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Five key workplace trends

There are several powerful disruptors that are changing and reshaping the workplace. Here are five key trends, according to industry experts

“Companies can also assemble, and disband, teams of freelancers and gig economy workers to collaborate on projects.” Photograph: iStock

“Companies can also assemble, and disband, teams of freelancers and gig economy workers to collaborate on projects.” Photograph: iStock


Valarie Daunt, head of human capital management at Deloitte:

1. Technology is everywhere

“Success is not just about leveraging technology, it’s about enabling a whole different way of working. We feel that there is a disconnect between what ought to happen and what is happening. But it is not that technology is moving too fast. It is that organisations are moving too slow. If you want to track the pace of change, look at people first. Technological change and adoption is happening at an extraordinary pace, and it is at an individual level that it is most apparent.

“The reality is that technology learns faster than we do. The best organisations understand and leverage this. Interestingly, technology has changed our personal lives faster than the business world, which has led to higher expectations from our talent and customers. Companies may get this – but they are often burdened with legacy systems and legacy behaviours which creates a barrier for them moving at the pace they need to. As technology adoption accelerates, companies that should benefit from technology need to ensure that they don’t fall behind.”

2. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, robotics will become omnipresent – but humans remain

“The most recent wave of commentary on this front stems from the use of artificial intelligence [AI] to capture and automate tacit knowledge and tasks, which were previously thought to be too subtle and complex to be automated. In addition, it was also viewed as too expensive yet we are seeing the costs of AI and automation falling significantly. A powerful business case when we also see it linked to increased productivity.

“The biggest impacts remain concentrated in a few industries and countries for now but other industries such as public-sector and some private-sector organisations are starting to catch up. According to the recent Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018, almost half, 47 per cent, of respondents say that their organisations are deeply involved in automation projects, with 24 per cent using AI and robotics to perform routine tasks, 16 per cent to augment human skills, and 7 per cent to restructure work entirely.”

3. Changes in the nature of careers

“In the 21st century, careers are no longer narrowly defined by jobs and skills. The need for people and organisations to constantly upgrade their capabilities together with shifts in employee preferences demands new approaches to learning, job design, performance management, and career development. Organisations must rethink how they coach and develop employees, focusing on the learning environment and experience-based opportunities while empowering individuals to manage their own career.”

Paul Healy, chief executive of Skillnet Ireland, lists two of his top trends:

4. New employment model

“Traditional employment models are changing. There is a clear shift under way from the standard employment arrangement in which people have stable jobs and work full time, to a situation in which this standard employment model is less and less dominant. The ILO [International Labour Organization] has said that fewer than one in four workers will be employed in conditions corresponding to the ‘standard or traditional’ employment model 20 years from now. This is happening both by choice and necessity. Digital work-management solutions are revolutionising the way in which people can work. Companies can also assemble, and disband, teams of freelancers and gig economy workers to collaborate on projects and deliver on targets through virtual workplaces. Many organisations and workers are not yet ready to accommodate such diversity and fluidity of work arrangements.”

5. Changing demographics

“Trends in demographics are changing the workforce as we know it. People are now living longer, and it is now being predicted that we will be working longer. Longer life spans are affecting business models, and workers will need to learn new skills and work for longer. In Ireland, the statutory retirement age has increased to 66, and experts predict that it will rise again in years to come.

“Reflecting changes in wider society, the workplace itself is now more diverse than ever. Ireland has transformed from a largely monocultural society 25 years ago to now having one of the largest foreign-born populations in the EU. In broad terms, the Irish workplace has adjusted admirably with these changes. But it is not just about simply accommodating difference. The real opportunity lies is unlocking the immense potential of a diverse workforce.”