Ever find yourself wondering, what does the future workforce look like?
If you want a crystal ball into the challenges your organization will be facing over the next decade, and some ideas for how to intelligently plan ahead… we’ve compiled a lot of the latest research and stats, to provide your ultimate cheat sheet.
1. Embrace the freelance revolution
The gig economy is becoming a mighty influence in the workplace, and one which you can’t afford to ignore. By 2027, it’s projected that more than half of the US workforce will be freelancing, with this number growing year on year. These gig workers aren’t opportunists with side hustles – these are talented, skilled workers with niche talent who have built businesses around providing their expertise.
However, the benefits aren’t only for the freelancer. This metaphor of freelancers as cloud computing is a great one. Just like the cloud, using freelancers makes your costs more flexible, moving from an all CapEx approach to an OpEx-focused structure, paying for what you need when you need it. And just like the cloud, relying on independent contractors means that you can benefit from ready expertise, without the need to build and train in-house.
This trend and the associated benefits haven’t gone unnoticed. 71% of hiring managers are looking to sustain or increase their use of freelancers over the next six months. It’s vital that organizations learn how to better onboard, manage and collaborate with non-payroll workers, including learning how to build a tight culture across different types of workers, choosing which roles to keep in-house, and communicating effectively on freelance budget and collaboration.
2. Recognize that remote work is here to stay
Hand in hand with the explosion of the gig economy is the move to remote work. Of course, the pandemic accelerated this change, but it was well on its way already, back when Corona was just the beer we chose when the bar had run out of Budweiser. According to recent reports, 53% of businesses believe the growth in remote work has increased their willingness to hire freelancers, so it’s hard to separate the two trends, but either way – remote work and a more flexible workforce aren’t going anywhere.
McKinsey Research comments that “the more advanced an economy, the greater it’s potential for remote work.” This is largely because of the technology gap. In emerging economies, workers are less likely to have available spaces to work from home, and businesses will not be able to offer adequate communication and collaboration tools to facilitate the shift. Over the next few years, we will see a growing number of co-working spaces, reduced costs in technology, and many new and innovative solutions spring up to level the playing field.
3. Mind the skills gap
At the moment, the skills gap is a key challenge for organizations, and we’re going to see a number of different routes to address this head-on. The truth is, as the demand for tech roles increases, there just aren’t enough people to fill these roles. As the pace of technological advancement continues to snowball, education systems simply can’t keep up, and many believe that college degrees alone are woefully under preparing the next generation of the workforce.
Freelancing is one important response to the skills gap, offering on-demand talent for specialist skills that can be shared across companies. Leveraging the gig economy also allows businesses to better expand hiring to an alternative workforce from non-traditional labor pools, such as those with disabilities or global candidates. However, we’ll also see businesses look to offer in-house training to help employees to upskill or reskill, which brings us to the next trend on the horizon….
4. Place people over jobs
Despite the skills gap, 37% of workers are worried about automation impacting their jobs, and many of them are right. 30% of businesses say that a quarter of their organization’s roles are at risk within the next five years. Low-wage workers were by far the worst hit during the pandemic, accounting for 80% of job losses. Not to be dramatic, but… the machines are coming. This makes it more important than ever for organizations to adopt a “people first” mindset.
While you can’t promise employees that their jobs and tasks won’t be affected by technology, you can put an emphasis on reskilling, training, agility, and creativity across your company. Those who put a focus on the types of work that automation and AI can’t excel at, including problem-solving, empathy, leadership, and critical and creative thinking will not only protect at-risk workgroups but also attract workers who see their roles (and your company) as future-proof.
5. Treat technology as the great enabler
One part of putting people over jobs is to foster a feeling of technology as an enabler of your workforce, rather than a replacement for it. If we think about the future of the workforce, and technology’s role in this paradigm shift, we’re likely to see an increasing number of decision-makers asking, “How can technology take over the tasks that our workers are struggling with?” “Will this proposed tool make our employee’s work easier or more accurate?” “Which technology will free up our staff to complete more strategic or higher-value tasks?”
For example, in talent acquisition, technology can augment HR managers by analyzing the talent market to find the right candidates, and by offering tools for video interviewing or storing and accessing documentation and data. These will undoubtedly save HR teams a lot of wasted time, and add accuracy to their work – but we can’t imagine a future where a new candidate is hired by a computer alone! So… What does the future workforce look like? In many ways, it’s a trick question. The trends that you can expect for 2025, 2030, and beyond are the same ones that you can see if you look closely at the evolving workforce right now. Organizations who lean on technology to empower employees and onboard more flexible, on-demand talent will be best placed to thrive in the workforce of tomorrow.