HR Trends and Themes for 2018 – 2020

By Charles Creppy


2018 – 2020 is trending to be revolutionary years for Human Resources Management; resulting from new developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), HR Transformation, Harassment, Diversity and Generational Inclusion, Working Virtual, Smart Office, the end Performance Appraisals, Pay Equity and People Analytics.

Most of these developments are not new; they are simply the reincarnation of old buzzwords, concepts and discoveries.

John McCarthy’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) concept, for example, was first brought to the fore by I.J. Good in 1959, when he said “in 20 years (or by 1979), people will not have much to do” when AI is fully embedded in the workplace. Good’s prediction had taken more than 60 years for scientists and programmers to move the needle further to utilize a few of the benefits of AI.

Another example of a buzzword that has recently gained currency in HR is “Transformation”. Today most initiatives and change initiatives labelled “HR Transformation” when they are improvements in HR processes using change management techniques.

Listed below are some leading HR Trends and Themes that will engage the attention of Human Resources Management professionals as we close another decade.


  • HR Transformation & the Future of Work (Robotics, AI & Blockchain Technology)

Human resources professionals continue to lead organizational change initiatives and projects to improve productivity. However, they will have to go beyond these projects to embark on enterprise-wide transformations of human resources that involve the redefining of work processes to accomplish future visions and strategy of their organizations.Robots that specialized in repetitive work will eventually take over the work of some employees in the workplace, especially in manufacturing and aligned industries.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) applications will affect a significant number of jobs in all sectors of the Canadian economy. A recent report on the future of work (McKinsey, 2017) suggests that as many as 375 million workers around the world may have to switch occupational categories and learn new skills. The report also highlighted about 60% of jobs, and at least one-third of work can be automated using AI. Human resources professional roles in recruitment (e.g. through the reinvention of the human recruiter), talent search, HR assistants and advisors are some of the jobs that will be negatively impacted immediately by AI.

The good news is that the applications of AI will usher Human Resources Management into its golden age of being a true partner in organizational strategic decision making. According to a recently published paper: A New Age of Opportunities What does Artificial Intelligence mean for HR Professionals, by the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario (HRPA, 2017), AI has already made a significant impact on HR in Ontario, Canada. The HRPA paper based on a 500 member response to their survey out of a possible 23,000 registered members or 2.2 percent who could be speaking for a select group of HR professionals in the country. However, highlights of the report indicated, AI will facilitate HR services by:

  • Reducing the administrative workload,
  • Introducing efficiencies in recruitment,
  • Mitigating some biases especially in recruitment, and
  • Improving employee retention and internal career mobility

The HRPA and the PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) report “Artificial Intelligence in HR: a No-brainer” also published in 2017, which reported that AI in HR would immediately create the following efficiencies:

  • Eliminate repetitive task (administrative workload)
  • Accelerate the search for talent (recruitment efficiencies)
  • Reduce employee attrition ( and retention), and
  • Improve employee engagement (including internal career mobility)

Finally, the application of blockchain technologies will facilitate employment references and provide access to previous payroll records for recruitment and hiring.


  • Workplace Harassment

2017 ended with several stories of sexual discrimination and harassment in the media and damage to the reputation of some companies and placed some employers on notice for significant lawsuits. These accusations led to the resignation or termination of many male executives, celebrities, and politicians. Organizations would now have to take proactive steps to reduce complaints of harassment through the adoption of zero tolerance harassment policies, training and cultural change initiatives. Workplace harassment could be a sub-topic for an HR forum or Conference.


  • Diversity and Generational Inclusion (workplace fit)

Diversity and generational inclusion will dominate the agenda of human resources professionals during the next few years as organizations grow into global entities and welcome new generations of employees into the workplace. This year the first group of generation Z college graduates will enter the workforce full-time in North America, creating a varied quilt of employees in the workforce. Managing a mixed generation of gen X and millennials leading, while boomers and traditionalist migrate to project and consultative contractor roles will lead to the demand for new soft skill sets. Other skills that will be brought into the workplace include cellphone texting, forming online communities, on-demand mobile learning and managing online behaviour outside the workplace.


  • Flex Time, Remote, and Freelance Work

Most of the surveys conducted in 2017 indicate that most workers and job seekers are looking for remote work. The concepts of “smart office”, “free address”, working virtual and working from home are some of the features of the gig economy. 2017 employees’ survey reports from Workplace Analytics, Gallup and others, also found that telecommuting and working from home is on the rise. To reduce employee turnover, it is sometimes recommended that companies invest in hybrid work-live spaces (live-work) rentals.Some of the employee surveys conducted in 2017 indicate that freelancers are proactively building job-relevant skill sets than their counterparts who are employed by companies. As many as 65% of independent workers claimed they are studying to stay on top of career developments as jobs and skills evolve, in contrast to 45% of non-freelance workers.


  • Productivity and Performance Management

In recent years focus has shifted again to increase productivity as new people have been hired following the recent recession of 2008 in North America. Changes in the management of performance, assessment of competencies and goal setting had led to new methods for measuring productivity.Employers are currently devising new technics of measuring employee productivity and coaching to improve future performance.

Issues of concern to most employers in Canada that may impact productivity include the legalization of marijuana, increase consumption of recreational drugs and substance abuse.


  • Pay Equity, Fair Compensation, and Benefits

Even though transparency is a core value for many companies, provincial governments in Canada are actively working against workplace practices that favour some male employees over female employees in pay. New employment legislation is currently addressing differences in wages and benefits between permanent employees and agency employees in Ontario. In 2018 management of organizations will be spending some of their time ensuring their companies are compliant to pay equity and other employment legislation.



Suggested Conference Themes for HR

  • The future of HR is Now
  • HR Transformations – The Best Fit for your Organization
  • Re-Inventing Human Resources: A guide to Meet Current and Future Challenges to Achieve Success
  • The Performance Review Impasse: How To Reform Performance Assessment and Goals Setting for Employee Success
  • People Analytics: Data Moves Beyond HR (Predictive Analysis)

For more information on how to facilitate any presentation and implement any of the Themes recommend for Human Resources in your organization, contact Charles Creppy by email at [email protected]