5 powerful trends disrupting the Future of Work right now

We are at the inflection point with changing power dynamics in job markets worldwide. In keeping up with the emerging trends in technology and consumer demands, companies have overlooked the changes in their most valuable resource – employees. Year 2022 will be pivotal for many changes that started sprouting in the previous couple of years. Human Resources have a huge and a challenging task to accomplish this year and business leaders need to make some transformational adjustments to ensure their company’s success. This article addresses some of the most powerful driving forces of the job market that can’t be ignored and should be acted on. 

Gig Economy and Candidate-driven market

The Great Resignation and subsequent Great Reshuffling driven by changing priorities and new career outlook of (mostly) millennials took job market by surprise. At the same time, Gig Economy has risen in both – its size and interest in it. According to a survey conducted by UpWork, 10 million people consider becoming freelancers, and this is only in the US market. This suggests that the upward trend of freelance employment will continue to accelerate in the coming years. 

HR should maintain good working relations with the freelancers and start building their own network of gig workers for quick access to reliable workforce on demand. 

Professionals started dictating the conditions of their employment turning HR policies upside down and creating candidate-driven job market. While it caused a temporary blow to the businesses, there are some opportunities to leverage on in 2022. Below are some of these. 

Turn freelancers into strategic partners

Last year major companies and SMEs started relying on freelance workers in the face of their own talent shortage. There’s no doubt that financial benefits exist in a flexible workforce, but there’s also a danger of not having the job done, so extra planning is essential here. Especially with freelancers becoming busier and pickier, you may end up with the same issue as lacking internal talent. But when HR builds strategic partnership with freelancers who successfully cooperated with the company in the past it opens the door for a new, more resilient business model. HR should maintain good working relations with the freelancers and start building their own network of gig workers for quick access to a reliable workforce on demand. 

Invest in Great Contingency Planning

Having a reliable and responsive network of freelancers also allows for better preparedness to unforeseen workforce demand changes. Identify key roles and skills that could endanger business continuity and prepare briefings that could be easily and quickly accessed and modified to share with freelancers when the need for on-demand work tasks materializes. With tight deadlines and reduced full-time workforce, this exercise should become a backbone of strategic planning.

HR automation and AI-driven decision support

With the increased workload and need for data-driven decision making, AI and automation use in HR will continue to rise in 2022. With more solution providers entering the market, HR technologies are expected to become more affordable and scalable. AI is already widely used in candidates screening and recruitment, but its benefits are far reaching. This is how AI and tasks automation can support Human Resources this year:

Early detection system

AI could detect anomalies in employee behaviour, signalling decreasing work satisfaction or intent to leave. Appropriate retention efforts could then be undertaken well in advance.

Career development and succession planning

The Great Resignation exposed vulnerabilities in insufficient succession planning. With AI supported systems these efforts could be streamlined and automated, minimizing time spent on planning. At the same time there is a huge need for a more agile career planning with huge emphasis on constant upskilling and reskilling. Employee’s learning and development plans should be more responsive to the changing working environment, which AI is best positioned to facilitate.

Automation of repetitive tasks

Automation of necessary tasks with smaller value added could free up HR personnel to perform more meaningful tasks. This extra time could be invested in fostering a two-way communication with employees, fostering mental wellness and active listening.

Employee Experience (EX) takes the center stage

Growing emphasis on work-life balance and the need to fight digital fatigue, employee experience will become a critical business metric in 2022. Caused by a candidate-driven market, EX can be facilitated by AI-driven decision support to improve job satisfaction, employee engagement and talent retention. Key themes and opportunities for companies are as follows:

Facilitate work-life balance

With remote and hybrid working arrangements becoming a new normal, juggling work and family time becomes more and more challenging for employees. This reflects on their mental wellbeing and negatively impacts productivity. Savvy employers will not expect employees to take care of this on their own, but will assist with appropriate policies and facilitation. 

Improve digital experience

DEI

Working in fully-remote settings gave rise to considerations on new ways of communication between team and managers, feedback sessions, recognition and motivation. New ways of working call for new ways of communication and leading. Developing guidelines on how to navigate digital workplace and investing in new systems facilitating remote work should become a priority. Additional consideration should be given to remote employee onboarding, especially when it’s their first work experience. 

DEI is not a differentiator, but a requirement 

With a series of whistleblowing scandals in 2021, employees do not accept anymore discriminatory practices. While DEI (which stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) could serve in earlier years as a differentiator for a company, helping to attract talents, this year it will be one of the evaluation criteria for prospective job candidates. 

Redesign workplace to accommodate for DEI

Whether it’s a physical office, or a digital environment, make it easy for employees of all backgrounds to feel the sense of belonging. Avoid singling out specific groups, even when promoting cross-cultural enrichment, as this can lead to stereotyping. Make working easy for a diverse range of individuals, but don’t point out this diversity. 

Take the guesswork out of employees consideration

Develop a clear set of rules and policies that show what is and what is not appropriate in the DEI context. This could encompass communication practices, career planning or working styles. 

Upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling 

This last trend somehow links the previous ones together and sets the company on the path to success in navigating highly volatile work environments. Skills take precedence over experience this year and HR should ensure that the workforce is provided with all the necessary trainings in a timely manner. It is worth paying attention to deskilling, or unlearning the old ways to stay relevant in the present and prepare for the future of work. Some of the important areas to focus on are:

Basic tech education for non-technical employees

With job augmentation it’s only a matter of time before non-technical professionals will have to be more proficient with new technological systems. Identify which systems are more appropriate for each of the roles and start training employees in these beforehand.

Adjacent and transferrable skills

Automation will result in job redesign, as well as in job transformation, with even some jobs becoming obsolete. Ensure that your employees are equipped with transferrable and adjacent skills that will prepare them for a smooth transition to a new reality, while increasing their psychological comfort.  

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Natasha Syed
Futurist passionate about the Future of Work and Future of Education.
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