Four top workplace trends for 2012

Published: Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 5:37 p.m.

I scoured the workplace literature and read lots of predictions and trends for 2012 (so you don’t have to). Here are my top four:

An increase in voluntary turnover: During the recession, many employees managed to survive layoffs and cutbacks by hunkering down, or taking on the work of several people. Many of them were simply waiting it out until the market improved. Well, now they’re ready to jump ship.

Companies who increased workloads and froze salaries while neglecting their retention efforts now risk losing top performers to the competition. In fact, 32 percent of employees surveyed by Mercer (that’s one out of three) said they’re “planning on leaving their employers.”

The main reasons given: feeling overworked and wanting higher compensation.

An increase in part-time, freelance, and flexible workers: Either by preference or necessity, the recession has changed the way many people think about work. Workers are freer than ever to pick up and take their skills elsewhere, literally or virtually — and offer their services to more than one employer. Companies also want more flexibility regarding their short-term labor needs. As a result, more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce now works part-time or on a contract basis.

A shift from traditional management to inspired leadership: During the downturn, employees have kept a low profile. But as job opportunities improve, the old-school, authoritarian style will be challenged; in a healthier economy, employees will be less patient with traditional top-down management. Workers will follow leaders who are inclusive, value collaboration and a shared vision.

A shift to a younger workforce: This change is happening very quickly and will greatly affect the first three trends. By 2013, 47 percent of all employees will be those born after 1977. That means by next year about half of the workforce will be younger than 35. Take a moment to let that sink in.

It’s easy to predict that in 2012 and beyond the workplace will increasingly evolve to adapt to the needs and preferences of younger workers. Which means more focus on technology and social media, more flexibility in employment terms, and more socially responsible, sustainable, green and diverse organizations. That’s good news, no matter your age.

Eva Del Rio is a human resources consultant and business owner. Send questions to

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