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Future of Work Trends

Date Published: December 08, 2023 | Last Updated: February 05, 2024 | By Suraiya Sarwar

As we head into 2024, it’s time to think about the trends that are likely to impact the workplace as we move forward. Disruptive impacts have been ongoing since the pandemic emerged in 2020. That, and subsequent sea changes in technology, have changed the way we work forever—and are impacting the types of jobs and skills that are likely to be required in both the near- and long-term future.

The good news is that it doesn’t appear that there are any new disruptions on the horizon. Of course, the very nature of disruption suggests that, if there were, they might not yet be discernable.

The bad news is that ongoing disruption, turmoil, and change is likely to continue for some time as we remain in an environment where it’s hard to predict exactly what the work world—and the workforce—is likely to look like next year, let alone in five or ten years from now.

That said, there are some leading indicators from reputable researchers about what we might expect on both a global and local scale as the new year approaches.

Macro Trends Impacting the Global Economy

Jason Wise is editor at EarthWeb, and has written extensively about the intersection of technology, business, and finance. He points to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report as a source of information about the trends impacting the world of work.

For employees, Wise says, the Future of Jobs Report can provide “a personal view that’s like being on the edge of a territory that keeps growing.” It encourages people, he says, “to not only adapt but also do well in a world where skills and businesses interact in complex ways.” It can be viewed, he says, as “a personalized guide that tells each worker how to improve their critical thinking, creativity, ability to adopt, and emotional intelligence.”

The Future of Jobs Survey gathered input from 803 companies representing 11.3 million workers across 27 industry clusters and 454 global economies. In 2023, the key findings include:

  • Technology adoption will continue to be a key driver of business transformation. “Over 85% of organizations surveyed identify increased adoption of new and frontier technologies and broadening digital access as the trends most likely to drive transformation in their organization.”
  • The greatest areas of job creation will be driven by environmental, technology, and economic trends. Respondents indicate that the strongest job-creation effects will “be driven by investments that facilitate the green transition of businesses, the broader application of ESG standards and supply chains becoming more localized, albeit with job growth offset by partial job displacement in each case.”
  • Big data, cloud computing, and AI will be high on the list of technology adoption, with more than 75% of companies indicating they would adopt these technologies in the next five years.
  • The impact of technology on jobs is expected to be positive.
  • Employers expect labor market churn of 23% in the next five years—with a “higher-than-average churn in the Supply Chain and Transportation and Media, Entertainment and Sports industries, and lower-than-average churn in Manufacturing as well as Retail and Wholesale of Consumer Goods.”

Interestingly, the report also indicates that the instruction of automation will be “at a slower pace than previously anticipated”—with an increase of only 1% over the 2020 report.

Impacts From an HR and L&D Perspective

HR and learning and development (L&D) leaders can anticipate some impacts on their practices given these trends. For instance, respondents indicate that they estimate “44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years.” This will drive training needs for 60% of workers with the highest area of priority for building analytical thinking skills—10% of training initiatives.

Other training needs will include:

  • Creative thinking.
  • Using AI and big data.
  • Leadership and social influence.
  • Resilience, flexibility, and agility.
  • Curiosity and lifelong learning.

While respondents are confident in their ability to develop their existing workforce, they’re not so confident about the availability of the talent they will need over the next five years. And yet other research suggests a massive displacement of workers over the next five years.

McKinsey & Company has also weighed in on future work trends in its own report through the McKinsey Global Institute which, according to Futurism, indicates that “automation could eradicate a third of America’s workforce by 2030,” with a prediction of 800 million jobs being lost worldwide.

The impacts of both technology and potential job loss are likely to weigh heavily on workers. In fact, job pressures are also anticipated to be on the rise.

Employees Face Increasing Job Pressures

meQuilibrium, a company that uses real-time science and predictive tools to help leaders manage and retain talent, indicates that “job demands, incivility, polarization, external stressors, and the challenge of AI will put extreme pressure on the workforce in 2024.” Business leaders, they say, “will need to take on the tough job of addressing negativity, championing mental health, and reducing stress among employees, especially Gen Z, frontline, technology, and healthcare workers.”

“As we look forward to 2024, it seems apparent that perhaps more than ever, the workforce will be dealing with external stressors in our increasingly polarized world that will influence everything from mental health to productivity to sleep,” says Adam Perlman, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and co-founder of meQuilibrium. “Conflicts around the world and an undoubtedly highly polarizing election within a backdrop of increasing racism and bigotry will elevate workers’ stress levels and potential feelings of isolation,” he says. “This will create a need to focus on resiliency and sense of belonging as a component of increasing investment in on-going efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

In addition to dealing with these stressors, employees will need to work on continually improving and adding to their skill sets. To do that they’ll turn to their employers, HR leaders, and managers for insights on the skills and competencies their companies will need in the future. While there certainly are, and will continue to be, unknowns, ongoing discussion and transparency will be critical to keep employees engaged, productive and on board.

It’s a strange paradigm we operate in—one where employees are predicted to be both obsolete and in demand. But it’s a paradigm that business leaders and their staff will need to navigate together.