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This chapter is from the book

The Future of Work

Workforce analytics is most relevant when we consider the way the world of work will change in the future. Although firm predictions are difficult, some trends have their foundations in today’s reality. According to the Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent, and the Enterprise (CHREATE), five fundamental forces are driving change for the future world of work:

  • Social and organizational reconfiguration

  • An all-inclusive global talent market

  • A truly connected world

  • Exponential technology change

  • Human–automation collaboration

“Over the next 10 years, we will see work liberated from the idea of a job. Work will be disaggregated and re-combined in ways that better suit employers and employees.”

—John Boudreau, Professor of Management and Organization, and Research Director of the Center for Effective Organizations, University of Southern California

In a 2014 CHRO study undertaken by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, 66 percent of C-suite executives said their organizations rely on third-party providers for contingent workers, 57 percent rely on alternative workforce arrangements, and 36 percent rely on crowdsourcing. The report argues that predictive analytics will be needed to make more accurate workforce decisions as the nature of the workforce shifts.

CHREATE and the IBM CHRO study underline the importance of analytics in helping organizations succeed in this changing world, specifically in these areas:

  • The speed of change will alter the nature of work:

    • Work will be deconstructed and analytics will be helpful in determining the parts of the work that will remain strategic and the parts that will remain peripheral to an organization’s core mission.

    • Some work will become automated by robots and other machines. Analytics will help define the best workforce that becomes a mix of robots and humans.

  • Workers themselves will continue to redefine work:

    • The number of independent workers will continue to increase, thanks to technological advances connecting people anywhere, anytime. Organizations will tap into this “gig economy” for experts to add value to work at the right place, right price, and right time. Workforce analytics should be used to understand what work is suitable for independent workers and for permanent employees.

    • Workers’ expectations will continue to drive the need for personalized services—for example, in learning, healthcare, benefits, and so on. But in addition, new services will be needed as the gig economy intensifies—for example, the need for legal advice for intellectual property (IP) for freelancers who use their IP in multiple firms concurrently.

  • The volume of data will change the nature of workforce insights:

    • Wearables, sensors, nanotechnology, and other devices will provide incredible amounts of data for analysis. Some devices will become so small due to technological advances that they will almost disappear from view, a term described as “disappearables” in a Reuters article by Jeremy Wagstaff in April 2015. The decrease in size is expected to increase the personal desire for and usefulness of devices in the workplace.

    • As the gig economy builds, the growing associated data will help redefine a worker’s reputation based on information about the gigs undertaken and related endorsements about the value of the work.

It’s a new world of work. Ian Bailie of Cisco summarizes this well: “It’s about understanding the skills and capabilities of the internal workforce; dealing with the new gig economy, contractors, and freelancers, and understanding their skill set; getting better at moving people around the organization; and enabling them to build careers and their own personal brands. This will become a dataset that we don’t have today.”

This is an important time for the HR profession to adapt and create momentum in the field of workforce analytics to capitalize on the changes shaping the future world of work. As Max Blumberg, founder of Blumberg Partnerships, Ltd., stresses: “You’d have to be a very brave human resources director to say you’re not taking analytics seriously.”

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