Along with enduring topics in SIOP’s 8th Annual Top 10 Work Trends List
The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) shared its eighth annual Top 10 Work Trends list based on member surveys, covering issues expected to have the most impact on work in 2021. The topics on SIOP’s 2021 Top 10 list are multifaceted and complex—some have been on prior years’ lists and others are very focused trends resulting from the distress of a global pandemic and critical social issues that came to the forefront in 2020. Here’s a look at the trends and how industrial-organizational psychologists are helping organizations address them.
While use of technology to enable digital aspects of learning and gamification has been evolving for decades, along with more robust technology and algorithms, the global pandemic, which kept many at home and out of traditional classrooms, accelerated increased usage and adoption across workplaces and educational institutions around the globe. I-O psychologists who focus on learning design, learning delivery and measurement of outcomes have been helping in many ways, including building and implementing platforms and tools like learning experience platforms (LXPs) to expand upon more traditional Learning Management Systems (LMSs), updating design of learning programs to be mobile/remote first, integrating behavioral economics into approaches to facilitate actions, and measuring the impact of how learning is retained and applied differently because of new delivery approaches.
9.Building Cultures of Agility and Adaptability
With so much disruption—in different ways across different industries and geographies—many businesses have had to pivot their business strategies and adjust approaches to getting work done accordingly. With some organizations implementing reductions in their workforce and others rapidly expanding, the amount of change experienced in a short time was immense. I-O psychologists can help organizations respond by applying diagnostic tools, developing playbooks, and designing other interventions to help organizations adopt new values, shift mindsets, and grow their capabilities. Internal practitioners responsible for strategic human resources practices like workforce planning, talent analytics and other talent management and development practices are also helping their organizations increase their agility and adaptability by leveraging data to inform decision-making and updating existing practices.
8.The Changing Nature of Work
Many recent developments of this trend are being driven by the growing adoption of artificial intelligence, increased digitization, more automation, and approaches to who does the work and how—often based on an evolution of new skills required. While artificial intelligence is influencing most technical domains, on its own it lacks any theoretical understanding of humans and how we work. I-O psychologists have a unique role to play integrating psychological research on job performance and individual well-being with cutting-edge artificial intelligence techniques. Our opportunity is to strengthen the humanistic component of work by helping to leverage AI in ways that support us as individuals, rather than solely focusing on organizational efficiencies.
This is a key trend, in large part due to the shifts which took place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Work and other aspects of life converged in new ways when large portions of workforces shifted to work from home. New adaptations are required for handling schooling for children, managing personal and family member illness; and other aspects including community, well-being, health, and other lifestyle components. I-O psychologists help organizations understand the challenges employees face and help them update workforce practices which increase engagement, retention, productivity, and adoption of healthy behaviors (e.g., introducing stress management tools), training, flexibility, and other key interventions.
6.Team Effectiveness across Virtual and Distributed Environments
As many workers stopped working in their offices and with significant developments in collaborative technology over recent years, some organizations have grown accustomed to working effectively without being physically co-located, but others are grappling with challenges to productivity as leaders, managers, and team members who relied on physical proximity are being required to adapt to new ways of working. I-O psychologists help organizations adapt to this trend through providing models and skill building to help prioritize goals, align resources, facilitate effective communication, conflict management, and other productive and effective behaviors that build and sustain team performance.
Elements of social justice, the process of ensuring equal rights and access to opportunities, regardless of individual factors has been integrated into many corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and organizational practices for decades. Yet, when George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year, it seemed to be the tipping point for many organizations to integrate these programs further into the fabric of their businesses. I-O psychologists often help organizations address these issues by providing advice and a facilitated approach to identifying meaningful goals in the context of each organization’s ecosystem, and developing related road maps (incorporating leadership commitments, employee and community involvement strategies, skill building, measurement tools, etc.) to address these complex issues.
4.Inclusive Practices to Get, Keep and Grow Talent
Inclusive practices are implemented in organizations in order to ensure that all people, especially those who hold minority identities across various dimensions, feel accepted and valued in the workplace. This topic has important implications for enhancing the extent to which the individual and organizational benefits of workplace diversity are realized. I-O psychologists are equipped to support this trend in various ways, such as providing organizations with knowledge of inclusive practices, evaluating current practices to identify areas of improvement, developing trainings to help implement them, examining the role of implicit and explicit bias in organizational processes, exploring disparities in job attitudes across groups, and designing interventions to address them.
3.Implementing Strategies and Measuring Progress on DEI&B
Due to the continual evolution of talent analytics capabilities and with the capture of accurate and consistent data over time, and the availability to key stakeholders of practical reporting and dashboarding tools, progress on DEI&B (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) initiatives, or lack thereof, is becoming much more visible. I-O psychologists can use their expertise in the management of large amounts of information and analysis of data to help organizations create reporting that leads to increased awareness and education through descriptive analysis, predictive insights, and prescriptive recommendations.
2.Employee Health, Well-being, Wellness and Safety
Benefits costs continue to rise, and organizations continue to invest in helping employees manage stress to help reduce the physical, mental, and emotional impacts that drive increased costs. With COVID-19, a much greater focus on safety emerged for both essential and nonessential workers; and many employees shifted to working from home and experienced greater integration between work and family. I-O psychologists help organizations by conducting research to identify root causes of stress and design programs to decrease risks. In collaboration with other experts, I-Os provide advice on the design of ethical and practical benefits programs and work practices that contribute to health, wellbeing, wellness, and safety of employees and members of organization’s expanded workforces.
1.Remote Work and Flexible Working Arrangements
While significant variation exists across industries, occupations, and geographies, the rise of remote work impacted many and has a broad array of implications for both employers and employees. To support organizations in adapting to this trend, I-O psychologists help organizations in evolve culture and leadership practices and updating the design of workforce strategies. In some cases, strategies will be less dependent on geography, and in others will need to incorporate greater understanding of impacts on different types of workers. I-O psychologists also help organizations devise updated compensation practices, productivity measures, hiring practices, assessments of satisfaction, engagement, and career development.
SIOP members are I-O psychologists and work science experts who conduct research and apply their expertise to issues associated with work, the workplace, and the workforce. They provide service to business, government and academia, many of them working across sectors. If you’re looking for an expert to help with your organization’s work challenges, visit the SIOP Consultant Locator to identify a partner specializing in your area of need.