The future of work is here, and it’s replete with technological advancements, new types of jobs, different ways to collaborate, and myriad ways to hack productivity.
Before we dive completely into 2019, let’s take a brief look back at how our daily labor changed over the past 12 months.
According to Glassdoor, several trends defined 2018. Among them, Andrew Chamberlain, PhD, Glassdoor’s chief economist, acknowledges one shift that has been occurring for the past several years, which is that AI isn’t replacing human workers, but making their jobs easier, like facilitating meeting scheduling or dealing with repetitive tasks such as having a chatbot answer frequently asked questions. Alongside this is a related issue of employee privacy and protection. And another, Chamberlain notes, is the growing number of female executives. 2018 saw a rising number of women in leadership, from politics to the C-suite of Fortune 500 companies, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
We’ll be collaborating more with AI
Experts say that AI is going to continue to be a constant collaborator with the human workforce. Rob Walker, Pega’s vice president, decision management and analytics, says, “Instead of merely driving cold intelligence, this technology will better incorporate empathy.” In 2019, Walker says, “This means understanding context and longitudinal conversations, picking up on clues on customer motivation and intent, tone of voice, how they feel in the moment, where they are in their life stage, how they act in certain situations, and even what is happening around them.”
Todd Lohr, KPMG’s digital enablement leader, says this augmentation will require new ways of working as we will rely on AI more and more through virtual assistants in our lives in and out of work. Lohr says this year, organizations will be required to rethink roles, organizational structures, and ways of working, especially to ensure that non-digital natives can leverage the technology to be at their most productive.
Lohr does caution that the advent of AI in companies presents a significant risk if not deployed responsibly. As of this year, he says, “In many organizations, current risk and control structures from the board to the server room are not designed to contemplate how AI is being deployed.”
This goes for apps and platforms in the team collaboration space, too. Symphony chief experience officer Jonathan Christensen predicts that chatbot activity on messaging platforms will double by the end of 2019, but also warns that these tools will become a prime target for hackers. “At least one major company will face a catastrophic hack,” Christensen predicts, “given the lack of end-to-end encryption of many team collab platforms.”
Collaboration platforms and chat replace email and conversations
Christensen also believes that not having a team collaboration strategy will become a competitive risk as team collaboration begins to replace email. “As the companies with team collaboration apps begin to realize efficiencies and workflows become further digitized,” he says, “firms that haven’t adopted team collaboration platforms will be forced to in order to compete.” Christensen observes that three players will emerge as leaders. “Slack will remain popular in creative industries, startup environments, and with freelancers,” he explains, while Microsoft Teams will see traction with other enterprises already entrenched in Office.”
Chris O’Neal, evangelist at Workfront, says employees may start to have their own personal chatbots. He believes instant messaging takes time and is distracting. In the future, he says, each new employee will be issued a personal chatbot assistant during onboarding. “Among other things, this chatbot will do most of the instant messaging, conversing with other employees, with company leadership, and with other personal chatbots,” O’Neal predicts.
Benefits will shift and their delivery will change
Rohinee Mohindroo, head of cognitive implementations at IPsoft, predicts that we’ll see AI-powered voice assistants being increasingly used to streamline HR and IT systems, regardless of where employees are located. Voice assistants will be desired most for their convenience and ability to easily reduce mundane tasks like resetting passwords and requesting PTO. “With AI-powered digital colleagues, employees will be able to interact directly and in real-time with an automated service to get the onboarding materials or IT assistance they need,” Mohindroo says. “This will obliterate the clunky task of manual ticketing just to set up an email address or request a change to a W-2.”
Recent sexual harassment legislation will continue to impact workers and those providers who offer HR services. Daniel L. Wright, director of business development at JDM Benefits, notes that the company has had to expand its HR services to include online training programs for both employees and their managers. “While this may not seem like the role of the benefits broker,” Wright explains, “it dovetails seamlessly into our existing HR and benefits library.”
In 2019, Don Weinstein, chief product and technology officer for ADP, says, “With workers being able to personalize almost every aspect of their personal and professional lives, employers will need to adopt flexible options around pay schedules and provide financial wellness tools to employees.” That’s why he believes digital accounts will become an increasingly common option for employees that allow access to pay how and when they want. “The weekly, biweekly, or monthly payroll cycle will evolve into schedules that meet the needs of each individual worker,” Weinstein explains. “Tools that enable workers to manage and budget take-home pay, while automatically tracking spending and suggesting budgets, will help them meet their financial goals.”
Remote and flexible work continues
Tracey Welson-Rossman, chief marketing officer of Chariot Solutions and the founder of TechGirlz, says that the next few years will see a dramatic shift in how companies and employees work together to create a greater balance between work and home lives. “The continued normalization and expansion of benefits like remote working and paternity leave are upending societal norms of where and how we work, allowing for greater flexibility for diverse candidates.”
That includes non-traditional types of working. Eighty percent of workers globally today are “deskless,” i.e., do their jobs away from a desk or computer screen, according to a recent report from Emergence. Now, we’re seeing deskless workers starting to fight back, observes Nicole Alvino, cofounder and chief strategy officer at SocialChorus. “Just look to the recent spike in strikes and walkouts, for example, showing workers’ increasing pushback on their employers,” she says. In 2019, organizations will be forced to solve the challenge of better reaching, connecting, and engaging with this underserved group of employees, says Alvino. “‘Every worker matters’ will become the new mantra as companies tap new technologies and strategies aimed squarely at giving the deskless worker a voice,” she says.
Talent shortages, skills gaps, and self-coaching
There are more than 7 million job openings in the U.S. and not enough workers to fill them, notes Glassdoor’s Andrew Chamberlain, who thinks this trend is going to persist in the coming year. Millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement age (65), and that’s both shrinking the nation’s pool of experienced workers and changing the age profile of American consumers, he points out, and for the first time in U.S. history, there will likely be more retirees in the U.S. than children under age 18 by 2035, according to data from the U.S. Census.
That demographic shift to millennials making up half of the workforce in the next couple of years, says Pablo Pollard, director of Americas at Workplace by Facebook, will bring major cultural changes at companies of all sizes. “His generation wants to engage with content in a way that feels familiar to them–through words, yes, but also through GIFs, emojis, and video,” Pollard says. “In 2019, we’ll see companies continue to strive to match their workers’ preferred communication style,” he predicts. “Companies that make the shift to more collaborative communication and activities will be more productive and build talent-based competitive advantages. As a result, they will see a highly engaged mobile workforce that will, in turn, help their bottom line.”
That also means that all employees need continuous training to ensure that they keep up to date with services and best practices. But according to Stefano Bellasio, the CEO of Cloud Academy, training is offered without structure and does not align with technical goals. He predicts that organizations will appoint digital skills officers to help manage their team’s technical skills in an effort to create structure in their training efforts. “Digital skills officers work closely with the office of the CTO and CIO to align training efforts with technical road maps, focusing on contextualized training to drive successful learning outcomes,” he says.
“In the past, organizations rejected the notion of personalized employee coaching due to the perceived high cost or limited availability of services,” says Dan Davenport, president and general manager of RiseSmart. “Companies can now deliver highly effective career development programs in short, micro-learning bursts where employees initially engage with a coach and then return when it’s time to define the next set of goals.”
Michael Graham, CEO of Epilogue Systems, agrees that micro learning will emerge as an effective way to provide short bursts of knowledge –whether about proprietary company knowledge and compliance guidelines, or how to execute a task using the software at hand–which is more efficient for everyone.
A different look at diversity
Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer at Workday, notes that five years ago, reporting the numbers, specifically around gender, were the main focal points of conversation around diversity. “While still very much important, we’re beginning to see a shift and maturation in the conversation to reflect who we are as a society, and how we define diversity,” she says. “In 2019, this will continue to gain momentum, as companies and employees alike begin to define the word diversity as simply meaning difference, and recognize that it impacts everyone.”