Featured Articles

Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2020

New Decade Brings New Trends Along With Familiar Topics in SIOP’s 7th Annual Top 10 Workplace Trends

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) is pleased to announce its seventh annual Top 10 Workplace Trends list. Based on member surveys, these are the issues that will have the most impact on the workplace in 2020. 

For the first time, there is a tie between two of the topics; at #9 on the list – “Virtual working spaces” and ”Meaning and purposeful work.” Newly trending topics include workforce health and well-being, and meaning and purposeful work. The entries in SIOP’s Top 10 list are broad, complex issues posing difficult challenges to the business world and modern society, so it’s no surprise that many other trends have appeared on previous lists. 

Industrial-organizational psychologists study workplace issues of critical relevance to business, including talent management, coaching, assessment, selection, training, organizational development, performance, and work–life balance. I-O psychologists can help all kinds of organizations, including for-profit, nonprofit and government, grappling with these issues find solutions that are right for their organizations and their staff.

To create this list, SIOP asked its members for their predictions based on their expertise as well as interactions with clients and colleagues. After the responses were compiled, members selected the top 10 issues organizations are likely to face in 2020. Nearly 1,000 members responded, and here’s what they had to say:

10. Data visualization and communication

First appearing on the list of top trends in 2019, the need to visualize and communicate the results of data analysis remains a global business priority. Making sense of the massive amounts of data available to organizations is a necessary step in making sound, data-driven decisions. The volume and velocity at which data are collected by organizations can be overwhelming. Organizations will need to find ways to creatively yet simply present data to stakeholders to effectively communicate the core messages of each data analysis and leverage the power of the data.

How I-O psychologists can help 

The ability to create and communicate clear, visually compelling data-driven arguments, is an essential data science skill. As a data-driven profession, I-O psychologists can help organizations and their leaders effectively use data to make human capital decisions and communicate with managers, board members, and the public about human capital topics that are central to organizational success. 


In a short presentation at the 2019 SIOP Annual Conference, Dr. Tina Burke shared evidence-based advice on effectively communicating about complex subjects.  The SHRM-SIOP White Paper authored by Dr. Evan Sinar, Data Visualization: Get Visual to Drive HR’s Impact and Influence, was created expressly to help use visualization techniques in representing HR data.

9-TIE! Virtual working spaces

Virtual coworking space can help limit workplace distractions while creating a sense of community for employees. In virtual coworking space, employees can join multiple chatrooms with coworkers (some work related, some common interests), see what meetings others are attending, and work on projects together. Virtual coworking comes at a low cost for employers and provides employees with flexibility, but they do have disadvantages. For instance, it is more difficult to foster employee engagement, and a lack of engagement can spiral into a lack of commitment, employee burnout, and attrition.  

How I-O psychologists can help 

I-O psychologists have found many methods of optimizing the remote work experience over the last several years. Some of them are simple procedural “hacks” such as conducting video meetings to increase accountability, engagement, and professionalism. Other, more substantive interventions include mapping career development paths to guide training and development for virtual employees.


SIOP has published resources on several aspects of remote work, including a 2014 White Paper on Telecommuting by Dr. Kristen Shockley, which provides a readily accessible grounding in the psychological impacts of remote work. Some resources linked to other trends higher on this list are also relevant here.

9-TIE! Meaning and purposeful work

A newcomer on the 2020 Top 10 WorkplaceTrends list, “meaning and purposeful work” reflects the shift in how people view work in the context of their lives. Finding meaning is a basic psychological need, and people are increasingly seeking to fill that need through their work. They seek work that is aligned with their values and supports their sense of life purpose. People are no longer viewing work as a means to an end but rather a way of life; they want to do something they believe will contribute to the world and fulfill them. Organizations will need to rethink their human capital strategy in order to evolve along with the mindset of their employees.

How I-O psychologists can help 

Meaning and purpose are connected to organizational culture and inclusion. Creating an inclusive, values-driven organizational culture thus one key element of business success. I-O psychologists can help organizations by helping with job design (also job sculpting, job crafting), selecting employees that share the same values with the organization, and training managers to help their employees find meaning and purpose as work. 


The white paper, Getting Engaged: Top Tips for an Engaged Workforce, by Dr. Allison Gabriel and Dr. Andrew Bennett reviews the organizational importance of employee engagement and provides tips for achieving it. Also, see resources linked to diversity and inclusion in the discussion of Trend #2, below. 

8. Workforce health and well-being

Stress and insecurity aggravated by the technology-mediated pressure to be “always on” contribute to rising rates of employee burnout. Business leaders are finding that burnout is not only harmful to employee health but also costly and detrimental to organizations. If organizations want to retain their top performers, they need to think not only about the employees’ well-being at work but also consider how the employees’ work life can affect their personal life in both positive and negative ways. 

In addition to the business case for worker health, there are strong ethical mandates for businesses to consider worker well-being (e.g., the UN Sustainable Development Goals and understanding of health as a human right). 

                How I-O psychologists can help 

I-O psychologists can help organizations that strive to balance ethical and practical considerations in developing employee benefits packages that will stand out to talented individuals in the job market. They can also assist in designing well-being programs and initiatives to keep employees healthy and happy. 


SIOP offers several resources relevant to this topic including a short overview video from the 2019 SIOP Conference by Dr. Tammy Allen, and these white papers: A Marathon, Not a Sprint: The Benefits of Taking Time to Recover from Work Demands by Dr. Charlotte Fritz and Dr. Allison M. Ellis, Work-Life Balance by Dr. Alison Rife and Dr. Rosalie Hall. Find more resources under the Worker Well Being tab on the SIOP White Papers web page.

7. Algorithmic selection – validity, bias, and applicant reactions

Algorithmic hiring is a growing trend in employee selection. Algorithms in employee selection use a formula to combine test scores into an overall candidate score, as opposed to using judgment or intuition to combine them. Algorithms can also be applied to arrive at a score for a specific assessment method, such as using artificial intelligence (AI) to score résumés instead of having recruiters evaluate them. In other types of AI assessments, candidates might be asked to play custom-built games to test their reaction time or speed. 

However, many practitioners have expressed concerns about validity and bias in algorithmic selection, as well as how applicants respond to more structured selection practices.  Although using formulas to combine test scores is more valid and less biased than judgmental combinations of scores, many questions remain about AI methods.

               How I-O psychologists can help 

As algorithmic selection is used more often, and more data become available, I-O psychologists can help organizations be better prepared to navigate the complex issues and concerns about validity and bias in algorithmic selection, as well as applicant response to structured selection practices. 


In a SIOP White Paper, Dr. Neil Morelli discusses algorithms derived from artificial intelligence and their use in talent and selection assessment. Jon Willford discusses how human judgments and decisions can be enhanced with data from predictive algorithms. Also, for more information, see the recent SIOP White Paper: “Recent Trends in Pre-Employment Assessment” by Jessica M. Walker and Dr. Don Moretti.

6. Automation of jobs and tasks

Rapid increases in the sophistication of automation technology are, along with artificial intelligence, driving growing concern over the extent to which automation will disrupt the workforce. This is not a new concern, having returned with each new evolutionary phase in technology. But it is on the minds of many today and should be the subject of considered thought for educators, workforce planners, and business leaders in all sectors.

As jobs are increasingly automated, new jobs will emerge. These new jobs will require a 21st-century skill set that is in high demand already. Organizations view a growing skills shortage as one of their top concerns.

How I-O psychologists can help

Drawing on decades of theoretical and applied work, I-O psychologists are uniquely suited to help organizations conduct work analysis and forecast future human capital needs. They are also well-positioned to help organizations develop methods to aid workers to adapt to technology-enabled changes in work and the workplace.  



See Dr. Tara Behrend’s short video presentation on the topic from the 2019 SIOP Annual Conference. SIOP’s recent Organizational Frontiers book, Workforce Readiness and the Future of Work, which Dr. Behrend co-edited with Dr. Fred Oswald and Dr. Lori Foster, offers a more comprehensive treatment of the many forces shaping the future of work.

5. The changing nature of work 

Moore’s law defines the exponential growth of computing power, and that pace is driving the rapid changes in how people work. This is the fourth year in a row that the changing nature of work on the SIOP Top 10 Workplace Trends list, moving up two spots from last year.  As organizations embrace new and evolving technologies including social media communications, cloud-based collaboration tools, artificial intelligence, automation, and the digitization of work, our traditional notions of the workplace continue to evolve. 

Employee attitudes and expectations are also shifting  (e.g., see Trend #9) and require organizations to rethink their strategies for attracting and retaining employees. Organizations will also need to create agile policies and processes in order to respond to continuous change in a timely manner if they want to maintain a competitive edge.

How I-O psychologists can help

I-O psychologists can help organizations properly transition into using these technologies while avoiding pitfalls related to cybersecurity and ethical concerns that can arise with the adoption of new technology-enabled work processes. I-Os can also help organizations develop the ability to cope with the increasing rate of change by building organizational and worker agility. 



The new SIOP webinar video on Performance Management 2.O by Dr. Alan Colquitt and the white paper, Agility and Agile: An Introduction for People, Teams, and Organizations by Dr. Ben Baran and Dr. Scott Bible are two useful resources for helping organizations adapt. 

4. Working with big data

Organizations continue to expand their capabilities for collecting large amounts of data from a multitude of sources (including people’s social media activity, digital work activities or purchase behavior, and other disparate information) at a rapid pace. The sheer amount of data available to organizations provides an unprecedented opportunity to explain and predict organizational outcomes.


But as several recent news stories and regulatory changes illustrate, the collection and use of big data in poorly designed systems can also create big risks. Using big data to inform employee selection may have unforeseen legal repercussions for organizations, for example, when analyses are conducted by those without a background in organizational psychology or statistics. Collecting data from employees and applicants also raises concerns over privacy intrusion in data collection. Big data analytics will only become more prevalent in organizations, and it is up to business leaders to ensure that they are protecting their organizations’ interests by behaving ethically and responsibly.


                How I-O psychologists can help

I-O psychologists can leverage their unique blend of expertise in psychological theory, research methods, statistics, and labor laws to ensure big data analytics are conducted responsibly, accurately, and effectively by organizations. I-O psychologists have unique expertise in understanding human behavior in organizations that aids in both data management and analysis.



Big Data at Work: Lessons From the Field, by Dr. Alexis Fink, Dr. Rick Guzzo, and Dr. Sara Roberts provides a nontechnical introduction and guidance on this topic


3. “Gig economy” – contract work

The gig economy is here, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Estimates range from 10.1% of America’s workforce (2017; Bureau of Labor Statistics) to 36% (2017; 35% in 2019; Upwork & Freelancers Union). Three major questions business leaders will need to tackle concerning the growing gig economy relate to recruitment and selection, the relationship between the organization and its workers, and regulatory issues. 

First, do current recruitment and selection best practices generalize to hiring and contracting gig workers? Leaders may need to revisit and revise their current hiring practices and systems for this labor supply. Second, how is the client–gig worker relationship different from the employer–employee relationship? What implications does this have for whether and how organizations invest in, retain, and develop their gig workers? Finally, what are the legal hotspots (e.g., compliance) of gig work that organizations and gig workers must understand and how do these impact the work itself?

                How I-O psychologists can help

I-O psychologists can help answer these questions and assist organizations navigating this complex and challenging shift from the traditional day job to contract work. In addition, they can aid organizations in developing a way to increase employee engagement and organizational commitment amongst gig workers. 



Dr. William Macey offers an overview of the scope and impact of the gig economy in this short video from the  2019 SIOP Annual Conference.  In The Gig Economy: An Overview and Set of Recommendations for Practice, Dr. Emily Campion addresses five of the most pressing questions on the topic, while focusing on practices supporting gig workers’ productivity.

2. Diversity, inclusion, and equity

Diversity, inclusion, and equity continue to be top considerations in the workplace, with an increasing focus on inclusion and equity. The #MeToo movement is just one recent example of how these concerns can move from the workplace into the headlines, underscoring the need for organizations to create diverse, inclusive workplace cultures.

Continued efforts to advance representation of women and historically underrepresented ethnic groups, particularly in leadership, are increasingly joined by inclusion and equity considerations of LGBTQI employees, renewed attention to age and ageism, global diversity and immigration, and integration of workers with disabilities, including invisible disabilities and mental health. Extending workplace inclusion and removing barriers for neurodiverse individuals is a growing imperative.

The public increasingly scrutinizes equity in organizations, including pay gaps, income inequality, executive pay, and minimum wage. Improvements in workplace equity may also enhance employer brands and the ability to attract and retain talent.   

How I-O psychologists can help

I-O psychologists can help organizations focus on inclusivity, identify exclusionary practices, design training on unconscious biases, and examine possible biases and effects on diversity and equal opportunity. 


McKenzie Preston and Dr. Sumona De Graaf highlight business benefits in the white paper, Benefits of Socioeconomic Diversity to Organizations: How Organizations Can Promote and Benefit From Socioeconomic Diversity. Dr. Kizzy Dominguez shares insights from practice and statistics about diversity, inclusion, and equality in this short video from the 2019 SIOP Conference

And the #1 trend this year…

  1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to be the number one workplace trend for the year 2020. More and more employers are exploring the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in personnel decisions such as hiring, retirement planning and benefits enrollment, and many other areas.

Though the use of AI in HR is still in the early stages, AI has immense potential to change how organizations make personnel decisions through the use of predictive analytics and metrics for talent acquisition, training and development, and compensation. 

In hiring, AI can predict the likelihood of success on the job as well as the risk of turnover. AI could be used to offer personalized recommendations for training/career development as well as suggest which employees should be assigned to specific teams for higher team performance. 

                How I-O psychologists can help

I-O psychologists are helping organizations use artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase effectiveness and efficiency by evaluating new methods of workflow, streamlining processes, improving customer experiences, and automating operations based on predictive intelligence. 


For more information, see this recent SIOP White Paper: Artificial Intelligence in Talent Assessment and Selection by Dr. Neil MorelliDr. Dan Putka provided an introduction to AI and machine learning at the 2019 Annual Conference. In addition to definitions and use cases, Dr. Putka contextualizes the role of I-O psychology in relation to engineering and other data sciences in HR applications. See the video here.

Using I-O Psychology to Solve Business Challenges

SIOP members are I-O psychologists who work in business, government and academia. Several act as consultants, and you can find an expert to help with your organization’s workforce challenges by selecting a topic from the dropdown consultant service list in the SIOP Consultant Locator.

Learn more about practical business applications of I-O psychology in the SIOP Hot Topics White Papers. In-depth coverage of several of the fundamental human issues organizations face today are addressed in the SIOP Organizational Frontiers Book Series. Browse the catalog here.

Read previous Top 10 Trends lists here and find short videos on the 2019 trends, including an expert discussion of each trend and a brief overview of all the trends, here.

This year’s Top Ten Workplace Trends list was coordinated by the Media Subcommittee of SIOP’s Visibility Committee based on two online surveys sent to approximately 8,000 SIOP members from October of 2019 to December of 2019. Committee members include Nikki Blacksmith, Chair; Amanda Woller, Chair in Training; Andrew Pepper, Media Chair; Dan Eisen, Survey Analysis Coordinator Thanks to these volunteer writers for helping create the report: Nicholas Baldwin, Emily Campion, Nick Howald, Uma Iyer, Jaclyn Jensen, Ludmila Praslova, Jerel Slaughter, Tilman Sheets, and Laura Tate.

Previous Article What Are You Doing Wednesday?
Next Article 2020 Conference Theme Track
38329 Rate this article:
Comments are only visible to subscribers.


Information on this website, including articles, white papers, and other resources, is provided by SIOP staff and members. We do not include third-party content on our website or in our publications, except in rare exceptions such as paid partnerships.