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Trends shaping the future of work

Five trends shaping the future of work

By Bob Nelson

There are five major trends that will increasingly affect the workforce of all organizations:

  1. The growing shortage of skilled workers.

With unemployment still hovering around 9 percent, it is hard to grasp the concept of an impending skilled labor shortage. However this is exactly what is unfolding and will continue to unfold in the decades ahead – not a labor shortage, but a skilled labor shortage. The evidence is based on current demographic trends, which indicate a declining birthrate in industrialized countries, combined with an aging population that is heading into retirement.  This will be the most significant human resource trend over the next few decades.

  1. The rise of the Millennials.

Those born between 1980 and 2000 will soon make up the largest segment of the U.S. workforce in both number and attitude, reshaping the workplace.  This generation of 90 million prospective workers thinks and is motivated differently from previous generations. They expect work to be part of their lives, not to define who they are, yet they also expect meaning in their jobs and are not interested in “paying their dues.”  Instead of a “career ladder” of steady promotions, this group expects a “career lattice” with varied work experience.

  1. The rise of the temp.

The temporary-employment segment has generated more jobs than any other segment since the recession technically ended.  Businesses have been hesitant to hire back full-time employees due to the uncertainty and volatility of the economy.  Many believe this change to be permanent in nature versus just part of the economic cycle. There are currently 10 million contingent workers, greater than union membership. There are also now 22 million companies that do not have a payroll. This group’s work expectations are shifting from “lifetime employment” to “lifetime employability.”

  1. The evolving role of virtual employees.

Some 42 percent of all organizations currently provide some type of flex time or option for telecommuting, job sharing, or alternative work schedules, yet we haven’t mastered how to make technology replace the social bonds in the workplace.  Often the more connected we are at work through technology, the more alienated we tend to be in our jobs and the less connected we feel with others. Work is increasingly becoming a state of mind more than a place to be.

  1. The globalization of the labor market.

The geographic bonds between producer and consumer are gone, and jobs are more transferable around the globe. Companies will increasingly need to decide what their core competitive advantages are, and what things other firms can do better to move the work or move the worker.

Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation Inc. (www.nelson-motivation.com), is a management consultant and conference presenter.

                                                                                                                                                                                             FRESHviews October 2011 The Costco Connection page 13

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