LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting Shares His Thoughts on the Top Talent Trends for 2020

January 28, 2020

Photo of Brendan Browne

The dawn of a new decade often ushers in major change. And we’re not just talking fashion and technology — recruiting and HR are evolving too. 

To gain a clearer picture of what this means for your team, we recently surveyed more than 7,000 talent professionals across 35 countries about the trends that will shape how you hire and retain talent this year. The results of that survey formed the foundations of the Global Talent Trends 2020 report, which highlights these four key trends: employee experience, people analytics, internal recruiting, and the multi-generational workforce.

In the latest episode of Talent on Tap, LinkedIn’s own Brendan Browne, VP of global talent acquisition, shares his perspective on these four trends and on the common thread that connects them — empathy:

Here are Brendan’s insights on the talent trends that will define 2020 — and how your team can navigate them. 

1. Employee experience: Work with and for employees to improve retention 

The employee-employer relationship used to be fairly one-sided. That’s starting to change. As competition for talent tightens, companies are increasingly realizing that they need to work for their employees — not just the other way around. 

That shift in mindset is reflected in the report, with 94% of talent professionals agreeing that employee experience (EX) will be very important to the future of recruiting and HR. And as Brendan points out, this is good for both employees and companies. After all, 77% of respondents pointed to increased retention as a reason to focus on improving EX. 

“Prioritizing what the experience is for employees day to day,” Brendan says, “is something that can really make a difference in terms of retention, commitment, quality of work, [and] quality of life.”

  • Bar graph from the Global Talent Trends 2020 report:  Title: Why companies invest in employee experience Percentage of talent professionals who say they’re increasingly focused on employee experience for the following reasons:  Increase employee retention: 77% Increase employee productivity: 71% Meet expectations of Millennials and Gen Z: 40% Attract more candidates: 29%

Improving EX as a whole can feel like a big task. To make it more manageable, it helps to break it down into a few core components: people, place, product, and process. These encompass every aspect of an employee’s experience at work, from the relationships they build with coworkers and managers to the tools they use every day. 

“What is the physical environment that someone works best in?” Brendan asks. “Are you using the very best tools available to make things easy for employees to get the job done on a day-to-day basis? Do the benefits and perks allow someone to get what they need from a personal point of view and increase their work-life harmony?”

By breaking EX down into these fundamental building blocks, you can start to identify areas ripe for improvement. Start small, work your way up, and gather feedback from employees every step of the way to earn their buy-in and trust. 

2. People analytics: Get started now to get ahead of the curve

Talent leaders have understood the value of people analytics for some time. By gathering and analyzing data about your workforce on an ongoing basis, you can make better and more informed decisions. Unfortunately, few companies had the capabilities to put this into practice — until now.

  • Statistic from the Global Talent Trends 2020 report:  55% of talent professionals say they still need help putting basic people analytics into practice.  73% say people analytics will be a major priority for their company over the next 5 years.

While there’s still a way to go, 73% of companies say people analytics will be a major priority for them in coming years. And according to Brendan, that has to start with a change in mindset about HR

“The goal is to start to evolve human resources from what has been a legacy risk-management organization, a policy-driven organization,” he says, “and instead think about how to advise the business. What are those trends… or insights that I’m starting to see in some of our data that the business really truly needs to understand?”

Building a people analytics function at your company can help you develop a deeper understanding of your workforce and what your company needs to do to be more successful. For example, you might use these capabilities to identify looming skills gaps and figure out which markets you need to tap to fill those gaps. Or, you might use people analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of your recruiting channels, ensuring you’re only deploying resources where they’ll have the biggest impact. 


Related: Getting People Analytics Right: Josh Bersin Shares the Best Approach and Tools


“All of these [insights] lead to you becoming much more of an influencer,” Brendan says, “and your credibility going up significantly.”

Whatever project you decide to tackle first, the most important thing you can do is avoid analysis paralysis — where you overthink people analytics so much that you never really get started with it. Brendan argues that before long, these capabilities are going to become table stakes for all talent teams. If you fall behind the curve now, you may struggle to catch up and earn your seat at the table later.

“I believe that people analytics will be the backbone of HR as we move forward into the future,” Brendan says. “If it's something that you're not thinking about or not prioritizing, you can start small. And if you already have a team, there's nothing to do but go forward and continue to get more sophisticated in the work that you're doing.”

3. Internal recruiting: Develop an intentional strategy to keep your best people 

Since 2015, role changes within organizations have risen by 10%, and it’s easy to see why. At a time when competition is fierce and external talent is expensive to recruit, companies are increasingly looking inward to find the skills and knowledge they need.

  • Statistics from the Global Talent Trends 2020 report:  73% say internal recruiting is increasingly important to their company.  10% increase in internal hiring since 2015.

But while 73% of talent professionals say internal recruiting is becoming increasingly important at their organization, Brendan argues that for the most part, this has happened on an ad-hoc basis. 

“Historically,” he says, “at many companies, people move around the organization in a way that may not be that intentional or that strategic.”

This isn’t ideal: without a well-developed and clearly communicated internal recruitment strategy, managers may be protective of their talent and recruiters may not feel empowered to recruit from within. You have a real opportunity to help steer the strategy, ensuring talent is moved around your company in a thoughtful way that helps the business achieve its goals. In doing so, you can also preserve institutional knowledge and keep your best people from leaving. 

“From a retention point of view,” Brendan says, “if you have a strong commitment to internal recruitment, a good process to back it up and good transparency and awareness of where all the opportunities are… people stay longer.” 

4. Multigenerational workforce: Help your age-diverse employees to help each other

As the oldest members of Gen Z get to work and many retired Baby Boomers jump back in, four generations now make up the bulk of the workforce.

“It's a really unique blend of experiences and demographics and I think it's a massive opportunity,” Brendan says. “[But] oftentimes it is not really unleashed or maximized.”

One benefit of having a multigenerational workforce is being able to empathize with a broader scope of people. As Brendan points out, the more representative your workforce is of your target audience, the better equipped your employees will be to cater to that audience’s needs. 

“If I'm 22 years old and trying to build a product for people that are 60, chances are I won't be able to build a great product,” he says. “But if I'm 22 and I can recruit someone who's 60 to help me build that product so it really meets the needs of that generation, good things are going to happen.”

Simply hiring age-diverse candidates is not enough. To get the most out of your multigenerational workforce, it’s essential to gain a rich understanding of their differences. This makes it easier to avoid intergenerational conflicts and other issues that are born from misunderstanding. 

For example, 68% of talent professionals say that differing work-life balance expectations are a challenge for their company. This is understandable: for employees who’ve spent years working in cultures where arriving early and leaving late were viewed as the markers of a top performer, the rise of remote and flexible work options may raise some eyebrows. And when it comes to communicating, some generations are much more likely to text or email than they are to pick up the phone, which others may view as disrespectful or less effective. By looking for potential areas of friction like these and acting as a mediator, you can encourage conversations that foster understanding and mutual respect. 

It’s also important to recognize what value each generation brings, as this can help you identify opportunities for cross-generational learning and bonding. 

“A few companies I've talked to have done interesting things like reverse mentoring,” Brendan says. “Having Baby Boomer workers have a mentor who is from Gen Z, and formalizing those conversations to create a dynamic in which people can learn from each other in a meaningful way.”

Empathy — the currency of the future 

These four trends all share something in common: they require a lot of empathy. Whether you’re using data to divine insights about your workforce, helping employees map out their career path, improving their day-to-day experience at work, or bringing different generations together harmoniously, being able to step into someone else’s shoes will steer your efforts in the right direction. 

“Empathy, I think, is sort of the currency that can flow through an organization to make sure that people can actually do their best work,” Brendan says. “But it's something that needs to be active. I believe it can be a differentiating factor from organizations that are good to organizations that are spectacular in terms of people feeling like they can be themselves.”

For more tips and insights, download the full Global Talent Trends 2020 report today.

Talent on Tap is a YouTube series in which Brendan Browne breaks down the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned for the latest.

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