HR Trends and The Future of Work

HR Trends are trending. Every week or so, another article or report is published with its version of where work and the workplace are going. Of course, HR technology plays a major role in almost every assessment, even more so in reports that attempt to predict the future based on current trends.

Captain Future comic illustrationCaptain Future, Wikimedia Commons

Constellation Research[1], for example, recently presented a webinar called 5 Social Business Trends Influencing the Future of Work[2]. The five trends they identified are:

Moving to the Cloud 

Key business functions and collaborative activities are shifting to the cloud at an accelerated rate. The question for most organizations is no longer whether they will move to the cloud, but when and how.

The intersection of productivity and analytics 

An increasing array of tools that mine accumulated data and identify predictive patterns are promising new levels of productivity.

Digital assistants 

A natural offshoot of enhanced predictive analytics is the rise of digital assistants that offer intelligent, analytics-driven suggestions for next steps and appropriate action in real time. Tools like Apple’s Siri and Google Now will evolve from simple voice-activated responders that provide information on request to interactive, always-on assistants that offer contextual suggestions spontaneously.

Lighter weight and micro apps 

While cloud-based platforms continue to grow in complexity, an abundance of micro apps designed for specific functions (group chat, web conferencing, task lists, etc.) are emerging in tandem. These lighter weight applications offer quicker access to frequently used tools.

Aggregation of content and people from multiple sources onto digital canvases 

With the proliferation of micro apps and the growing reliance on cloud-based technology, aggregation of information across platforms and activity streams is essential. In response, more digital canvases and dashboards are emerging to help people manage multiple sources of information in one place so they can function more efficiently.

The Future of Work is Not All Tech

Jacob Morgan, futurist, author and speaker, identifies a different set of trends shaping the future of work. Although technology plays a clear and definitive role in his vision, it’s only one of five major trends he sees shaping the direction of work and workplaces. In fact, four of the five following trends[3] Morgan identifies are less about technology and more about societal and behavioral changes.


More and more, people are operating in a world where boundaries don’t exist.


Smart phones and the internet mean you can “connect to work” at any time and from virtually anywhere. As long as you have access to the web you can get your job done

New behaviors 

The internet, social media and ubiquitous connectivity have created new norms. People now live a public life. And they expect real-time feedback, collaboration and sharing.


Technology is now, and will continue to be, intrinsic to work and the workplace. Everything from big data, collaboration platforms and the internet of things; to robots, automation and wearables will continue to shape the future of work.


Key demographic trends are converging on the workplace. Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2025. At the same time, older generations are retiring later and many are becoming freelancers after they retire.

People, Tech and HR: 3 Possible Futures

PWC goes a step further, offering not only their insight on trends already impacting the workplace, but extrapolating them into the year 2022 to give us their impression of what the world of work will look like seven years from now. Technology breakthroughs are cited as the greatest single driver of change, but are only one of many societal and demographic pressures seen as contributing to the evolution of work and the workplace. Based on interviews and surveys with 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and the US, they predict the following three distinct “worlds” of work in 2022.[4]

Blue World of Work

Corporate is King. Big company capitalism rules as organizations continue to grow bigger and individual preferences trump beliefs about social responsibility. Here, HR will be at the centre of a hugely influential, metric-driven strategy and performance function.

Green World of Work

Companies Care. Social responsibility dominates the corporate agenda with concerns about changes in climate and demographics, and embedding sustainability becoming the key drivers of business. In the Green World, HR’s role could be much more diffuse, helping employees to shape their work around their values and outside lives.

Orange World of Work

Small is beautiful. Companies begin to break down into collaboration networks of smaller organizations; specialization dominates the world economy. In this world, HR will have a much narrower recruitment and tendering role, with many other aspects of the function outsourced.

Although these three future visions contain contradictory elements, PWC sees them as the natural evolution of existing trends and not mutually exclusive. Rather they suggest:

“Our three worlds can provide a starting point for judging the opportunities, risks and evolving demands on HR across different areas of your organization…no one model will prevail.”

Further they advise that knowing which of the three scenarios is most consistent with your organizational vision is your first step in preparing for your particular future of work.

Work and HR Will be Different

One thing is clear; whichever version of the future of work you expect or prefer: work and HR will be different. Too many new economic, demographic, societal, political and technological forces are converging for things to remain the same. And you can’t even fall back on the assumption that people are fundamentally immutable. New research in the areas of neuroplasticity[5] and natural selection[6] show that humans are changing too! But that’s a topic for another day.


Introduce best of breed HR technology to your world of work with NetSuite TribeHR.


Additional References

More from Jacob Morgan and

Megan Biro offers the following trends in HR Technology:

[1] An award-winning Silicon Valley-based research firm focused on technologies and business models that innovate, transform and disrupt established players.

[5] John Harris. How the internet is altering your mind

[6] Jennifer Welsh. Humans Are Still Evolving, Study Says.

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