If you want to future-proof your organization and stay relevant in a fast-moving world, you need to be in tune with the trends likely to shape the future of work.

With so much technology-driven change and transformation taking place at the moment, predicting what the future will bring for the world of work is no easy task. One thing you can be entirely confident about is that the pace of change is unlikely to slow down in the coming years.

Making informed, evidence-based predictions about forthcoming trends can help you prepare your organization and its people for the future of work.

Here are four significant concepts that could prove to be defining themes in the next few years:

the gig economy

The gig economy is a key source of new forms of work that are reshaping views of the employer/employee relationship and how particular jobs can be carried out. As Randstad explores in the Flexibility@Work 2019 report, people around the world are benefiting from increasing access to models such as:

  • remote working
  • flexible hours
  • more diverse compensation
  • arrangements and contracts

Candidates for whom the traditional nine-to-five working day and 40-hour week were never feasible are benefiting from significant growth in opportunities in the gig economy.

In the US, for example, more than a third (36%) of workers have some sort of gig work arrangement, according to Gallup. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of people engaged in the gig economy said they were doing their preferred type of work, while nearly 60% felt they had autonomy and authority, compared to 34% of traditional employees.

Gallup said the growth of the gig economy places an onus on employers to take targeted measures, most notably:

  • redesigning traditional jobs to include many of the benefits of independent gig work
  • training managers to better relate to the temporary workforce

AI and automation

Artificial intelligence is a rapidly evolving space that seems to be having an influence on almost every dimension of life in the 21st century, including the world of work. As a business and an employer, you undoubtedly have a lot to gain from tracking the latest developments in this area and positioning yourself to benefit from them.

In the HR and recruitment space, AI offers huge potential to make regular hiring and talent acquisition processes much quicker and more efficient, as well as removing the risk of human error or unconscious bias. 

Pymetrics, a firm supported by the Randstad Innovation Fund, is showing what can be achieved in this area by combining gamification with AI to help employers reinvent their methods of identifying, attracting and retaining talent.

AI is often mentioned in the same breath as machine learning and, perhaps most significantly of all for employers, automation. Data included in the Flexibility@Work 2019 report showed that human employment is not declining as a result of automation, and in fact, these technologies are likely to have a positive net effect on jobs.

Automation was also linked to demographic trends, with countries that have older workforces (such as Germany, Japan and South Korea) found to be more rapid adopters of automation technologies.

the cloud

The cloud offers huge potential to reinvent traditional HR, recruitment and workforce management processes within your business.

It can help you become more efficient - in financial terms but also in your day-to-day operations - by enabling a move away from on-site, outdated IT infrastructure to store, manage and analyze workforce data. According to Alex Hilton, CEO of the Cloud Industry Forum, the potential of cloud technology to “explore the value of vast unstructured data sets” is second to none.

There is little doubt about the scope for future growth in this area, with Gartner predicting that the global public cloud services market will expand from $175.8 billion in 2018 to $206.2 billion this year.

According to LinkedIn, cloud computing expertise tops the list of hard skills companies need the most in 2019.

demand for soft skills

Hard skills in areas such as the cloud, AI, data analysis and software development are essential to many modern businesses, but soft skills will prove equally valuable - if not even more important - to the future of work.

Technical abilities such as those listed above can be taught to people who have the fundamental potential and willingness to learn, but soft skills - such as creativity, collaboration, emotional intelligence and empathy - tend to be innate and are much more difficult to teach.

The ‘hard reality of soft skills’ was one of the key work trends recently highlighted by the World Economic Forum, which referred to LinkedIn research showing that 92% of employers feel soft skills matter as much as, or even more than, hard skills. Four out of five (80%) said soft skills are increasingly important to business success.

As the world of work continues to evolve and you face an increasingly diverse range of challenges and opportunities, optimizing recruitment, talent acquisition and workforce management to create the right mix of skills will prove more important than ever.