White Paper Offers Glimpse of Work’s Future

By Kathy Gurchiek Dec 27, 2007
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Continuous, dramatic changes in the labor force, increased outsourcing and even more rapid technological advancements are ahead for the workplace in 2008 and beyond, according to a recently released WorldatWork white paper.

Based on its review of literature on future trends, WorldatWork came upon two consistent themes—technology and what it termed the “global scope of opportunity”—that will affect how an employer attracts, motivates and retains employees.

“In every book or article the [WorldatWork] team reviewed, the fact of the global scope of opportunity was a given,” according to The Future of Attraction, Motivation and Retention: A Literature Review.

This “will enable individuals, corporations and nations to interact more quickly and easily than ever before,” the team wrote. WorldatWork is an association of HR professionals from Fortune 500 and other organizations.

Regarding technology, “the futurists all agree that the end of the exponential leaps in technology is nowhere to be seen. Not only will the world be connected; it will be intensely networked.”

WorldatWork compiled the following predictions—some of which, it noted, may have already come about at more progressive organizations:

  • Successful organizations will excel at acquiring, organizing and strategically deploying global resources.
  • Global connectivity, integration, and interdependence in economic, social, technological, cultural and political arenas will increase.
  • Technology will advance at a more rapid pace than in previous decades.
  • The labor force will see continuous, dramatic changes.
  • Human capital will become an even greater source of value.
  • The way work is organized and performed will continuously evolve and change.
  • Outsourcing will increase.
  • Self-paced, self-directed, individualized virtual learning will dominate business training.

Some of the implications of those predictions, it writes, are:

  • Organizations will offer more variety in their rewards to workers to attract the best and brightest, and there will be an “increased importance on the value proposition for individuals.”
  • Digital communities will cater to specific work and leisure interests and provide an opportunity to virtually interact and collaborate with anyone.
  • The traditional career path will no longer exist. Workers will “redefine traditional concepts of loyalty, job satisfaction and career advancement.”
  • Assessing rewards that attract, motivate and keep talent will be more important and valuable. There will be a need “to understand how to think about measuring the value of human capital.”
  • Advances will eliminate many diseases and increase life spans. Among other things, this will alter the workforce’s reward needs.
  • Workers will value job enrichment, flexibility and career development more than job security and stability.
  • HR will face new challenges in work design—telecommuting hubs, online technologies for connecting with global colleagues and virtual worlds.
  • Employers will break down jobs to find elements of the work that can be outsourced and will have to figure out how to motivate workers assigned pieces of that work.
  • An increase in outsourcing will mean the challenge of motivating a non-employee workforce and people “who do not have career paths or logical career progression.”

It is clear, WorldatWork writes, “that HR talent will need to evolve,” including expanding beyond basic operations and administration, “in order to respond to the needs of organizations and workers of the future.”

That calls for, it says, “strategic and analytic wisdom, deep appreciation for measurable effectiveness, and keen judgment despite myriad choices.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kgurchiek@shrm.org.

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