As an HR leader, you’re always listening for the new key HR trends that could help your employees better your organization. But with a host of approaches (and products) available that your team could utilize, how can you determine which ones offer the best ROI? The answer, of course, depends on a slew of factors, from the size of your organization to the industry in which you work. Still, it’s possible to narrow down your choices by focusing on the trends that have HR influencers abuzz. Last month, we published a recap of the important HR trends that caught our attention in 2017. This month, to kick off the new year, we’ve decided to take a look ahead: Here’s our best guess at the seven big HR trends most likely to become industry talking points in 2018. 1. Spending accounts: Meeting employee demand for greater flexibility Employees are growing increasingly impatient with the inherent limitations of traditional benefit plans. They’d much prefer (and often demand) packages that give them more flexibility, allowing them to use health benefits as they personally see fit. The ideal solution in this regard is health and/or lifestyle spending accounts, or HSAs and LSAs. HSAs (also known as Health Reimbursement Arrangements or HRAs) offer employees reimbursement for certain eligible health expenses, while LSAs do the same in the personal-wellness arena (reducing out-of-pocket purchases for things like running shoes or meditation classes). One recent report estimates the number of HSA accounts will climb from around 21 million in 2017 to more than 34 million in 2020. If your employees don’t already have these accounts today, you can bet they’re going to ask for them tomorrow. 2. Health and wellness programs: Bringing wellness to the workplace No longer are health and wellness programs extracurricular, out-of-office activities. These initiatives are now offered by 14% of all employers, including half of businesses with 200-plus workers. League’s own Health@Work program, for example, offers employees everything from onsite massages and nutrition consultations to group fitness classes and team-building workshops. The idea: Give employees access to healthy living in the workspace, and you’ll save money down the road in lower healthcare costs. 3. Preventive care: Reducing employee/illness by avoiding it in the first place This trend dovetails with health and wellness programs. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 69 million people miss work due to illness—a drain on the national economy of around $260 billion annually. More and more businesses are looking at their bottom lines and recognizing they need to reduce employee absenteeism. Perhaps the best way they can go about doing so? By encouraging employees to cash in on the preventive care typically included in their health benefits packages. 4. Design thinking: Being employee-centric to maximize productivity HR departments are beginning to view their employees as consumers, and not just as workers. Such “design thinking,” as the approach has been called, is meant to encourage better productivity by focusing on improvements to the employee experience— a flexible work environment, for instance, or more opportunities to contribute to long-term company goals. According to a 2017 Deloitte report, only 23% of companies say their employees are aligned with their corporate purpose; as they see the benefits of putting workers at the center of operations, executives will embrace design thinking in droves. 5. Doing more with digital The world’s gone digital and so, too, will the workplace. We can expect to see more HR leaders turning to technologies like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to help their teams execute jobs more efficiently and effectively, as well as exploring benefits like “virtual care” that uses digital connectivity to personalize health and wellness services. League’s Health Concierge, for example, gives employees instant access to nurses and other health professionals, so they don’t waste their time self-diagnosing online. 6. Welcome workplaces: Creating a culture of inclusivity and respect In light of recent exposés on sexual harassment in the workplace, more companies are adopting measures that foster a culture of accountability and respect. Everything from posters and language in employee handbooks, to staff meetings and workshops aimed at reducing gender discrimination will become more common in the months ahead. 7. Workplace flexibility: Encouraging employees to work from anywhere One recent survey of advertising and marketing executives found that 76% work for companies that offer “alternative work arrangements” like flex-time and telecommuting; and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24%of workers in the United States completed at least some of their work at home in 2015, up from 19% in 2003. As more companies recognize that workplace flexibility can be key to attracting high-level talent—and as the new tax code encourages more workers at all levels—this number is going to increase even more. While the year is still young, these HR trends are sure to continue to develop in the coming months. Explore your options and invest in initiatives that will return the biggest ROI for your company, helping to keep your employees and your business productive and growing. To stay up-to-date on all the latest HR trends, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog.