Top 11 Predictions That We See Impacting HR and Talent For 2017 – Prediction 5


Research Report Bersin by Deloitte


A focus on employee wellbeing, productivity, and health will become an integral part of HR’s mission in 2017.


Prediction 5: A Focus on “Human Performance” and Wellbeing Will Become a Critical Part of HR, Talent, and Leadership


This leads me to my next big topic—redefining what HR is really all about.

Over the last few years, as I have written many times about how employees have become less productive, more over-worked, and less engaged with work. Some data may help you to see this.

  • Overall engagement levels today are no higher than they were 10 years ago. Our analysis of Glassdoor data shows almost no improvement in overall employee ratings of their companies over the last seven years. (see Figure 4, repeated in this section). The distribution continues to be a bell curve—just as many companies have terrible engagement as those who have high engagement.

Figure 4- Engagement Is Critical to Success - Source by Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.

  • U.S. productivity after the launch of the iPhone (see Figure 12) has slowed, so the new tools and technologies we have at work (and there are far too many ways to message people now) are not making us more productive.

Figure 12 - U.S. Productivity 2006 through 2016 - Sources by Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.

  • U.S. workers take four to five days less vacation now than they did in 1998; research on PTO found that we left 658 million unused days in 2015 (220 million of which were lost).26

Figure 13 - Working More Hours- The Vacation Crisis - Sources by Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.



The strategy for 2017 is to move HR from the “personnel department” to a new role as the “consultant in human performance.”

  • Almost 40 percent of employees believe “it is impossible to maintain a fast-growing career and a sound family life,” thanks to the “work-martyr” effect in companies.28

I will not go on scaring you about the heart attacks, lack of sleep, divorces, and other problems at work; the data clearly shows that, despite the fact many jobs are being replaced by computers and we have more technology than ever, we are not getting more work done.

The strategy for 2017 is to rethink this problem—and move HR from the “personnel department” to a new role as the “consultant in human performance.” A myriad of issues prevent us from getting work done productively—from our desks, office arrangements, tools, and management practices. One of HR’s biggest opportunities in 2017 is to get away from designing more programs to focusing on “making work-life better.”

If you think through what this means, it essentially says that, instead of managing the performance appraisal process, the onboarding program, the health and wellness programs, and the leadership development systems, we in HR now own all of this stuff with a focus on “how can we help individuals and teams perform.”

Initiatives like employee wellness, employee engagement, culture, and work-life balance are all contributors to this topic. At a meeting in late 2016, a senior HR manager asked me, “What should I do to help people stop burning out at work?” I said that much of this problem comes from senior leadership—if they send emails all weekend, people will feel obligated to respond and do the same. Is that a culture issue? A leadership competency? A productivity issue? It is all of the above. We in HR should look at this entire tapestry of issues in a holistic way and focus on integrating all of these various HR “programs” into a cohesive whole.

Consider Figure 14. In many ways, the entire topic of human performance comes down to this simple picture of the work environment. Are people healthy? Do they have habits and information to stay energetic and well-rested? Do they feel focused and do managers help them to focus? And, of course, do they have the skills, support, training, and coaching to do their jobs? All of these fit together as I have shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14 - From Wellness to Wellbeing to Performance - Sources by Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.


From the HR standpoint, of course, most of these areas are likely owned by different people in different groups. The compensation and benefits team owns the health insurance offering. The employee communications team owns the competitions and employee affinity groups. The wellness team owns mindfulness training. The talent management team owns all of the talent programs. I believe in 2017 we will start to see companies bring all of this into a cohesive whole in which all of these programs will come together.

I already have evidence of this. Vendors like Limeaid and VirginPulse now offer employee “wellness platforms” that cover most of the green, blue, and yellow areas in Figure 14. Obviously, the big HR platforms cover most of the orange side—and I see these all coming together. SAP is now partnering with Limeaid,29 and I would not be surprised to see similar partnerships and acquisitions by other HR technology providers.

But the prediction here is not that the technology vendors will come together—the real prediction is that you, as an HR leader or practitioner, now have no choice. You should consider things like email policies, nap rooms, exercise programs, and hundreds of other environmental programs as part of your “human performance” strategy. Even the L&D organization, which is going through a disruption of its own, should redefine its role as one of “helping people to perform,” not just “delivering great training.”


Other Predictions:

Prediction 1: Organizational Design Will Be Challenged Everywhere
Prediction 2: Culture and Engagement Will Remain Top Priorities
Prediction 3: Real-Time Feedback and Analytics Will Explode in Maturity
Prediction 4: A New Generation of Performance Management Tools Will Emerge
Prediction 6: Focus on Employee Experience Will Overcome Process Design in HR
Prediction 7: Digital HR and Learning Will Help Us to Reinvent L&D and HR Systems
Prediction 8: The Leadership Market Will Start a Steady Process of Reinvention
Prediction 9: Diversity, Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias Will Become a Top Priority
Prediction 10: The L&D Function Will Continue to Struggle
Prediction 11: The Future of Work Is Here and HR Is in the Hot Seat



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