As this eventful year draws to a close, in what little time we have between mince pies and mulled wines there is an opportunity to reflect back on 2016 and look forward to what January and beyond could hold for HR and Learning and Development. The last twelve months have seen many interesting and ongoing developments within our industry, a few of which I have commented on here:

Millennials: this generational buzzword for businesses gained (if it’s possible) even more focus, with companies across all industries focussed on how best to engage and retain their young workers – many of whom are now filling leadership roles. As this vocal demographic begin to have families and continue to move into senior positions their demands for improved work life balance and a strong company culture are likely to continue to influence and change more traditional organisations, who will need to adapt in order to engage and retain their people.

Digital: the impact of continuing digital innovation has radically altered the landscape of both HR and L&D. Many popular and effective apps (just a few examples include RoundPegg, Waggl, Workday and Culture IQ) are now available to HR teams, providing responsive and “always-on” avenues to regular feedback, engagement monitoring and other demographic trends in their people. Leaps and bounds in AI development mean that automation is beginning to replace traditional recruitment platforms, saving organisations time and money while simultaneously helping to cut down on unconscious bias in the recruitment process. In L&D particularly digital learning platforms are enabling instant-access to learning materials, while data analytics enable more targeted learning experiences. Video and mobile content will undoubtedly remain a focus in the coming year as learners demand bespoke material, any time, in whatever format they choose.

Culture: the culture of organisations is becoming increasingly transparent, as social media platforms and websites such as LinkedIn, Quora and Glassdoor allow people to review in real-time their experiences at work. Millennials are driving this transparency, with recent research from Bersin by Deloitte showing that two-thirds of this younger demographic state an organisation’s purpose as the reason they choose an employer. Culture and purpose are entwined – businesses need to be clear about what they stand for, and what environment they want to engender internally, in order to hire people who are culturally “on-brand”.

Wellbeing: 2016 was the year that Mindfulness went mainstream. Apps such as Headspace and Simple Habit granted access to easy, on-the-go meditation techniques, schools have started introducing Mindfulness classes into their syllabuses and Deloitte has introduced Mindfulness courses for its consultants. The notion of staff wellbeing graduated from being about gyms in offices to a greater understanding of and acceptance of mental health challenges in our modern, hectic lives.

2016 was a year filled with changes, and as the new year approaches there seems to be little slowing in the pace of business developments. Digital continues to transform the workplace for everyone, and a younger workforce is demanding increasingly flexible work patterns at companies with clearly defined cultures. Organisations and teams which can embrace the benefits of digital, whilst maintaining a close emphasis on the individual needs of those that work for them, are likely to do very well indeed.