What human capital trends deserve your attention? If you have a vested interest in the human capital field, you have undoubtedly seen numerous studies conducted by reputable business organizations (e.g., consulting firms, professional associations, etc.) that discuss the latest trends regarding critical company needs. Being someone who shares this interest because my work is in the human capital arena, I sought two things related to these studies.

  • I wanted to determine if there is consistency across the studies that might suggest meta-trends in the human capital field.
  • As an evidence-oriented guy, I needed to see how much I could personally validate what these studies are saying.

The Sources

With these objectives in mind, I reviewed domestic and international studies conducted by respected global consulting firms, professional associations and applied research organizations over the last two years. More specifically, this range of sources included:

  • Boston Consulting Group
  • Human Capital Institute (HCI)
  • McKinsey
  • The Conference Board
  • Deloitte
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • KPMG
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Meta-Trends

As a result of this analysis, I did in fact find some consistency across the studies from these organizations that suggest seven meta-trends related to critical human capital needs of companies. Below you will find the meta-trends listed in descending order of frequency. Incidentally, some critical needs were discovered with equal frequency across the studies thereby creating a two-way tie for meta-trend #1 (identified as 1A and 1B) and a three-way tie for meta-trend #2 (identified as 2A, 2B and 2C).

Meta-Trend #1A: Develop leaders who can successfully guide the business and build the workforce to sustain it

Meta-Trend #1B: Create a work environment that engages employees so that they want to stay with the organization

Meta-Trend #2A: Establish a more effective HR operating model that is focused on business performance and in sync with business leaders

Meta-Trend #2B: Identify and acquire talent with the specific skillsets needed for key roles and onboard this talent in an efficient manner

Meta-Trend #2C: Define, monitor and hold all members of the organization (including HR) accountable to key performance indicators related to human capital

Meta-Trend #3: Revise performance management processes to ensure clear performance criteria are set, leaders provide ongoing coaching and development to meet the criteria and reward/recognition systems reinforce desired behavior

Meta-Trend #4: Design and consistently execute efficient, user-friendly talent management processes across the entire enterprise

In addition to the analysis identifying these global, meta-trends related to critical human capital needs, it also highlights that HR still has work to do in order to address them. Not surprisingly, the meta-trends represent the areas where HR had the largest capability gaps. As HR looks to address these gaps and become more strategic, the study done by HCI clarified some barriers that HR will need to overcome:

  • HR lacks the ability to see organizational priorities (identified by 52% of respondents in the HCI study)
  • HR leaders spend too much time on transactional tasks (43% of their day) compared to strategic issues
  • HR professionals view themselves as influential but it is not clear whether others share this view

The Proof

Upon completing the analysis of the studies, I reality-tested the meta-trends with what I have encountered in my work in 20+ industries (especially with fact-based organizations). After doing so, I found I could personally verify the accuracy of each meta-trend. What meta-trends can you verify using your organization?


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti