2017 Hiring Trends

Posted December 12, 2016

Hiring in 2017? 15 Trends to Look For

Every new year brings changes to the recruiting and HR landscapes, and 2017 will be no different. In fact, more major changes may occur in the upcoming year than in any other in recent memory. Several trends that were just emerging over the last year or two will intensify significantly, and a few entirely new developments will shake things up too. Virtually all of these trends are being spurred or enhanced by cutting-edge technologies in some way. Employee demographics and expectations continue to shift and evolve too, and recruitment and HR professionals must be prepared to evolve along with them.

By understanding the most prevalent hiring tips and recruiting trends for the upcoming year, companies can more easily take advantage of the ones that apply to them. Without further ado, then, here are 15 hiring trends to look for in 2017.

1. Employee Referral Programs Will Keep Gaining Momentum

Increasingly, employers are realizing that finding candidates through referrals from current employees tends to produce higher quality new hires. As a result, employee referral programs, or ERPs, are expected to become even more ubiquitous in 2017. Why do they work? When an employee refers someone, they tend to refer someone whose work ethics are very similar to theirs. By inviting top-quality employees to participate in such programs, employers can find candidates with similar strengths.

Another reason that ERPs are becoming so popular is because those who are hired through such programs tend to get along well with current employees and generally fit in to the company culture. These programs also allow employers to tap into the vast population of passive job seekers--people who aren't actively seeking new jobs but who would be willing to consider it if the situation arose.

2. The Rate of Boomerang Employees Will Continue to Grow

Here is a perfect example of how modern technology can affect recruitment in surprising ways. Since people are more connected than ever through the internet, social media and the like, employers can easily track and stay in touch with former employees. When the need arises, then, employers can easily reach out to see if former employees are interested in returning.

This trend has already been developing. Where the rate of rehiring was once 48 percent, it surged to 76 percent in 2015. It appears that this trend will continue to intensify over the next 12 months.

3. Jobs Will Be Lost to Robots and Automation

Automation has dramatically enhanced the process of finding and hiring new employees. However, there is a downside: Experts predict that more than 50 percent of existing jobs will be lost to robots within 20 years.

Could this already be happening? While experts expect hiring to be up at least a little in 2017, many companies are downsizing after taking advantage of the most effective automation technologies. Such technologies are eliminating the types of work that would keep employees busy for hours on end. While some new jobs will be created to grow and maintain robots and automation technologies, there will undoubtedly be a pretty significant net loss.

4. There Will Be an Increased Focus on the Candidate Experience

Firms that actively seek the brightest and best employees are increasingly learning that they have to improve their candidate experiences in order to attract them. At the height of the recession, employers could get away with not keeping candidates informed of the progress of their applications and the like. Today, the most in-demand employees won't wait around. If they aren't being properly accommodated by a prospective employer, they'll walk away.

In 2017, employers will double down on improving the experience that they offer to job seekers. This will create a cycle that will intensify this effect, as candidates will start becoming accustomed to being wooed and courted by prospective employers.

5. Continuous Performance Reviews Will Start to Outpace Annual Ones

People's attention spans are shorter than ever. This is largely due to modern technology, which has also primed people to expect instant gratification. Without a doubt, these factors are playing a huge role in the increasing tendency of employers to offer continuous performance reviews as opposed to annual ones.

According to research, around one-quarter of employees don't think that performance reviews are beneficial. This could be due to the long period of time that ensues between reviews. Many companies are shifting to models that provide more regular feedback to employees. For example, Adobe now uses a "check-in system" in which expectations are set once a year but feedback is given continually.

6. The Gig Economy Will Continue to Expand

The so-called gig economy, which is made up of freelance workers, temp workers and other non-payroll employees, will continue to expand in 2017. According to a study by Intuit, in fact, around 40 percent of workers will be part of the gig economy by 2020.

This trend has been emerging for a while now, and it has been spurred along more quickly by the success of companies like AirBnB and Uber. Over the last 20 years, the number of gig economy workers increased 28 percent more than that of payroll employees. Expect to see much more of this in the next year.

7. More Creative Benefits Will Be Used to Attract Top Talent

As the job economy has improved, and the balance has shifted more in favor of job seekers versus employers, the latter have had to come up with increasingly creative benefits to draw in the best talent. Top on candidates' wish lists for a few years now have been work flexibility--being able to work from home or to have non-traditional work hours--and health care. Now, companies are getting even more creative.

For example, many firms are now offering student loan assistance to employees. This is timely, as student loan debt is a hot topic and increasingly big problem. Fidelity is one employer who is blazing this trail by offering student loan assistance for loans of up to $10,000. It will be interesting to see what kinds of new perks employers come up with in 2017.

8. A Massive Baby Boomer Exodus Will Occur

The old guard is starting to stand down, and it will be more apparent than ever in 2017. Approximately 3.6 million baby boomers who hold managerial or higher positions will be retiring over the next 12 months. Younger generations will begin assuming these roles, and their unique outlooks will dramatically change the way in which many companies do business.

Younger generations are more tech savvy, so as more younger folks assume more prominent positions, there should be a noticeable uptick in early adoption among formerly "out of it" companies. Younger people are also more willing to shake up the status quo, and this will have interesting repercussions for employers.

9. Candidates Will Feel More Empowered

For a while there, it was an employers' job market. Now that the recession is well behind us and unemployment has dropped, however, job seekers are increasingly taking the wheel. More than ever, candidates feel empowered to make demands of prospective employers.

This trend will gain significant momentum in 2017, as candidates begin to negotiate their own terms more. Existing employees will feel more at ease about seeking new, better opportunities too, so employers will have to work harder to retain them.

10. Office Space Will Keep Shrinking

The days of massive, sprawling offices with mazes of cubicles are quickly coming to an end. That will be more obvious than ever in 2017, as more employees assume flexible work situations.

Within the next five years, the average amount of office space per employee is expected to drop to just 150 square feet. During the early 1980s, that figure stood at around 400 square feet. Employers are capitalizing on the increasing number of remote workers by moving into smaller digs. The resulting savings will keep this trend alive and kicking for a long time to come.

11. Most Recruiting Teams Will Remain the Same Size

A recent survey revealed some eye-opening information about recruitment teams around the country. Around 61 percent of companies that were surveyed stated that they would not be increasing the size of their recruitment teams in 2017. 32 percent of companies expect to increase the size of their teams, and just 5 percent expect to shrink them down.

Clearly, employers aren't anticipating a huge uptick in hiring in the new year. However, they aren't expecting a huge dip, either, which is good news for workers.

12. Small Business Hiring Will Rely More on Big Data

Big data has been transforming the hiring landscape for some time. Until recently, however, only large organizations with ample resources could really take advantage of it. Now, thanks to vastly improved and more accessible--and affordable--analytics tools, small companies can more easily jump on the bandwagon.

In 2017, small business hiring will increasingly rely on big data. By analyzing candidates' activities throughout the hiring cycle, for example, firms can adjust their hiring practices and make them more efficient. People analytics, which uses data aggregation to assess candidates' and employees' capabilities, will be bigger than ever too.

13. More Companies Will Become Blended Workforces

As the gig economy grows, more companies will embrace blended workforces in 2017. This means that employers will actively promote the idea of bringing payroll and freelance workers together under one roof. In turn, managers will have to find new ways to do their jobs, as some employees will permanently be on hand and others will come and go.

14. Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Be Increasingly Used in Hiring

There's been a lot of hype about virtual and augmented reality technology for some time but not a lot to show for it. That will change in the next year, as such technologies become more affordable and accessible for employers of all sizes.

Already, many major corporations have added virtual and augmented reality technologies into their hiring strategies. For example, General Mills lets candidates take virtual tours of their offices, so they can get to know the company better before coming in for their first interview. At job fairs, GE has been providing headsets that allow people to virtually explore their oil and gas recovery machines.

Employers have been clamoring for new ways to stand out to candidates in job listings, and virtual and augmented reality technologies will start making appearances in those areas too. Before too long, there will probably be widgets that allow employers to easily add various virtual reality elements to listings.

15. Wellness Programs Will Be in Higher Demand Than Ever

If there's one overarching trend for 2017, it's the fact that job seekers have a lot of clout right now. They have the reins, and employers have to play by their rules. This is clearly apparent with the rise of employee wellness programs, which provide employees with preventive services, health education and a variety of other services. From smoking cessation to weight-loss challenges, wellness programs have emerged as one of the most in-demand benefits of in-demand candidates.

Since last year, the prevalence of employee wellness programs has increased by 45 percent. Once the province of big corporations with extensive resources, they are increasingly being used to enhance small business hiring. Employers love them because they help to reduce health care costs, and employees love them because they provide a way to achieve healthier lifestyles.

Hiring in 2017: The Bottom Line

As with any list of this kind, some of the above hiring trends will exceed expectations while others will barely be blips on the radar. 2016 was a very tumultuous year, so there are no guarantees about how hiring will evolve over the next 12 months or about which hiring tips will remain relevant. Still, recruiters, HR personnel and other hiring professionals are wise to keep an eye on these trends and to adopt the ones that make the most sense for them and their employees.

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