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Innovation > Retention

10 Predictions in 10 Years: How the 2020 Workplace Will Affect You

Remember in Back to the Future II, when Marty travels to 2015 and sees that future Marty has the technology to video-conference in to his office from his very own living room and it was completely awesome?  Funny how that technology is actually a reality now.  (I can only hope this means good things for the hover board…) Sadly, video-conferencing is as far as Robert Zemeckis got in predicting what the workplace of the future would look like…

Fortunately, however, workplace experts Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd pick up where the movie director left off with their book, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today. While there’s no discussion of flying DeLoreans (tear), technology does play a major role in shaping what the workplace will look like 10 years from now – something the authors discussed in a recent MSN Careers article regarding how those changes will affect employees.

We here at The Hiring Site, however, wanted to explore what impact those changes will have on the employer.  Read on, and then give us your thoughts below.

  1. The Prediction: A More Diverse Workforce - “By 2020, the American workplace population will be more diverse: 63 percent white, 30 percent Latino, and 50 percent female. Four or even five generations, from Boomers to Generation 2020, will be working at once,” Meister and Willyerd say. What It Means for You: Certainly, a more diverse workforce means new challenges in recruiting and engaging these various groups, but if employers are up to the task, the payoffs will be significant. Employers can leverage the experiences and backgrounds of a diverse workforce for a broader exchange of ideas, knowledge and opportunities.
  2. The Prediction: More Corporate Social Responsibility - “Companies that once only operated for profit will place new emphasis on the importance of its people, as well as the impact the company’s existence has on the planet. The new bottom line will incorporate profit, people and planet,” the authors say. What It Means for You: Not only will an increased focus on social responsibility benefit the community, but it will also help employers’ recruiting efforts: A recent Staffing Industry Review study found that job seekers gravitate to social responsible companies.
  3. The Prediction: More Social Technology“Vlogging, Twitter, intranet chat rooms, Skyping — even today, there’s a vast array of online communication tools, with more to come.” What It Means for You: More tools available by which to facilitate communication mean more ways to facilitate learning and collaboration – both within and across departments. Of course, there’s such a thing as too many choices, and companies that don’t take the time to find the social technology that fits within their culture may not fully realize these benefits.
  4. The Prediction: Mobile Workplaces - “Increasingly powerful mobile phones are replacing laptops as the main work device.” What It Means for You: Ideally, a more mobile workforce means a more productive workforce – and more opportunities for flexible work arrangements; however, if employees feel as if they’re on call 24/7, it can blur the line between work and life altogether. In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 17 percent of workers said they feel like their work day never ends because of the technology connecting them to the office. As workplaces become increasingly mobile, employers will have to work that much harder to ensure their workers do not get burned out and allow themselves technology-free time when away from work.
  5. The Prediction: More Work/Life Flexibility  - “For younger generations, work is a significant part of their life, but they don’t compartmentalize it like older generations tend to. It isn’t about work-life ‘balance;’ it’s about work/life integration.” What It Means for You: While advancements in technology make it increasingly easy for employers to offer flexible schedules, flexible schedules may not work for every company culture.  Employers who want to offer this benefit should take a good look at their company culture and see what may need to change first.
  6. The Prediction: Serious Play as a Training Tool – “‘Sims’ (Simulated Games) is the new buzz word in training: online Sims allow employees to learn new jobs through low-risk direct practice.” What It Means for YouSome companies are already embracing “serious games” to train employees. As this type of technology becomes increasingly accessible to employers, virtual training programs could very well become standard. Employers would be wise to start looking into these types of training programs now to stay ahead of the curve.
  7. The Prediction: A Different Kind of Mentoring – “One-on-one mentoring is still a powerful way to develop employees, but companies will also use reverse-, micro- and group-mentoring.” What It Means for You:  Mentoring will become increasingly important as employers deal with the impending talent shortage (see #10). Employers shouldn’t wait until then, however, to create opportunities for colleagues to collaborate and teach one another.
  8. The Prediction: The Democratization of Information - “Digital record keeping makes company information accessible to all.” What It Means for You: More transparency means more accountability on leadership’s end to ensure they’re putting the organization’s stated mission and values into practice. Good news for employers who already do this. Bad news for those who don’t. Where do you fall?
  9. The Prediction: An Increase in Personal Branding – Social technologies track personal ratings, referrals and reputations.” What It Means for You: Considering nearly half of employers already use social networking sites to recruit, it comes as little surprise that savvy candidates will also utilize these sites to build their personal brands. This could be a win/win.
  10. The Prediction: Talent Shortage – There’s a big gap between all the Boomers retiring and the number of Generation X’ers available to fill their shoes.” What It Means for You: Again, no surprises here as employers already complaining that, despite the plethora of job seekers out there, they still can’t find the right talent for their positions. This shortage places an even greater demand on employers to start providing training, development and mentoring programs now to build and retain their future leaders.

What’s your take? What changes (or challenges) do you foresee the 2020 workplace?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


  1. [...] The month started off on a cautiously optimistic note, with CareerBuilder’s Mid-Year Job Forecast projections showing many similarities to the first half of 2010′s positive changes. And while we’re still discussing how the workplace will look at the end of 2010, we shared our thoughts about 10 predictions for the workplace in 2020. [...]

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