#trending: What HR leaders are seeing as critical workforce trends impacting the future of business


“Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future…this is known as Fashion Week.” – Carrie Bradshaw.

This week, while some of the most fashion-forward women in the world were looking toward the future from front rows in Bryant Park, the forward-thinking HR professionals in southern California were looking toward the future of work from rows at the 2015 Workplace Strategies (WPS) Conference in San Diego. The WPS conference is my must-attend event of the year and truly is the kick-off to new beginnings for HR rockstars that make it their mission to be at the forefront of the evolving role of Human Resources year over year. While my fashionista faves in NY were discovering 2016 fashion trends show after show, I was busy discussing the top workforce and employment trends with my thought-leader peers.

HR trends won’t ever be as sexy or visually stimulating as fashion, but they are incredibly important to establishing a strong, strategic HR roadmap and focus for your team heading into 2016 . While I would die to be witnessing first hand, walkways awash in tango-inspired ruffles, tie-dye prints, sheer lace and shredded hemlines, it’s much more important (and dare I say relevant to my career) for me to be immersed in a deep understanding of the trends shaping the future of work, as highlighted by Dr. Bob Nelson, in his keynote opening speech on Wednesday, September 16th. Here are the 5 trends shaping the future of work in 2016:

  1. The Growing Shortage of Skilled Workers: By 2020, the number of college educated workers will have declined by 30-40 million and there will be a surplus of “low-skilled,” non-college educated workers hovering around the the 90 million range. While hard numbers are great, they’re only relevant if you apply some context to them. Right now, most college grads are coming out of a 4-5 year university experience and, eventually, stepping into roles that sit within the traditional middle class spectrum: office managers, executive assistants, financial planners, business analysts, et cetera, that require the ability to combine strong soft (people) skills with maybe 2-3 critical skills to perform a job. Within 2 years, there will be a 39% increase in demand for highly specialized skilled roles for those who can become Software Developers, Petroleum Engineers and Nurses. On the “low-skilled” spectrum, there is a projected 39% increase in demand for home healthcare specialists, fast-food servers and landscape workers. Those in the middle will be less in demand and the ability to find workers that have a specific set of skills will become increasingly difficult. How do we prepare our current students entering the workforce? The consensus is by improving collaboration between the educational system, the private sector and government to better communicate to students, starting at the high school level in my opinion, the skills required for a successful future workforce.
  2. The Rise of the Millenials: In 2020, Millenials will make up 46% of the workforce. In 2025, they will dominate the workforce at a whopping 75%! Because technology, availability of information and collaboration is so important to Millenials (because we don’t really a remember a time before the Internet, duh) smart employers will start adapting their traditional business models to accommodate the incoming tech savvy, team work minded workforce. Being open-minded to new methods of communication including video conferencing tools like Google Hangout and Facetime and the ability to share instant updates using various instant messengers services such as G-Chat, Adium or iMessage, will help employers stay ahead of the game.
  3. Increase of Contingent Workers: Two-thirds of the jobs added in the past year were staffed with contingent workers which made up about 20% of the workforce population. Experts have projected that this number will increase to 30-50% in the next 10 years. Contingent work is ideal to individuals with nontraditional families (both parents working or 1 parent households), students who are continuing their education but understand that they need real world work experience before they can land their dream job, or even people that rock that wanderlust vibe and want to be able to travel for extensive periods of time and work on project-based work in between adventures. Contingent workers can also provide some financial relief to employers who want to bring on SME’s to help them during periods of high growth, but can’t justify the full-time employee expenses for a permanent hire.
  4. Evolving Role of Virtual Employees: This trend piggy-backs well off of numbers 2 and 3. With amazing advances in technology, new resources have been developed to aid employees in being better connected, more collaborative and highly productive from virtually anywhere in the world (that has a decent working internet connection). Want to ride the sick swells in Costa Rica Monday morning but can’t miss out on a Scrum session with your team in SF the same afternoon? You can now do both if your company has a well-executed remote work or telecommuting program. Organizations that are getting more hip the worker’s demand for better work/life balance and flexibility are jumping on-board to the remote work trend quickly to attract and retain their Millenial talent and provide greater flexibility to Gen X and Baby Boomer employees.
  5. Globalization of the Labor Market: We’ve all heard the horror stories of American workers losing their jobs to outsourcing work/labor to foreign markets. While some see that business move as unAmerican, others see it as strategic and fiscally responsible. Many companies that have moved their engineering and development work to teams oversees have reported that they received better value for their money and the finished product was of higher quality. Over the next 5 years, SME’s have projected that 2 million financial services jobs will move abroad and by 2030, 3 million service sector jobs will be housed overseas. So what do we do to keep jobs for our teams located in the US? Dr. Bob says we need to provide more training and development to our workforce to add greater value and increase their contributions, making them a highly competitive labor source.

You now have the top 5 critical workforce trends that will impact the future of your business, wrapped up in a shiny, oversized Salvatore Ferragamo bow for you. How do you plan on addressing these workforce trends within your organization?


Shout out to Dr. Bob Nelson and San Diego SHRM for putting on another incredible WPS conference!

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