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Significant demographic changes, the automation of labor, the disconnect between skills and organizational needs, and new models of work are all predicted in the transformed workplace of the near future, according to a range of experts.
How can HR professionals prepare for these changes?
Members of the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) 2014 special expertise panels answered the challenge and provided recommendations in a new report issued by the SHRM Foundation, an affiliate of SHRM.
Demographic Shifts Boost Global Migration
Over the next 15-25 years, the Baby Boomer generation will be leaving the workforce in the developed economies of the United States, Japan, the U.K. and many other countries. On the other hand, the population is overwhelmingly young in emerging markets. For example, half the population in the Middle East and North Africa region is younger than 25, according to the International Labour Organization. This creates incentives for global migration, according to the SHRM Foundation report. “Workforces are becoming more geographically diverse as young workers in developing regions move to more prosperous countries to find work or become global telecommuters who work remotely. In addition, in the next decade nearly one billion women—primarily from the developing world—are expected to enter the labor force,” the report said.
Workforce changes HR should expect include:
The expertise panels recommended that HR, among other things:
Labor Becomes Automated
Technological advances have automated many routine tasks formerly performed by mid-skilled workers, defined in the report as those with a high school diploma but not a college degree.
The number of overqualified applicants and employees in low-skilled jobs will increase, according to experts. Having mid-skilled workers doing low-skilled work may lead to decreased employee engagement, retention and productivity, according to the report.
Some ways employers can prepare for this scenario include:
The Skills Gap Persists
Although the number of college graduates is growing, companies still report challenges in finding candidates with the right combination of technical and soft skills. In addition, there is a shortage of highly skilled manufacturing and skilled trade workers, and filling STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) positions continues to be challenging.
New skills shortages will arise as technology and business continue to change rapidly, according to the report.
Some ways HR can mitigate this trend include:
Employees Can Work from Anywhere
The rapid growth of technology has eroded physical barriers to working, and employees’ necessary physical presence in the office has become a thing of the past for many workplaces.
Flexible working arrangements such as telecommuting are expected to increase, and more work will be conducted virtually with remote workers in multiple countries, according to the report.
The challenges for HR will be in managing remote workers, evaluating productivity and fostering feelings of connection to the organization.
Some recommendations to prepare for the impact of this trend include:
The Freelance Workforce Grows
New websites such as Gigwalk, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and TopCoder have created online marketplaces where workers and those with project work can connect and transact business. Employees can do work for several companies at once.
This practice of crowdsourcing tasks “allows an organization to leverage the collective talent of the crowd to get work done, often in more efficient and cost-effective ways than the traditional employment model” and avoids layoffs, according to the report.
People unable to work a traditional schedule, such as students, stay-at-home parents and retirees will be able to participate in the job market via crowdsourcing sites and work whenever it is most convenient. Organizations would have the option of breaking down traditional jobs into sets of smaller tasks that can then be accomplished via crowdsourcing.
The SHRM experts recommended employers explore crowdsourcing and other more alternative work arrangements that might help the organization tap into new pools of talent.
“Recognize that using alternative work arrangements may require different competencies than traditional employment models,” the report stated. “Develop yourself and coach others on needed skills, such as critical evaluation, new relationship management and communication skills, and risk management.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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