After a sustained period of economic downturn, optimism has finally become the prevailing mood of the UK workforce. ADP recently released its annual barometer of the views and attitudes of more than 2,500 UK employees, The Workforce View 2014/15, and the findings confirm an encouraging shift in work sentiment.

The UK economy is unmistakably bouncing back, and the positive outlook has quickly filtered down to employees on the frontline. According to the report, there has been a significant uplift in optimism, stability and dynamism amongst UK workers. More than three quarters of workers (77 per cent) now feel optimistic about their next 10 years at work, up from 64 per cent last year and just 59 per cent in 2012.

When asked their reasons for optimism, workers say they are more confident about job security (36 per cent), feel that career opportunities are growing again (35 per cent) and sense the economy is improving, thereby benefiting their careers (32 per cent). Perceptions of stability have also seen a boost, with 71 per cent of workers now saying their future at work looks stable, up from 60 per cent last year.

It is incredibly encouraging to hear that so many employees are feeling excited about the current situation and their prospects. But what does this mean for HR professionals? For one, it is HR’s job to think about the future and how they can maximise the current positive sentiment to help ensure growth. They must plan and prioritise responsibilities more effectively for the months and years ahead.

This challenge is apparent when looking at the HR perspective in The Workforce View 2014/15, which shows that HRDs have a number of important issues on their plate. ‘Talent management and retention’ ranks number one, with 35 per cent of HRDs recognising it as their main concern (up from 31 per cent in 2013). ‘Succession planning’ came a close second with 33 per cent (up from 25 per cent in 2013) followed by ‘increasing employee engagement’ (30 per cent; 23 per cent in 2013). While the order of priorities was the same just a year ago, it is interesting to see that all these issues have increased in importance, reflecting the new phase of growth we have entered.

It is evident that HRDs are faced with the challenging task of balancing a number of strategic priorities. Even though optimism generally translates into productivity, increased confidence also means employees are more likely to look elsewhere to further their career. Employees’ preferences are constantly changing, and it is more important than ever before for HR to be creative in developing new ways to secure, engage and retain talent.      

2015 is certainly going to be an exciting time in HR. With a raft of innovative tools and innovations available, it is time to start thinking about new possibilities to ensure that HR fulfils its potential. By keeping up with, and offering insight into, the latest workforce trends, HR professionals have a significant opportunity to make a real contribution to business success for years to come.