In early May, Littler Mendelson released the results of its eighth Annual Employer Survey, which looked into the specific challenges that are having the biggest impact on modern workplaces. The U.S.-based employment and labor law practice collected responses from 1,331 in-house consultants, human resources experts and C-suite professionals to better understand how federal and state laws, emergent technologies and social issues are shaping decision-making at the highest levels. These insights can help organizations in every industry adapt to the shifting employment landscape, avoid costly liability issues and stay compliant with government regulations in the years to come.
In addition to spotlighting key operational challenges, Littler's survey also asked respondents to provide direct examples of the types of solutions they are implementing. The hope is that smaller organizations will be inspired to make meaningful changes to their own internal processes that improve transparency, reduce costly inefficiencies and uphold ethical practices. Overall, the survey identified three problem areas that are having a major impact on employers' day-to-day operations:
Many companies continue to struggle with the growing patchwork of federal, state and local employment laws, which have been further complicated by the U.S. Department of Labor's recent push for new regulatory changes. Lawmakers at every level have also ramped up their efforts to address a number of social issues that have a direct impact on workplace conditions, such as sexual harassment and gender pay equity. According to Littler's survey, 78% of respondents felt that an increase in DOL enforcement will have a moderate to significant impact on their operations, while 77% pointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a source of uncertainty.
Labor law compliance is another key area of concern for modern employers, as new regulations surrounding paid sick leave, background checks and the legalization of marijuana have caused quite a bit of disruption. That said, many companies are already taking steps to prepare for potential changes. For example, the survey found that a vast majority of employers are already instituting policies that will put them in compliance with the DOL's proposed revisions to the "white collar" overtime exemption.
Growing public concern over sexual harassment in the workplace has pushed many employers to focus their attention on combating problematic employee behaviors. The survey found that companies are actively seeking to curb sexual harassment by providing targeted training to management and employees (63%), revising HR policies and resources (51%) and being more proactive about complaints of misconduct (37%). These efforts have been supported by an overall shift toward inclusion and diversity, as 63% of companies are taking steps to confront unconscious bias in the hiring and promotion process.
In terms of gender pay equity, most employers have started to reassess their internal processes to ensure they are compliant with new federal and state regulations. In fact, 48% of respondents said that their company is actively auditing salary data and realigning their compensation practices to better align with modern perceptions of opportunity and fairness.
Organizations around the country have started deploying artificial intelligence and analytical tools to streamline inefficient recruitment processes and support workforce management decisions, but there is little agreement about the impact of increased automation. Those that have embraced these technologies have dedicated significant resources to identifying specific tasks that can be automated (37%) and refocusing their hiring methodologies to prioritize technical skills and experience with AI systems (22%). Despite the general enthusiasm, 46% of companies have not taken any action in this area.
As the demand for advanced technologies grows, employers will need to offer their workers meaningful training and development opportunities that will help them adapt to new automated workflows. Around 13% of respondents indicated that their organizations are already implementing tech-based training programs, while 18% said they are actively working with industry groups and associations to keep pace with emerging trends. Companies that have already significantly deployed AI and analytics have started restructuring their staff to phase out manual tasks that are no longer relevant.