Future of Work - The Definitive Guide

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The future of work (FoW) is now.  Blink and you’ll miss it.  While it sounds cliché, it is a very true statement.  The topic is constantly evolving and it is nearly impossible to define as a result.  HR professionals and company leaders are looking for ways to meet the evolution head on, and at the same time, attempt to get a head of it in an effort to prepare their workers for what’s to come.

Consider some of these data points.

Those statistics point out a very real need on the part of HR professionals and teams to put in the effort now to prepare workers and their organizations for this projected reality.

In the guide below, the HR Exchange Network explores FoW in more detail and how it affects HR professionals.  It discusses the role of culture, employee experience and technology as the work landscape continues to evolve.

What is the Future of Work?

As previously mentioned, it is very difficult to define the FoW.  The biggest reason for this is the topic changes depending upon with whom one is speaking. 

Take a moment and think about work.  What does it look like?  The question does not just pertain to the physical location in which one might work.  It also applies to the technology, the schedule and the people among other things.

Much like a photographer puts a filter on the lens of the camera to change the picture, one can do the same with the future of work.  What does work look like now?  One would guess it looks much different than before.  Now, if you were to partially pull the filter away, you would get a picture that is both current and future.  Welcome to the world as we see it now.  In other words, the future of work is already here and it is slowly becoming the new reality.

HR and FoW

So what does the future of work mean for HR?  In a nutshell, it's about predicting what jobs will be needed in the not too distant future and the skills those employees will need.  Furthermore, the FoW is about figuring out what skills current employees should have and preparing them for the next 5, 10 and 20 years.

Additionally, HR will continue its digital transformation.  There are more and more technology solutions available every year and HR should stay apprised of those.  Not only that, but professionals need to understand how those could impact the organization and the industry.  Technology has always been a game changer when it comes to getting ahead of the competition.

Finally, there is a culture piece under the FoW.  The workforce is fluid and will continue to be for a few more years as more and more Generation Z workers join the workforce.  For them, work is about more than a paycheck.  It's about development, purpose and their impact on the world.  If that's not enough, we're already seeing a new generation of children being born.  Generation Alpha will be joining the workforce in the next 10 years.      

Want to know more about the FoW HR?  Click here to download our report.

New Realities

With all of that in mind, what are some of the new realities HR must consider?

  • HR is becoming less transactional and more strategic.
  • Artificial Intelligence and automation are being aggressively used to automate repetitive tasks freeing HR professionals to be more people focused.
  • Employees want more from their companies than just a pay check. They want culture, one that provides flexibility, puts the highest priority on communication and embodies strong work values which offer a real and positive impact on the community. 
  • HR is seeing some transformation to an employee experience economy.

Changing Forces

So, what are the forces behind the change?  The answer is simple relatively speaking. 


HR professionals who have been in the business for some time probably remember the rise of Generation Y (Millennials) and how spectacularly unprepared HR was when it happened.  In an attempt to stop history from repeating itself, HR is on point and ready for the rise of Generation Z.

And the timing couldn’t be better.  This year, ManpowerGroup research estimates the workforce will be 24% Generation Z.


Like their millennial predecessors, Generation Z has a strong sense of technology.  It permiates every part of their lives including work.  This has been a huge reason behind the increasing desire to work remotely.

Buffer’s State of Remote Work report says remote workers will account for nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce this year.  In addition, the remote workforce is not only growing in size, but also in the level of positions on a “remote payroll” level.

Full-time employees from the lowest ranked to the top executive spend entire days at home logged in to their company’s mainframe through a remote client.  Some don’t even stay at home, taking their laptop with them to the library or favorite coffee shop to work.  They are video conferencing with fellow remote workers and conducting full scale projects without having to be in the same room with their team mates.

In fact, the same report mentioned above says 90% of the remote workers they surveyed said they would spend the rest of their career working remotely.

Remote workers aren’t just full-time employees.  A growing segment of them are freelance or gig workers; workers who shop their skills out to multiple employers at a time.  This has real implications for HR in that it changes the way HR and managers lead teams.

In a gig economy, the person is not a resource controlled by the company.  Instead, the person is shared with other companies.  It’s a significant change to the workplace because that gig employee can change companies based on their skills and desires with no strings attached.

Having said all that, most HR professionals who’ve talked about the remote workforce aren’t focused on the technology that makes it real; they focus, instead, on how to keep those employees connected to each other.


That’s driving a huge culture change.  Some have joked both generations were practically born with technology in-hand.  As a result, these workers have built-in expectations when it comes to information access in their personal lives, and they extend that to their professional lives. 

For instance, many of them are accustomed to asking an AI-powered device such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Echo device to play a song for them or turn on the lights and it happens instantly.  Within minutes, they can put together a playlist for working out or play music during a party.  It’s all about personalization.

In fact, lots of things are changing, not just technology.  Take transparency for instance. 

Want more on culture?  Click here to read our workplace culture guide!

Current and future employees don’t submit to traditional work models held by employers.  As a result, HR is going to have to take a serious look at the information they make public.  An extreme example would be publically disclosing the salaries paid to workers.  At least one social media company, Buffer, does this.

In a survey from PayScale regarding job satisfaction and pay, the organization found the more information employees have about why they make what they make translates to higher retention rates.

What HR professionals have to say about FoW

To understand more about the FoW, here are a few quotes from HR professionals on the topic.


On adapting to the dynamic workforce of the future:

“I think there are a variety of things that can go into that,” Capital One vice president of Human resources Christina McClung said.  “You know, how do you engage employees?  What should they expect from tools and systems and how they’re going to support the work they do?  How we need to be on the cutting edge of recognizing how they want to be incented to stay at a company… and pay and compensation and looking at things like total rewards.  I think there’s a huge cultural shift we’re seeing that’s really a personalized approach to work.”

On the future of work:

“Change is a constant, as we all know.  We’re all always preparing for the next thing and so when we say future of work, what do we mean?  One year?  Three years?  10 years?  50 years?  We’re in a constant state of evolution,“ Luciana Duarte said.  Duarte is the Vice President of Employee Experience at HP.

On the development of soft skills:

“It becomes the company’s responsibility to train millennials and even the new generations on how to actually have relationships and social conversations because they don’t learn it anywhere else,” Associa chief human resources officer Chelle O’Keefe explained.  “So, how do we as older generations demonstrate the behavior that we’re looking for?  It means putting down our technology and having actual conversations, being focused and in the moment, and present because those are things they’re not used to or are not learning.”

2020 and the FoW

Ultimately, every HR professional wishes they had the gift of prophecy or a good old fashion crystal ball.  Being able to predict the future would be of great benefit.  While that particular ability or tool do not exist, HR professionals can look to data and trends for assistance.

With that in mind, we can ask the question:  what does the future look like?

Consider the multigenerational workforce and the new leadership competencies HR believes are emerging. 

What’s significant about these results?  These are traits that define the future worker.  The majority of them are also soft skills.  HR recognizes it’s not enough to just have technical expertise.  Workers must also be able to interact effectively with other people.  The human component is once again taking precedence over an employee’s skill with a particular tool.  This new class of worker must be able to communicate effectively.  Companies that don’t embrace these skills will increase their risks of falling behind competitors.

HR and Future of Work

For the second year in a row, the HR Exchange Network is producing a free-to-attend online event focused on the FoW.  HR and the Future of Work is scheduled for March 24-25, 2020. Some of the key themes for the event include:

  • Creating a cohesive culture that allows all workers to thrive while providing an award-winning employee experience
  • Embracing “new work” trends sought by an increasing number of professionals including flexibility, communication and strong work values.
  • Acquiring and implementing new digital strategies that strengthen and sustain the current workforce and the workforce of the future.

Click on the link below to register!


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