Just when you think you've figured out how to successfully manage your employees, everything is changing. In fact, leaders are facing the most rapid shifts in the workforce--from demographics to expectations, from preferences to behaviors--in history.

So if you want to attract, engage, and retain the best people, you need to understand employee trends--and make changes to respond to these forces.

Start here:

1. Not one-size-fits-all 

Generation, culture, gender, race, geography--no matter how you define it, diversity in the workforce is more prevalent than ever. For example, in many organizations, up to five generations are currently working together.

What to do: Guess what? The more diverse employees are, the more varied their needs. That's why you need to thoroughly understand employees' preferences, and then build benefits and other HR programs to fit every size and style. 

2. The rise of remote

If you're wondering where your colleagues are right now, here's the answer: working remotely. In fact, remote work grew 44 percent over the past five years. And 80 percent of U.S. employees say they would turn down a job that didn't offer flexible work arrangements. 

What to do: Show remote workers that you care by including them. How? Embrace technology so all employees have an equal experience. 

3. Managers unbound

Organizations may be focused on helping managers learn technical skills, but the top priority should be soft skills--innovation, change management, and communication--according to a survey by Udemy for Business. That's because managers are more important than ever for getting the best out of their team members. And technical competence doesn't help managers motivate.

What to do: Develop managers' skills in key areas like storytelling, listening, and facilitating dialogue. Since managers are too busy to take a traditional course, develop on-the-go learning that integrates skills development into managers' day.

4. Activism on the march

The vast majority of U.S. workers believe they have the right to speak up, whether they are in support of (84 percent) or against (75 percent) their employers. Employees want to express themselves about social issues (such as LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and the environment) or work-related issues (such as pay, sexual harassment and discrimination, or treatment of workers).

What to do: Once you help leaders understand that open dialogue is actually a good thing, create ways for employees to express themselves in a safe and productive way. Develop forums, such as town halls or social message boards, for employees to speak up. And encourage leader participation--and action--so employees feel heard.

5. All about experience 

Uh-oh, trouble. Leaders are starting to worry that, in a tight labor market, it's getting harder to attract and retain talented people. So organizations are focusing on the employee experience, defined as what employees encounter, observe, and feel while they're at work. Almost 80 percent of executives worldwide rate employee experience as important to their organization.

What to do: Decide on the experience your organization offers employees, and then articulate your culture and opportunities for employees.  

6. Well-deserved recognition 

It's a no-brainer: Employee recognition plays a vital role in improving engagement. However, organizations are falling short in delivering the credit employees crave. Forty-five percent of employees say they have been not recognized in the past six months. 

What to do: The best people to deliver meaningful recognition? Managers, of course. Create tools and advice to show managers why recognition is important, and suggest a variety of ways to praise and encourage their direct reports.

7. Quest for community

In a pressured world, employees are seeking more from their organizations than a paycheck. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, employees increasingly value community. "Community is about people: feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others," the authors write. "It drives our sense of connection and belongingness."  

What to do: Leaders are in the best position to create a sense of community for employees. Yes, creating community takes effort--even rethinking your role--but the results are significant.

Want to learn about more trends and how they impact such areas as training and communication? Check out this infographic.

Published on: Jan 24, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.