New Questions for Workplaces in 2020

We saw some tough headlines in the last 10 years force companies to do some deep evaluation of their culture and policies. A few companies emerged as trailblazers, applying breakthroughs in research, technology, and science. They spotted trends before the rest, and started their own trends for the rest to follow (or not).

All the things that we can measure have exploded. We are now drowning in so much data that the next big feat looks to be figuring out what is actually meaningful and consequential to sustainable growth.

As much shade and slack that millennials are thrown from the other workforce generations, they certainly drove many changes. We’ve seen a transition to mobile-focused marketing and an intuitive user experience, along with greater focus on employee rewards.

Now that we’re wrapping up this decade and a new generation is entering the workforce, what do we see on the horizon that will prove influential in the evolution of careering, hiring, and leadership?

Without knowing who will become president, it’s hard to predict what will happen with healthcare, student debt, and consumer debt. Certainly, if healthcare becomes universal, many companies will be forced to completely reinvent how they plan on attracting and retaining employees who were working mostly for benefits. In my 20 years working with job seekers and job changers, I have known many who, if it weren’t for the need for medical benefits, would have opted for self-employment.

Employee benefits

Here are some statistics that can help show just how influential benefits have been in recruitment and retention strategies:

  • 49% of the US workforce currently receives healthcare benefits from their employer.
  • 78% of workers would likely remain with their employer because of the benefits it offers, up from 72% in 2016. (WTW)
  • More than 50% of employees said they have left jobs after hearing the siren calls of better benefits elsewhere. (Randstad)
  • 55% of employees would be somewhat likely to accept a job with lower compensation but a more robust benefits package. (Aflac)
  • 56% of U.S. adults with employer-sponsored health benefits said that whether or not they like their health coverage is a key factor in deciding to stay at their current job. (SHRM)
  • 46% said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job. (SHRM)

Keep in mind there are many companies with employees dedicated to helping employers manage health care plan enrollment and administration. Will companies let these employees go or retrain them for other roles within the company?

Employee wellness

A Limeade study found that when employees feel their employer cares about their well-being, there is a significant boost in engagement, retention, workplace reviews, and “extra mile” efforts while hostility is reduced by ten times. Larger companies offer more benefits than any other size companies, and yet they have the lowest engagement. So, we can surmise that offering good healthcare benefits is not enough to make employees feel cared for and/or that offering employer-sponsored healthcare does not correlate to engagement at all, though it does correlate to candidate attraction and retention.

Wellness programs have become wildly popular as well. However, as more companies implemented costly wellness programs, most struggled with adoption and recouping the investment. (We’ve covered why in a 2-part article this year.)

We saw some influential leaders emerge as authors, as well, shedding light on issues like gender gaps in pay and opportunity, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, cyber security, engagement, and physical security.

  • Shawn Achor taught us that being happy at work DOES indeed lead to better engagement.
  • Studies on meditation at work increased exponentially, with new benefits emerging all the time. Companies like Google, Aetna and higher learning institutions like Brown, NYU and Harvard are weaving mindfulness and meditation into core cultural and education initiatives.
  • Ariana Huffington highlighted the need for creative minds to rest.
  • Travis Bradberry has been educating Fortune 500 companies on the implications of Emotional Intelligence.
  • Cy Wakeman has smartly asserted and demonstrated that engagement efforts without accountability breed entitlement.
  • Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women to lean in, own their seat at the table and find a sponsor, not another mentor.

With the rise of school and workplace shootings, we remain to see whether gun control becomes a major area of change or not. Mental health is another key issue. While people are shining a light on how mental illness has become an epidemic, sufferers are crying out to end the stigma.

Just a couple weeks ago Philadelphia Eagles offensive linemen Brandon Brooks left the field in the first quarter due to a debilitating anxiety attack that caused extreme nausea. He stated he was not ashamed nor embarrassed about the event. In the last decade, more and more celebrities came clean about their struggles with anxiety and depression. Others lost their battles before we even knew they were suffering. It’s clear no one is impervious to mental illness. The conversation about how to best treat and support those suffering is just starting, let alone how to address it in the workplace.

Being “woke” is going out of vogue as spiritual elitists fail to be influential in inspiring change. Authenticity, accessibility, and being vulnerable are proving to be much more effective.

Keeping all of this in mind, there are new questions we should be asking in the workplace.

In 2020 and beyond, companies should be able to answer these questions:

How do you address mental health in your workplace?

Are clear protocols in place for employees experiencing hardships?

Are there HR policies in place to protect employees who wish to get help for mental illness?

What is the company policy for determining if an employee needs urgent or professional care for mental illness?

What does the company do to support mental wellness?

How aware are employees of these outlets?

What might stop employees from taking advantage of mental health resources?

What misconceptions do they have?

Here is what I hope to see happening in 2020:

Mindfulness everywhere! It’s not only important for sustainable corporate and individual success, it’s imperative to people and the planet, that we develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence and consciousness at a faster pace than technology evolves.

My Epic Careering Personal Branding tools get funded, built, and adopted on a worldwide scale to put the power of career management back in the hands of the workers. This enables more people to have résumé and LinkedIn content that helps them be identified by employer’s AI as having the potential to succeed in their open and upcoming roles. It also easily communicates the cultural viability of a candidate.

Though I’d prefer people be self-aware and empowered to pursue professional opportunities that align with their innate strengths, joy, and best chance at thriving, employers have to play their part, too. Employers need to be more proactive in helping talent grow up, or even out, from a skills standpoint, a maturity standpoint, and a consciousness standpoint. Leaders must be better coaches. Give people more of a chance to be forthright about their aspirations. Don’t try to retain employees that are better off somewhere else, or who have demonstrated an unwillingness to be coachable and accountable. A person’s best chance at making a meaningful contribution and being fulfilled by it is being in the right job at the right company, as Jim Collins shares in Good to Great.

While technology will surely continue to be tried and applied, and the automated branding journey and content builders will certainly bridge the gap between high-quality talent and the companies who need them, job seekers everywhere are crying out for more HUMAN involvement. Certain applications for technology are not allowing exceptions to rules to get the attention of people who can interpret unconventional strengths as major potential. Let’s let humans do what humans do best – connect with each other and perceive potential.

Personally, I’d like to see one-sided video interviews die. I don’t trust facial recognition AI, nor people, to be free from bias. We’re just not there yet. Two-way (or more) video conferences are a great way to have both candidate and employer feel each other out without the cost and time of travel.

I hope that industries in need of disruption are not sustained just because they employ a lot of people and make a lot of money. Someone needs to step in and make sure that when a faster, better way of healing people, feeding people, housing people, shopping, etc. comes along, there are affordable and accessible programs available to retrain people to get even better jobs.

I hope internet connectivity reaches all corners of the planet and new, profitable opportunities are available to poor and oppressed countries, or even parts of our country.

I hope as more heroes emerge with human limits and behavior, we stop vilifying each other for our weaknesses and mistakes. Certainly, serious offenders will need consequences, but we can’t set the bar so high for leaders that they need to be perfect. This only leads to cover-ups and corruption. I hope we value accountability, honesty, and forgiveness more than we value perfection so more worthy leaders can emerge.

If healthcare was universal, it would no longer be a major driving decision of where a person works. This would absolutely force companies who want to compete for talent to pay closer attention to offering what actually engages people: opportunities for learning, growth and expansion. Plus, a salary that not only pays the bills, but funds a desirable lifestyle now and as we age.

What are your hopes for 2020?

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

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