements.