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Three global HR and leadership trends for 2017

As 2017 really gets going, we identify three over-arching, interrelated trends that will shape the direction of HR and leadership around the world this year.


1. Data analytics and machine learning technologies will become more fully integrated into work processes. Forward-thinking companies like Google already use people analytics as the foundational building block of their HR departments, and more companies will follow suit in 2017, adopting data -driven approaches to their people practices, programs, and processes. More generally, big data and machine learning technologies will be used to support a broad range of HR and leadership strategic objectives. For example, big data and machine learning technologies are what will support the integration of a consumer mindset into HR solutions, informing HR’s understanding of talent care needs and enabling more personalized employee experiences.
2. At the same time, there will be increasing focus on how to make companies more human – on prioritizing and celebrating what makes them human. Companies are becoming savvier about the dangers of over-idealizing new technologies. As AI and big data pushes us towards the quantification of everything, there is increasing talk of the need for a radical new humanism in the design and organization of work structures and processes. To manage the risks of evolving technologies in 2017, companies will focus on becoming more human, on prioritizing and celebrating what makes them human:

• Refocusing on the emotional and social aspects of our work and organizations
• Questioning the implications of big data for human choice and creativity: Next to the fear that robots will become human enough to replace us, there is the fear that, with ever more reliable and precise algorithms to guide our choices, “humans will become more like machines”
• Valuing creativity over efficiency: Creativity remains a uniquely human skill, hence the growing recognition and respect for the messiness and inefficiency of human creative processes, characterized by trial-and-error and experimentation.
• Valuing questions over answers: linked to collective intelligence, an emphasis on speaking up and questioning also acts as a safeguard. More and more, companies will focus on training people how to think critically and question the technologies with which they increasingly partner.

To manage the risks of evolving technologies in 2017, companies will focus on becoming more human, on prioritizing and celebrating what makes them human


3. To keep up with rapidly evolving technologies and the pace of change, the trend is to invest more in learning & development – to commit to becoming truly learning companies. Finally, to keep up with the rapid change associated with new technologies, in 2017 more companies will increase their investment in L&D. As the pace of change picks up and tasks that could formerly only be done by humans are automate, there is growing recognition of the need to adapt talent to keep up. While one trend might to spend more on learning, another focus is the fact that learning ultimately comes down to individuals. This is why more companies will also focus on empowering talent to take control of their development and learn on-the-job by solving problems that matter and exchanging knowledge and expertise with others.

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Caroline Schuurman
Published by Caroline Schuurman