As we enter into the new year, it is almost expected that we renovate our lives. From personal health goals to promises to travel more, the new year brings with it strong resolutions and endless possibilities.

But the revamping doesn’t stop at personal goals; it’s only fair that in the spirit of all things new, we update our knowledge with the most popular trends for 2018.

While integration of diversity, retention and corporate responsibility remain a large focus in current HR developments, change is inevitable and each year brings its own new set of trends to the table. The HR community looks to analysts, customers, partners, and experts in order to get a sense of what to expect in the next year.

As organizations continue to build on employee success seen in 2017, HR executives will be looking for ways to provide their staff with the tools they need to advance, thrive and mature. Here are the 2018 trends that will affect the future of HR.

1. Artificial Intelligence

For those operating in HR, some core responsibilities and challenges never shift. But when it comes to 2018, there are some big changes coming in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’ve all seen the movies-robot assistants, self-driving cars, and smart houses.

AI has always been a fascinating notion but it’s not all about robots taking over the world. For HR, this is a new and exciting reality. The belief is that the future of HR is taking a turn toward collaboration – a partnership between man and technology.

Employees are exposed to more and more AI and technology in their daily lives. Amazon’s Alexa, Uber and other innovative products continue to make life less challenging and more convenient. If HR does not begin to remove outdated tools and reorganize processes to fit this new devolvement, they run the risk of frustrating and disengaging their employees.

AI is predicted to take some jobs and change others, possibly both. The challenge for the future is now to begin teaching the benefits of technology and how it can improve both productivity and business results.

2. The upsurge of workforce analytics

Workforce analytics, or HR analytics, is a software tool used by organizations to fine-tune workforce management activities, improve business analysis and organize important workforce data. With the ability to transform raw data into actionable information, this intelligence is crucial to making the most of every investment.

A survey by DATIS, ‘2017 State of Workforce Management’, exposed the rise in workforce analytics when 84% of survey respondents reported that they were ‘likely’ to invest in workforce analytics tools in 2018. It also reveals that that 40% of executives believe that HR should be responsible for dealing with workforce analytics.

In a recent article discussing the importance of workforce analytics, Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, says that such tools are a “must-have” for organizations around the country. The credit goes to the program’s role in strategic decision making. These predictive analytics can help HR develop strategies to impress those employees that are showing signs of leaving, to improve recruitment strategy, drive diversity, address internal collaboration, and much more.

3. Development of the gig economy

In the new year, it becomes time to take advantage of the ever-growing talent pool – that means both long and short-term contracts. A survey by Manpower found that 87% of people in the U.S. are interested in gig or “NextGen” work. The BBC defines the ‘Gig Economy’ as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”.

The separating of productivity from location was a theme in 2017 that has steadily been accelerating. Gallup’s research has shown that the volume of employees who have worked by telecommuting has risen to 44%, up from 39% in 2012. The gig economy method of hiring brings the promise of lower costs. But along with it comes more competition among applicants, with traditional career paths being phased out and replaced with skill-based temporary jobs.

With this growing trend, HR talent sourcing practices need to change to build and maintain relationships with gig workers or contractors. This involves clear job descriptions, proper onboarding and utilizing technology to keep the team (including telecommuters and contractors) together. The gig economy is predicted to be a great way of retaining highly valued employees.

4. Future-proofing employees with continuous learning

In the HR community, having access to the best and brightest in the talent pool is a must. However, this year the focus is moving from away from searching for brand new talent and into the possibilities that lie within current employees.

“How do we hire the best people in the job market? How do we engage and retain top talent? And build a new generation of leadership? And how do we modernize our performance management, rewards, wellbeing, and engagement programs?”

Questions that were once asked with recruitment in mind are now being reformed with the intent of investing in the modern employee. How do we engage the more senior professionals in our company? How do modernize our employee engagement? How do we reskill current employees? This investment comes in the form of continuous learning.

Continuous learning is about the constant expansion of skill-sets through learning and increasing knowledge. Ceridian’s 2017 Pulse of Talent found 91% of high performers listed learning opportunities as extremely or somewhat important to staying in their jobs.

Presenting this opportunity to employees with skill and endless potential promotes a culture of future proofing. Employees will become adaptable to changes in their roles and grow with the organization.

The business benefits of providing learning opportunities are well-documented, as is the fact that learning increases employee engagement. Companies without these programs may be missing the chance to increase productivity by retaining and building on current talents.

5. The road towards digital

Technology is consistently transforming the way that individuals go about their daily lives. Employees that are used to the ease of their daily activities will eventually expect this same ease in the workplace.

HR has historically been known for tedious paperwork and time consuming administrative tasks. These restrictions have an effect on the organization’s productivity and the engagement of their employees. There’s no denying that technology has a direct correlation to the happiness of employees. According to The Ultimate Software 2016 National Study on Satisfaction at Work, 92% of employees say that having the technology to do their job efficiently affects their work satisfaction.

HR will need to recognize technology’s ability to reach the niche areas of the organization that have previously been ignored or overlooked. By automating crucial functions of HR through digital tools and software the HR community will have more time to spend on employee retention, productivity, and developing key processes that can help move their organization forward.

Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018

Think of treasured digital assistants Alexa and Siri – tools that employees utilize heavily in their homes. Within HR, tools like these can be used to improve self-service among the staff. Employees will have the ability to reach HR directly with requests and questions, making a conversational platform that can be operated on the internet daily.

According to the report from Gartner on the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends 2018, “The way we interact with technology will undergo a radical transformation over the next five to 10 years.”

Digital is on the rise. Artificial intelligence. Bots. Analytical software. These digital tools will rule how work gets done in 2018—inside and outside of the office.

6. Blockchain in HR

Blockchain is an encrypted digital ledger and “a way to store personal information about candidates or employees in a secure, confidential manner and make it available to anyone with permission from those individuals.” It is anticipated to become a powerful tool for future digital business and allows everybody in a “chain” to see and verify the details of each record.

Experts predict that the HR community will begin using blockchain within the next 18-24 months. Recruiters can utilize blockchain to verify candidates faster and in a more fail-safe manner, as it lowers the chances of credentials being altered or fake.

Blockchain can even be valuable in the gig economy trend that we earlier mentioned. When it comes to contracted and freelance work, it is difficult to correctly verify the skills and knowledge of the individuals in question. By using blockchain to validate credentials, the HR process will become less costly, more timely and increasingly productive.

Last year’s challenges and predictions were based off the best that experts had to offer and this year is no different. Projections for HR in 2018 are plenty and include a shift from employee engagement to employee experience, a greater focus on technology and much more. It is important to acknowledge the proper indicators and closely follow the direction that the HR community will be travelling down in the next 12 months.

We’ve looked at some of the top dialogues taking place to compile this list of top HR trends for the year. There are numerous reports, forums and notions to help you develop and expand upon your own ideas of the future of HR strategy.

What do you think will be the top HR trends in 2018?