December 26, 2019

No Crystal Ball Necessary: What the HR Trends of 2019 Can Tell Us About the Shape of Work to Come


It has been said that you can’t predict the future, but that’s not entirely true. The past informs the present, and the present informs the future. If you pay close attention to the trends you see today, they may point you toward what lies ahead.

When it comes to the future of work in particular, current trends are shaping up to drive a level of change we haven’t seen since the days of Henry Ford. Let’s take a closer look:

Will Flexible Work Become the Default?

By 2030, employers may be facing a global shortage of 85.2 million skilled workers. Good people are no doubt hard to find — but they are out there. They just might not be near your office. And that’s actually okay.

Work is becoming increasingly flexible, and gig workers are expected to account for more than half of the workforce in 2020 — and 80 percent by 2030. To attract the talent they need, companies will have to embrace the change and enable flexible work models, including gig, contract, and remote work.

According to a recent online survey from the Centre of Economics and Business Research, adopting flexible work models allows companies to go where the talent is and bring people on board as needed to unlock innovation, engage customers, and move business forward. Flexibility allows employers to tap traditionally off-limits talent sources, like the “home force” — people who left their jobs to care for children or aging relatives — or retired baby boomers who would be willing to a put a few hours in each week. Motivated by such benefits, many companies will begin to shift away from traditional employment models and prioritize flexible work.

Digital Workspaces Finally Deliver the Streamlining We’ve Been Promised

Attracting talent is one thing, but keeping employees engaged is another. According to Gallup, 85 percent of employees around the world are disengaged at work. Why?

For starters, work is far more complicated than it needs to be. Over the last decade, IT has steadily put in place technologies it thought would streamline entire functions and fuel collaboration — but they’ve actually had the opposite effect. Employees now deal with as many as 35 different apps every day just to get their work done. The average worker can spend as much as 28 percent of the workweek just managing email, and another 20 percent trying to track down information or coworkers they need to do their jobs.

Digital workspace solutions can help quiet all the noise and optimize the workday for every employee by organizing, guiding, and automating work in an intelligent and personal way. When employees can focus on what they do best instead of navigating networks of disconnected apps, everybody wins. In 2020, expect to see more companies turning to digital workspaces.

The Office Adopts People-Centric Design

Even as technological innovation transforms business, the success of any organization still depends on the people whose passions, insights, and talent drive it forward. When employees feel good and are motivated to deliver their best, customer satisfaction, innovation, and the bottom line all get a boost.

In 2020, smart companies will put people first in order to attract, retain, develop, and reward top talent. They will work to create the right environments to inspire people to do great work. But people-centric design extends beyond culture, values, and programs; physical spaces must also be designed with people in mind.

The office must account for the fact that the workforce now comprises five different generations, and they each work in different ways. Some of your employees want open floor plans and spaces where they can collaborate, while others prefer quiet rooms and old-school cubicles where they can work in solitude. HR, facilities, and IT must team up to create purposeful spaces that inspire and empower everyone to do their best work.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

As External Talent Grows Scarce, Upskilling, Reskilling, and Talent Mobility Proliferate

When it comes to recruiting, most organizations spend the bulk of their time on bringing in expertise from the outside. As the war for talent rages on, however, external recruiting may no longer be the most efficient way to source new skills and knowledge.

Instead, organizations will have to cultivate talent from within. Talent mobility and upskilling will become increasingly important priorities for HR professionals, as will creating the right opportunities for employees to reskill and take on new challenges.

Employees will be encouraged to build new skills and capabilities such as critical thinking, judgment, innovation, collaboration, and agility. These skills may be soft, but they endure because they enable us to grow and learn in times of uncertainty and unprecedented change.

Employees will need access to high-quality learning programs and platforms that enable them to learn in whatever ways are most effective for them. HR will need to get creative in designing such programs to transform workplace training as we know it. For example, we might see more full-day workshops where employees at all levels are encouraged to prepare leader-engaged dialogues — or “LED Talks” — on topics in which they have expertise. More organizations will also leverage online learning-management platforms that deliver content in a variety of formats, including self-paced videos and mobile-optimized microlearning breaks.

As an added bonus, these innovative development programs won’t just build new skills — they’ll also make employees happier, more engaged, and more productive.

HR Pros Demand Data Analytics Skills

HR hasn’t always been thought of as a data-driven function, but this has been changing — and it will continue to change in 2020. According to a recent report by myHRfuture, people analytics is the No. 1 skill HR pros want to learn. Why? Because the ability to collect and analyze employee data allows HR teams to make more informed decisions that have a greater impact on the company.

Data-driven insight into employee behaviors can support more targeted and effective engagement and growth interventions. For example, frequent absenteeism can signal rising burnout and inform the introduction of wellness programs designed to manage workplace stress. Similarly, team agility measurements and personalized recommendations can help employees take control of and better manage their own performance and, ultimately, their careers.

Predicting the future isn’t a science; it can’t be done with total accuracy. When it comes to the future of work, however, one thing is certain: Organizations that focus on their people and create environments in which they can engage deeply in meaningful work, harness their full creativity, and cultivate their passions will see their businesses thrive.

Donna Kimmel is the executive vice president and chief people officer of Citrix. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Donna Kimmel is the executive vice president and chief people officer of Citrix. She is responsible for all aspects of identifying, fostering, and developing top talent, as well as overseeing organizational strategies that maximize engagement and position the company to win in the marketplace. With more than 30 years of experience in creating and implementing successful global talent programs that drive business results, Donna is a trusted human resources leader who believes in creating diverse and engaged teams that enable the extraordinary. Throughout her career, she has delivered comprehensive people programs, led large scale end-to-end business initiatives (including corporate reorganizations, spin-offs — from public to private to public — and integrations for global M&A activities), and catalyzed cultural transformations.