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The five factors shaping the workforce of the future

The world is changing on social, governmental, and technological levels – and tomorrow’s workforce is taking new shape because of it.

According to a recently released report by global human resources consulting firm Mercer, titled Fault Lines: Opportunity and risk for today’s workforce leaders, these new changes are being driven by five “key” forces in particular: “technology disruption, low economic growth, global connectedness, regulation and living longer”.

“When two of the forces collide, this creates a fault line that brings with it challenges and opportunities, including new business conditions,” the report said.

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“Organisations will either rise or fall into the chasm that fault lines create: doing nothing is not an option.”

In its report, Mercer deep-dived into the ‘collision’ of various ‘fault lines’, exploring how these two dynamics interacted with one another.

Technological disruption X low economic growth

Technology is changing business models and the way companies operate, the report pointed out.

“New and disruptive technologies such as automation, blockchain, big data and machine learning are shaping the next generation workplace, from employee engagement and experiences right up to employer profits.

“In our environment of low economic growth conditions, smart companies have been using technology as a way to improve productivity.”

Companies who manage the shift to technology will end up out-pacing their slower counterparts, with big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence (AI) flagged as key game-changers for businesses.

Technological disruption X global connectedness

Traditional forms of work are changing and the gig economy is fast becoming the new norm, with 75 per cent of leaders believing ‘gig’ workers were already impacting their industry.

As a result, HR departments needed better talent acquisition strategies to attract employees that are “adaptive”, hiring for creativity rather than for traditional roles.

“People with agile skills – the ability to think on their feet, work with different cohorts, be comfortable with the uncomfortable, manage and master situations of ambiguity, and ultimately be resilient – are what the workforces of today and tomorrow need.

“Those that hire with those abilities and skills in mind, and who train up existing staff with those attributes, will be best positioned for the future,” the report said.

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Mercer encouraged organisations to create more flexible workplaces to help employees work more effectively.

Low growth X living longer

Australia’s population is ageing. But alongside a demographic of employees that are increasingly working in later life, a new generation has already started stepping into the workforce.

“A pressure point is emerging between the youngest and oldest workers,” the report said.

With older workers retiring later, younger employees feel that there are limited opportunities to advance, creating “bottleneck[s]” in the organisation.

But there may also be opportunities in the training of younger employees by their older counterparts: think in terms of tasks, not jobs.

“Who is good at what? Who can train whom, and who should be retrained? How can different skill-sets support each other? Is a job a job or is it set of skills that can be applied much more intelligently across different tasks, different teams and to different accountabilities?”