Five things to watch out for in 2019

As an end to a relatively tumultuous 2018 draws into clear view - and Santa ponders whether next year he should be micro-chipping his workforce - it makes sense to reflect on what 2019 might have in store for us. It’s likely to be another year of external shocks and high internal expectations.

This is less a list of HR predictions for 2019 and more a list of 5 things that I believe will be worth keeping an eye on over the coming year.

1. Brexit dominates the headlines for the first few months of the year - and will to consume political energy for the rest of the year

As I write this it is unclear as to what tumultuous once in a generation events might happen by the end of the day. We’ve recently seen:

  • someone picking up the mace in the Chamber
  • a vote on whether votes should take place
  • the government being found guilty of contempt
  • a debate about whether live debates should be scheduled around ‘I’m a Celebrity’
  • a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister
  • a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit
  • an amendment to the second no confidence vote

This level of change and uncertainty has become the norm and is likely to continue in the UK until at least March (for obvious reasons). There is hope of some calm after the storm and the latter stages of the year should see some predictability return to the political arena.

In the meantime, employers need to understand the workforce challenges they could face and ensure they’ve got plans in place to minimise disruption, such as investing in skills.

2. #MeToo continues to make progress. NDAs/Settlement Agreements face more scrutiny

Following a year of high profile cases we can expect employers to keep increasing their overdue focus on creating safer and more inclusive work environments. Deloitte’s recent reveal that it has dismissed 20 partners in the last 4 years for inappropriate behaviours shows an increasing appetite for transparency. The current government consultation on NDAs suggests that change is coming and that consultation will continue. It is worth noting that whilst we obviously have a duty as a profession to put policy into practice, the real challenges are behavioural and cultural. These are areas of expertise for us and with commitment and resolve we can really make a difference for people in 2019.

3. Gender pay gap reporting continues to bring much needed focus

We’ll continue to see action on the gender pay gap and an increasing call for greater transparency over workforce matters - we are already seeing this through the push for ethnicity pay gap reporting. Organisations are increasingly looking at ways to address the gender pay gap, which should also help to shed light on the systemic causes of it.

Fairness and consistency of access to jobs and salaries are things people should be universally entitled to and expectant of – regardless of ethnicity, gender, disability or background.

4. Evidence based HR continues to grow in influence

At the heart of our new Profession Map is a call to be more principles-led, evidence-based and outcomes-driven. I think 2019 will be a big year for evidence-based HR - there has never been as much noise in the profession around potential solutions and resistance to fads, whilst embracing creativity and experimentation. This will be invaluable in the coming years.

As HR grows in influence, it’s important that our work makes the best possible difference to organisations and the people within them.

5. OD moves to the centre ground

Linked to this will be an increasing influence of techniques and approaches from organisational development. One of the most positive things I heard on a regular basis during 2018 was the desire from HR and people functions to be more joined up, integrated and thorough in their solutions. There’s a will to attack problems from multiple angles to improve the chances of really driving sustained change in organisations. That includes creating environments that support learning and development day in and day out, rather than just offering one off training interventions which can seem attractive but don’t deliver.

HR is a rich and complex field. We need to mix insights from different disciplines so we can be both visionary and practical. Whilst the external environment may change in any number of ways in 2019, the importance of doing our work well will never be higher.

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  • Why does #EthnicityPayGap #RacialDisparity not appear on your/CIPD’s top 5? Yet gender pay gap is seen as both a priority and as something separate despite the context of intersectionality with race and wider inequality related to class and disability. Growing inequality led to Brexit vote and the rise in a xenophobic tone when talking about immigration. Immigration is another related top issue yet few employers who rely on it have made a positive case for it, including CIPD. It further illustrates to talk about ethnicity pay gap you would have to talk about racism, but I guess it’s only worthy of a brief ‘tick box’ conversations for some to get good PR but not any measurable change. There is added discomfort of raising racism at a structural level when no one at the centre sees it as a top priority lest they be seen as complicit in maintaining the status quo. Does the CIPD genuinely wish to influence the profession to see race/ethnicity as a priority? If so, CIPD should be leading on this discussion and shifting the conversation to talk about white identity, white privilege and white fragility but is still playing catch up by approaching the topic from an outdated premise. This is further evidenced by still not explaining after decades why it still does not monitor ethnicity of its membership to raise questions about the lack of diversity that mirrors line management it is seeking to influence or barriers to access other professions for social mobility. How seriously has CIPD considered rolling out discussions about race at branch level to effect more lived experiences? The glacial pace of change on racism and wider Diversity and inclusion is evidenced by the very low comments on this topic on CIPD community discussions and articles. Sometimes lack of engagement speaks volumes; so perhaps a radically different approach is required?