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The Horizon of Human Resources: What’s new and what’s being left behind?

Published on April 10th, 2018 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

Every new year brings changes for different industries, particularly when it comes to human resources. Elements like new legislation, the economic climate and shifting cultural outlooks can have big impacts on workplaces and those in charge of managing them.

The end of 2017 and the initial weeks of 2018 have brought considerable changes, and there are several things on the horizon that human resources stakeholders should be aware of. At the same time, there are also a few elements that employers and their workforce will look to leave behind this year.

Let's take a look what's in and what's being phased out, from a human resources perspective:

More inclusive hiring practices

This year, human resources teams – and particularly stakeholders involved in recruitment and hiring – must be more focused on finding the best talent and skilled employees to contribute to their workforce. In this way, elements like zero tolerance drug policies and criminal conviction histories will become less of a determining factor when candidates apply for open employment positions. 

"It could be time to revisit the business's drug policy and reconsider the ways in which employees are treated."

These changes have been a long time coming, especially considering the recent wave of related legislation. "Banning the box," in connection to asking about candidates' criminal conviction histories, has now caught on in a total of 10 states, the Society for Human Resource Management reports. California became the most recent state to sign this type of legislation into law, preventing companies with five or more staff members from requesting details about potential employees' criminal histories on employment applications. At the same time, though, employers still have the right to conduct a background check.

"The intent of the law is to give applicants with a criminal record the opportunity to be judged on their qualifications and now on their criminal histories," SHRM contributor Roy Maurer wrote.

In addition, employers are also relaxing standards related to their internal drug policies, especially when it comes to marijuana use. As cannabis is increasingly recognized as a medicinal substance and states continue to enable legislation supporting medical and recreational use, it may be time to revisit zero-tolerance drug policies that clash with this new perspective. As NPR reported, some employers in Colorado, one of the states leading the charge for medicinal and recreational marijuana use, have eliminated the substance from its drug screenings.

Depending on the state-level laws in the area where a business is located and the responsibilities that employees have, it could be time to revisit the business's drug policy and reconsider the ways in which employees who use marijuana are treated.

Automation with the support of AI

This year will also see the vast reduction of manual work, as artificial intelligence- and machine learning-assisted automation are increasingly implemented in business settings.

Maurer reported that about 90 percent of the manual, administrative tasks carried out by human resources and recruiting teams will become automated within the next few years. While this will have a great impact on workflows and internal processes, it certainly doesn't mean that companies will do away with people in favor of machines.

"In the hiring context, AI will be able to calculate the probability that one person will be a better hire than another person by looking for patterns that come closest to the criteria you input," explained Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of California think tank Future of Talent Institute. "We're at a tipping point, where we'll begin to see a lot happening quickly. The tech won't be great yet, but it will be there."

In this way, as businesses look to implement AI systems, these advanced solutions will still require the knowledge and expertise of human employees for support.

Business man pointing to "AI" icon in group of icons that includes other words like Learning, Computer, Knowledge, Reasoning. Artificial intelligence will help improve efficiency by eliminating repetitive, manual tasks.

Expanding parental leave

The days of only including mothers in leave for new parents are now behind us. Today, employers must also respect needs for new fathers, and paternity leave is becoming a more common practice across the board.

According to a 2017 Employee Benefits survey, 24 percent of employees currently work at organizations that support paid leave for new dads. On average, maternity leave lasts about 41 days, and paternity leave extends to 22 days.

In addition to including fathers in leave considerations, it's also imperative that companies take a second look at pay being offered during these crucial periods. As SHRM contributor Shonna Waters wrote, paid parental leave is now being viewed as a competitive edge for organizations to attract top talent.

"Maybe you know an employee who welcomed a baby recently and took time off to care for the child," Waters wrote. "Chances are that person didn't get paid while he or she was out. A competitive labor market may prompt more organizations to adopt robust paid-parental-leave policies in order to attract needed workers."

Expansion of wellness programs

Another element that's being left in 2017 are wellness programs that are completely focused on physical wellbeing. While encouraging more active lifestyles is important, it's also critical that employers don't overlook other elements that can impact employee wellbeing.

The concept of wellness is now expanding into other areas. For instance, one technology company shifted the focus of their program to include factors like finances and balancing a social life. The organization couples this with flexible work policies, paid days off, paid parental leave and even workshops focused on mindfulness. 

In addition, as Forbes contributor Alan Kohll pointed out, corporate wellness programs are also being leveraged to spur employee engagement and career development. For instance, some organizations have begun offering educational classes and workplace design efforts, extending the reach of these programs beyond just smoking cessation or weight loss.

"Wellness goals and career development can be combined to create a more positive work environment and successful employees," Kohll wrote. "This idea of collective well-being will not only help support a healthy workforce but will increase a company's reputation of caring for its employees."

To find out more about what's in and what's out this year, connect with the human resource experts at Triton today.