This next year will see the growth of key trends in the workplace including an increased desire to hire candidates with stronger ‘soft’ or social skills; greater reliance on sophisticated technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI); continued opportunity for remote and flexible work options; greater support for work/life balance options; and more ‘human-centered’ benefits to lure the best talent.
The importance of ‘Soft Skills’:
Businesses will continue to seek candidates with strong ‘soft skills’. ‘Soft skills’ include good communication skills, effective collaboration and team skills, creative problem solving, flexibility, adaptability and a positive, up-beat attitude. Job seekers who place an importance on acquiring or enhancing their Improving overall leadership skills will reap the rewards, as the best leaders draw on these ‘soft skills’ to lead effectively. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, will continue to be a strong factor affecting hiring practices in the future. According to a Linked In survey, the top four ‘soft skills’ in highest demand in 2018 will be leadership, communication, collaboration and time management.
Better technology in the workplace:
Although the media is full of sensational stories about robots replacing humans in the workplace, the reality is that new technology and machine learning can actually enhance the employee experience, freeing people from tedious, repetitive tasks and allowing them to use critical skills and creativity to solve business challenges. For example, the global ‘chatbot’ market — chatbots are interactive AI-powered chat windows on websites that are replacing entry-level workers, such as help desk staff – will experience exponential growth in the next five years, according to Credence Research. Businesses can use AI and machine algorithms to better identify compliance risks, improve forecasting and create more effective data mining. AI can also provide better quality workplace data, allowing people to work smarter, with less effort. If you apply for a job these days, chances are your CV is first scanned by an AI program, which allows a recruiter to consider only those applications that fit the job criteria.
Flexible and remote work arrangements:
Employees are demanding more flexibility in when and where they work. This trend has been growing in recent years and will continue to increase in 2018. A Gallup poll showed that 51% of US employees would change employers if they found another company that offered more flexibility in working hours, and 37% said they would change companies if they could work from home or off-site for at least part of their work week.
In addition, a recent Staples study showed that 43% of employees say the ability to work remotely is fast becoming a business necessity, and that only 32% of employees spent their full working week in a conventional office. Some experts estimate that this next year will be a tipping point and by the end of 2018, half of Americans in the workforce will work remotely. In addition, companies that offer remote work options will experience improved staff retention and greater match between talent and open positions.
This trend will also help the corporate bottom line as companies no longer have to maintain costly offices: with the simultaneous rise in co-working and shared workspaces that offer group services, such as reception and mail services, businesses may be able to opt out of renting central office locations in favor of shared or temporary office space, or have remote teams that are geographically or even globally dispersed.
Another trend is the rise of hybrid living and working – or mixed-use — spaces. These are sites where companies have a worksite but employees can also rent units in which to live, or have these units provided as part of their employee package. Mixed rental spaces have increased approximately 25% over the past seven years, according to Axiometrics, a company that tracks housing trends.
Improved work/life balance:
This next year will see more employees turning away from stressful, high-demand jobs to seek a better balance between work and personal life. Flexible and remote work arrangements are one way of finding that balance. The increase in contract-based work, temporary and assignment-based jobs will also give people more control over their time.
Improved employee experience in the workplace:
Job roles are being redefined, with AI and better technology taking time-consuming or tedious tasks away from employees, freeing them up with more time and energy so they can strategically tackle business challenges. Business leaders can focus on building relationships and developing and mentoring staff, who, freed up from more mundane work, are likely to be more enthusiastic, motivated, engaged and passionate. Companies will also need to get more creative about their points of difference in the benefits and perks they offer their employees to retain top talent. Examples include free fitness classes or gym memberships, healthy lunches, massages in the workplace, free snacks, tuition reimbursement, health insurance and paid parental leave. Another trend that will continue to improve employee experience in the workplace, according to Fast Company, is stronger focus on addressing unequal pay and workplace harassment issues.
A shrinking permanent workforce:
According to Deloitte Insights, this next year will see a continued shrinking of the permanent workforce as businesses hire fewer direct employees and rely increasingly on an ‘augmented’ workforce (using contingency workers and technology to supplement the workforce). Some businesses are even outsourcing their entire staff to agencies known as Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs). The advantages of using a PEO are numerous: PEOs can handle the human resources, payroll and administrative functions of managing a workforce, while ensuring that compliance and job standards are met.
If you are a job seeker and these trends are any indication, you can look forward to a happier, more enjoyable work life. However, you may also face a shrinking permanent workforce, so thinking about up-skilling to become more valuable as an employee and/or getting more training is a good idea. Keep up to date on technology in the workplace. Consider, for example, getting some basic programming skills under your belt. If you don’t have time to take a class, go online! There are numerous online training sites for coding, or outlets to improve your soft skills, such as leadership or teamwork. Continuing to improve your ‘soft skills’ can help your chances of getting a job in the future, as these skills become more important to employers in the workplace.