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Technology is rapidly transforming the workplace. Some changes will create dramatic shifts in the long-term future of work. For instance, reports estimate that between 45 percent and 47 percent of current jobs could eventually be lost to automation, with seven percent of that job loss coming by the year 2025. These technology-driven workplace changes will continue to spread and accelerate in 2017.
Here are five key 2017 workplace trend predictions.
Automation helps the workplace become more efficient as companies adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. One AI technology that is likely to see growing workplace popularity in 2017 is scheduling assistants. Programs such as Amy from X.ai free workers from the time-consuming work of sending multiple rounds of emails to schedule meetings with coworkers; a process that becomes more difficult as employees work remotely and in different time zones.
Another benefit of efficiency gains enabled by workplace technology is reduced errors. Workers spend less time on rework, and need to spend less overtime correcting mistakes. Automation can free up time for workers through efficient process design. Amazon used Kiva robot technology to improve warehouse fulfillment planning and speed by 400 percent. Thus, automated work can better support a healthy work-life balance.
As with many new technology solutions, these automated assistants are proliferating without clear winners yet established. Administrative automation will continue to evolve to encompass more functions and standards will develop around interoperability with other new technologies, as well as legacy systems. Additionally, programs and applications will need to be standardized across an increasingly distributed and mobile workforce, often working on their own versus company-issued devices.
Technologies in areas such as AI, automation, machine learning, and communication can boost employee engagement and thus productivity. When workers are better able to utilize their specific knowledge and skills, productivity is unleashed. For example, Nordic bank, SEB implemented Amelia, AI technology from IPsoft as an internal IT service desk. The result was the virtual workforce liberated the human workforce to focus “on more satisfying, higher impact activities.”
The potential drawback to these productivity gains in the changing workplace is that their benefits often accrue only to the employer’s bottom line and not to the workers themselves in the form of pay raises or time off. In the U.S., we’ve seen steady gains in productivity and profits without a corresponding rise in pay or vacation time.
One trend that some predict will flourish in 2017 thanks to technology advances is scheduling flexibility. Employers can use programs to automatically schedule hourly workers based on their availability or fluctuations in customer traffic. Software can also allow employees to self-manage trading their shifts.
Flexibility in work location is another option highly desired by employees and becoming increasingly feasible for employers to offer thanks to advances in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security, increased compatibility of applications across devices, digital workspaces, video calling and conferencing, and cloud storage and computing. Not only is this the most desired job benefit for in-demand IT workers, enabling remote work allows companies to expand the talent pool from which they recruit.
Not all jobs can be performed remotely, however. Also, as the workplace is massively transformed by the impact of automation, new ways of working currently unforeseen might not lend themselves to remote work. Some industries could suffer from a reduction of innovation facilitated by face-to-face interaction among co-workers and teams. Employees who thrive in an office environment might find it difficult to collaborate with coworkers who work nonstandard hours or from remote locations. Despite these disadvantages, advantages like employee retention and becoming an employer of choice can outweigh them.
Long gone are the days when many workers used large, bulky, stationary machines such as desktop computers, cash registers, or printing presses. As the computing power of devices such as smartphones and tablets has exploded, workplaces have adapted to incorporate mobile technology. Rethinking the workplace for mobile consumption, use, and delivery will continue to transform companies across industries. To accommodate increased mobility, in 2017 businesses will increasingly turn to custom developed enterprise apps rather than leaving it up to employees to choose their own solutions that might not work together or be sufficiently secure.
Expanding the use of mobile devices poses challenges, however. Primary among those concerns is security. Portability, convenience, and ease of use all create avenues for competitors, hackers, and thieves to steal company data. Even without nefarious intent, employees can lose valuable information by, say, not properly backing up their work. These challenges exist with computers housed at a single worksite, but the portability of mobile devices increases these problems.
Perhaps the most widespread change in workplaces has come from technology used to identify, recruit, and screen talent. Despite the widespread adoption of automated systems to manage and review resumes, human talent will still be required to evaluate applicants beyond an initial pass at keyword matching. As social recruiting through platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn continues to gain traction, HR professionals can learn to leverage technology to identify harder to hire candidates in areas such as IT.
Jeff Mills, director of solution marketing for recruiting and onboarding describes how Success Factors/SAP technology can be used to target and build a talent community among job seekers who start, but don’t finish, an application on a mobile device. This type of HR automation combined with marketing technology potentially provides a far more robust approach to identifying and recruiting qualified candidates than manual follow up efforts.
Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”