Record-low unemployment, a growing skills gap, artificial intelligence (AI), and the gig economy—what do these have in common? They were some of the most common topics employers discussed throughout 2019 and for the latter half of the past decade. As 2019 comes to an end, we’re continuing on with the 2020 predictions.
If you thought some of these above-mentioned topics would be left in the past, think again; we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. Adam Roston, CEO of on-demand gig worker staffing platform Bluecrew, provides a list of key trends employers can expect in 2020.
Automation and upskilling. “Despite all the chatter about automation eliminating jobs, e-commerce growth is sure to drive demand for more warehouse and delivery workers,” predicts Roston.
“As employers continue to invest heavily in automation technology, opportunities for upskilling will only increase,” he suggests. “This is especially good news for hourly workers hungry for career advancement. Smart employers will continue to emphasize upskilling and career growth opportunities as a key strategy for recruiting and retaining their hourly workforce.”
Flexibility. “Data from Bluecrew and other industry reports clearly indicate hourly workers favor flexibility above all other aspects of the job including pay and perks,” says Roston. “A Bluecrew analysis of more than 10,000 job offer rejections found that a quarter (26%) of jobs were rejected due to the hours compared to 10% of jobs that were rejected due to pay.”
“Employers increasingly recognize that in a tight labor market, offering flexibility around scheduling and hours is another strategic way to attract and retain workers without increasing wages or negatively impacting the bottom line,” he suggests. “More employers will adopt staffing technologies and platforms to seamlessly provide the flexibility hourly workers want.”
Worker classification. “The cat and mouse game will continue between regulators and gig companies,” predicts Roston. “As lawmakers try to define and clarify existing worker classification rules that ensure worker protections like workers’ compensation, overtime, minimum wage, and sick pay, gig companies will continue to fight back and invest in ways to avoid providing worker protections by classifying drivers and other workers as independent contractors.”
Backlash against AI and ML in hiring is over. “More employers will adopt or at least test out machine learning (ML) and AI to enhance hiring strategies in 2020,” suggests Roston.
“By focusing on objective job performance data of employees and eliminating inherent biases such as appearance, employers will find more reliable, higher-performing workers and will be able to staff-up significantly faster,” he adds.
Worker organizations and union membership. “As the popular backlash builds against income inequality and declining worker benefits and protections, private-sector, nonunion worker organizations will continue to emerge to advocate for fair pay and labor protections among various groups including teachers, retail workers, drivers, etc.,” predicts Roston. “Traditional union membership will also grow for the first time in decades.”
2019 Concepts Will Be Fully Matured in 2020
“In 2020, we see a host of emerging trends stemming from the evolving expectations and preferences of today’s workforce pertaining to areas, like diversity and inclusion management as a strategic business decision, the responsible use of advanced technologies and data, upskilling as a critical investment and the power of technology on employer branding and reputation,” says Karen Fichuk, CEO for Randstad North America, in a press release.
“None of these are new trends—rather, they’re concepts that are finally reaching maturity. Organizations that understand the importance of incorporating these focus areas into their business discussions and strategic priorities will pull ahead of their competition in the year ahead,” she adds.
Like Bluecrew, Randstad also shares similar views on what 2020 has in store. Here are its predictions.
AI will (finally) become reality. “It might feel like HR professionals have been discussing AI for some time, but 2020 will be the year when human employees and AI-powered machines begin collaborating on day-to-day work across industries on an unprecedented scale,” suggests Randstad.
“It will also be the year companies find ways to derive meaningful value from it by synthesizing the insights AI provides and building a talent base that can support getting value out of AI,” the staffing firm predicts.
While we’re on the topic of AI and technology, Randstad also suggests that technology will play a bigger role in employer branding throughout 2020.
Employer branding will mature and expand into new tech channels. “Companies that are successful at managing their reputations and curating positive candidate and employee experiences in 2020 will have a far easier time hiring and retaining the talent they need to remain competitive,” predicts Randstad.
“And as consumer preferences change, messaging and mediums will change in turn,” Randstad adds. “Expect to see the most sophisticated employer brands exploring more visual channels (especially video and social platforms like Instagram) and leveraging employee ambassadors in inventive ways in the year ahead.”
D&I management will be an essential part of corporate strategy. “Putting diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the center of business strategy isn’t just a feel-good move: It’s crucial to increasing innovation, boosting revenue, improving hiring and retention outcomes and fostering connections with consumers,” says Randstad.
“But companies must go beyond simply launching D&I initiatives to attract talent and work toward achieving gender parity in the workforce—they’ll have to craft comprehensive strategies that address the entire employee life cycle, from engagement to training, development, retention and more,” it says.
Upskilling will become a more urgent employee demand, especially for younger generations. “To attract and retain top employees, companies will have to make training, learning, development and providing opportunities for growth a priority in 2020—not just for skills critical to business success today, but for those that will matter in the future as well,” says Randstad.
“In particular, companies must address Millennials’ and Gen Z’s expectations around learning and growth on the job and develop meaningful training programs that reflect them. That’s the only way to establish a competitive, sustainable talent pipeline going forward,” Randstad adds.
Ceridian Experts Agree
Like Bluecrew and Randstad, experts at human capital management software company, Ceridian, share similar views about the future of work.
Workplace culture will be center stage. 2019 saw many workplace culture issues spill over into the public forum, in sports and in business, so this issue will continue to be top of mind from an employer brand perspective in 2020, says Ceridian. It predicts that culture and employee experience will increasingly act as a driver for talent acquisition and retention—with increased focus on the role of manager as culture champion (and adversely an employer brand concern).
“The issue of toxic workplace cultures dominated the headlines in 2019, resulting in real reputational damage for a number of brands,” says Ceridian’s Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Sterling. “In 2020, attention to this issue will only increase.”
“We expect organizations across the employment spectrum to put significant focus on evaluating their own culture and values, and establish ways to ensure they keep their eye on the ball as it relates to building a healthy workplace culture and delivering an exceptional employee experience,” Sterling adds. “Not only will this help attract and retain the best talent available, it’s simply the right thing to do.”
Closing the skills gap will remain a top priority. According to the recently released Ceridian Future of Work Report, the majority (63%) of organizations believe they will face a skills gap within the next 2 years. In 2020 and beyond, the approach to reskilling will likely be rethought, with more organizations leveraging technology to build progressive learning experiences that maximize and expedite their reskilling efforts, suggests the company.
“Learning has to be quick, easy, accessible, and in the context of an employee’s role,” says Sterling. “Part of the reason we face this skills gap is because we don’t give people time to learn what they need to in order to enhance their productivity.”
“Leaders have to think about this far beyond providing reimbursements for training and certifications, and be more progressive in their approaches,” suggests Sterling. “It’s about education, experience, and exposure. We have to advocate for continuous learning so people can continue to evolve and learn what’s necessary now, and in the future, for their roles.”
Alternative workforce will continue to gather momentum. Ceridian’s Future of Work Report also found that over the next 2 years, 71% of North American organizations will hire more contract and freelance workers to offset skills gaps, while 51% say that they will increase their use of the alternative workforce.
Ceridian predicts that in 2020 and beyond, employers should watch for the alternative workforce, or the gig economy, to add significant depth and scale across multiple skill sets and talent pools, driven by a number of demographic factors, like retirees reentering the workforce, and full-time workers pursuing “side hustles”. This will lead to organizations leveraging this untapped source of talent to bridge the skills gap and scale up as needed.
Additionally, look for the more progressive employers to start focusing more on creating long-term value from the alternative workforce rather than using it as short-term and/or transactional stop-gap. “Businesses will start to be more progressive in how they leverage this growing pool of diverse talent,” says Ceridian’s Chief Customer Officer, Ted Malley. “That said, to do so effectively, it will mean transforming their cultures to better support this new workforce dynamic.”
“This includes technology like AI to predict when gig workers may be needed, and true on-demand pay options to ensure they can pay them immediately for the work they’ve performed, which will be a true game-changer,” says Malley.
AI and an Evolving Workforce Will Drive Business Strategies
If you haven’t noticed a trend yet, it looks like the themes for 2020 will be AI and upskilling, and Jason Tyszko, Vice President of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, agrees.
According to Tyszko, the biggest challenges employers and HR faced in 2019 included upskilling effectively and systematically; tapping into hidden talent in new ways; and achieving diversity, equality, and inclusion goals. Here’s what Tyszko says you can expect to see in the 2020 workplace.
AI will continue to play a big role. “In an economy that competes on talent, those that have the systems and tools to tap into talent more effectively will be the leaders,” predicts Tyszko.
“This includes new and emerging AI tools that will help employers target job candidates and assess their fit and likely performance with laser like precision,” he says. “It also includes new talent analytics that will provide a powerful competitive advantage to firms that can fully assess the labor market supply and what it means for business expansion or relocation.”
As AI continues to top everyone’s 2020 trends list, we asked Tyszko which AI tools or technologies he thinks will become the most popular for HR pros in 2020. “As employers move towards implementing skills-based hiring there will be a greater discussion around a ‘skills language,’ and what technologies will enable us to translate between these different skills—similar almost to Rosetta Stone for hiring data,” suggests Tyszko. “We will need a way to speak the same skills language and technology will be imperative to ensuring skills are effectively communicated to all, regardless of an individual’s skill knowledge.”
“There will also be a greater discussion on how HR can leverage technology like blockchain to empower employees with their data,” he adds. “Enhancing employment records including skills learned on the job and sharing it with employees will empower them to use it in the job market, creating a more well-rounded and informed workforce.”
Rapid evolving labor market. “The labor market is becoming more dynamic overtime,” says Tyszko. “That means jobs will change faster than ever before requiring a constant reorganization of staffing models and the workers within it.”
“Employers will need the right set of tools to communicate when these changes occur to ensure supply can align with constantly changing demand, but it will also require processes and systems in place that allow employers to reskill their existing workers so that they are able to be as agile in their careers and have the right tools and support in place to change with the times and not be displaced by them,” he adds.
Reskilling, upskilling, tomato, tomato—in print, that doesn’t have the same effect, but essentially, they’re the same things, right? If employers are going to be focusing on developing their employees for future success, we asked Tyszko what the cheapest/easiest way to upskill workers to keep them from being displaced in the future would be. “It’s not just about employers investing in their workers, it’s also about empowering workers to invest in themselves,” says Tyszko.
“Today, employers are setting up programs that allow employees to invest in their own training and lifelong learning. This provides pathways for employees to opt-in but without forcing it, similar to other employee benefits like a Health Savings Account,” he adds.
“Investing in upskilling can be difficult for small to midsize companies looking to offer large-scale upskilling programs like Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 project,” Tyszko says. “It is important to encourage and support those organizations that invest in their workers, but we also need to inspire collective action among small to midsize companies to jointly share in upskill efforts.”
“The Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative does just that and provides a structured approach for collaboratives of companies to jointly implement and share in the benefits of upskilling,” Tyszko adds.
The workforce will continue to shrink. “Employers will need to contend with a shrinking workforce as a result of the Baby Boomer generation retiring,” says Tyszko. “Few industries will be insulated from this dynamic and everyone will need to find a way to get more done with less. As a result, companies are turning to automation as a means to survival for the major loss of workers they’re experiencing.”
Which industries does Tyszko think will be most impacted by a shrinking workforce (or impacted because of automation)? “A shrinking workforce is de facto—AI is a solution that isn’t taking away jobs, it’s realigning the labor market with the reality of where we are in terms of economic output,” says Tyszko.
“Automation isn’t a question anymore for companies; it’s a necessity,” he adds. “Workers will benefit as their roles receive support from automation. As a result, jobs will require more skills and command better wages. It’s a win-win.”
“What makes this (the fourth Industrial Revolution) more interesting is the impact on professions that would have otherwise been seen as ‘safe.’ We’re now seeing automation in jobs and work tasks that require cognitive functions,” Tyszko says. “It’s less so where we know it’s going to hit, but where it will impact industries that were never a part of the automation discussion in the past like legal or medical professions.”
‘People’ Will Play a Bigger Part
While the workforce may be shrinking due to employee age, another factor we must take into consideration is the gig economy. In 2019, the shift away from traditional working models became even more popular, as more full-time employees opted out of 9–5 roles and turned to the gig economy for a variety of reasons.
In order to make this new world of work actually work, technology comes back into play. Employers that lost their workers to the gig economy will have to incorporate engagement software to retain the workers they have left. And for the gig workers hired to fill the void, employers will need technology in place to create a cohesive and productive workforce.
“With the rise of freelancers and remote workers, organizations will lean on technology to do the heavy lifting for them,” says Goutham Kurra, Chief Product Officer for Glint, a people success platform. “HR technology will become a scalable, helpful coach integrated into our common work practices. This is where engagement software, with personalized suggestions, tailored resources, and timely reminders, can be a front line coach that helps an organization improve and connect with their employees.”
“HR technology that provides real-time, digestible employee engagement results will become the perfect vehicle for organizations to practice transparency and create programs that cater to their employees,” adds Justin Black, Glint Head of People Science. “It signals trust to leaders, managers, and employees and it sets the expectation that taking action is shared by everyone. More organizations will use these insights to actually invest in things that motivate people and prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace by creating tangible programs.”
By offering your employees the proper tools to keep them engaged and motivated, you’ll be better equipped to retain them in the long run. Black also adds, “Employees want to invest their energy and talents in organizations where they feel a sense of belonging and purpose.”
“We’ll see organizations think beyond traditional support, like pay or benefits, and focus on empowering the whole employee through customizable services and experiences in order to foster employees to do their best work,” predicts Black. And as more employees start bringing their whole selves to work and become more productive and engaged, your organization must have “people leaders” in place for continued success.
“We saw in 2019 the Business Roundtable’s shift from stakeholder CEOs to People-First CEOs. In 2020, more organizations will invest in strategies to attract, develop, and retain people-driven leaders,” suggests Jim Barnett, LinkedIn VP and Head of Glint.
“People-driven leaders will reshape the way their organizations and industries approach People Success and champion practices that help their people connect to a broader purpose, use their talents everyday, and continuously learn and grow,” adds Barnett. “They will also put people first when shaping organizational strategies and drive business success by enabling and empowering their people.”
Not only will leadership have to evolve, but your HR departments must change, as well. “HR as a whole will start to orient around enabling their people’s success rather than focusing on compliance or administration,” predicts Amy Lavoie, Glint People Science Consultant. “They will strive to create an integrated experience that puts the employee at the center of all activities.”
“In 2020 we’ll see an increase in collaboration across HR teams—from recruiting to engagement, performance management, and learning and development—to create a cohesive and relevant experience for their people.”
Every organization is different, but business leaders who take time to consider how these trends are impacting their companies will be well equipped to keep their organizations creative, adaptable, and profitable in 2020 and beyond.