While many of the challenges of recruiting and managing talent are evergreen, 2016 saw significant shifts on a few key issues. Diversity programs made progress but remain a challenge for tech companies, revised wage rules got an unexpected wrinkle, and flexible work environments got even more nimble. As you contemplate your second annual filing of the Affordable Care Act tax forms, here’s a recap of major HR trends:

Diversity benchmarks set–and missed

Despite the tired refrain that a diverse workforce creates better products and boosts employee morale, companies still struggle to hire a staff that reflects the broader U.S. population. That doesn’t mean they aren’t working on it. This year, we saw an even greater shift in the number of companies tracking diversity goals–broadening their focus beyond hiring, to equitable pay and promotions. In June, more than 30 tech companies, including Lyft, Spotify, Box, Pinterest, and GitHub signed a Tech Inclusion pledge, committing to releasing annual data on their workforce demographics. And the White House Equal Pay Pledge was signed by the likes of Airbnb, Amazon, Pinterest, Salesforce, Slack, and Spotify.

Still, companies are struggling to demonstrate diversity statistics that the tech community can be proud of. Salesforce, eBay, and Pinterest delayed releasing data this year–a lag of about 16 months following their last reports. When they did, the results were lackluster. Pinterest showed an increase of women in tech roles to 26 percent in 2016 from 21 percent in 2015–just missing its goal of 30 percent. Salesforce’s share of tech roles held by women is comparable at 22 percent.

Twitter has yet to release numbers in 2016, but it is targeting an engineering staff comprised of 16 percent women, up from 13 percent represented in 2015, and an increase to nine percent from six percent in minority engineers.

Compare this data with the actual demographics of the U.S., and you’ll see just how skewed the tech workforce really is. “Our country is 72 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, 12.6 percent black, 4.8 percent Asian,” says Susan Riskin, vice president of human resources at Bitly. “I like to use that benchmark for our diversity goals and would like to at least mirror that makeup here at Bitly. It’s a challenge, but the whole team is behind it.”

Riskin notes that the company has joined more than 50 others that signed on to yet another diversity pledge. The Kapor Capital Founders’ Commitment will provide resources for companies in the venture firm’s portfolio to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce early on.

Overtime pay purgatory

Ahead of a Department of Labor rule that would have mandated overtime pay for employees who earn less than $47,476 annually, businesses spent months adjusting schedules and salaries to be in compliance. But when a federal judge blocked the rule’s implementation in November, companies like Walmart and Nationwide Health Insurance were left holding the bag. While some companies have rescinded the raises given during that time, others have chosen to honor them. The injunction on the rule means nothing will change just yet, but it could be revisited in early 2017–assuming the Trump Administration doesn’t scrap it altogether.

Paid parental leave

Deloitte, Etsy, Ikea, GoDaddy, and Netflix: these are all companies that seriously upped the ante on paid leave this year, offering anywhere from unlimited leave (Netflix) to three months (GoDaddy). And they’re smart to get ahead of the curve.

In 2016, 26 percent of employers offer paid maternity leave beyond what’s covered by short-term disability or state law, according to industry nonprofit the Society for Human Resource Management. Twenty-one percent also offer paid paternity leave and 20 percent offer paid adoption leave. That could soon change. Both presidential candidates proposed a mandate on parental leave of some form. President-elect Trump called for six weeks of paid maternity leave for married women who give birth. He does not include husbands or partners of either sex, single women, or couples who adopt.

While currently only three states offer paid family and medical leave, the Washington D.C. City Council passed a bill earlier this month to provide time off to care for a loved one or after the birth or adoption of a child, and New York State’s mandate on paid leave takes effect in January 2018. A federal regulation on some form of paid leave seems inevitable. What’s up for debate is how much employers will be required to fund and to whom the word “parent” applies.

Wage transparency

Two years ago, web services company GoDaddy was the first to begin releasing annual data on salaries and promotion rates for different jobs in the company, broken down by gender. The purpose is to compare how women are compensated and promoted versus men in the same job.

Now, with the SEC requiring public companies starting January 2017 to disclose salary differences between executives and the median workforce, worker demand for transparency is going to intensify. The topic will only become more pertinent–within public and private companies alike–as the year goes on. Starting in March 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will require all companies with 100 or more workers to submit pay data by gender, race and ethnicity in an effort to close pay gaps.

Twenty-one states, cities and counties passed minimum wage increases in 2016, according to the National Employment Law Project, with 19 of those states and cities now requiring a minimum wage of $15–more than double the federal threshold.

Cross generational, multi-locational workforce

If you’re working in HR, you don’t need a survey to tell you that flexibility is a top feature employees want in a job. But in fact, in an Ernst & Young survey of 9,700 full-time employees in eight of the world’s largest economies, competitive pay is the only benefit to rank above flexibility.

Like many companies, Bitly has engaged its far-flung, multi-generational workforce with technology. “We use Slack internally and highly encourage everyone to upload a photo to their profiles so people can attach a face to the name,” Riskin says. “We also use Google Hangouts for meetings rather than conference calls–having the face to face interaction builds connection across states.”

Riskin says it’s crucial to make a conscious effort to ensure that remote employees are part of the company’s culture. For example, to stay connected with the company, remote employees take turns running orientation and training sessions for new hires. Bitly also has a weekly All-Hands meeting where various offices and remote employees might have an agenda item so that everyone feels involved–no matter their location.

[IMAGE: Getty]


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