what’s ahead for the future of work?

In an age of robots and artificial intelligence, what does the future of work look like? For the quickest answer, simply pull out your smartphone for a preview. Mobile technology is reshaping how employers and employees are connecting, collaborating and executing on business goals. In the near future, this ubiquitous platform, along with other advances in consumer technology, will usher in an entirely different perspective on talent and employment.

Consider this: the number of smartphones will reach 6.1 billion globally, according to Ericsson. In just 25 years, Amazon has managed to transform the way commerce had been conducted for thousands of years. Artificial intelligence is now embedded in countless number of digital products. Companies are no longer bound by physical boundaries as workforces spread across the globe can still operate as one thanks to the cloud. And IDC predicts that data will grow at an accelerated rate over the next six years, expanding from 33 to 175 zetabytes (1021 bytes) by 2025, leading to a huge demand for analytics services.

How do these developments affect the future of work? Many consumer technologies are leading the way for the back office. By making the customer experience effortless, transparent and seamless, consumer businesses are influencing workforce technologies that are redefining what employment will mean in the coming years.

For instance, the human cloud has completely disrupted many industries in just a few short years. Workers seeking specific types of employment can readily match their skills, desired hours, pay and other preferences to a growing list of employers seeking the same conditions. The proliferation of different marketplaces – Uber for drivers, DoorDash for food delivery, Toptal for web programmers –  means employers and labor can more efficiently find the right match at the right time.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the global Gig Economy is estimated to have reached $3.7 trillion in 2017. Of that, $82 billion were generated by the human cloud. The largest portion of the Gig Economy came from the employment of independent contractors, which accounted for $2.1 trillion.

The proliferation of the human cloud is transforming the future of work in several ways. Workers are empowered like never before because they now have the flexibility to choose when and how much to work. For instance, a developer may seek out various projects rather than choose a full-time role. This allows flexible hours suited to his schedule and location. But it also enables a career that is built around his lifestyle instead of the other way around.

For employers, the cloud is accelerating the idea of just-in-time labor. Just as you would order an Uber ride or food delivery through ele.me, a B2B model is rapidly emerging to provide companies access to instant talent. For instance, CornerJob is a platform for employers to quickly find hourly workers in the hospitality, sales, retail and other sectors. For professionals, twago provides access to a robust pipeline through its freelance marketplace and its enterprise talent pool solution.

User experience, of course, has been the key to expanding the cloud. A platform’s app needs to deliver a highly engaging experience to gain worker participation. That’s why platform developers in recent years have focused on creating an abundance of useful feature that enable workers to showcase their skills, share their achievements and help build their personal brand. The lessons learned from consumer technology have been a significant influence on the development of recruitment tools, with functionalities such as mobile apply, social media sharing, chatbot engagement and others becoming common features.

Accompanying the proliferation of the human cloud is an explosion in the amount of data generated. This information is both hugely useful but also perplexing. How much a project manager in Kuala Lumpur earns hourly or a nurse makes annually in New York are being collected by numerous recruitment and talent suppliers. Efforts are underway to not only track the costs of labor for specific roles but also the availability of skills for any market around the world. This massive effort will more effectively match workers with employers while helping companies better anticipate availability and costs. Key to the success of this effort is the advancement of analytics capable of providing not just a historical view but also predictive guidance.

However, data and the management of it continues to challenge many enterprises that operate disparate systems and platforms. Much of the information they possess are stored in silos, much in the way they manage talent, with permanent workers overseen by HR and contingent labor administered by procurement. This segmented approach can only be rectified when various teams bring integration to life. The cross functional teams can make the insights actionable and steer the business based on data.

So data and insights will play an important way in the future of work – for both employers and talent. AI-powered tools such as pymetrics will play a bigger role in the matching of workers to employers based on data. Candidates will also have access to an abundance of online informational sources to help them upskill, define their brand, seek professional opportunities and network.

As workers and employers face a rapidly evolving future of work, much of it will be shaped by continuing innovation in the cloud, the management of data and the user experience. For an advanced preview of where we’re headed, just consider how consumer technology is affecting your life every day.