The expected trends in 2016 for the field of human resource management have the potential to significantly change our workplaces. These changes include, but are not limited to, the areas of classification status for the exempt/non-exempt employees, benefits and retention strategies.

Employee Classification
First, the Department of Labor continues to have a significant focus on ensuring organizations are accurately classifying their exempt/non-exempt employees. Audits and investigations are expected to increase, and organizations must ensure they have accurately classified each job position. However, one of the most critical issues under scrutiny, regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) standards, is related to the potential for change of the exempt/non-exempt classification status as established by the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division. Under this proposed legislation, the income requirement to be considered exempt will increase from $455 per week to $970 per week. This increase proposed by the DOL seeks to revise the regulations implementing the FLSA’s exemption for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and certain computer employees.

The financial impact to organizations if this legislation passes in 2016 will be significant and will impact nonprofit organizations, state and local governments as well as those organizations existing in lower income areas. As your organization finalizes and implements its HR strategy for 2016 and beyond, it must be prepared for the potential of this change as it will clearly impact performance management, compensation strategy and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Employee Benefits
Employee benefits and other rewards are another key trend to address in 2016. First, consumer-driven health plans will continue to become a greater part of organizational strategy as organizations attempt to prepare for the 2018 excise tax. High deductible health plans, telemedicine as well as health savings accounts or health reimbursements accounts will be the focus in 2016 and going forward.

Additional benefits that may be expected would include offering financial wellness support for employees as well as additional creative and individualized benefit offerings. Additional employee benefits will need to address those related to time off, hours worked and telecommuting. Both workflex and telework strategies need to be developed. As technological advances continue and globalization exponentially increases, employees are looking at the competition in terms of who will offer them the most with regard to work-life balance and opportunities for professional and personal development. The incoming generations are seeking customization in their employee benefit offerings.

Retention Strategies
One of the greatest trends that employers must address is that of recruiting and retaining skilled workers. With Baby Boomers continuing to retire by the thousands on a daily basis, their primary replacements will be the millennial generation—Generation Y—making up the majority of the workplace by 2018. As these employees, as well as those in Generation Z, average 24-30 months in a position, companies are losing opportunities to train and retain these workers. Therefore, in order to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage, companies are first going to need to identify effective recruitment strategies that include marketing their company as an employer-of-choice. To do so, organizations will need to recognize what these generations are seeking in their employers.

In order to attract and retain these workers, organizations must be willing to be flexible and change in ways that are both feasible and effective.

Once employed, there must be an intentional focus on retention of these young professionals. Keys to retention include, as previously stated: customized benefits, mentoring, coaching and opportunities for growth. Another interesting note on recruiting and retaining this generation of employees is their keen interest in working for organizations that are intentional in their social responsibility strategies as corporations. Finally, organizations must be willing to invest in training to ensure that skill gaps have been addressed before the corporate knowledge contained by our Baby Boomers and Gen Xers is lost due to retirement and other causes of attrition.

It will be imperative to ensure your organization remains abreast of the impending legislative changes and is strategically prepared to respond to these changes. With several anticipated rulings coming in 2016, it will be necessary to proactively prepare your organization. Finally, organizations that create a corporate culture strategically focused on its employees will make great strides in assimilating with the anticipated HR trends.

By Colleen McLaughlin