Top Predictions

By Ed Frauenheim

Dec. 19, 2008

Structure of Work
There will be an increased focus on infrastructures—such as social networks and wikis—to support building strong relationships and collaboration.

2. The structure of work will become more adaptive, more informal and less focused on formal structure and static design solutions.

3. (tie) “Agile” organizations will have survived rampant aggregation and consolidation, and all organizations will be developing greater agility.

There will be greater demands on HR professionals to be businesspeople, with competencies in finding and retaining talent and in managing contract and freelance workers.

Organizations will have the ability to personalize the employee value proposition, helping employees find value in the work they do based on how they interact with the company. Some employees will be full time and long term. Others will be short term and part time.

Flexibility will no longer be optional. Employees will expect to utilize both short- and long-term flexibility options to meet their needs.

The most successful organizations will have a performance culture or meritocracy and will demand extraordinary effort from those who wish to achieve leadership positions.

8. Technological progress and the evolution of virtual networks and social vetting—that is, using networks such as LinkedIn to establish trust and research people’s backgrounds—will increase workplace flexibility. The trends will increase the use of emerging work structures that involve engaging professional and social networks through means such as “crowd sourcing”—when an organization invites the public to help solve a problem.

9. Organizations will work across internal and external boundaries, connecting and customizing internal actions to external customers and investors.

10. The talent market will look a lot more like eBay than Monster or Yahoo HotJobs. Candidates will put themselves up for bid for specific work, hours and duration and will name their minimum price, including benefits and perks. Employers will contract with each worker for what will be delivered.

Global Business
     1. Companies will need to balance the need for a unified global culture with local strategic and cultural differences and make core global values locally relevant and easily understandable for all employees.

2. (tie) The business world will continue to be flattened by globalization, changing demographics, the ubiquity of technology and regulatory compliance. Conducting business on this level playing field will require a change in mind-set, strategies and operations.

Operating in a global economy will create even more demand for leaders with global experience. This means it will be more important for key talent to have expatriate experience.

4. (tie) Companies will find their best people anywhere in the world, so successful workers will be willing to work outside their home country.

The concept of offshoring will cease to exist. Talent will exist globally and companies will go where the talent is. The purpose will not be to get the lowest-cost labor, but rather the highest-quality talent. This will be especially true with technical and creative workers.

Global companies will become more adept at managing a global enterprise on a 24/7 basis, with more management and technology systems in place to allow work to be easily passed around the world.

There will be a more progressive use of partnerships and alliances across functions, organizations and customers to build more collaborative and innovative ways to compete and win market share.

8. The hunt for inexpensive labor will continue, but the evolution of economies from low cost to high value will be quicker, and increasingly, a low-cost labor strategy will be more difficult to sustain.

9. Organizations will master the paradox of managing both large global companies and micro units at the local level. They will meet the challenge of being global even as they react to local conditions.

10. Organizations that leverage supply chain efficiencies on a continuous basis globally will flourish. Organizations embedded too deeply in any single geography will be at an increasing disadvantage.

Work and Society
1. Societies throughout the world will focus on work as a more important crucible for social progress and values. The memory of today’s financial crisis will leave a legacy of greater scrutiny and regulation of issues such as fairness, pay differentials and ethics, particularly in traditional Western economies.

2. Millennials will redefine work, doing work at home and taking home to work. This means blurring the boundaries of life and work. More workforce mobility will allow people to work from home and at different hours.

3. There will be more emphasis on collaboration and using technology to support it.

4. As the generation born around 1980 takes its place leading major global organizations, the formative events in those workers’ lives—such as aging parents, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the 2008 financial crisis—will lead to greater C-suite emphasis on corporate social and environmental responsibility.

5. Flexibility will be an expectation of employees.

6. There will be a significant problem of retirement in the West. With people living longer and fewer people in the workforce, retirement will have to be redefined.

7. Balance will still be an issue. Work practices in the most successful firms will have had few changes. Technology, and especially ubiquitous connectivity through wearable devices such as eyeglasses with built-in computer screens, will continue to blur the distinction between working and not working.

8. For nations such as India, where a large number of young employees are entering the workforce, there will need to be a major shift to address their needs and concerns. These are people who may frequently ask, “What’s in it for me?” Organizations need to show that they have the flexibility to adapt to these changes while being able to maintain a strong culture.

9. (tie) Generation Y issues, such as the perception that Gen Y employees will require greater workplace flexibility policies, will have had far less impact on business reality than predicted. Talented people, willing to work very hard, will flourish in most organizational settings.

Corporate responsibility and serving the wider community will be an integral part of an organization’s business strategy.

Recruiting and Workforce Development
1. Recruitment and development will increasingly be seen as part of an integrated workforce-supply optimization process. Both will become virtual, global and just-in-time, but they will also be transformed through an increasing emphasis on optimization, differentiation and return on investment.

2. There will be a continued and increased demand for top talent. The gap between the best and the rest will be greater. There will be more demand for creativity, innovation and thought leadership.

3. Employers will compete as intensively for workers as they do for customers. Branding an organization as a place for workers will be as important as branding for consumers.

4. Firms will become adept at sourcing and engaging transient talent around short-term needs, and will focus considerable energy on the long-term retention of smaller core talent groups.

5. Leadership development will be a critical need. Global leaders must develop strong decision-making, business and people management capability in diverse cultures.

6. With a more flexible workforce, employers will struggle with the funding of workforce development. They will be hesitant to train workers only to see them leave. Training and development may be tied to some contractual time commitment on the part of the worker.

     7. (tie) More focus will be placed on searching for people who match companies, not just people who have the skills that companies need.

The lack of skilled workers will be a global phenomenon, making the war for talent a global war. Successful HR professionals will be much more adept in fighting this war and will develop expertise in work visas, employment and privacy law around the globe.

9. (tie) Workforce development will be seen as a holistic approach that meets the needs of clients, individuals, organizations and surrounding communities.

There will be more development inside and outside of work. People will be encouraged to take a “social sabbatical” as a development experience, for example.

Strategic Role of HR
     1. The strategic role of decisions about talent and how it is organized will increasingly be recognized as pivotal to an organization’s sustainable strategic success. Leaders will be held accountable for the quality of those decisions.

2. HR issues will be measured much more as part of the business plan.

     3. Talent management will become the prime focus of HR.

     4. HR will be heavily involved in helping build organizational strategy, including such decisions as which markets to enter, which countries to choose for expansion and which analytics to inspect.

     5. (tie) A “decision science” approach will be the foundation of human resources. HR will view talent in a supply-chain fashion and help the business understand workforce trends to make sound decisions.

HR will be part of strategy formulation and execution discussion.

HR will play a more significant role in developing leadership for an organization.

HR will go the way of finance and accounting. There will be two career paths. One will be the equivalent to the comptroller in an organization, focused on HR delivery and compliance issues. The other will be equivalent to finance: focused on the business strategy relative to talent needs, workforce development and organizational design.

9. The full-time permanent jobs that remain in HR will require more business acumen and more HR depth than ever imagined, leading to a continued and greater global shortage of the needed talent.

     10. (tie) The role of the “HR department” will vary widely, becoming the repository of expertise and advice on talent in some organizations, but in others, this role may be taken by experts from other disciplines, with HR focusing more on processes, vendor management, etc.

To remain successful in a flat world, predictability, sustainability, profitability and risk management are critical. Hence, HR’s value will also come from helping the organization tackle such areas as people-related challenges, risk and compliance issues, sustained growth and the looming talent shortage.

The ratio of HR staff to firm population will be dramatically smaller.

Compensation and Benefits
1. Companies will need to offer tailored benefits to meet diverse needs and attract talent. As a result, there will be more menu-like choices available for employees relative to their personal lifestyle (e.g., risk-reward incentive designs, benefit options, etc.).

2. (tie) Increasingly, organizations will help their employees understand that benefits have expanded to include an organization’s ability to provide opportunities to build skills and career in an inclusive and flexible work environment through challenging work assignments, career mobility, formal and on-the-job learning, coaching and a feedback-rich culture.

Executive compensation still will be a critical responsibility of HR, and there will be even greater reliance on outside consultants to help design programs. But corporate boards, concerned about consultants being too close to executive management, will seek HR expertise, resulting in many more HR professionals having positions on corporate boards.

There will be more creative ways to tie employee wealth to firm performance, such as performance shares, and not just stock options.

5. There will be more accountability associated with CEO and senior leader pay, with more transparency.

6. (tie) Traditional compensation and benefits will evolve toward a focus on total rewards, with a commensurate emphasis on customization, differentiation and integration across all elements of the employment relationship.

Compensation and benefits will be more tied to financial results and behavior results—that is, demonstrating the right competencies, which will be defined more from the customer point of view.

Organizations will have to work to educate employees on the total value proposition they receive. Compensation is only one component.

9. Benefits will be more globally similar, and portability will increase.

10.There will be an expansion of creative benefit offerings to address different workforce needs, such as elder care, pet care, concierge services and

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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