Just as no one could have predicted the disruptions of the past decade, no one can predict with absolute certainty what the future of work will look like. Emerging trends and technologies do, however, give us an indication of how to think about and prepare for that future. Is your business ready for it?
A Need for New Skills
The continuing emergence of AI, automation, and related technologies means more and more tasks, especially routine administrative and service-oriented tasks, won’t require people to perform them. That doesn’t mean people are going away and won’t be needed elsewhere, but it does mean that they will need to develop and acquire new skills that complement and fit this environment.
A big part of future job growth will center on high-skilled areas that have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) foundations as well as areas that require highly specialized skill attainment, and in many cases, certification. That’s because businesses will need employees that can apply and further improve these emerging tools to better meet market needs and create new competitive advantages.
How much time does your business today devote to identifying the different and deepened skills and types of workers that it will need in the next 5 to 10 years?
A Shift in How/ Where/ When Work Gets Done
The quest to get and keep the talent businesses need won’t cease. At the same time, workers have increasingly called for more say in how, where, and when work gets done. Businesses that find ways to give them that may gain access to wider and deeper pools of talent and find other benefits as well.
In terms of where work will get done, the seismic shift to more remote and hybrid work models has largely already happened. Some companies have returned workers to a central location with a view that proximity spurs collaboration and innovation, while others that previously said “remote won’t work for us” have found that it does. Again, companies that can offer employees more control, choice, and flexibility will be more competitive for talent and see higher employee satisfaction and engagement.
In terms of how and when work will get done, expect further growth in the gig economy fueled by freelancers and independent contractors who want the flexibility of work on their terms. These typically temporary and part-time positions do involve formal agreements, but businesses must be mindful of potential pitfalls in what they provide and do to differentiate these workers from employees. Getting assurance and advisement from an expert in employer requirements is highly recommended because the target continues to move.
A New View of HR
CEOs and business owners should be intentional right now about making HR more of a strategic thought partner and leader in workforce planning for the talent and teams that will be needed in the years ahead. This should include assessing where administrative and routine tasks traditionally associated with HR (e.g., job posting, screening, etc.) can be automated or shifted to line managers, admins, or specialists who can own and execute them instead. Doing so will allow more space for HR to prioritize employee engagement, training and development, and dynamic work models that can ebb and flow in tune with the business. Companies also need HR to hold a steadfast focus on the employee value proposition that drives why people want to work for them versus another business.
Companies should also be mindful of growing trends around transparency and self-managed teams. More states are expected to follow Colorado’s lead on increased transparency surrounding compensation and paths for promotion and advancement. And with self-managed teams, more companies are finding benefits in having some groups of employees own many decisions related to their workflow, processes, schedules, and more. All of these trends will require a new level of leadership from HR.
Plan for the Future Now
Businesses are wise to be wary of anyone who says they can pinpoint every angle of how work is going to change in the future. Still, that should in no way stop CEOs, owners, and other leaders from taking steps now to prepare their businesses for what’s coming. Companies will continue to need people but in new and different ways. Workers will continue to want their voices heard in how, when, and where work gets done. And companies will need to engage HR and others as strategic business partners to find and plan for the best path forward.
*This article was originally published in the Q2 2023 edition of Texas CEO Magazine.