These Three Factors are Shaping the Future of Work

December 17, 2019      By Cecile Alper-Leroux

Ultimate Takeaway
  • Empowering previously underutilized employee segments will help with long-term labor shortages
  • Organizations must strike the right balance between transparent communication and protecting data privacy
  • Leaders must prioritize an adaptive workforce, one that is capable of both reskilling and improving "soft skills"

Every year, Cecile Alper-Leroux—Ultimate Software’s VP of HCM Innovation—analyzes the most significant forces shaping the future of work and shares them with the industry via her highly-anticipated MegaTrends.

Months of research and deliberation go into defining and predicting these trends with the hopes of helping both prepare and empower the future of work. Click here for the full post, or read below for a recap of the socio-economic, geo-political, and demographic forces she’s predicting will radically affect our future workforces in 2020.

We are coming off a year in which companies finally realized the importance of holistic employee well-being as well as the significant impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the coming year, we must extend our view even further into the future – while grappling with a long-term labor shortage and dealing with a massive crisis in trust – to ensure our long-term survival in the future of work.

Smart technology, AI and robots will certainly play a role here, but we will also need to tap into new and underutilized workforce segments and empower them in uniquely humanistic ways.

Focus on Accessibility

The world is aging, and as it does, a new reality is emerging: many of us will age into disability. Record-high labor shortages are crippling Japan, German, coastal cities in China, and the U.S.— meanwhile, more than one million people worldwide are currently unemployed or underemployed due to some form of disability.

Enabling this workforce is in everyone’s best interest, but in order to do so we must make work truly accessible. Non-traditional labor segments, such as “gig” workers, returning retirees, people with visible and invisible disabilities, and the neuro-divergent are key to the future of work.

Organizations will need to invest in technologies that can augment and compliment the capabilities of diverse groups of people while making their workplaces fully accessible. It’s crucial to remember that “accessibility” includes access to new opportunities—i.e., inclusion, not accommodation—and that cyclical/intermittent work or lifestyle-based assignments are a useful and underutilized option.

The impact of these (and all) diversity and inclusion initiatives are proven: Improved innovation, productivity, and overall business outcomes.

Balance Transparency and Data Privacy

We are in a period of increasing global distrust of institutions, the media, and many governments. With nowhere else to turn, people are ultimately placing their trust in their employers (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019).

Organizations must strike the right balance between providing transparency and open communication while protecting the data and privacy of people at work. HR will have to lead organizations in navigating these murky waters, continuously updating policies and programs as regulations (and their complexity and scope) increase.

Build an Adaptive Workforce

While the need for adaptive organizations has been discussed, little focus has been placed on the need for developing an adaptive workforce. I believe we must build adaptability into our workforce by ensuring that we identify and develop those skills essential to flourishing in the ever-changing environment that is the modern workplace. Professional skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and resilience are frequently cited, yet little action has been taken to establish these as the primary skills to gauge how a person will contribute to, and impact, an organization. Too many business leaders and recruiters continue to prioritize technical skills, and we are currently underserved in tools to quantify impact and contribution.

It is a lot for us to grapple with, but 2020 is the year in which we have to do it. Our organizations will not survive—much less evolve—without taking note of and affecting change. It’s time to step up; to protect our people’s privacy while being more open with them, to make work truly accessible for all, and to ensure we are developing (and valuing!) adaptability in our people.

Essentially, it’s time to put our people first.

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  1. Avatar Katie Bell on January 4, 2020 at 2:34 am

    I want to add one more thing in this list, and that is “Employee Skills Growth”. Organizations must need to explore their employees’ skills and help them grow by organizing workshops and research programs. When an employee grows, business grows.

    • Karina Schultheis Karina Schultheis on January 9, 2020 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Katie – thank you so much for your comment! You’re absolutely right, and employee skills/reskilling is only going to increase in importance as the world of work continues to evolve. Organizations can only be adaptable, innovative, and modern when their people are. Thank you for including this here!

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