workplace transformed by automation, demographicsThe main finding of new research released by SHRM at its annual conference in Orlando is that the workplace will experience many changes and challenges including demographics, increased automation, and growing competition.

“Our mission is to educate and present best practices,” Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation, said during a press briefing.

The report found significant demographic shifts that will “continue to pose contrasting challenges” for HR professionals. Significantly, developed countries are experiencing an aging workforce, while developing countries are preparing for an overwhelmingly young workforce.

“There are many implications to HR,” Schmit said. “[HR] really has to pay attention to demographic trends in [their] market. If you’re an international workforce, you might have to cater to both young and old workforces.”

Though it can be tough to manage, Schmit said, there is positive opportunity for companies, as both younger and older workers have unique skills to offer. Older workers, of course, have the experience, while younger workers have more technological training.

“Each has a unique skill that can help the other advance,” he said.

Schmit cautioned that assumptions about older workers and technology are often unfounded:

“The myth is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks — you can’t teach older workers new tricks,” he said. “But our research found that older workers are really bored with old tricks and want to learn new tricks. [Learning new technology] can re-energize them and get them to stay longer in the organization.”

The report pointed to challenges ahead because of technology, predicting increased “economic inequality” as technology “allows the automation of tasks formerly performed by mid-skilled workers.”

Among other predictions of what the workplace will look like in the next decade, according to the report:

• The expanding global workforce and growing competition for jobs will weaken workers’ power to negotiate wages, salaries and other benefits.

• Companies will face a persistent skills shortage among highly specialized technical workers and senior managers and executives.

• Companies will need an increasingly sophisticated understanding of operating risks across emerging and developing markets.

• HR managers will need reliable data on human-capital issues in new markets to make sound strategic business decisions and minimize risk.


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