If you've been paying attention, you know the "future of work" has already arrived. It's readily apparent in the way organizations are reinventing their workforces and making fundamental changes to traditional work practices. A workforce revolution is in the air and the spoils will go to those who embrace the cause today.
Defining Characteristics of the Future of Work
The pace of workforce change is accelerating, with competition for talent fierce. But how do you prepare for a future that few can decisively define? By doing all you can to understand how the workplace of the future is evolving today and what that will mean in the coming years.
The blended workforce.
A major shift making a global impact, the blended workforce has created a new and exciting dynamic: full-time permanent employees working side-by-side with contingent talent, working side-by-side with robotics, all augmented by computers and AI. Along with the rising number of virtual workers, this flexible teaming is improving companies' bottom lines, increasing productivity, and strengthening agility. However, the ability to manage these workers effectively is a critical skill that will need to be developed and pioneered by shrewd HR experts.
The role of HR will focus on employee experience.
There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all when you have a blended workforce. What may be a good experience for permanent in-house employees is not the same as virtual employees, or part-time, or contingent employees... the list goes on.
Companies are investing more in manager training, improving the work environment, and giving more and better incentives for all types of workers. They’re taking a closer look at existing policies and programs and modifying them in an effort to develop new models that integrate a contingent workforce, as well as robotics and cognitive technologies.
Integration of robotics and cognitive technologies into the workforce.
Together with a newly defined workforce, automation and AI will offer a significant opportunity for increased productivity. New types of jobs are appearing that require workers and technology to co-exist in an evermore diverse and distributed workforce. Despite some news headlines, experts expect automation to actually increase hiring levels over the next several years. Although the work may change, the need for essential human skills will always remain, especially in a computer augmented age.
Focus on talent acquisition.
As productivity increases, the need to get work done increases. To keep up, organizations can't afford (neither the time nor the money) to exclusively rely on their internal headcount to execute all the work that need to be done. Meeting staffing needs requires quick, easy, and effective access to the right skills for the right project at the right time. But how to find the in-demand skills and capabilities at scale? All aspects of the organization will look to and rely on their talent acquisition functions to answer that question.
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Jobs will change.
As AI, robotics, and other technologies (some yet unknown) continue to be ushered in, the scope and design of jobs will change. No one can say for certain where it’s headed, but forward-looking companies are preparing now for training and transferring new skills.
“Essentially human parts of work” will become more important.
As tasks continue to be more automated, essential human traits, such as empathy, communication, persuasion, personal service, problem solving, and strategic thinking, will be more valuable than ever before. Most companies say they intend to retrain their employees to use technology, redesigning jobs to better take advantage of these human skills. Another effect will be seen in job demand where jobs like nursing, that are heavy in "human skills" or soft skills, will increase in demand.
Open source innovation.
Open source innovation will take on a new meaning as AI moves to the forefront of business operations. In the meantime, a greater number of companies are using an external community of experts to provide innovative strategies that increase productivity and efficiencies.
Workforce models developed outside of HR.
Nothing is more important to a company’s success than its talent. To best manage talent strategies, there will be a partnership hammered out between procurement, IT and HR teams, particularly when working towards the external part of the workforce. Adoption of technology that centralizes the workforce program will help improve goal setting and employee management.
The Bottom Line
While no analysis of future of work will be writ in stone, these eight defining characteristics should help kickstart a new way of looking at what changes might develop, and how you can best prepare for the future. Staying up on trends, focusing on productivity, creating a great employee experience, and embracing emerging technologies will help you put together a powerful workforce that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.
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