10 HR Strategies to Watch in 2019

Last January, economists marveled at unemployment numbers dipping to the 17-year-record-low of 4.1 percent.

Those, it turns out, were the good old days.

This year’s recruiters are kicking off the New Year with 3.7 unemployment, and a record-setting seven-million-plus jobs to fill.

If the employment landscape is evolving, it’s no surprise HR strategies are as well.

What should we expect to see in 2019?

1. The rise of the frontlines

Sales floors were so tough to fill last year that retailers were just as likely to try to hire from mailing lists as sell to them. And that’s just an extension of the woes that have dogged retail and other frontline-driven industries all year long. No wonder they’re expanding benefits to part-time employees. Count on seeing that trend grow.

2. Financial wellness benefits

The job market may be on fire. But money problems still have people in the frying pan (four-in-ten adults couldn't produce $400 in an emergency). And those worries burn employers, too. SHRM reports a whopping 400 percent uptick in financial wellness benefits in three years – not just retirement but budgeting and debt management, too. Don’t expect interest to sag anytime soon.

3. Creative healthcare strategies

Severe health-tech shortages have systems scrambling not just for specific skills – but for training programs. Smart employers are teaming up to create their own. One clever approach in Chicago is setting the standard. Expect more to follow suit.

4. Student loan repayment

Employees have $1.5 trillion in debt. Congress is considering tax-free status (like that currently offered for tuition payments) for repayments made as an employee benefit. Need we say more?

5. The third “R” of talent strategies

Recruit, retain…and reskill? Absolutely – especially now that hiring alone can’t fill the gaps. “Clients have told us it’s often easier to replace an administrative employee than a clinical one,” wrote our own Doug Stefano about healthcare employers retraining their own people to move into critical jobs. And healthcare’s just the tip of the iceberg -- look for reskilling to float through manufacturing and other industries in 2019.

6. Pipeline repair

The birthrate is falling -- except among women aged 40-plus. For them, parenthood arrives when career success does, making these women flight risks right as they move into leadership roles. It marks an on-coming era of on-ramping and formalized return-to-work programs. If you haven’t already thought about those things, now’s the time.

7. Fully paid education

Is 2019 the year of the free degree? Could be. Roughly 2,000 people lined up for our fully paid Early Education Degree Achievement Program for teachers – and that was just in a couple of months. “We have 700 that are already enrolled,” our CEO Stephen Kramer told Bloomberg Business. The economics of a well-planned no-out-of-pocket program (retention, recruitment, skills) make sense. The news splash isn’t so bad either. Expect these programs to grow.

8. Focus on dads

Working Mother’s first “Best Companies for Dads” list was notable for what winning companies did…for moms. As the headline read, “Trendsetting organizations recognize the increasing need to help fathers be equal parenting partners.” That means benefits for dads help women, too – a critical development given trends in childbirth (see “Pipelines,” above). Here’s to 2019 being the year of truly sharing the load.

9. New tools for caregivers

America’s population continues to age. And America’s employees continue to miss work (and cost employers in absences) to care for them. Technology-based solutions will roll on. But as immediate care needs build, look for dual-equipped programs – those pairing self-serve platforms with call-center-operated back-up care – to become the gold standard.

10. Making college affordable

Paying debt is great. But what if you never accumulated it in the first place? That’s the strategy behind education perks Forbes called the best benefit you’re likely not getting. Encouragement to consider affordability over name brand doubles as a financial wellness benefit. Savings from such a trend could last for generations.

There’s lots more – flex time, diversity, happiness officers, side gigs, and believe it or not, the birth of gen alpha(!).

Check back here in the next 12 months as we cover evolving HR strategies.

Happy New Year!!

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.