By Rieva Lesonsky

Most of us small business owners start the new year with mixed emotions. We’re hopeful and optimistic about growing our businesses, yet with anxious about all the challenges we know we’ll face.

To find out what lies ahead, I’ve collected a number of tips, predictions and advice from people in the know. We’ll be exploring general consumer, financial and economic trends, as well as what to expect in the fields of marketing, technology, retail, HR and money.

We also have contributions from guest authors—just look for the What to Expect in 2019 illustration all week.


The Growth of Remote Work

Data from Recognize, an app that helps companies reward workers, shows 19.2 million people will be working remotely by 2020. Check out the infographic below for more information.


6 HR Trends You Must Pay Attention To

Jackie Breslin, Director, Human Resources Center of Expertise, at TriNet, an HR Services provider says small businesses should be prepared for:

1—Harassment prevention: TriNet anticipates a number of states will pass anti-harassment legislation. Sexual misconduct in society and the workplace will continue to be front and center for HR departments.

2—Gender identity: The conversation around identity in the workplace has transcended from bathroom access and other federal legislation to encompass all the ways of fostering an accepting workplace. Businesses looking to grow and attract top talent will need to continue to focus on creating a safe and supporting workplace for all.

3—Parental leave: States and cities are passing laws that give parents longer and often paid time to bond with their baby. Businesses are looking for guidance on parental leave policies, especially in areas where it’s already or will become a requirement.

4—Create methods to attract/retain talent: With unemployment at record lows, employers are having to turn to non-traditional benefits to attract top talent—perks that contribute to a work-life balance, such as flexible work schedules, are extremely important for employees.

5—Big data: Workforce analytics will increasingly become an important tool for businesses to harness to help them make the right strategic decisions in hiring and retaining talent.

6—Mobile and flexible: Continued development of mobile and cloud applications that allow for more flexibility to better balance employees’ personal needs and workplace responsibilities.

There’s more information in this blog post.

5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement in 2019

Guest post by Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert.

Many employees have made a New Year’s resolution to find a new job in the coming year. However, losing employees can be very costly for employers. It is estimated that around 60% of employees are either actively or passively searching for a new job, or they are being approached by other companies who want to ‘poach’ them for their own team. But, on average, replacing a salaried employee costs about $15,000 per employee. [So], it is by far much more cost-effective to make sure your employees are well-trained, well-managed and content with their positions.

How can managers and employers ensure their staffs are happy and engaged with their work?

Consider unique benefits. A recent study found employees prefer a heftier benefits package opposed to higher pay. There are many benefits which today’s employees are looking for, including whether you match a 401k, what is the value of the paid time off offered, along with medical, dental, vision and life insurance. We work with firms which offer pet insurance, which might sound funny, but it is actually a major item of interest for interested applicants. Most Americans have pets and consider them part of their family, so offering insurance for these critters can go a long way in showing that you are a compassionate and concerned employer. Companies should also consider offering tuition reimbursement plans, or paying a small amount each month towards the employees’ student loans. Today’s young people are coming out of college with massive debt, and firms which are dedicated to paying off these loans alongside their team will be a top contender.

Use anonymous surveys. Technology has made anonymous workplace surveys easier than ever before. With the help of online survey sites, you can regularly interview employees about their happiness at their job, as well as how effectively they feel they are being managed and any complaints they may have about how their experience at your company. This is beneficial for two reasons: It will help you discover hidden problems in your business, and it will help your employees to feel heard and valued as individuals.

Give back to the community. A study from Benevity, Inc. found that when companies participate in philanthropic efforts, their likelihood of retaining employees increases. In fact, when employees are actively involved in their company’s charity efforts, they are 57% less likely to jump ship.

Make on-boarding a customizable experience. On-boarding is a crucial part of bringing new employees onto your team, and a successful on-boarding process can help ensure that employees stick around for the long haul. But not everyone learns the same way, which means that not everyone should be trained the same way. Offer a variety of different training methods to help allow employees to choose the best method for them.

Write—don’t email— a thank you note. A study performed by AttaCoin found 47% of employees say that they do not feel appreciated by their employers. And only 41% of employees feel their managers effectively reward staff members who do a stellar job. Feeling unappreciated might sound like a minor complaint, but in fact, research shows that when employee efforts are not acknowledged, workers become disengaged and easily go off task. They also require more compensation for the same work, as they seek financial appreciation when emotional appreciation is unavailable. When thanking your employees, try to do so in a way that is personal and intimate. A handwritten note can feel much more meaningful than a quick email.


Democratization of HR Software for Small Business

Parijat Sarkar, Senior Director of Product Management, Zenefits, predicts:

We’ll see a continued emphasis on the democratization of HR software especially for SMBs. It’s very difficult for SMBs to get their HR functions up and running quickly because HR processes are often complicated and confusing for many, especially if there is no designated HR expert. While many SMBs know HR technology can alleviate that issue, HR software is typically not SMB-friendly as it’s often pricey, hard to implement and many are often point solutions.

In 2019, vendors will increasingly realize that SMBs need an HR platform that is not only simple and easy to use, but also cohesively caters to the many facets of HR—payroll, talent management and benefits, for example. More HR software vendors will be pressured to create a new product specific to SMBs at a reasonable price. Essentially, HR software vendors are realizing small business is a lucrative market and will adapt to get a piece of the pie.


The Future of HR

KPMG’s 2018 HR Transformation surveyThe Future of HR 2019: In the Know or In the Noshows some interesting results. Human resources leaders appear divided on the urgency to redefine its role in adapting new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, and how it will affect the future workforce, according to the new global survey of HR leaders.

While some HR leaders are confidently leveraging the resources and insights that will transform HR and its value to the enterprise, a much-larger segment of them are demonstrating a “wait-and-see” approach, according to the report.

Key findings in KPMG’s new “Future of HR 2019” study:

  • Approximately two-thirds of HR executives agree the function has undergone or is undergoing a digital transformation
  • Another 70% of those surveyed say they recognize the need for workforce transformation
  • Only 40% say they have a digital workplace in place at the organizational or HR level
  • 37% of HR executives say they feel “very confident” about HR’s ability to transform via new technologies
  • 41% say they recognize the need for workforce transformation, and 35% say the current company culture is more task-oriented than innovative or experimental
  • 42% agree that preparing the workforce for a future with AI is one of the biggest challenges HR will face over the next five years. Within the next two years, those surveyed say they’re planning investments in predictive analytics (60%), enhanced process automation (53%) and AI (47%).

Download the PDF to read the full report.


Industry Experts Share Their Predictions

From Stefano Bellasio, CEO and founder of Cloud Academy

Organizations will approach employee development from a quantifiable perspective: A skills gap continues to persist, costing organizations $258 million per year according to Rackspace. Organizations must work harder to build and retain the skills of existing talent so they can build or maintain a competitive edge in their respective industry.

To track skills growth, organizational leaders will invest in a new breed of learning solutions that track skills growth, measure effort, and offer assessment to gauge capability and opportunity. Armed the data, organizations will have the opportunity to assign context-aware training and assess employee performance to better prepare for upcoming projects.

Organizations will appoint Digital Skills Officers to manage their team’s technical skills: In our discussions with customers, they frequently share a disconnect between their existing training program and the skills their teams need in order to be successful. Often times, training is offered without structure and does not align with technical goals.

We predict that organizations will appoint Digital Skills Officers to help manage their team’s technical skills in an effort to create structure in their training efforts. Digital Skills Officers work closely with the office of the CTO and CIO to align training efforts with technical roadmaps, focusing on contextualized training to drive successful learning outcomes.

From Matt Thomas, President of WorkSmart Systems

AI to assist workplace functions: While many people worry that artificial intelligence has the ability to replace the need for a human workforce, the reality is that AI can be a positive assistant to humans rather than a threat. AI software utilizes machine learning to reduce the need for repetitive tasks. These automated processes create the time for HR executives to focus more on advanced strategy for the business as a whole, rather than mundane, day-to-day tasks.

Utilizing AI in HR will create a more streamlined recruiting process. For example, AI can scan for keywords in applications that align with job descriptions and weed out hundreds of applicants based on set criteria—before the hiring team even looks at resumes.

New technology will propel learning and development into the future. The abilities of advanced learning management systems take employee training to a new level by implementing cognitive decision support. For example, instant feedback on mood and tone following a client call, as well as comprehensive team training tools, and a more personalized onboarding process.

Remote work will continue to change the workplace landscape: It’s no secret that remote work has become increasingly popular in the United States. In 2016, 43% of the workforce said they spent at least some time working remotely. As the number of remote employees continues to rise, so do the challenges associated with this trend. In 2019 employers will have to stress effective communication practices. Encouraging the use of video chat, or even the old school phone call, can help clear up any potential issues remote work may cause.

From Darren Bounds, Founder and CEO of Breezy HR

AI makes hiring more human: How can recruitment benefit from a full range of machine learning tools in 2019? Let us count the ways! As Terry Hoffmann, President of Hoffmann Coaching so beautifully puts it:

“AI serves both candidates and employers as both struggle to access humans. One tosses an electronic application into the bottomless abyss. The other sorts through mountains of unmanageable data. Both are searching for the perfect fit. As automation advances and highly relevant analytics are leveraged, employers and candidates will increasingly focus on what matters most, a mutually great fit”.

Josh Bersin breaks that down into exactly what this could mean for your hiring success, “So you could imagine an AI system that looks at all the possible demographics, job history, and interview questions with a candidate and then predicts how well they will perform on the job.” Cool, huh?

But biased patterns lead to biased outcomes and talent acquisition pros would be wise to use AI with caution. As Bersin suggests, AI can help recruiters make better decisions by taking the grunt work off their plate but what you choose to do with that extra time is what really matters. Will you send better outreach emails? Connect with a candidate over SMS? Host a strategy sesh to align with your hiring teams?

Unless they’re helping you create a better, more fulfilling candidate experience, automation and AI just aren’t worth the hype.

Culture comes under scrutiny: According to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, the world’s largest talent demographic has become pretty disillusioned with employer brands.

The annual deep dive of 10,455 millennials and 1,844 Gen Z workers around the globe found only 48% of respondents believe corporations are committed to helping improve society, compared to 65% in 2017. “Loyalty must be earned, and the vast majority of millennials are prepared to move, and move quickly, for a better workplace experience,” say the report’s authors.

Combine this growing sense of skepticism with a workforce that is generally overworked and overwhelmed and you may see more candidates jumping ship for the gig-based work model. Unless you can convince them otherwise.

In a recent episode of Basecamp’s Rework podcast, founder Jason Fried made a bold callout of our current working culture, which he describes as a “modern interruption factory.” Jason posits that the toxic “hustle” myth may become more and more apparent to workers to the point that, although they might not have the power to change it, they will at least change the way they view job opportunities.

Moving forward, don’t be surprised if your candidates are scrutinizing not only your mission but also your overarching outlook on work, including the work/life perks and benefits to back that up.

From Stephane Donze, CEO of AODocs

Internal communication gets an upgrade: Corporate intranets that are clunky and have low adoption rates will meet their demise in 2019. While these programs have good intentions, execution is poor leading users to adopt non-sanctioned tools to do their jobs, resulting in shadow IT. To help combat shadow IT, CIOs will focus on solutions for social collaboration inside an organization, like a chatbot, that provides both a strong user experience while ensuring compliance with existing processes and regulation.”

From Jeff Ton, SVP, Product Development and Strategic Alliances at InterVision

The digital transformation of the office is coming: Virtual assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, have been around for several years now. They continue to evolve and gain new functions. Combining these technologies with smart home devices have changed the way we live. In 2019, they will change the way we work. Imagine saying, “Siri, please book my trip to LA.” Siri, knowing your preferred airline, and car rental agency makes all the necessary arrangements. She also knows your travel preferences and can make decisions, such as your desire to never fly east to go west or to schedule the red-eye so you can make it home to celebrate your granddaughter’s birthday. After making all the bookings, your calendar is automatically updated with confirmation numbers, and she remembers to check in for your flights exactly 24 hours in advance.

From Kevin Van Mondfrans, Senior Director of Product Management at InterVision

Security personnel will be the biggest IT talent pain point: With technology being the foundation for modern business, IT talent will always be in high demand. More specific within this demand, the largest challenge for talent retention resides in highly-qualified security professionals. According to CyberSeek, 17,000 openings for Information Security Analysts, cybersecurity’s largest position, went unfilled from 2017 to 2018. Given the rapidly-evolving cyberthreat landscape, companies will take greater risks to acquire the right talent, poaching to make up for shortages. As this poaching across the marketplace ramps up, it means your own business could face losing key personnel. You will need to get creative, especially if your business is mid-sized or small. Often this creativity will push more companies to engage with expert third parties to close their security gaps.”

From Russ Perry, CEO of Design Pickle

Gig economy growth: The gig economy will continue to grow in 2019, but “marketplace” style job postings, where anyone can be an expert, will no longer meet the needs of those looking to hire. Instead, companies will want to find individuals to hire that actually feel like part of a team (at the cost benefit of hiring on a gig basis). Right now, we’re seeing a merging of the gig economy and the traditional, full-time employment model. It’s a model where both quality and quantity are maximized—the best of both worlds. Since sales and marketing teams are always the first to feel the squeeze during tough times, it’s important that they lower costs in 2019—leveraging the gig economy is one way to get that done. In 2019, there will be no more hoping, bidding and waiting for jobs in the marketplace. We’ll see consistent gig employment that gives employees the flexibility they want and gives brands the stability they need.


Finding Employees

Job Seekers Use Social Media to Land New Jobs

Nearly 15% of people use social media to find a new job, according to a new survey from Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm. This means you need to be recruiting on social media platforms. Social media use in recruiting varies by industry. For example, recruiters in creative fields can identify candidates on visual platforms like Instagram, while traditional businesses are more likely to discover candidates on LinkedIn.

Some social media platforms, including Facebook, are launching their own recruiting platforms for businesses. Recruiters can gather job applications, conduct interviews, and even extend offers without leaving the platform.

“If you have everything on your mobile phone—if that’s your entertainment, news, work, and communication tool—why not make it easy for people to apply to a job all in one place?” says Michael Loguidice, a social media coordinator for Labor Finders, a staffing company that uses Facebook to place candidates in temporary roles.

Networking remains valuable, helping 25% of people secure a new job: Traditional networking is still an effective option for companies and job seekers, even as digital channels become more popular—25% of recent hires landed their current job through networking. But don’t limit your recruiting to the same networks to ensure you recruit a diverse group of employees.

To diversify their networks, companies can connect with professional associations such as the National Association of Asian American Professionals or the National Black MBA Association. Companies can also hire recruiting firms that specialize in increasing diversity.

Strategic networking can connect companies with qualified candidates while also increasing diversity.

Online job boards remain essential to recruiting: Online job boards have effectively replaced traditional job postings in newspapers. More than 40% of job seekers secure new roles through online job boards, the survey found. This includes general job boards such as Indeed and Monster (33%) and industry-specific job boards such USAJOBS (8%).

But, says Jenna Filipkowski, head of research at Human Capital Institute, “Going to a general job board may be the first step. If they find what they’re looking for there, they don’t necessarily need to take the deeper dive.”

Online job boards are especially effective for women—44% of women surveyed found a job using an online job board, compared to 33% of men.

You can read the full report here.


The Challenge of Attracting Employees

Small business owners believe ‘attracting strong, competent management and dedicated, capable staff’ plus ‘offering competitive compensation and benefits’ will be the top two most challenging issues they face in the next 12 months, according to a study of nearly 300 U.S. small business owners by Oasis Outsourcing, a leading Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and HR solutions firm.

Compared to the past year, which of the following HR administration issues do you believe will become more challenging for your business over the next 12 months? 


33% Attracting strong, competent management and dedicated, capable staff
31% Offering competitive compensation and benefits
26% High employee turnover
23% Developing employees and future leaders for succession
20% Building a positive brand and culture
19% Maintaining ongoing regulatory compliance
18% Measuring and managing employee performance
16% Managing the hiring process and tracking applicants (e.g. posting jobs, tracking flow of applicants, onboarding, etc.)
16% Creating operational efficiencies with overall HR administration


“Small businesses need to compete in a tight labor market with much larger employers – that can offer more robust compensation and benefits packages to lure and retain the best talent,” says Gerald Purgay, Chief Marketing Officer with Oasis. “Running a small business requires leading a motivated group of people to be as productive as possible so you can drive growth and manage and reduce costs,” adds Purgay. “But finding and keeping quality talent is tough. As the survey results demonstrate, people management can be time-consuming, complicated and costly. To find and keep the best people, small business owners need to continuously explore options to offer great benefits and competitive compensation—these are the table stakes. But it takes more than this to attract the best and brightest. Today’s job seekers consider all aspects of a company—fit, culture, reputation, and the ability to have a work/life balance.”

Purgay observes that savvy SMB owners outsource nonrevenue producing tasks like HR administration. “Only 14% of survey respondents said they had experience with outsourcing HR administration, and a further 7% reported they ‘didn’t know this was an option.’ Which opens opportunities to more broadly socialize the value of having an HR partner to help drive their workforce and people initiatives and help them to keep a competitive edge.”

For those with experience in outsourcing HR administration, the top three services most frequently outsourced were ‘payroll administration’ (58%), ‘401(k)’ (42%), and ‘benefits’ (40%).


Keeping Up with Job Hopping Employees

The latest data from Adtaxi sheds light on the tendency of today’s job seekers to play a game of musical ‘job’ chairs. The in-depth assessment of job seekers’ goals, habits and preferences reveals that 52% of employed Americans are either currently looking or plan to look for a new job this year. Of the individuals planning to look for a job within the year, 54% searched for their last job less than a year ago.

“While it is often debated whether ‘job hopping’ is beneficial or detrimental, the fact of the matter is this practice is on the rise,” says Chris Loretto, EVP of Adtaxi. “Thanks to search engines, online job boards and social media, looking for a new opportunity is simpler than ever before—after all, information on any given company is only a click away. This makes it easier to routinely switch jobs.”

Additional findings

Most job seekers browse online—so that’s where you should look for them: 61% of those planning to search for a job within the next year will conduct an internet search, while 59% will turn to a job board website. The most popular site? Indeed—which all 59% plan to use.

But networking remains important: Even in the digital age, it’s about who you know—41% of those planning to search for a job within the next year will network and communicate via word of mouth, beating out the 39% who will browse LinkedIn.

Many job seekers are industry hopping: Not only has job hopping become common, but industry hopping as well—35% of those planning to search for a job within the next year say they will look outside of the industry they are currently working in.

The results underscore a number of crucial considerations for those recruiting:

Consider commuting preferences when geo-targeting job seekers and promoting listings. 49% of those planning to search for a job within the next year are willing to relocate out of state for a new position—but when it comes to commuting, the shorter, the better: 58% of job seekers are not willing to commute more than 30 minutes.

Hit on key messaging points in marketing materials. The #1 factor job seekers identify as the most important is salary/compensation (34%), followed by benefits (13%), company reputation (12%), work-life balance (11%), and company culture (11%).

Incorporate YouTube, connected TV, social video or pre-roll ads in your strategy. The best way to showcase your company culture? With a video: 63% of job seekers would rather see a video about a company’s culture than read about it during their search.

“While posting on job boards offers companies visibility among active job seekers, advertising beyond these websites is key to reaching—and converting—today’s growing demographic of passive job seekers,” Loretto says. “[Businesses] can benefit from leveraging this data to inform a multifaceted digital strategy. Engaging job seekers with video, utilizing key messaging that resonates strongly with their goals, and employing thoughtful geo-targeting tactics are all integral to attracting top talent in a crowded market where competition for job seeker attention is fierce.”


Small Businesses are Competing for Talent

More than half of recently hired employees (58%) say their job search lasted two months or less, according to a survey from Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm. The findings reflect a tight job market that favors job seekers, forcing businesses to act quickly to secure talent.
Approximately 30% of recent hires spent three to six months job hunting compared to 13% who spent more than six months looking for a job. Because applicants complete the job search quickly, they’re applying to fewer jobs overall.

Companies that make quick hiring decisions are more likely to secure talent: Most recent hires moved through the interview process quickly before receiving an offer—43% of recent hires (43%) say they received a job offer less than two weeks after beginning the application process. Companies that move quickly to interview, streamline the number of interviews, and make an offer are in a better position to secure employees, experts say.

Among recently hired startup employees, 55% say they received an offer at their current company within two weeks of beginning the application process, compared to slower recruiting processes at small (47%), medium-sized (37%), and large businesses (41%).

The interview process impacts 90% of employees’ views of a company: 91% of recent hires say the interview process influences their overall opinion of a company, including 40% who say the interview process strongly impacts their opinion.

It you want to attract employees, experts stress you should carefully curate your online presence, paying special attention to their online reviews.

You can read the full report here.


Is Hiring Temps Risky?

If you hire temporary and seasonal workers, it’s smart to have workers’ compensation insurance—and adjust it accordingly when bringing on new temporary workers. According to a survey of small business owners from Insureon and Manta: 

35% of small business owners say hiring temporary workers as risky. Why?

  • 34% say temporary workers lack the necessary experience.
  • 25% think they possess poor customer service skills due to lack of training.
  • 22% say they are more likely to steal merchandise or disclose sensitive company information.
  • 19% think they are more likely to get injured in the workplace.

HR stock photo by tomertu/Shutterstock