HR and the major 2018 Consumer Trends

consumer trends

HR can learn a lot from marketing and market research. Employees are consumers, and why would they behave a lot differently in the workplace than in the marketplace?
Last year we used the terrific material of on the 2017 consumer trends as the basis for our article: 2017 consumer trends and the opportunities for HR. Time for an update. In this article we look at the major 2018 consumer trends, as reported by Trendwatching, and consider what the implications in the workplace could possibly be. The extensive report of Trendwatching is summarised in an article and in a video.

1. A-Commerce

“In 2018, shoppers will look to hand over aspects of the retail experience -think sourcing, negotiating, purchase and delivery arrangements- to algorithms and smart devices.”

A-Commerce stands for “automated commerce”. People like convenience, and everybody loves good service. Amazon’s cashier-free convenience store, launched in 2016, is a good retail example.
In the workplace there are many areas where, with the help of AI, the employee experience can be improved. Some examples:

  • From active to passive recruitment: as a candidate you no longer have to apply for a job, the clever sourcing software will find you, and the recruitment chatbot will ask you if you are interested in a new opportunity (and the software can probably predict that you are interested, before you are aware yourself). Read: The changing scope of recruitment.
  • From active to passive employee mood measurement. In the past, employees had to complete questionnaires, to measure there level of engagement, today it can be done in an easier and passive way, e.g. by analysing the e-mails of the employees (with KeenCorp). Read: Employee mood measurement trends. 
  • If learning solutions could be offered at an appropriate moment in the workflow, based on real time observations of the behaviour the employees, this would be a big step forward. Read: 6 trends in learning and development.
  • With some imagination, you can easily imagine many areas where the application of this trend could make a real difference, like: automatic access control, in the company restaurant, during onboarding.

2. Assisted Development

“In 2018, consumers with complex lifestyles will look to brands to help them realise personal life goals and write new narratives of adulthood.”

This trend clearly has implications and creates opportunities in the workplace. How can organisations help their employees to “realise personal goals an write new narratives of adulthood’? We see some early signals.

  • More and more organisations, especially startups and scaleups, take their staff on skiing holidays in the winter.
  • The increased attention to wellbeing in the workplace. Read: Trends in improving wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Organisations that stimulate employees to start their own business, and gives them financial support in the initial phase.
  • Organisations that provide breakfast, lunch and sometime dinner (or the ingredients for dinner).

3. Virtual Companions

“In 2018, virtual personalities will prove they have the power to entertain, educate and heal. They will make the leap from assistants to companions.”

Trendwatching gives a nice example of KLM. Last year KLM provided, as a test, passengers that visited Amsterdam with a smart care tag. The smart audio luggage tip, with GPS, provided the visitors with tips about the places they visited.
If you want an impression of what kind of conversation you have with a chatbot, you can try Replika. “Replika is an AI friend that’s always there for you”. Replika tries to learn as much as possible about you, so that it can replicate your personality.Replika

Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Homepod can also be considered as virtual companions. If you are alone at home, you can play games with Google Home, and the other devices have comparable features.


In the HR domain, chatbots are quickly gaining ground (Read: The invasion of chatbots). Most of these chatbots are still very transactional, mainly used in recruiting and as interface with the HR service centre. Next step: the chatbots become your friends and allies in the organisation. Onboarding solution Talmundo, for example, is experimenting with chatbots. You can imagine that the personal guide in the onboarding journey of a new employee is a friendly chatbot, whom you can ask anything, and with whom the employee can also share personal reflections. Alexa and the other devices are also entering the workplace. Read: Amazon is putting Alexa in the office. 

4. Forgiving by Design

“In 2018, consumers expect all kinds of products and services to forgive them when their past – the product they selected, the size they chose, the service they wanted – doesn’t match their future. How? By near-magically adapt around their changing needs, wants and whims.” Expect “Design forgiving offerings that adapt to changing needs before your customer switches to a competitor”. 

This trend has important implications for the workplace, and adaptation to this trend is already in motion. When people are no longer hired for specific jobs, there is more flexibility to “adept to their changing needs, wants and whims”. Sensing these “needs, wants and whims” is key, and unfortunately the sensing capabilities in organisations often need development. There is room for improvement, but also here HR can learn a lot from the Amazon’s and Netflixes of this world.  Read: On size does not fit all and The end of static jobs.

5. Glass Box Wrecking Balls

“In 2018, your internal culture is becoming a key part of your brand.”

Transparency is increasing, and this creates opportunities and threats. When organisations become glass boxes, candidates and employees can compare the reality with the stories. If there is not a good match, the consequences can be severe (ref. the Uber story). Transparency in organisations is increasing, but the pace is often slow. Take for example salaries. On average men earn more than women in comparable jobs. If salary data in organisations would be easily available, this might cause one of the “glass box wrecking balls” to appear.  This is the same with people engagement data. The outcomes of engagement surveys are most of the time not transparent. What would happen if they were?  Read: Employer branding – 7 trends and What the pay gap between men and women really looks like.

Five consumer trends that can stimulate your imagination. These five trends alone, offer a lot of possibilities for applications in the workplace.



Read and Watch

This website uses cookies to give you the best possible user experience.
Agree to this by clicking accept.

Cookie settings

Below you can choose which kind of cookies you allow on this website. Click on the "Save cookie settings" button to apply your choice.

FunctionalOur website uses functional cookies. These cookies are necessary to let our website work.

AnalyticalOur website uses analytical cookies to make it possible to analyze our website and optimize for the purpose of a.o. the usability.

Social mediaOur website places social media cookies to show you 3rd party content like YouTube and FaceBook. These cookies may track your personal data.

AdvertisingOur website places advertising cookies to show you 3rd party advertisements based on your interests. These cookies may track your personal data.

OtherOur website places 3rd party cookies from other 3rd party services which aren't Analytical, Social media or Advertising.