Expect more workplace churn in 2016. There will be more retirements among baby boomers, more maternity and paternity leaves – if not outright quits – among millennials, more voluntary departures as workers move to greener pastures. And there will be more hiring as employers seek to fill key openings, and more complaints that they can’t find good workers.
According to the best guesses of employers and labor market observers, the national unemployment rate will stay in the low 5 percent range and even lower in many metro areas. That’s “full employment” by many economists’ definition. But whether the job market feels that good to individuals will depend on many factors, including type of work and the organization.
In professions where there are more job vacancies than proven talent, qualified candidates will enjoy bidding wars for their services. For most workers, though, there’s likely to be little growth in pay incentives. Most employers are holding the line at 3 percent average raises – the same as in 2015 and 2014. Since 2008, in fact, most workers haven’t caught up to the pay and benefits cuts they suffered since 2008.
The pay trend in organizations has continued to shift to “merit” bumps instead of across-the-board raises. But pay consultants note that merit bumps, of maybe 5 percent, aren’t big enough to be a motivator or retention agent. Bigger pay increases will continue to come from changing jobs, not staying in place.
Overtime: The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed new overtime rules affecting white-collar exemptions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several states are expanding efforts focused on disability, pregnancy and gender-identity discrimination. Minimum-wage legislation or ordinance proposals are pending in 15 jurisdictions around the country.
Unions: Collective bargaining will gather steam among white-collar professionals such as adjunct professors, resident doctors, lawyers and media staff. Meanwhile, some more traditional union jobs will have faster union election time frames, due to a new 10-day period set by the National Labor Relations Board.
Working retirees: Older workers who “retire” will continue to work – as entrepreneurs, part-timers or contract workers in charge of their own hours and business. The contractor-instead-of-employee trend will continue for all ages, driven partly by individual preference and partly by employers who jettison employee benefits costs by contracting with independent workers instead of putting employees on costly benefits payrolls.
Policies: Now that medical or recreational use of marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C., more employers are updating their substance abuse policies – most will get tougher, a few more lenient. And employers will continue to develop social media policies given the proliferation of devices and connectivity available to employees no matter where they are.