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Jim Rebar
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New Trends Join Returning Topics in SIOP’s 6th Annual Top 10 Workplace Trends

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is pleased to announce its sixth annual Top 10 Workplace Trends list. Based on member surveys, these are the issues that will have the most impact on the workplace in 2019. Many of the entries in this year’s list, including job automation, #metoo, and diversity and inclusion, have appeared in previous lists. Newly trending topics include work–life balance, agile organizations, and data visualization.

The Top 10 Workplace Trends represent broad, complex issues of modern society posing difficult challenges to the business world. Industrial-organizational psychologists can help organizations grappling with these issues find solutions that are right for their organizations and their staff.  I-O psychologists study workplace issues of critical relevance to business, including talent management, coaching, assessment, selection, training, organizational development, performance, and work–life balance.

To create this list, SIOP asked its members for their predictions based on their interactions with clients and colleagues, compiled those responses, and asked members to select the top 10 issues organizations are likely to face in 2019. More than 800 members responded, and here’s what they had to say:

10. WorkLife Balance Interventions

The work–family interface continues to play an important role in modern organizations. Technologically facilitated communication mediums such as social media, emails, and instant messaging continue to blur the line between work and family. When demands from home and work life compete for attention, employees are often faced with difficult decisions. More than ever before, organizations are concerned with the long-term impact of work–family balance on employee productivity, attitudes, and mental health. I-O psychologists can support organizations in creating evidence-based interventions and solutions to meet the multiple roles of their employees. Such interventions may include opportunities for telework and flexible schedules, family-oriented programs, and managerial training.

9. Creating Agile Organizations

Organizations need to be more agile in the future. In this context, agility means being able to move quickly and easily to accelerate growth. Agile organizations are characterized by clarity around strategic objectives, alignment of organizational goals, and increased efficacy. Organizations must be comfortable with rapidly adapting and failing fast while learning from those failures. They must break large and complex problems into smaller pieces that can be solved in an incremental manner. Agile organizations are willing to allow unimportant priorities to fall to the wayside, so they can focus on the most valuable work. I-O psychologists focused on change management and organizational development can provide support and expertise in transforming traditional organizations into agile organizations.

8. Data Visualization and Communication

Organizations have access to massive amounts of data that can be used to make sound, data-driven decisions. However, the interpretability of data is—arguably—limited given the esoteric nature of statistical evidence and the knowledge of statistics required for interpretation. Data visualization can enhance the interpretation of data and facilitate organizational decision making. Practitioners and researchers are increasingly interested in best practices for displaying, visualizing, and communicating statistical evidence to relevant organizational stakeholders. As a data-driven profession, I-O psychologists can help organizations effectively use the large amount of data through the use of data visualization techniques to communicate and make evidence-based decisions.

7. The Changing Nature of Work

For the third year in a row, we find the changing nature of work on our Top 10 Workplace Trends list. The Information Age has been marked by rapid change as a result of the advances in information technology. The workplace has been, and continues to be, greatly impacted by these changing times. Employees are demanding more of their organizations and organizations are demanding more of their employees. Technology allows employees to be continuously connected to their work and gives them the ability to perform their jobs from anywhere.  This removes the requirement of offices and traditional work hours. The work itself has been impacted also, as different skills are needed to perform jobs now than were needed in the past. As new technologies are introduced, the world of work will continue to evolve. I-O psychologists can play a key role in helping leaders with this transformation by defining the skills needed to perform jobs and helping redesign organizations to support the evolution of work.

6. Automation of Jobs and Tasks

With the rise of automation, there is concern jobs will be eliminated. However, according to a 2018 paper, automation will take place on a task-by-task basis, making it unlikely automation will eliminate entire jobs.  Automation will reshape jobs by impacting the specific tasks of the job. This puts emphasis on creating a flexible workforce, one that can adapt and learn new skills to remain relevant in a working world where tasks have been automated. As jobs change, I-O psychologists working in job specific specialties such as selection, training, and compensation can help leaders ensure jobs are clearly defined including their automated processes.

5. Sexual Harassment; #MeToo at Work

In 2018 we witnessed a watershed moment for change, with countless victims sharing stories of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. The #MeToo movement remains a top trend for 2019. The opportunity now exists for organizations to invest resources into creating more inclusive, respectful workplaces; to promote and train leaders on appropriate workplace conduct; and to continue to hold bad actors accountable for their behaviors. Organizations should also consider the impact of the #MeToo movement on existing employees and implement support and mentoring practices that will help women gain access to senior leadership positions and promote more equitable power dynamics in the workplace. I-O psychologists working on workplace culture and climate, gender issues, workplace safety, legal issues, and civility can help inform and direct organizations’ responses to the problem of sexual harassment and develop preventative interventions in the workplace.

4. “Gig Economy” – Contract Work

Moving up six spots from number 10 in 2018, to number 4 this year, the gig economy continues to be a significant part of the overall economy.  According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10.8% of total workers, or 16.5 million people, are considered gig workers (contingent workers or independent contractors).  As the gig economy continues to grow, organizations will have a higher reliance on contract workers rather than full time employees, gig workers will need to market their skills directly to their consumers, and coworking spaces will increase in demand. I-O psychologists can support leaders in managing this shift by providing insight on designing organizations with gig workers in mind, as well as interventions to motivate and manage the performance of gig workers.

3. Working With Big Data

Working with big data continues to be a focus for organizations. Data are collected more frequently than ever and new data sources continue to emerge. The increasing availability of data offers an exciting opportunity to understand the nuance and dynamism of human behavior within organizations, and thus better inform business strategy and initiatives. I-O psychologists have highly relevant expertise to share in organizational and individual behavior, research methods, and analysis. By playing a role in the types of data collected, influencing hypotheses and questions asked, I-O psychologists can ensure that organizations not only have more data than ever but more useful data than ever.  Watch a brief informative video on using big data in business applications here.

2. Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

First appearing on the top trends list for 2015, diversity, inclusion, and equity incentives have been a top subject with tremendous impact on organizations. Although there have been strides in research on topics such as gender, ethnicity, and LGBT communities, the continued dominance of these topics demonstrates that we still have room for improvement. In today’s organizations, leadership, employees, and other stakeholders demand inclusion and equity in the workplace. I-O psychologists can help leaders really make a positive difference in their organizations by developing unbiased selection and testing practices, analyzing the outcomes associated with diversity and inclusion, and increasing organizational efficacy through modernized and dynamic training.

And the #1 trend this year…

1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become much more prominent in business processes recently, and together they are the number one trend for 2019.  Artificial intelligence and machine learning are useful for leveraging the growing amounts of data available to organizations in creating increased efficiency and generating new insights. As artificial intelligence and machine learning become more common, I-O psychologists can lead the way in the appropriate use of data and algorithms, the interpretation of results, and in ensuring the legal defensibility of data models and their usage. I-O psychologists can also help leaders by understanding their employees’ reactions to their new AI “coworkers” through attitude surveys and by developing interventions to help employees adapt to the change. As both of these techniques continue to gain traction, it will be critical for organizations to include I-O psychologists on their data science teams to leverage   expertise in psychological theory and methods in ensuring optimal outcomes for organizations.

Using I-O Psychology to Solve Business Challenges

SIOP members are I-O psychologists who work in business, government and academia. Several act as consultants, and you can find an expert to help with your organization’s workforce challenges by selecting a topic from the dropdown consultant service list in the SIOP Consultant Locator.

Learn more about practical business applications of I-O psychology in the SIOP Hot Topics White Papers.

This year’s Top Ten Workplace Trends list was compiled by the SIOP Communications Department and the Media Subcommittee of SIOP’s Visibility Committee based on two online surveys sent to approximately 8,000 SIOP members from October of 2018 to December of 2018. Read previous Top 10 Trends lists here.

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