Workplace trends in 2017

By Jim Annis, CEO


Sitting around the management table, we are all in agreement about the following factors that will influence the workplace in 2017; however, we are not all in agreement about how they will reveal themselves. Time will tell. Starting a dialogue is a great place to start. Let’s begin …

Millennialization of the workplace

This is the single most prominent issue. How are we adapting? Forty percent of our management team falls into this generation. We consider ourselves fairly progressive in this aspect. How have we adjusted to their wants, needs and desires? We have allowed more casual dress (I, however, still come to work in a suit and tie). There is a more relaxed style of communication and through different methods like texting. When a project is identified as a priority, we have more of an open exchange about a project before it starts, as well as constant communication during the process. In decades past, this culture shift is in contrast to work dumping, “Here is a binder of everything I did this month,” and then the employee would drop said binder on supervisor’s desk. We’re a better team because we adjust quality as we collaborate while the work is being done versus a post mortem process improvement.

Protecting your key players

There are several ways to stave off the competition for your “A” players, which is going to increase as more companies move into the area. Improving your benefits package either in richness of current health plans or increasing paid time off will help. Updating perks like increasing monthly reimbursement of gym memberships and expanding the scope to include yoga studios, pilates and martial arts can both satisfy employees with those interests, as well as increase the mindset as to what wellness entails. Ditch the formal annual performance review and substitute a less formal but more frequent dialogue about the employee’s engagement. This will detect dissatisfaction early and may help to refine their career path so they see the potential at your organization versus going to greener pastures.


The depth and breadth of this trend surprises us. Not only are we talking about racial and religious diversity, but other areas – such as part time work, contract work and the remote workforce – all push HR oversight to the limits. Diversity of skills and market demand for skilled labor has encouraged education of some trades away from a traditional career path. The variation in design of office space and the physical aspect of the work environment is all over the board from communal work spaces to meetings using Zoom live video conference. Marketers who thought they had to throw out the playbook with the millennial generation (and their helicopter parents) now must adapt to the new generations who have grown up with the great recession’s insecurity and raised with a diversity in gender identity and culture that has not been experienced before in the U.S.

Digital age

Efforts to go digital and our level of innovation has increased. Progressive allowances in our HR handbook need to address tech – like rules of usage for wearables. More open and frequent communication and accessibility via social media has resulted in a push for open space and design in general which encourages collaboration. Gone are the days of all the executives being on the top floor or penthouse while the rest of the company slaves away in the “basement.”


If the topics above have caused you to go on overwhelm, take a breath. You are not alone. The workplace is trying to play “catch up” with the leaps that tech is taking, in my opinion. Companies who do not choose to adjust – or do not know how – are in jeopardy. I truly believe all the changes are for the better. New generations of employees are demanding more and more while holding the workplace accountable. At the same time, they want to enjoy where they are working and therefore make improvements to technology, process and productivity. If we can keep it all in balance, with everyone’s desire as “being harmonious and joyful at work and at home,” that doesn’t sound like such a bad place to be, does it?

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

The workplace togetherness guide

By CEO Jim Annis

How do you approach the times of “togetherness” at your workplace? Open and honest communication helps increase the transparency of the organization and equal truth in my mind. That is one of the elements for a great place to work. We have had several goals for staff meetings over the years, from over-communicating and getting everyone on the same page to making every meeting “fun” in some capacity. At the rate of change our work and nonwork lives are morphing with technology and cultural shifts, it makes sense the traditional all-staff meeting needs to evolve, so we’re changing it up.

What do your employees need?

We traditionally hold an all-staff meeting once a month. A few years ago, we charged ahead with open book management, giving employees all relevant financial information about the company, so they can make better decisions as workers. Traditionally, we’ve done the same thing for the last 13 years: I ran the meeting as CEO, started with a few jokes, played a few fun videos and then dug in to the nitty-gritty. The meetings are not as funny as they used to be. I know, it is hard to believe but true. People started not caring about detailed financial information. In the development of the company, that initial open book approach/get to know the CEO helped strengthen the organization, but we did not offer a great deal of training and many employees did not know what all our companies did “for a living.” We needed a fresh perspective. Recently, we hired a consultant to interview all employees, so the meeting results would be improved. We now strike a balance between fun and training. We still do birthdays, work anniversaries, treats and an occasional Pictionary game, but the focus is on cross training — both technical and high level. Our greatest ambassadors are our employees, so a sense of camaraderie is important and consistent key messaging about our companies’ offerings out in the field can’t hurt.

What do you need?

There are times when you simply need to have direct communication, and when it is all about you — the company — that’s ok. Avoid “this meeting was a waste of time” attitude with a well-planned and well run meeting, including an agenda and sticking to it. Ever been to a meeting and came out with the thought, “We all attended the ‘same different’ meeting”? It’s like the game of telephone because brains work differently. Ever notice people huddle afterwards for “the meeting after the meeting”? How do you combat that phenomenon? Using the agenda as a tool, deliver consistent messaging on important topics in a reinforcing, repetitive method. Eventually, employees will repeat those key messages without even thinking. If you are transparent you do not have as big as an after-meeting because you are communicating the real info versus employees having to interpret, then employees can feel secure and vested in the process.

The road ahead

Our goal is to focus on training for 2017 while remaining fluid in how we manage our together time. We can be progressive in the structure and information presented, and at the same time demonstrate we share the same values with employees who need the stability, tradition and comfort an all-staff meeting can provide.

When you think about how you will manage all-staffs at your company, be aware of what you are doing then judge using a litmus test, “Was that worth the time?” Experiment. You might get a few eye rolls or elevated energy and engagement. If you feel like you are in a bad episode of “The Office,” then perhaps asking your employees for feedback will help your meetings in 2017, too.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.