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Workplace TrendsManaging a nimble and high-performing organization requires understanding the outside factors that affect the operation of the organization. You cannot expect to be successful if you ignore current trends and try to maintain the status quo in the face of significant changes in the marketplace, employee expectations and management trends.

Now that we’re almost halfway through 2014, it’s time to look at the trends that are having the greatest impact on how companies operate and what they mean for you. These trends are bound to touch almost every company in some way, and preparing for them now will keep you moving forward into the future.

Reputation Matters

Your mother always warned you about developing a bad reputation — and her advice holds true still, whether you are looking for a job or you’re a company looking for employees. Companies are looking for employees with a strong, proven track record of success and a solid reputation. Jobseekers want to work for companies with positive associations; in fact, one survey indicated that about three-quarters of workers want to work for a company with a positive brand, even if it means taking a lower salary.

What this means in more practical terms is that it’s more important than ever for jobseekers to pay close attention to their images, especially online, as employers are turning to social media and online searches as a means to evaluate job candidates. Applications need to be tailored to specific roles, and focus on demonstrating measurable results rather than generic descriptions. For companies, the emphasis on reputation means that public relations, especially in the realm of social media, can no longer be put on the back-burner. Not only is it more important than ever to develop a solid brand identity and corporate message, companies need to monitor what others are saying about them and react accordingly.

Demographics Are Changing

Mom may have been right about the importance of reputation, but it’s also important to understand that it’s not your father’s workplace anymore. As the population ages, experienced workers will be retiring; in fact, by some estimates almost one-fifth of the current workforce will retire within the next five years. At the same time, by 2015, the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) will make up 36 percent of the workforce. The gap between baby boomers and millennials in terms of work expectations, work ethic and abilities has been researched at length, with the major takeaway being that the changing face of the American workforce means that companies need to find new ways to attract, manage and maintain top talent.

The Definition of “Workplace” Is Changing

The definition of "workplace"When the economy crashed in 2008, many experienced professionals floundered in a challenging job market — but took matters into their own hands and created jobs by turning to freelance, contract or consulting work. Today, more than 17 million people fall into the category of freelance or contract worker, and experts predict that number will only grow in the coming years. It’s not just the dearth of jobs that contribute to the growth in self-employment. Many companies are opting to employ outside contractors in order to cut costs, especially in the face of the Affordable Care Act and new requirements for employers. Others see contract workers as a way to tap into the most experienced and qualified staff necessary to complete projects without incurring the costs of hiring a full-time employee. In any case, the market for independent contractors is growing — and employers need to understand the intricacies of managing those workers.

Health and Wellness Is a Priority

The ACA is not only affecting the way companies approach the hiring of employees, but also how existing employees are managed and retained. With employers now expected to bear higher health coverage costs, many are renewing their focus on employee wellness and health management programs. Not to mention, multiple studies show that when an employer invests in employee health — both physical and mental — not only are the employees healthier, they are more satisfied, engaged and productive. As we move forward with the full implementation of the ACA, expect to see more companies developing comprehensive wellness programs and providing incentives for employees to participate, especially in the realm of insurance coverage discounts.

A Greater Emphasis on Standards and Performance

Most employees expect to have an annual performance review. However, research shows that employees who receive more frequent and focused feedback tend to be more satisfied and productive in their jobs — and have a higher retention rate. Consider a sports coach: He or she doesn’t provide guidance only after the season is done. A coach works with the team before, during and after each game, all with an eye toward maximizing performance. Many companies are shifting toward a continuous monitoring and feedback process, in which employees are evaluated regularly. Evaluation criteria are also becoming more specific and data-driven, with employee performance rated on an objective scale of actual, measurable results rather than just employer perception.

All of these trends will affect all organizations to some degree, with some seeing more significant changes than others do. Still, it’s important to recognize and prepare for the changes happening in today’s workplaces if you want to attract top talent and meet your organizational goals.

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