Top issues and trends in HR for 2018

Five issues currently impacting employers

Top issues and trends in HR for 2018
Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

Happy New Year! I hope all of our readers had a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

Being the first post of 2018, I thought it might be interesting to make some predictions for the Canadian HR landscape in the coming year. The following are the top five issues and trends I believe will impact HR in 2018. I will cover five more next week.

Marijuana in the workplace

With the impending legalization of marijuana, many workforce professionals are predicting major headaches as they attempt to grapple with pot in the workplace —particularly in safety-sensitive environments and in relation to employees dealing directly with the public. A related issue is the rising popularity of medical marijuana.

While employers will likely need to review and update policies — particularly where they have zero tolerance relating to possession of what will become a legal substance — I personally see pot as being analogous to alcohol. Employers don’t generally allow people to come to work drunk, so why would they allow them to show up stoned?

Nevertheless, some employees might be receiving mixed messages and think it’s acceptable to smoke a joint on a smoke break. I also worry about productivity concerns in relation to those who decide to overindulge. These will be difficult challenges for employers.

Minimum wage increases

There has been a great deal of hand-wringing about dramatic minimum wage increases in some jurisdictions, with many employers arguing they will have a difficult time adjusting to the higher minimum wage. Many commentators believe this will result in higher unemployment and increased prices.

Not only can dramatic increases in minimum wage result in financial hardship for employers due to increases for low wage earners, but they can also result in wage compression issues at slightly higher compensation levels.

On the other hand, others argue a higher minimum wage will boost the economy by improving the purchasing power of low wage earners. They also argue minimum wage increases don’t generally result in unemployment overall, and paying employees higher wages is likely to result in improved employee productivity, retention and engagement and reduced recruitment, onboarding and training costs.

An increased minimum wage will definitely cause some pain for employers — especially in the short-term — but the overall economy may end up better off in the long run. Employers may need to get creative by improving productivity through automation, business process re-engineering, better selection procedures and enhanced learning and development programs.

Some prices may need to increase and there may be some job losses as a result of minimum wage changes. However, businesses may see their productivity improve and we will hopefully experience a reduction in overall poverty.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment was the news story of 2017. However, I see this trend continuing well into 2018 and beyond with even more allegations coming to light.

While the #MeToo movement started in the media and entertainment industries, no industry is immune. Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated in any form or in any industry and the perpetrators of this type of behaviour are learning they can no longer get away with it.

Employers may be forced to deal with allegations involving very senior people and need to be seen dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. However, an employer’s response to allegations cannot amount to a witch hunt and it is extremely important to ensure due process by fully and properly investigating any allegations.

Automation and artificial intelligence

Economists and others have been saying for a long time that job losses due to technology generally lead to other, more highly-skilled job opportunities elsewhere roughly equal to the jobs that were lost. However, the high level of automation and the spectre of artificial intelligence have many people worried this will no longer be the case.

Self-driving cars may lead to many lost jobs, and artificial intelligence may result in even highly-skilled white collar jobs being automated. This will result in a lot of displaced workers, but at the same time employers will need more highly-skilled workers to replace them.

Candidate and employee experience

I’ve written before about candidate experience, which is becoming a key differentiator in how organizations attract talent. I also think employers are going to start to care more about employee experience throughout the employment lifecycle.

One example is the increasing number of organizations believing the best way to improve customer service is by focusing first on keeping employees happy and engaged and empowering them.

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