Sometimes it can feel like there are so many changes in our industry it’s impossible to keep tabs. I feel it is important, as we near the end of the year, to take the time to reflect on the changes we’ve seen. From legislative changes to general HR trends, here are just five of the many things which I think have had a massive impact on the UK’s workforces this year as we look forward to 2018:

  1. Getting GDPR ready

GDPR is attracting growing attention as the year draws to a close. From 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will replace the Data Protection Directive (DPD). The GDPR is designed to give individuals much greater control over their data, while extending the responsibilities of organisations to protect it. It’s an EU law, meaning that any EU employee wherever in the world has a right to more control over their personal data.

Companies are coming to understand what GDPR will mean for them, how they handle the data of their customers, clients and (most notable for us) employees. Preparations for most are well underway, but failure to be ready and to comply with the new legislation could be huge – 20million euros or 4% of the group’s worldwide turnover, whichever is greater. While GDPR may seem like just another regulatory obstacle to navigate, it also presents an opportunity for organisations to streamline how they collect and process employee data.

  1. Employee experience and engagement

Job hopping is rising and unemployment is at an all time low. These are worrying signs for businesses looking to retain their top talent and help grow their organisations in the face of low productivity. We released two reports this year which painted a more detailed picture about the job market. Our Evolution of Work report found 70% of workers are open to leaving their job, and The Workforce View in Europe 2017 found 15% of employees plan on leaving their job within a year.

Employees’ experience and engagement has risen to the top of the agenda as a result. HR leaders are turning into office designers to create the right environment to attract the right talent and the keep those already employed. The workplace is only half the challenge – companies have woken up to the need to support personal development, giving workers the right tools to get a greater sense of achievement from their work.

  1. Gender pay gap reporting

In October, the BBC revealed their gender pay gap, particularly noticeable among top stars. The uproar was enormous and rightly so. For many though, the news is yet to come. In April 6th next year, all companies with more than 250 employees will legally have to publish their own gender pay gap on their company website. How businesses face up to the harsh reality will impact on their brand perception both externally and internally. The BBC failed to deliver the news to their employees in the right manner, it’s up to HR leaders to learn from the mistakes and handle it better.

  1. Apprenticeship levy

Starting in April, the levy was designed to plug the skills gap and help drive productivity and growth. It comes at a difficult time for businesses, with other increases like the national living wage and auto-enrolment on pensions. But while costs are going up even more by having to contribute to an apprenticeship levy, this is an investment where they will clearly see benefits. The cost of hiring, employing and training apprentices may seem substantial in the beginning, but it is a long-term investment that will train the next generation and ensure British business can continue to thrive. Without the introduction of such schemes, we will face a serious skills gap which will be much worst for business in the long-term.

For apprentices, the lure of a scheme needs to be more enticing. Currently only 8% of students are being advised to seek an apprenticeship according to new YouGov survey findings, while 85% are encouraged to go into further or higher education.

  1. Taylor review on the gig economy

In July the Taylor Review was released. A look in to how the gig economy was affecting employment practices advised that all work should be “fair and decent” in the wake of a sharp rise in companies hiring individuals as external contractors. Prime Minister Theresa May said the findings should be taken seriously and in light of recent trials against brands like Uber and Deliveroo people are taking notice.

For the estimated 1.1 million people working in Britain’s gig economy it means greater rights, more freedom and potentially access to National Insurance and statutory holiday allowances. For companies it’s an attempt to end the trade-off between flexibility and security and marry the two under one banner of employment.

2017 has been a tumultuous year for HR. With complex new legislation to get to grips with and stories in the media about harassment and worse, the role of HR is more important than ever. In light of all these changes it’s important that HR professionals embark into the New Year remembering how important it is to keep talent engaged and satisfied.