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2020 HR Trends: Industry Poll + Interview

SmartBrief readers share their top human resources concerns for 2020, plus an interview with the editor of SmartBrief on Workforce.

5 min read


2020 HR Trends:  Industry Poll + Interview


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In December of 2019, SmartBrief polled readers from four trending newsletters to gauge their priorities for 2020. Accompanying our poll results is an interview with SmartBrief on Workforce’s editor, Kanoe Namahoe, on her outlook for the year.


We recently ran an end-of-year poll in SmartBrief on Workforce asking readers about their top priorities for 2020. Which human resources trend do you personally think people should care about most this year and why?

Leadership and employee morale and engagement are the top issues SmartBrief on Workforce readers say matter to them. When we look at the stories that engaged readers over the past year, the stories that rise to the top are those that expose poor leadership and toxic environments and those that spotlight ways employers can improve morale and better support their work teams.

We believe that improving employee support will be a top priority in 2020. We expect employers to create initiatives that go beyond enhanced perks, like on-site yoga classes or financial-wellness programs. We anticipate programs aimed at employee growth, such as leadership development programs or professional learning courses. These are the types of initiatives that employees say help them feel valued by and connected to their employers.


Improving employee engagement as well as investing in employee and leadership development received the highest number of votes, with only one vote separating the two. How can HR leaders achieve those goals?

Open the coffers.

Investing in employee and leadership development drives engagement. It breathes fresh energy into work and conveys to employees that their 9-5 efforts have purpose. People want to feel that they are making a contribution. Training and development programs go a long way toward reinforcing that message.


Perhaps surprisingly, eliminating sexual harassment and workplace misconduct received the lowest number of votes in our poll. In a social climate where the #MeToo movement has become the new normal, do you think this topic should be given more attention?

The poll data don’t necessarily reflect employers’ true intentions.

Employers put a premium priority on shutting down harassment and misconduct. It’s bad business and it’s bad character. But combating misconduct is so important that it’s just built into companies’ human capital infrastructure — like wages and benefits.

The data seems to imply the topics are not a high priority, but they are. We know this because our readers consistently engage with stories around these issues.

Two of the top-clicked Workforce stories for 2019 were about the ousting of McDonald’s CEO and chief people officer. Employers want to see what’s happening at peer organizations and how those organizations are addressing the issues. It’s something they’re constantly watching.



Based on your experience as editor of SmartBrief on Workforce, what kinds of articles do readers seem to prefer?

Readers want a mix of content. They want news stories to see what’s breaking in policy or in the people market. They want best practices to get ideas. And they want intelligent, thoughtful longform content that lets them take a deeper dive into topics and human capital stories.


Which news outlets do you consistently look to for quality HR content?

We curate stories from the top mainstream and trade publications across the world, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Fast Company, Forbes and the Society of Human Resource Management, to name a few. Workforce readers are intelligent and proficient at their work. We look for stories that help them stay informed, so they can be good at what they do.


New technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being talked about extensively in HR lately. Do you think these HR technology solutions are actually worth pursuing or will they just be passing trends?

They’re not passing trends, but they’re not fully implemented either. We’re seeing phased integrations of these technologies as companies test the waters. We’re hearing about using VR for training purposes — simulating scenarios and letting workers test new knowledge and practices.

Interestingly, AI is slated to make a big impact in the HR recruitment field in 2020, according to a recent report. We’ll be watching to see how these two technologies evolve and shape practices and job roles.


What was your highlight of 2019 for SmartBrief on Workforce?

Hands down, it was seeing that readers are committed to building healthy workplaces. They gravitate to stories about nurturing positive culture and supporting worker needs. They’ve learned from recent social movements and want to weed out toxic personalities and practices. They know that the success of their business depends on the buy-in of their work teams and they’re dedicated to making that happen at their sites.


If you enjoyed this peek into 2020, subscribe to SmartBrief on Workforce to receive content for HR professionals, personally curated by Kanoe, five days a week. For more quality news coverage, you can subscribe to any of SmartBrief’s 275+ free newsletters.


Poll results based on data from 312 respondents.

  • Improving employee engagement – 91 votes
  • Investing in employee and leadership development – 90 votes
  • Using HR analytics – 50 votes
  • Nurturing employee mental health & work-life balance – 48 votes
  • Recruiting through social media – 20 votes
  • Eliminating sexual harassment and workplace misconduct – 13 votes