Three trends for the future of work

Overlooked talent, trust and adaptability are the three big trends that require the immediate and intentional action of organizations looking to thrive in the future of work, claims Cecile Alper-Leroux. “We have two large demographic groups that are underutilized in our workforce: people with disabilities and people over the age of 55,” she told Inc.’s Marcel Schwantes. “In 2020, organizations must make a concerted effort to reach into these untapped talent pools and create accessible, inclusive environments where these employees can thrive.” Organizations also need to find a balance between employee trust and data privacy. “By being transparent about employee data and privacy, organizations can strengthen employee trust,” Alper-Leroux said. “Workforces with high trust in leadership are twice as likely to outperform in revenue growth and customer loyalty.” She also believes in building adaptability into the workforce. “Many organizations have paid lip service to shifting recruitment toward critical professional skills like self-awareness and empathy, but the reality is to many business leaders and recruiters are still prioritizing technical skills that may be obsolete in a few years,” Alper-Leroux said.

The top soft skills employers are seeking

Employers want workers to improve in flexibility, adaptability, leadership and strong work ethics, according to a new survey. CompTIA interviewed 1,500 business and tech executives globally for the survey and identified the top soft skills employers want to see their staffers improve by percentage: flexibility/adaptability (48 percent), leadership (44 percent), strong work ethic (41 percent), motivation/initiative (37 percent), innovation/problem-solving (33 percent). “Managers know the company’s growth strategy depends on the ability to hire and retain,” Roberto Torres writes in CIODive. “An ideal workforce delivers value through a mix of soft and hard skills.” He notes that 88 percent of U.S. companies say they outsource tech needs, but 57 percent of senior leaders say they value soft skills more than hard skills. “When evaluating candidates, the top three traits they look for are creativity, persuasion and collaboration,” Torres writes. “The clip at which execs will need to fill roles is poised to increase over time, a trend driven by the evolution in technology, the steady aging out of skilled technologists and expansion of tech adoption.”

The three essential roles to fill for the future

The talent war is not just about finding the right people, but also about hiring for the future, claims Mandy Gilbert. “To outpace your competitors and stay in tune with your customers, you’ll need people with the foresight and skills to get you there,” she writes in an Inc. blog post. Gilbert predicts there will be three essential roles to fill in order for companies to future-proof their businesses: data scientist, growth marketing manager and employer brand strategist. “Data scientists have a unique blend of analytical and communication skills,” she writes. “This position spends their days solving complex problems for businesses with data-driven solutions (and let’s be real, every business runs on data-driven solutions).” Growth marketing managers are the ones that build out specific plans to increase customer acquisition and drive sales, while employer brand strategist focuses on the organization’s reputation. “We all know there is a huge demand for talent, which puts sought-after candidates in the driver’s seat,” Gilbert writes. “An employer brand strategist has access to tools that unveil the inner workings of a brand’s internal and external perception.”

Five facts about the jobs of the future

Tech skills will continue to dominate the jobs of tomorrow, while human skills will still be important, according to the World Economic Forum’s “Jobs of Tomorrow” report released at Davos last week. In this blog post, LinkedIn’s Co-founder Allen Blue shares the five things to learn from the new data: 1. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are so pervasive that even roles in areas such as sales and marketing will require a basic understanding of AI. 2. While they aren’t growing as quickly as tech-dominated jobs, new sales, content production and HR roles—all relying on soft skills—are among the fastest growing professions. 3. Gender equality in emerging tech jobs still lags behind. 4. Taking advantage of existing and adjacent talent can make a massive contribution to the rapid expansion of talent pipelines. 5. The “network gap” still exists—living in a high-income neighborhood and going to a top school can lead to a 12x-advantage in accessing opportunities. “If we are going to make meaningful change, we need businesses and political leaders to re-evaluate the norms through which we shape policy, make hiring decisions and ultimately level the playing field for those who face barriers to opportunity,” Blue writes.

Digital won’t cost bankers their jobs

Just as ATMs didn’t bring an end to branches, today’s digital banking tools are nothing to be afraid of, argues Dave Martin. “The widespread utilization of direct deposits fostered similar anxiety in bankers across the land. Clearly, the end was nigh for branches,” he writes in an op-ed piece in American Banker. “Similarly [to ATMs], this improved tool made banking easier for customers and effectively expanded the service areas of individual branches.” Martin admits that there are challenges to evolving how and where to engage with customers, but maintains that the new tools ultimately help talented bankers to become more productive than ever. “The tools of a trade are not the trade. Putting state-of-the-art digital banking tools into the hands of inexperienced employees won’t make them a banker who customers would choose to do business with,” he writes. “Bankers need to regularly remind their teams that even as the digital tools of the trade become more powerful, they’re still only tools. Talented and engaged bankers remain the core of successful banks.”

Remote work could make the world a better place

2020 is predicted to be “the year of the remote,” and not just because people like to work in their pajamas or from an exotic beach, argues Laurel Farrer. “Virtual jobs can change the life of our workers, our businesses and our communities,” she writes in a Forbes blog post. Here are four ways that workplace flexibility will impact the world: 1. Economic development. When workers are geographically dispersed, so is their impact on communities, industry innovation and the global economy. 2. Environmental sustainability. Remote jobs create less waste and shorter commutes, which mean lighter carbon footprints. 3. Diversity and inclusion. Equal remote work earns equal opportunity. 4. Work-life satisfaction. Flexible workers are safer emotionally, socially, physically and mentally. “So, next time you see a picture of a digital nomad lounging on a beach with a laptop, remember this: remote work isn’t about convenience, it’s about change. Virtual jobs aren’t indulging humanity, they’re allowing it to heal and thrive,” Morse concludes.

Accenture’s “Workforce 2025” study makes the headlines

North American banks could save more than $70 billion through 2025 using technology to automate jobs or assist employees, according to the latest Accenture research. “Workforce 2025,” released in mid-December, made headlines in American Banker, Bloomberg, Business Insider and more. “There are certainly some jobs that will be automated,” said Cathinka Wahlstrom, head of Accenture’s financial services practice in North America. But technology can also a boon for employees who remain, she said. “It’s an opportunity as opposed to something to fear. Done right, it’s going to be great both in terms of productivity savings and ultimately client experience.” The study found that the broader group of financial services firms in the region could save $87 billion to $140 billion through automation and augmentation of more than half their tasks. The cost savings could be as high as $44 billion in insurance and $25 billion in capital markets.

Eight ways the workforce will change in 2020

As we approach the new year, more predictions on new trends are making all the headlines. For this Inc. blog post, the Young Entrepreneurship Council (YEC) put together a list of top predictions for the way work will look like in 2020 and beyond: 1. More remote work options. 2. Greater dependence on technology. 3. Increased awareness of mental health. 4. Shorter workweeks. 5. More diversity within organizations. 6. A bigger focus on improving the overall office environment. 7. Increased use of artificial intelligence. 8. The disappearance of ‘corporate ladder’ aspirations. “You can’t expect your employees to treat your company as their only chance to make it,” Solomon Timothy told YEC. “Your workers will have side hustles and it’s totally fine. I think it’s a positive change and we need to encourage personal growth.”

The best way to teach EQ to employees

While the importance of having a focus on emotional intelligence (EQ) is becoming increasingly more accepted in organizations, the question of how to develop it has been a difficult one, claims Harvey Deutschendorf. “Many organizations will focus on finding people who are highly emotionally intelligent as they believe that while they can train for skills, developing EQ in people is more difficult and challenging,” he writes in Fast Company. “Typical training involves assessments, presentations, data analysis, and metrics.” Deutschendorf recommends starting with conversation and interaction intended to increase self-awareness, and offers the example of an EQ training program at UBS. “UBS employees spend three days to do in-depth exploration to more fully understand where they are at in real time,” he writes. “They work on having conversations that involve high levels of self-awareness and empathy, necessary to successfully ask their potential clients questions that can be viewed as highly personal.”

The future of the public sector workforce

While government has been more insulated from the trends whipsawing the workforce, from offshoring to automation to variable scheduling, the future of government work is quickly changing, claims Brooks Rainwater. In this Fast Company article, he outlines the three primary themes of the future of the public sector workforce: the impacts of AI and algorithms on hiring practices; better understanding a younger, more diverse workforce; and weighing the choice between a tour of duty and lifelong employment. “AI can in the best of circumstances help eliminate hiring biases while in the worst of circumstances reinforce existing biases,” Rainwater writes. “We expect government to be more transparent than the private sector. Clarity over what government weights in algorithms is imperative to identify upfront where biases may appear and work to mitigate these challenges.” It is also paramount to reflect the growing diversity of the population. “Government serves the public, and if the workforce does not reflect that public, there are clear blind spots that will be—and have been—missed in service delivery for people of color and underrepresented community members,” he writes. As for the debate on whether government work should be a lifelong commitment, Rainwater writes, “Government service in all forms, whether for a period of a few years or a full career, should be celebrated and supported.”

The future of work will be flexible

More than half (60 percent) of today’s workforce believes that having flexibility is a right, not a benefit, according to a new survey by Quinyx. Gen Z topped the survey when it comes to the perk of flexibility: 72 percent of respondents said it was the leading criterion for choosing a job, versus 39 percent of gen Z respondents who favored health benefits. Overall, 85 percent of the workers surveyed said a flexible schedule improved their productivity. “Like most of Vanilla Ice’s music, littering, and smoking on airplanes, the 9 to 5 grind is becoming an undesirable thing of the past,” Chris Westfall writes in a Forbes blog post. “To reduce frustration, disengagement and turnover, consider how your company might incorporate greater flexibility into the equation. What employees want—and many of them expect—is the ability to create work-life balance. How your culture adjusts to these expectations will define the future of work.”

How to earn employees’ trust

Trusted leaders have teams that perform better, are more loyal to the company and are happier and more productive overall, claims Ashira Prossack. In a Forbes blog post, she shares seven things leaders can do to establish trust with employees: 1. Be available as often as is feasible. 2. Get to know employees as individuals. 3. Ask employees how you can help. 4. Provide frequent feedback. 5. Allow employees to make mistakes. 6. Don’t micromanage; step in when it’s absolutely necessary. 7. Encourage autonomy. “Great leaders encourage employees to take full ownership of their jobs,” Prossack writes. “They empower their employees to make their own decisions and have confidence to take risks.”

Our latest report, “Fearless”, identifies the actions that every financial services leader can take to build psychological safety and trust in the workplace.

Jobs of the future in 2030

Speaking of the future workforce with machine learning, AI and automation, David Biden takes a look at the brand new jobs and careers that could come into existence by 2030. In this NS Business blog post, he lists five jobs of the future: 1. Digital ethics investment consultants will help firms reinvest in their staff. 2. Bot controllers will manage resources according to demand. 3. Robotic license auditors and registrars will help keep businesses compliant with taxes and other legalities. 4. Algorithm bias auditors will prevent the biases of robot designers from spreading. 5. Staff empathy consultants will help companies pay attention to the concerns and anxieties of the workforce. “It’s vital we focus on the human element and what is to be done with those people that become displaced from their jobs because of automation. Jobs won’t be lost, but they will be different,” Biden concludes.

Freelancers have new banking and insurance needs

As more professionals choose freelance work over traditional employment, a new niche market is emerging to serve the unique needs of these independent contractors, argues Ugur Kaner. Here are his top five predictions for the emerging service needs of gig-economy workers from a Forbes Council blog post: 1. Banking. “Despite their impressive incomes, self-employed individuals still face an uphill battle when applying for financial products like personal loans, lines of credit and mortgages,” Kaner writes. “A bank that caters specifically to independent contractors would understand and accommodate for fluctuating freelance incomes.” 2. Insurance. “Obtaining insurance of any kind is a huge burden for freelancers who don’t have the benefit of employer-sponsored plans,” he writes. 3. Retirement plans that may offer tax savings that wouldn’t be available through a regular savings account. 4. Freelance-focused communities and workspaces that provide a social space for independent contractors. 5. Business incorporation, legal and tax services to help freelancers legitimize their business and get the basic assistance they need. “The future is freelance, and our society—and indeed, the concept of work itself—is shifting to embrace it. If your company conducts business in one of these industries, you might consider offering freelancer-specific options and benefits,” Kaner concludes.

Gig economy in the UK doubles

The number of working-age adults in the UK who work on gig economy platforms has doubled in the last three years, according a new study. The research, conducted by the University of Hertfordshire and the TUC, found that one in 10 working-age adults worked for an online platform at least once a week in 2019, while as many as one in seven worked via a gig economy platform at some point in the year. According to the study, a majority of the gig workers tend to be younger, aged between 16 and 34. Men (16.5 percent) are also slightly more likely than women (14 percent) to do platform work. As for income, for 71 percent of those surveyed the gig work represented less than half of their total earnings, while only 48 percent were in full-time employment. “In a period when wages have been stagnant, people are turning to the internet to top up their earnings,” Ursula Huws, professor of labor and globalization at the University of Hertfordshire, told Personnel Today. “We see the Uber drivers and food delivery workers on our streets every day. But they’re only a small proportion of gig workers. They’re outnumbered by an invisible army of people working remotely on their computers or smartphones or providing services in other people’s homes.”

Employees optimistic about the future of work

Workers across the globe are happy with their current situations and have a sense of optimism about the future of work, Personnel Today reports. The Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group polled 11,000 ‘middle-skills’ workers in 11 countries and found that more than half (52 percent) of all surveyed were satisfied with their current work situation. Among the most satisfied workers were in Sweden (66 percent) and the US (64 percent). In the UK, 24 percent of the workers reported being very happy with their current situation, with another 37 percent saying they were happy. And while half (46 percent) of the workers globally said they felt a personal responsibility to adapt to changes in the workplace, only 23 percent of the workers in France agreed.

How credit unions are benefiting from coworking spaces 

The rise of the gig economy has resulted in an exponential growth of coworking spaces in the U.S. in the last few years. “They are also a natural fit for credit unions, a movement that began as tiny savings and loan pools that has grown into a network of full-blown financial services institutions hard-wired to collaborate on ideas and resources,” writes Marc Rapport in a Credit Unions blog post. He gives three examples of credit unions that are taking a strategic approach to using coworking spaces to brand themselves as not only community lenders, but also community leaders. In downtown Kansas City, MO, CommunityAmerica Credit Union (CACU) rents a WeWork office to host community lunch-and-learn and happy-hour events. Digital Federal Credit Union has launched a non-profit, mission-focused fintech lab in downtown Boston. In Bennington, VT, Vermont State Employees Credit Union shares its extra branch space with local entrepreneurs and thinkers. “Increasingly, the next generation of employee is looking for dynamic workspaces that fuel creativity and collaboration,” Anita Newton, CACU’s chief innovation officer, told Rapport. “In a tight labor market, having a presence in a vibrant co-working space can be a difference maker.”

Five ways to prepare for the future of work

Speaking of the transition to a hybrid workforce, Ashish Deshpande believes the workforce is ready for change and aware of the challenges ahead. In this Business blog post, he outlines five ways leaders can prepare for the workplace of tomorrow: 1. Foster trust and collaboration among employees. 2. Educate workers on the benefits of automation and upskill them for new tasks and roles. 3. Reduce unproductive time caused by redundant correspondence and administrative paperwork. 4. Carve out time for innovation. 5. Prepare for changes in the work environment. “Change is inevitable, but it can be hard and painful for everyone impacted,” Deshpande writes. “As a business leader, you owe it to yourself, your employees and your organization to prepare for the future of work.”

The state of remote work in 2019

Remote work is not a trend that is going away anytime soon, according to a new report from Buffer. Based on a survey of 2,500 remote workers across the globe, the report is a collaboration between Buffer and other companies which support remote work, such as Doist, Hubstaff, Trello and We Work Remotely. A whopping 99 percent of respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, while 95 percent indicated they would encourage others to work remotely, as well. What do people like about remote work? Forty percent of respondents rate a flexible schedule as the biggest benefit, followed closely by working from any location (30 percent) and time with family (14 percent). Of the business owners surveyed for the report, fully remote companies accounted for 31 percent, and 40 percent rely on at least part of their teams working full-time remotely. “Businesses are continuing to embrace at least some form of remote work, likely because they’ve experienced firsthand the benefits of greater productivity, less wasted time, and lower overhead,” says Hubstaff’s CEO Dave Nevogt.

The freelance revolution and what it means for HR

It’s time for HR to play a larger and more strategic role in embracing the freelance revolution, argues Jon Younger. “Freelancing isn’t new, but the rapid, global, growth of freelancing is new,” he writes in this Forbes Careers blog post. “The tech that enables freelancing is new and, together with remote work and flexibility trends, it’s changing the way we build a workforce and manage talent.” Younger points out freelancers are more than just gigsters—those making a living with TaskRabbit or Uber. “It’s the other group—highly qualified and experienced, independent experts and specialists, or freelancers—who are changing the way organizations obtain needed expertise and staff critical projects,” he writes. This growing population stands to disrupt the entire HR industry. “HR either [will have] great partnership and extraordinary tools, or it will have serious external competition for its most strategic role,” Younger writes.

Globalization 4.0 will be the theme of WEF 2019

The World Economic Forum (WEF), from Jan. 22-25 in Davos, Switzerland, will address the theme of “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Klaus Schwab, WEF’s founder and executive chairman, defines globalization as a phenomenon driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people and goods. “Globalization 4.0 has only just begun, but we are already vastly underprepared for it,” he writes in this WEF blog post. “Clinging to an outdated mindset and tinkering with our existing processes and institutions will not do. Rather, we need to redesign them from the ground up, so that we can capitalize on the new opportunities that await us, while avoiding the kind of disruptions that we are witnessing today.” Accenture is a WEF partner and we will be hosting several panels in Davos. Tune in next week to our Talent & Organization blog for daily updates and highlights from the conference.

Remote work may soon become mainstream

 Remote work will cross the chasm in 2019 among American professionals, predicts Tomas Suros. “While heavily regulated industries such as accounting, banking, legal services and insurance were once slower to adopt flexible workplace practices due to compliance issues and other barriers, they are now becoming commonplace in these spaces,” he writes in Accounting Today. Suros believes there are several factors contributing to the burgeoning trend, including increased connectivity, cloud-enabled remote access and the growing pressure of millennial influence. “In part, the trend has been facilitated by companies striving to compete in today’s rapidly evolving workforce,” he writes. “A recent Gallup poll observed that up to 43 percent of employed Americans work at least partially remotely – and that offering work-from-home benefits proves advantageous for companies in terms of employee retention.”

Soft skills will be paramount for the future of work

Leadership agility and the ability to collaborate are among the most important skills as the nature of work evolves, according to the Future of Work Global Research Study 2018 from Harmonics and OI Global Partners. “While robotics, AI and machine learning will all dramatically impact jobs and the future of work, it is the soft skills that will continue to reign supreme,” writes Jenny Darmody in Silicon Republic. The study surveyed more than 1,000 leaders in 28 countries, with half of the respondents from organizations with more than 500 employees. In addition to leadership agility and collaboration, it revealed that creativity, communication skills, eagerness to learn, and negotiating with others, are among the top skills. Roles in finance and accounting, administrative and support staff, as well as middle-management roles are considered most at risk, according to the survey. “The decline of routine, repetitive work continues apace as a result of automation and AI. This is hitting both high- and low-skill occupations,” Harmonics’ John Fitzgerald said. “An eagerness to learn, and indeed relearn, has never been more necessary for those whose roles are at risk.”

Top three HR trends to watch for future workforce 

According to a new report from the OrgDev Institute, there are three important trends that HR needs to focus on in the future of work: the increased importance of soft skills, purposeful work in the gig economy and the role of artificial intelligence (AI). Soft skills will become crucial as automation will allow robots to perform routine technical tasks, the report claims. HR departments will become increasingly reliant on employees who are capable of critical thinking and dealing with complex problems. Finding a purpose in the daily roles of employees will be another trend that HR needs to embrace in order to maintain a positive employer brand. The report also underscores the role of AI in planning workforce strategies. “HR leaders can no longer ignore the trends or play a ‘wait and see’ game. AI is now a real-world force, which is playing an ever-expanding and dynamic role in all of our daily lives,” said John Belchamber, chief development officer for the OrgDev Institute. 

Preparing for the automated future of work

According to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), some 133 million jobs could be created globally over the next decade compared to 75 million that could disappear with the rise of automation. The WEF report cites white-collar roles such as data entry, accounting and payroll services among the top 10 declining jobs by 2022. “In the wake of this, the current workforce needs to take personal responsibility for one’s own lifelong learning and career development. It is also clear that many will need to be supported through periods of job transition and upskilling by both governments and employers,” writes Daniel Ionescu in The Lincolnite. “More importantly, future generations must be prepared for the automated world of work.” The WEF predicts the skills required to perform jobs will shift significantly by 2022. The future skills equation will include analytical thinking, technology design, critical thinking and complex problem-solving. “If one thing is clear, it is that lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative,” Ionescu writes.

Can finance learn to love the bots?

Intelligent process automation (IPA) or intelligent bots are coming to a finance organization near you—and quite possibly your own, according to this Oracle blog post. “Following a set of business rules defined by humans, bots now handle everything from processing purchase orders and invoices to distributing management reports. Sure, people can do that too—and have for decades—but bots will happily do it at a fraction of the time and cost, while eliminating human error in the process. What’s not to love about that?” the article asks. While finance staffers might initially have a certain degree of apprehension or even mistrust, the post highlights some of the good reasons to love IPA, such restoring employees’ work-life balance.

APAC’s contingent workforce is thriving

Freelancers, independent contractors and consultants make up more than 30 percent of the overall Asia Pacific (APAC) workforce, a 13-percent increase from last year, reports. The finding comes from an online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of KellyOCG. It canvassed more than 200 C-suite executives from industries such as financial services, life sciences, healthcare and medical services, manufacturing and production, and education, across APAC. “Many leaders are getting access to hard-to-find skills sets and talent pools by deploying the contingent workforce. This marks a significant shift for businesses in India, and organizations that successfully engage this pool of talent will have an edge over their counterparts in the market,” said KellyOCG’s Francis Padamadan.

Startup aims to help freelancers with banking, paperwork

While there are many benefits to being a member of the gig economy, this PYMNTS article points to one of the major drawbacks: doing one’s own administrative paperwork for billing, registrations, taxes and more. In France, these tasks are even more onerous, where one must have a designated bank account before they can commence with freelancing. PYMNTS interviewed Nicolas Reboud, the CEO of Shine, a French startup aiming to ease the administrative pains for gig workers. The app helps freelancers register a company, create invoices, calculate taxes and establish a designated bank account. Shine recently benefitted from €8 million in funding. “This money will be used to keep growing the team and keep developing the product and hopefully launch Shine to other countries next year,” Reboud said.

The environmental benefits of the gig economy

More Americans are working from home, which is good news for the planet, writes Dom Galeon in this World Economic Forum blog post. Galeon cites the results of a new study by researchers from the University of Texas and the Rochester Institute of Technology, which analyzed the daily schedules and energy consumption habits of 11,000 Americans over a nine-year period. The researchers found that Americans were staying home an average of eight days more in 2012 than in 2003. They also found that staying at home decreased the average national demand for energy by an estimated 1,700 trillion BTU in 2012. That’s equivalent to almost 2 percent of the total national energy demand for the year. “We did expect to see net energy decrease, but we had no idea of the magnitude,” said lead researcher Ashok Sekar from the University of Texas. If Americans are staying home more, that means they are consuming less fuel for transportation, which remains one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses. “If the shift in habits and lifestyle continues on its current trajectory, it could play a significant role in the fight against climate change, right alongside decreased fossil fuel consumption and increased usage of clean energy alternatives,” Galeon writes.

Insurers rely on an external workforce, study finds

According to a new study conducted by SAP Fieldglass and Oxford Economics, 43 percent of workforce spending in the insurance industry goes to contingent workers and service providers. What’s more, 75 percent of executives expect to use on-demand, online marketplaces for freelancers in the next three years. The external workforce includes technology-consulting firms, call-center outsourcers, data scientists and programmers, which the study’s authors call the “multi-channel workforce.” The Oxford study found a large majority of insurance executives (78 percent) believe the external workforce is critical to operating at full capacity and meeting market demands. About half of insurers (51 percent) reported they would be unable to conduct business as usual without an external workforce. “[The insurance industry’s work] can’t all be done by AI systems and robots. If anything, there will be more people working in the industry than ever before. That’s why insurers are increasingly relying on contingent workers and services as they move forward into the digital world,” writes Joe McKendrick in a Digital Insurance opinion piece about the study.

Six ways to build the workforce of the future

In this HRD Australia blog post, Tom Brown, chairman at Gooroo, recommends six steps to prepare the existing workforce for the challenges of the future. 1. Reskill and retrain. “While some employees within an organization are working in roles which may no longer be required, those individuals’ skills, mindset and attitude could well make them a great asset to the company,” he argues. 2. Work towards a common goal. Ensure you have a clear mission and vision for your business and communicate these effectively within the whole team. Working towards a common objective both motivates and focuses them on the future. 3. Understand your employees. This means going beyond just the skills they have; it takes “understanding the culture required to succeed.” 4. Create autonomy. Give team members the authority to make decisions and the accountability for the outcomes. 5. Praise and reward. Financial reward isn’t the biggest incentive for the majority of employees. Engage employees in their development with regular feedback and recognition of a job well done. 6. Plan for the future. “Ensure you have a succession plan by building and maintaining a talent pipeline to ensure your team can continue to grow if the unexpected happens,” he notes.

A new model for HR of the future

“As automation and work change, leading and engaging around the new ways of working will require different communication, new types of performance support and a new level of openness around alternative approaches to the work,” writes Tracey Malcolm in this Willis Towers Watson Wire blog post. She describes a new model for HR, one that balances architecting for the new ways in which we work and how work will be done. According to Malcolm, this new model should focus on three key areas or roles: work architect, coach and integrator. The work architect will deconstruct and reconstruct jobs based on automation, work and skills. The coach will foster, reinforce, develop and sustain leaders and managers. The integrator will be in charge of sourcing talent and risk. “The opportunity to lead the business into the future will fail if it’s tied to old roles and a model designed to solve for an out-of-date and legacy workplace. It’s time for HR to redirect its skills and capabilities toward truly transforming the organization,” she writes.

What the insurance industry will look like in 2050

“I think the industry will be absolutely, radically different. It’s not even going to look remotely similar to what it looks like today,” said Kelly MacDonald, senior vice president and team leader at Aon Risk Solutions, in an interview with Insurance Business Canada. MacDonald, who will be among the speakers at the inaugural Women in Insurance event to be held in May in Toronto, sees a push for gender balance and a more diverse workforce in the next three decades. “When you look at race, you realize that the insurance industry is mostly white people. So there’s not a lot of diversity there,” she said. “We need to make sure that insurance feels like an industry in which their input is valued and their expertise has a place.” When it comes to gender balance in insurance, MacDonald believes there’s a lot of room for improvement. “I’d say that brokerages have done a better job with gender diversity, and some of the smaller boutique firms have been good at supporting women,” she said. “There are some phenomenal women leading small boutique firms that are achieving great things. But, I still think there’s a lot of work to be done to level up female executives. We’re still lagging behind and not seeing that 50/50 number.”

How to manage virtual teams successfully

In this Inc. blog post, Melissa Lamson talks about the challenges of managing people in multiple locations and time zones, and how to rally and connect such dispersed teams. “As the leader, it’s your job to provide the context for the team. In addition to sharing the project specifications and requirements, you need to paint the big picture for them and bring the importance of their roles to the forefront,” she writes, making a case for a shared vision. Lamson also underscores the importance of communication. “Make a point of intentionally connecting with the people on your team three times as often as you do with the people you see spontaneously in the office,” she writes. “This effort will pay off for you in increased engagement and strong connections with each of your team members.” Lastly, she encourages leaders to build community and trust. “We all work better when we feel like we are part of something larger. Develop a strategy to pull each of the team members into the group and then cement that feeling of community by acknowledging the team’s efforts and celebrating its successes,” she notes.

 Five top workforce trends for 2018

“The HR department will need to innovate in 2018. With unemployment at a 17-year low, employers are struggling to find – and retain – top-tier talent with the right skills,” writes Eric Friedman in this Talent Management & HR blog post. He identifies five main trends that HR professionals need to focus on in 2018: 1. Performance management (implement a continuous, regular feedback system for employees); 2. Learning and development (provide a mix of classroom learning and online training); 3. Chatbots and AI (use these to handle simple employee requests from HR); 4. HR data (use it for planning and strategy); 5. Innovative benefits (become a trendsetter, not a follower when it comes to unique benefits).

What to expect from WEF 2018 at Davos

The 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will be held Jan. 23-26 in Davos, Switzerland, and once again technology will be a main focus, according to ComputerWorldUK. “Last year, many of the talks were about artificial intelligence and automation, and the impact that these might have on society, employment, and productivity,” writes Tamlin Magee. “This year’s meeting of business and political leaders at Davos will include a continued focus on the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and how technology can be applied to social problems such as global warming.” The overall theme for the conference is titled “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Also of note, as we reported late last year, this year’s gathering will be co-chaired by an all-female board, a first in the 47-year history of the group. Tune in next week to our Talent & Organization blog for daily updates and highlights from the conference.

 Five HR priorities that will shape the workforce

Automation, artificial intelligence, diversity and the rise of the gig economy were the hot HR topics of 2017. In this Willis Towers Watson blog post, Sambhav Rakyan outlines five HR priorities for 2018: 1. Employees as HR ‘customers.’ Gaining a business perspective on customer needs and satisfaction can inspire new approaches for addressing employee wellbeing in the workplace. 2. Being tech savvy means HR as a strong advocate for digital transformation in the workplace. The true value and strength of HR is in engaging people and developing their potential. 3. Data needs to be interactive. Leverage data analytics to find links between people metrics and issues – such as gender parity, diversity and unfair practices – to business metrics. 4. Engaging digital talent requires offering environments where they can be agile and work on their own terms and be allowed the flexibility to continuously evolve. 5. Diversity and wellbeing. Offer personalized, flexible benefits that foster employees’ individual sense of health, not just physical, but also social, financial and mental.

Top three priorities for insurers in 2018

In the face of strong and emerging competition, insurers should focus on talent, technology and the brand experience in 2018, writes Nick Creatura, CEO of CNA Canada in this Canadian Underwriter blog post. “The industry faces the prospect of a significant percentage of its skilled workers retiring over the coming years,” he notes, and recommends that carriers should “harness and transfer knowledge and skills from experienced personnel to new hires through effective mentoring and learning and development programs.” When it comes to technology, Creatura advises insurers to take a more active role in collecting data and to become “their own disrupters.” He argues that customers are becoming more educated, demanding and impatient, making the brand experience another top priority for insurers. “The balance is shifting away from simply delivering a product to the experience of doing business with customers,” Creatura writes.