Our workplace is an ever changing entity. The growth of technology in today’s economy is allowing many organizations to grow and expand their businesses, not only in production, but also in day-to-day routine functions. Employers are increasingly using technology to manage their employees, staff their departments, and increase the efficiency of the organization’s processes. These trends are affecting the average employee, and providing them with an increase in career opportunities and work/life balance.
1. Distributions of Organizations
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Trends Research, many organizations are redefining their organization’s structure in order to remain competitive in an age of growing technology. Organizations are piloting programs that replace a traditional industrial age hierarchical structure with a team centric model. This model focuses on the establishment of team networks working together to tackle one issue at a time. Cross-functioning teams work together, share information in a transparent manner, and come up with a solution. These practices would allow organizations to avoid time-consuming hierarchical processes, and fully utilize their team resources to increase the speed of their development cycle. Once this model is adapted to other areas of the business, it will allow the organization to meet high demands and competition in the industry faster than it would with more traditional means.
Current research shows that employees actually work better and remain more engaged in smaller teams versus hierarchical environments. Team-centric environments allow employees the ability to exchange ideas with employees of various departments. This helps employees gain a different perspective, encourages creativity and innovation, as well as helps maintain a high level of employee engagement. According to Harvard Business Review, however, the most successful teams must meet the following criteria criteria:
Frequent and informal communication – It’s recommended that each project team have roughly a dozen communication exchanges per working hour in order to reach optimal performance. Informal meetings are also recommended to enhance the team’s motivation and ability to reach their goals.
Team members are treated equally – All members should have an opportunity to voice opinions and make recommendations. All ideas should be respected and considered in order to build trust among team members.
Members explore information from other groups and outside sources – Team members should be encouraged to speak to outside sources or teams in order to expand their knowledge of issues, and gain knowledge of how they may effect the organization as a whole. These ideas should be brought back to the group for further discussion.
2. Automation and Social Collaboration Tools
The growth of technology is prompting most organizations to automate production and day-to-day job functions. According to Glassdoor’s Trends Report, both blue and white collared jobs are experiencing automation at an increasing rate. While machinery innovations may change or replace routine jobs, white-collar employees will experience a growth in workplace productivity apps and surveying tools that will change their day-to-day duties, and will more likely lead to greater productivity.
These tools will also benefit employee career development. Employees can increase their marketability by keeping their technical skills up to date, and using these tools to make their job duties more efficient. Many organizations are expected to invest time in technical training for their current staff in order to keep their organization working smoothly.
Software tools will affect hiring, as well. The standard interview process will be reinvented with the use video interviews and job simulation tools. These tools will allow recruiters the ability to avoid unnecessary interviews and decrease the length of the hiring cycle. These recruiters will be able to shortlist their candidates, and present only top performers to management for hiring.
3. Shortage of Skilled Workers
Employers will continue to have issues with a shortage of skilled workers. The continuing retirement of Baby Boomers is leaving a labor gap that’s not being replaced fast enough by younger workers. Marketplace, a production of public radio, states that labor productivity continues to fall, but it won’t be offset by growing automation and technology. They predict that slow corporate revenue growth will likely exacerbate the labor shortage for both for profit and nonprofit corporations. Recruiters will continue to have a difficulty time filling these positions, and many organizations will have to offer higher pay for these jobs in order to attract candidates. The reality is that because of the absence of qualified candidates, many of these companies will have to hire individuals with fewer qualifications, and spend more money for on-the-job training to get their skills in check. The upside is that skilled workers will have more employment opportunities and salary negotiation power.
4. Demand for Greater Work Flexibility Over Perks
Gone are the days when corporations invested top dollar in benefits and perks. Extravagant benefits have traditionally been the tool of new and emerging tech companies. Many of those same corporations are now maturing, and are shifting their focus on controlling costs and maintaining profits instead. Glassdoor’s Employee Benefits Survey shows that employees value only 3 key benefits:
– Health Plan
– 401K Plan
– Vacation and Time Off
All other perks and discounts are not viewed as important and rarely utilized by employees. There is a growing demand for flexible workplace instead. According to The Sloan Center of Aging & Work at Boston College, studies show that employees with greater work flexibility experience the following:
Less Stress – Employees with flexible work arrangements feel they have greater discretion in fitting job-related responsibilities in their life, and as a result feel less stress and burnout.
Reduced Negative Spillover – Spillover is the process where attitudes and behaviors carry over from one part of life to another, typically between work and family life. Employees with flextime experience less negative spillover from work to family life. Less negative spillover means greater productivity and greater quality of personal and family life.
Improved Work-Life Balance – Studies show that greater work schedule flexibility reduced work-family conflicts for women, and provide all employees the opportunity to improve their overall functioning and performance at both home and work. Managers also experience benefits. In a study of five different countries, managers with flexible work schedules experience reduced work-family conflict, greater job, family, and life satisfaction when they have work-life balance.
5. Pressure for More Sustainable Organizations and Work Styles
The debate of Climate Change is not only affecting our politics, but also our corporations. Many organizations are feeling pressure to become more sustainable. The push is prompting them to make changes in their everyday manufacturing processes, establish partnerships with sustainable vendors, and implement flex time and remote schedules for their employees to reduce carbon emissions.
This trend is allowing corporations to gain many benefits they wouldn’t experience otherwise. According to EnvironmentalLeader, organizations not only gain greater recognition from customers, potential employees, and investors for becoming sustainable, they also reduce resource cost, improve the company image, and gain a competitive edge.
Employees are enjoying more flextime with sustainable employers as a result. These organizations are allowing and encouraging carpooling, public transportation, and will often allow flextime and remote work depending on the position.
6. Growing Gig Economy
The gig economy is a labor market that’s still growing strong. This sector of employment includes freelancers, independent contractors, and any worker who is hired on a temporary basis for projects.
According to Accenture, organizations in a variety of industries are taking advance of the gig market, and transforming their organization into a more fluid structure with the use of an open talent marketplace. Their research shows that 85% of executives surveyed stated that they plan to use independent freelance workers in the near future. Proctor & Gamble is one of the companies piloting the use of freelancers through Upwork Enterprise. At completion of their pilot, they reported 60% faster delivery and lower costs compared to traditional methods.
The gig economy offers a variety of benefits to the organization. With freelancers and independent contractors employers save money on benefits, taxes, and time. They are able to make product and service change more rapidly when they hire on-demand and establish contracts for specific projects instead of hiring a permanent employee.
Freelancers and Independent Contractors also benefit from this relationship. They have more options than when they’re hired as a permanent employee. Since they aren’t tied to any one specific employer, they can work with several clients and projects at a time. Many freelancers and independent contractors have the opportunity to make their own hours, and the option to choose their work environment, if working remotely as part of their contract.
Technology in the workplace has lead to many trends and changes in the workplace. Organizations have used these tools to their advantage in order to change their organization’s structure, processes, and workplace benefits. Employees are reaping many of the rewards of these trends themselves with more opportunities for career development, contract work, higher pay for skilled labor, and work/life balance.
Tammy Tsonis is PHR & SHRM-CP certified, and has 14 years experience
in human resources.