ok robotSometimes when I receive press releases, I get really excited. Like when I received one about the study on Workforce 2020, I sort of thought it could be the title of a movie or a rap song…. or at least would reference robots SOMEWHERE.

No dice. But there are some interesting things to note about the Hudson Institute’s study Workforce 2020, lack of robots notwithstanding, so let’s get started. Staffing Stream has a great article by Donna Carroll that breaks down several and very aptly pulls together three reports: “Workforce 2020,” and AARP’s report, Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce (PDF), and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contract and contingent get their due. At least I hope so, there are so many great products out there to manage contract and contingent workers that make some of the technology we use for traditional HR and Recruiting seem antiquated. With 50 percent of the U.S. workforce expected to be comprised of contract workers by 2020, we can start integrating solutions that use mobile checkpoints, payment rules based on geography and customized workflows that aren’t based on permanent workers but written specifically to apply to the contingent workforce.

Workforce, the next generation. Actually, that would be five generations, yes FIVE generations of workers will be in the workforce of 2020. We’re living longer and getting smarter I guess. Also retirement is kind of a pipe dream for some. What does this mean? We have to get past our issues when it comes to working together. Not only will many workers have different statuses (see above) but they will have different ways of working and probably need different styles of management. Get ready. My generation (or something close to it, I’m 33) believes that work should be fun NOW. By 2020, all bets are off. However, one in three U.S. workers will be 50 years or older and maybe hate that.

Move over. In 1990 there were 57 million people in the US workforce. By 2020, there will be 77 million. But that doesn’t tell the worldwide story. In Germany, Spain and Italy, there will be far less workers. Meanwhile Brazil, China, India and Russia will grow due to HQs being set up there. East Asian companies will see their workforce shrink as they face an aging population. U.S. employers can address this by rethinking their work flex policies. Shared jobs, work-flex, telecommuting and virtual offices may become de rigeur as there are just more people period. Another consideration is the obligatory HQ in Silicon Valley, Chicago or New York, places where high costs of living, skyrocketing office rents and crowded cities makes relocation and compensation tough AND creates a false “war for talent”. Organizations based in the U.S. should consider less populated areas that are rapidly expanding their technological talent base and quality of living ratings.

Skills shortage. John Sumser is writing a great series of posts on the skills shortage, or “alleged skills shortage”. Keep an eye on it, particularly this entry by China Gorman, who posits that the skills shortage wouldn’t be such a big deal if people would stop demanding college degrees for entry level positions (she says it better):

Four-year college degrees have long been a proxy for base level of skills—that a person can write, work with numbers, and think through difficult questions.  Except that’s probably not true any more.  Not only are there many ways to get those skills these days, there are many ways to get them that don’t include an over-priced experience that saddles the student with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  Additionally, most employers will argue that a four-year degree isn’t a proxy for anything any more:  they provide no guarantee that the holder will actually be able to write, speak, think or do the most basic math.

The supply of critical skills in engineering, math and science will continue to dwindle; three of every four open positions in 2020 will require a higher skill level than today. But as Gorman posits, what is the barometer of the higher skill level?

Those are the findings, here are some solutions (again, check out Staffing Stream’s unique take on this from a staffing perspective, it’s good!)

Stop saying ‘We’ve never done it that way…”: You have to now. You literally have to change the way you do business. People, workers, candidates are no longer going to be able to deal with your antiquated career site, your lame benefits program or your inability to be flexible with their schedule. You are competing for talent with startups, small businesses, completely virtual organizations and more. Get it together and change it up.

The future is now. The cloud exists, it is secure, compliant and easy to use (for both management and employees). The consumerization of technology has created the virtual workforce. Distance collaboration is totally do-able. You should do it. By 2020, 50 million workers will work part-time from their home.

Strategic has a bad rap. For many it’s become a buzzword on LinkedIn but in reality it means thinking things through and finding the best and most efficient way to do things. Identify what is crucial to your company and outsource or let  a managed service provider do the rest. Do what you do best and chuck the overhead.

Next steps. Not only should employers be supporting more education in schools, they should be training within their organizations. This not only helps with retention but boosts the overall economy, which is good for everyone. And with college degrees becoming less of a barometer than in the past, engineering schools, community colleges, trade schools and high schools can and should become active recruiting areas for tomorrow’s successful employers.

Get social. Not just social media (which should by now be baked into recruiting, service and marketing efforts) but social good. As we move away from the workforce of yesteryear and into the future of Workforce 2020, social good will make a difference to employees and the community alike.

And maybe even get us one step closer to robots.

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