Future of work has been an ongoing buzzword among business and HR leaders. Simply put, it is a projection of how the workplace, jobs and workers would evolve in the years ahead. This ongoing discussion is what keeps Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and C-level executives on their toes in terms of planning long-term business strategies.
Today, the future of work is largely driven by two major factors: the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace and the expansion of the workforce to include full-time and gig workers. With the disruption of COVID-19 during 2020, this has accelerated existing workplace trends, including remote working, eCommerce and automation, with up to 25% more employees needing to switch occupations as reported by Mckinsey & Company.
While the COVID-19 pandemic brought most businesses to almost a standstill in the first few months, it also offered business leaders the opportunity to reconsider their approaches to work – be it for working arrangements, workflows, management as well as employee strategies. According to insights gathered from NexTech 2021 Southeast Asia HR Summit, the pandemic has also brought about several major trends in the future of work including increase in hybrid and remote working, organisational redesign and increased use of data analytics.
What’s next in the Future of Work?
The pandemic has accelerated the shift in paradigm in the world of work. It has boosted the redesign of workplaces, with an increased emphasis on digitalisation, big data, and analytics to complement new practices in today’s workplace. Here are some key themes in the post-pandemic Future of Work:
1. The emergence of HR Technology
Over the years, automation has enabled organisations to do more with fewer people. Jobs got displaced, and this trend was further exacerbated by the pandemic. Based on an article published by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), close to three-quarters (73%) of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next 3 years due to technological changes, with 1 in 5 jobs expected to be replaced by artificial intelligence and automation.
The same trend is expected within the HR space, particularly in HR technology. WorkTech, a workforce management solutions provider, recorded a record spend of USD17.9 billion in global HT technology. Market and business conditions in early 2022 look extremely positive for even more acceleration of HR tech adoption and investment. Much of this adoption is driven by the extremely tight labour market coupled with the need to improve the quality of hire while maintaining high retention rates. People analytics and AI-driven talent sourcing solutions are critical in helping organisations predict performance and fit while also mitigating unconscious bias in the workplace.
2. Digitalisation Within Blue-Collared Workforce
Before COVID-19, disruptions to the workforce largely involved new technologies. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of this physical dimension of work. According to research conducted by Mckinsey & Company, jobs in work areas that have close proximity to clients or customers are likely to experience higher transformation after the pandemic. This largely impacts the blue-collared workforce as frontline workers in retail, banks, food outlets, and hospitality. While digitalisation has automated the more administrative tasks, potentially displacing certain entry-level roles, this also puts new demands on blue-collared workers in terms of skill sets. Digital literacy becomes the next expectation of the blue-collared workforce as they are critical in facilitating digital transformation in today’s workplace.
3. Reshaping Employee Experience
In the future of work, employees will start demanding respect for workplace boundaries as predicted by experience management company, Qualtrics. This challenges HR to relook at the existing employee value proposition, and reshape the employee experience in order to retain critical talent. Progressive companies who support employees’ negotiation of workplace norms as well as employees’ healthy relationship with work will inevitably attract key talents looking for work-life balance.
Aside from reshaping workplace norms, HR and business leaders also need to start investing in The Great Re-energizing, a term coined by Qualtrics. Organisations need to re-energise employees, either by re-skilling, re-onboarding, or both in order to keep their workforce engaged.
The scale of workforce transformation triggered by COVID-19 increases the urgency for business leaders and HR to take steps in redesigning jobs, reshape workplaces, and think about training and well-being programmes for employees. While the future of work is dynamic and constant evolution of jobs, anticipation and preparing employees for what may come would result in a more resilient, adaptable and robust workforce.