5 ways technology will reshape the workforce in 2020

From teamwork to unprecedented personalization, this is how one industry heavyweight reads the tea leaves in 2020.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

How is technology changing the enterprise in 2020? It would be tough to pin down an answer that's anything close to comprehensive, but chipping ice chunks off the glacier of "the state of technology and work in 2020" can help us glean insights into the creep and flow of new and developing technologies in the enterprise heading into the new decade. 

I caught up with ADP's corporate vice president, Don Weinstein, to get his take on how technology will continue to reshape the workforce over the next 6-12 months. Personalization, AI/ML, predictive analytics, low code technology ... Don's insights, presented below, are far-ranging and offered with an eye toward gleaning insights into the broader trends in technology and the workforce that he's seeing from his perch at ADP.

They're also offered, refreshingly, with an eye toward how the worker will be affected. 

A team-based approach will revolutionize how work gets done

First up, Weinstein believes that the efficacy of teams and non-hierarchical working structures will gain even more traction, in large part unlocked by technology. 

"The future of work lies in a flat working structure that unlocks the potential of criteria-based teams," he says. "Companies will increasingly look to meet their talent needs by supplementing their staff with highly specialized gig workers; former, returning employees; and retirees that can support nimble work." 

Listening to this prediction, an interesting corollary that occurred to me lies in Hollywood. Movies, which are massively complicated endeavors to pull off, rely on teams of gig workers (everyone from actors and filmmakers to set designers and production coordinators) coming together quickly to pull off a herculean task.

Perhaps in contrast to Hollywood, where specialization is paramount, Weinstein believes there will be a loosening of strict job functions to allow for creative problem solving.

"Organizations will need to break down siloes to unlock potential and create a culture of connectivity predicated on engagement and performance.  This is even more important for businesses managing multi-generational workers." 

Personalization will become paramount

At the same time, technology will also enable new personalization opportunities for employees. 

"Employers and employees alike will demand app-driven, consumer-grade HCM experiences [Human Capital Management], not monolithic software. The employee experience will evolve through a confluence of emerging technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)."

One result is seemingly banal but actually very impactful: Employees will be able to decide how and when they get paid, potentially alleviating the gnawing pressure that biweekly or monthly paychecks introduce.

"The pay experience will reach a new level of personalization, offering an easier way for workers to be paid, the way they want, anytime they want."

Compliance complexity will grow

Worker mobility has been a trend for some time, but globalized workforces create compliance nightmares for HR and other partners.

"HCM partners will need to deliver global localization – the ability to localize compliance tools that address changing policies, regulations and laws at all levels of regulatory control with ease. As organizational teams continue to become more global – with workers logging in from around the world – businesses will be increasingly focused on uncovering new, compliant ways to support worker mobility, without creating unnecessary burden."

Technologies coming online to help could enable new flexibility for workers to work where they want.

Data scientists and business owners will adopt a shared mindset

"The talent war will be fought and won on the ability to unlock and apply actionable insights derived from reliable, decision-quality data. Predictive analytics will be table stakes for any successful business in 2020, providing critical workforce insights such as overtime spikes, excessive turnover, labor costs and even pay equity."

The specific technologies Weinstein mentions suggest a real convergence of functionality.

"AI, machine learning, serverless computing, 5G connectivity – these macro trends drive innovation as businesses strive to optimize experiences for employees and clients. In the coming year, companies that harness data and action it against emerging technologies will not only survive but thrive."

Today's evolving workforce will require adaptable technology

Adaptability and enterprise technology may seem like a non-sequitur, but Weinstein suggests that demands from workers in a tight labor economy will drive the transition. 

"Just as teams will become more agile, so will technology platforms. Cloud-native, low-code technology platforms will receive favorability, as they eliminate maintenance windows, drive scalability and performance, and require less technical fluency from users. Companies will have greater access to technology that provides ever-evolving, personalized solutions to fit their organization."

I'll be tracking more predictions from across the enterprise in future coverage.

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