Predicting the Future Workplace Today

As the dawn of a new year fast approaches, many people are thinking about what changes are ahead of them for 2018. In HR that may look like addressing sexual harassment policies and procedures, moving away from passive hiring or beefing up cybersecurity systems. But what about changes in the more distant future, say 2030 and beyond?

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released an extensive report entitled Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030. The report is based on research from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford, United Kingdom, and a survey of 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and United States.

The results from the report “provide insights into how people think the workplace will evolve and how this will affect their employment prospects and future working lives.”

PwC presents four possible workplace scenarios, categorized as different worlds: yellow, red, green and blue. Each world details what’s important to the employers and employees, the impact of technology and the role of HR.

The yellow world focuses on humanity. Ethics and fairness are highly emphasized and both employers and employees seek out meaningful work. Technology in this world has been utilized to provide easy access to crowdfunding capital, which has helped entrepreneurial companies thrive where corporations once ruled. The issue with technology in this world, however, is one we may start facing soon: automation of jobs.

There doesn’t seem to be space for an actual HR department–the role, as we know it today, is held by company leaders or worker guilds (think medieval trade associations).

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HR doesn’t exist–automation, outsourcing and self-organizing teams have replaced it entirely.

Capitalism is at the core of the blue world, but the workforce is scarce. Exceptional talent is highly prized and human effort is pushed to its limits through physical and medical biotechnology, creating a “new breed of super-workers.” Companies obsessively collect personal employee data to predict performance and risk by monitoring the performance, health and well-being of every employee at home and at work.

HR plays a large role in this world and uses advanced analytics to determine performance and retention issues and predict future talent.

Like the yellow world, the green world focuses on humanity first. Green world organizations have a strong social conscious and sense of environmental responsibility. Natural resources are scarce and international regulations grow. Technology is important in this world because it helps protect resources and reduce environmental harm. Unfortunately, just like the yellow world, reliance on technology and automation may make human jobs obsolete.

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Though these four worlds may feel a little like the Hunger Games, nothing within them is too far-fetched; we’re already seeing some of these changes now with automation and technology.

To prepare for whatever color our workforce becomes, leaders need to act now and plan for dynamic changes. PwC recommends that companies keep abreast of artificial intelligence and automation trends because advances in technology will rapidly and significantly impact everyone.

The most important takeaway, besides being proactive about preparing for the future, is to help quell employees’ fear of automation. Employees are less likely to embrace change if they think their jobs are on the line.

To remain productive and competitive, employers should begin thinking about how they can protect their people. PwC suggests fostering agility, adaptability and skill sharing so that employees feel secure even as the world quickly transforms around them.

Danielle King
Danielle Westermann Kinghttp://
Danielle Westermann King is a former staff writer for HRE.