The Evolution of Work Culture

By Jaime Neely, Chief Culture Officer, Trend Hunter

It’s safe to say that today’s workplaces are incredibly different than they were 5, 10, or 50 years ago. Within the last few years at Trend Hunter, we’ve identified many of these transformations through insights like Appified Office 2.0Intelligent Workspace and Social Hiring. We’re seeing shifts in everything from the furniture we put in our offices, to the technologies we use, to the way we interact with colleagues and clients and even the benefits we’ve come to expect from employers. Three overarching themes can help us make sense of the changing landscape of work culture: an evolving workforce, evolving technology, and evolving job types.

Evolution of the Workforce

One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in the workplace relates to demographics. It’s estimated that by the year 2020, 50% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials and an additional 20% will be accounted for by Gen Z. With these two generations representing 70% of workers, understanding the unique values and work styles they bring to the table is critical to any employer’s success.

Trend Hunter has studied tens of thousands of employees across the world in a variety of industries through our Innovation Assessment tool. The results offer unique insights into how each generation varies within the workplace today. For instance, Boomers prefer to have more variety in their projects, whereas members of Gen Z are looking to be more focused and specialized within their roles. 40% of female Millennials feel that their ideas are not heard — the most of any group. Gen X employees have the least amount of faith in their organizations’ innovation strategy. And quite surprisingly, 65% of boomers believe that playing it safe will actually lead to their professional downfall.

It’s worth noting that many of these results directly challenge some of the stereotypes we have about each generation in the workplace. By understanding and accommodating these differences instead of making generalizations, employers can maximize employee satisfaction and productivity regardless of age.

Evolution of Workplace Technology

Technology’s role in the workplace has also undergone a drastic transformation. From the way we communicate and share information, to how we manage our time, how we interact with one another and even how we turn our ideas into products, we’re in a seemingly constant state of change. We know how the rise of technology like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and automation has impacted the consumer experience, but how has it altered the world of the employee?

In just a few years, organizations can expect to have access to 10 to 10,000 times more data than they do today. Data is good for innovation; it enables employees to make more informed decisions, do their jobs more effectively and ultimately make a bigger impact within their roles and organizations.

When it comes to AI, a study by McKinsey revealed that 49% of the work listed across 800 job boards today can already be automated. While our instinct may be to internalize this shift as a bad thing, it’s actually opening up more time and energy for organizations to focus on bigger and often more complex challenges. Google is a great example of a company leveraging AI to make day-to-day work more efficient for its employees. Its most recent product, Google Hire, uses AI to take care of recruiting-related tasks including scanning resumes and booking interviews.

Evolution of Jobs

The next few years will bring about a major shift in the types of jobs available to workers. Not only are new roles emerging, but we’re seeing new types of employees within organizations. Dell estimates that 85% of future jobs don’t exist yet or are otherwise unknown to us. While that might seem like a large number, there have been some very interesting predictions about the types of roles that might soon emerge. From “Personal Reality Designer” to “Digital Archaeologist” to “Robot Liaison Officer” and more, the job listings of tomorrow diverge considerably from what we’re used to.

One particularly interesting future role is “Freelance Relationships Officer.” We’re all familiar with the “gig economy,” where part-time contracting and freelancing roles are the norm, and it’s only becoming more prevalent. Studies suggest that if the current pace continues, 50% of workers in the United States will be freelancing within the next ten years. This makes quite a bit of sense when we consider the benefits freelancing offers. For many young people, the perks of flexibility, autonomy, control and varied experience outweigh the traditional benefits of full-time employment including steady income, paid vacation and health care.

Freelancers provide benefits to employers, as well. For starters, they give employers access to better, more specialized talent. They are also much more affordable than bringing on full-time employees and present less risk than committing to someone for a permanent role. The insight Accelerating Outsourcing shows how brands across all industries are dipping into the growing pool of freelancers to become more agile and enhance overall efficiencies. Utilizing freelance workers isn’t just for small companies or start-ups either — 58% of Fortune 500 companies use freelancing services to fill temporary positions.

Understanding and adapting to these changes is critical to the success of employers and employees alike. It’s also important to gain an awareness of the generational stereotypes that might be impacting our decisions, and to create opportunities for them to be proven wrong. Allowing your workplace to evolve in response to changing expectations and needs will allow you to attract and retain better talent, enhance organizational efficiency, and create an overall positive work environment. The pace of change is only going to accelerate, so now is the perfect time to get started. How can your workplace evolve?