3 of this year's most important workplace trends—and what they mean for colleges

Pulling from conversations with human resource executives across 2017, Kathryn Moody, Ryan Golden, and Kate Tornone rounded up ten predictions for the 2018 workplace in a recent article for HR Dive.

We pared down their list to three trends that have implications for colleges.

Trend 1: Employers emphasize professional development

To attract high performers in 2018, firms must cultivate a brand that offers young employees an individualized career experience, predicts Jim Link, the chief human resources officer at Randstad North America. Employers will also have to strengthen their value proposition to win over potential employees, says Madhura Chakrabarti, an employee engagement expert at Bersin.

Millennial employees value firms that offer a strong career path and professional development opportunities, according to a study by Linkedin. In fact, lack of career advancement is the principal reason why millennials leave a job.

Trend 2: Industry leaders help close the skills gap 

Despite efforts to prepare students for the job market, college grads still lag behind employer expectations. Over 80% of midsize or larger employers search for collaboration skills but only 40% of these employers said new graduates actually had these skills, according to a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

In 2018, firms will face increasing pressure to help close the skills among their prospective and current employees, the authors predict. More firms will develop their talent pipeline by partnering with schools, they add. IBM, for example, has established a six-year public high school where students engage in traditional curriculum and community college job training.

Accelerate the decision cycle for employer partnerships

Trend 3: Firms offer student debt support

Poor financial health will be a growing distraction for millennial and generation Z employees, the authors predict. To keep young employees engaged, more firms will offer loan repayment benefits, says Jeff Oldham, a vice president at BenefitFocus.

Educating recent grads about financial literacy may be an uphill battle. About 68% of prospective students say "they literally know nothing" about their student loans or about their refinancing options post-graduation, according to a survey by NextGenVest.com.

Some colleges are helping students make smart financial choices by offering financial literacy resources. Indiana University, for example, has focused on reducing the amount students borrow to finance their education. Since 2012, the university has sent students annual updates about their student loans, including an estimate of their monthly payment after graduation. Since then, students have reduced their borrowing by 17% (Moody et al., HR Dive, 1/9).

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