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A new year ahead! What does this mean for human resources (HR) departments and business leadership?

HR professionals agree that several trends in the world at large will have a significant impact on HR functions in 2017. We've rounded up the four top trends.

Trend 1: More Flexible Workplaces

In the new year, 90% of human resources professionals becoming workplaces will become more flexible and fluid. That means more employees working virtually, either full or part time. It means combining days at work with virtual days. And it means a further blurring of the line between work and home.

This trend has, of course, been happening increasingly throughout at least the past five years. But it is expected to be even more widespread, and more integrated into how companies do business, this year - and moving forward from this year.

Workplaces will be decoupled from particular physical locales.

This specific trend is driven by two significant megatrends. The first, of course, is on-the-go technology that can be used from almost anywhere to anywhere. The other is the critical mass of Millennials, those aged 20 to 35, who are now in the workplace.

The Millenials are digital natives, for whom the idea of tasks being linked to a physical location is archaic. In future decades, Millennials will rise to positions of business leadership, so the trend toward decoupling work and locale is likely to gain more and more traction.

Trend 2: Employees' Voices, in Real Time

The second trend is toward more of what HR professionals call the employees' voice. This trend continues and enlarges a move toward companies investing in immediate, real-time feedback from consumers of their products. The trend is for employees to provide feedback on the company their work for. Just as consumers are solicited for their opinions and experiences, employees will be solicited for their opinions regarding company policy, team efforts, and a wide array of corporate measures.

Employee voice has ramifications for how workplaces and HR departments do things across the board. While a team may once have nominated employees of the month or year, individual employees are now free to post kudos to their colleagues on multiple social media channels. Where once employees received performance evaluations once a year, they will now be in a continuous loop of feedback and improvement.

Trend 3: Managerial Leadership Styles: Coaching in Play

The third trend combines several mega-trends. Managerial styles will continue to evolve toward a coaching style rather than an authoritarian style. Partly this responds to Millennials in the workplace as well. As a cohort, they display a marked preference for having tasks explained and working on teams rather than a specific top-down set of commands.

Managers, like coaches of sports teams, will increasingly coach teams of employees. The relationship may be much more important than that of the employee to the firm. Indeed, HR professionals have bandied about the adage "people don't leave companies; they leave managers" for decades. In the future, that is likely to become even more evident.

A new year opens a blank slate on which these trends will soon make their mark.