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4 future workplace trends HR should understand for 2020 and beyond

The future of work is fueled by technology -- and the skills only people offer. Here are four forces that CHROs and their teams must understand to successfully lead in this change-intensive time.

The future is coming to your HR department.

HR teams were once left out of strategic planning and mired in routine tasks and paper-dependent processes. But a myriad of developments in the economy, culture and technological landscape are changing that. Recruiting is becoming increasingly competitive and more HR technology is available every day. As a consequence, HR is becoming more critical to the company, particularly with how the future of work is developing.

Here are future workplace trends that HR teams will contend with in 2020 and beyond.

1. Ethical AI gets the spotlight  

Using AI for HR is now becoming ubiquitous. Companies can use AI for recruiting, new hire onboarding, internal talent mobility and training. While the pioneers in the use of this technology were once tech companies such as IBM and Cisco, a range of nontech companies are now deploying AI. For example, Hilton Hotels is using AI for recruitment and claims to have sped up the process of replying to candidates that meet their basic requirements, according to its website. Schneider Electric is now using an AI-powered platform to provide internal talent mobility to promote career growth and employee retention, according to its website.  

As we move into 2020, the question of how to use AI in an ethical and responsible manner will gain attention as a top issue. Consider the array of new laws emerging such as California's Bot disclosure law, which went into effect July 1. It requires firms to disclose when a chatbot, rather than a person, is answering questions online. This was followed by a recent Illinois law that sets new requirements for using AI for video interviews. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. It requires employers to tell candidates that a company is using AI to analyze video interviews before asking them to record and submit an interview. It also requires employers to share what characteristics the interview will evaluate.

2. Human skills gain value   

AI can radically alter how work gets done and who does it. About 25% of jobs are at risk to be mostly automated, but virtually all jobs are likely to have some parts of them automated, according to a report on automation and artificial intelligence by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

As AI takes over more routine tasks, employees will need to develop and refine skills that are uniquely human. Since a larger share of our economy devotes itself to service, the power soft skills now in demand include collaboration, critical thinking, communications, employee experience and design thinking. New job roles have been created in the last 10 years to use some of these creative skills, such as "director of employee experience" and "director of financial wellness," to catch up with these future workplace trends.

3. The skills gap forces creative sourcing

As many as 375 million global workers may need to change their occupations because technology will make their jobs obsolete, according to McKinsey. The change of pace has never been this fast. Digital disruption, AI, automation of jobs and the outmoded skills are causing fundamental changes in the workplace. 

Sixty-four percent of employers report a skills gap, up from 52% in 2018, according to research by Wiley Educational Service and Future Workplace. More than three-quarters of the surveyed 600 HR leaders claim their organization had up to 500 unfilled roles during the past year. The top barriers to filling these roles were a lack of skilled talent among current employees and an inability to find qualified job candidates.

To close the skills gap, companies and their HR teams need to cast a wider net and get creative in how they source.

To close the skills gap, companies and their HR teams need to cast a wider net and get creative in how they source. They will consider a more diverse talent pool, including looking for candidates who have the skills but who may not have a four-year degree. They will look to skills-based hiring, the practice of setting specific skills and create competency requirements for a job, rather than relying solely on a candidates' credentials. They will also look to technical high schools like P-TECH (a joint high school diploma and associate degree in STEM), community centers, apprenticeships and hackathons. Even today, an increasing number of Fortune 1000 companies such as Apple, Google and Netflix are recruiting candidates who do not have college degrees, a workplace trend that will only grow in the future.

4. The consumerization of HR continues

Due to the evolution of HR functions in the last few years, change has been happening at an accelerated pace. E-learning has been either supplemented or replaced by virtual reality and personalized learning powered by AI, while performance management has gone from a once-a-year process to immediate feedback on an app.

The movement to disrupt HR is rooted in delivering a consumer-grade employee experience in the workplace, one that mirrors the best customer experience. Employees increasingly bring their consumer expectations to the workplace. This "employee as a consumer mindset" requires HR to disrupt itself. HR needs to reinvent its processes to source, screen, develop and coach employees. It also needs to build new partnerships with real estate, and IT for an improved candidate and employee experience.

HR can choose to welcome future workplace trends. Technology will continue to grow in importance, but perhaps counterintuitively HR can use this to deliver a workplace where people can thrive.

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