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What is the Future of Work? Exploring the Topic with 11 HR Leaders

We asked leaders inside of the TroopHR community to identify which of the nine trends they believe will be most impactful and why; their answers may surprise you.

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Jan 17, 2024
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Last updated on Apr 10, 2023

The future of work is being written each day, and it can be difficult to pin down exactly what tomorrow will hold. After all, we don’t have a crystal ball With that said, a keen understanding of today’s trends helps us as HR leaders make informed predictions, turning fortune-telling into a not-so-exact science. And by recognizing these trends, the impact that each will have on the future of work, and the ways in which your organization can take advantage of them, you can ensure your business stays on the cutting edge.  

While we may not have a crystal ball, we do have a community of HR experts with their ears to the ground. Here are the trends Troop members envision will shape the future of work. 

Understanding the Future of Work 

As we’ve seen in the last few years, the work we do and the way we do it are continuously evolving. Remote work has become the norm in many environments, and an increasing number of industries are now exploring ways to bring AI into the fold. The future of work examines the ways in which work environments will continue to evolve, and HR leaders who anticipate these evolutions will be better equipped to grow with confidence. 

But as much as the future of work is focused on these new trends, this concept also considers the ripples which trends can cast down every rung of the workforce –– making it all the more important that HR leaders understand the impact that these evolutions can have.  

What Are the Trends That Will Shape the Future of Work? 

Across in-person, remote, and hybrid teams, these are the trends we believe will have the biggest impact on determining the future of work. 

Salary and Information Transparency

The way we see it, the future is transparent –– at least when it comes to salary and benefits. A transparent future may seem revolutionary to some, but organizations and even governments are already making a stand and creating a more open work environment. As we’ve discussed here before, in the U.S., New York, California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Washington State have imposed pay transparency laws, and we expect other states and local governments will follow suit including these recent legislative updates in Australia. 

But on a much smaller scale, a more transparent future of work means creating open environments for both current and future. employees. Ensuring your people have a clear understanding of career pathways and keeping open lines of communication will improve the employee experience and help you build a brighter, clearer future for your business as well as attract the right candidates.

“While pay transparency should result in equal pay across all groups of people it will likely have a great and positive impact in other areas as well.
Requiring companies to disclose pay ranges forces managers to have better conversations about performance with their teams. The outcome is hopefully a compensation strategy that is shared with the entire company. This has the potential to manifest itself in better feedback conversations with team members who will, in turn, have a better understanding of why they are paid at a certain level and how to achieve greater pay.
Some people worry about enforcement and companies posting wide ranges (e.g. $99,000 - $999,000). I don’t share that concern. When candidates see such wide ranges or no ranges at all it is a signal to either ask specific questions about pay or avoid that company altogether due to a perceived lack of transparency. Whether there is a wide range or no range at all, the mere existence of the law sparks conversations for candidates that were not previously happening.”
~John Germinario, Head of People, PebblePost 

Shift to Customer Experience and NPS

In a time where customer experience information and feedback at large are more available than ever, businesses are becoming increasingly attuned to how their customers feel –– and how to improve service offerings to make them feel even better. And while many organizations are already obsessed with customer feedback, we have a feeling the future of work will be one where customer experience rules (almost) all. 

“I believe we will start seeing tools and sites where employees and companies can reverse review colleagues and teammates. Just like Glassdoor and other employer review sites crowdsource data on companies and employee experience, I believe the future of work will have sites and software where employers, managers, and colleagues can review each other, like a referral network. Think: interpersonal workplace tools to give colleagues recognition or recommendations.”
~Rebecca Price, Partner, Primary Venture Partners 

One of the ways we expect this shift to happen is through an increased reliance on net promoter scores (NPS). This metric is already being leveraged by countless organizations in various industries, assigning a score based on how many surveyed customers are “promoters” of a given offering or experience. Unsatisfactory scores can prompt a team to reevaluate certain approaches, while favorable scores can help reinforce positive behaviors. In the world of HR, we predict the widespread use of NPS will create opportunities for different, real-time employee performance metrics. That is, if we put this information to use.  

“With the prevalence of online job boards and social media platforms, candidates have more information at their fingertips than ever before. As a result, they're increasingly evaluating potential employment opportunities based on a company's reputation as an employer. As the terminology and methods used to attain NPS scores become more widely known, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see employers use NPS scores in their recruitment marketing strategies. By using employee surveys to measure satisfaction and engagement, HR teams can gather valuable feedback to improve the employee experience, and ultimately, attract and retain top talent.
In short, NPS is becoming an essential tool for HR practitioners in the ongoing battle for talent. As competition for top talent heats up, companies that prioritize employee engagement and satisfaction will have a leg up in attracting and retaining the best employees.”
~Theresa Fesinstine, Founder, Culture Markers

Smaller, More Agile Teams

There’s a power to big teams –– global workforces can move mountains and shape the future when they’re operating efficiently and communicating clearly. But when company culture dilutes as it descends the ranks, key objectives can get lost and a massive workforce begins to feel sluggish. Enter: smaller, more dynamic teams. These smaller, focused components of larger businesses work more efficiently when unencumbered by the heft of the overall organization. They also fail quickly, iterate often, and drive overall innovation. 

While we anticipate the future of work will be built on these smaller teams, this scaled-back approach isn’t without its shortcomings. In a remote work environment, the distance (literally and metaphorically) between these small teams and the greater organization can result in communication breakdowns and blurred company culture. This, then, makes it all the more important that HR leaders amplify both company culture and business goals to keep satellite teams from becoming disconnected. 

"I believe in some cases there will be a reversion to co-located teams and companies that start in the next few years will lean towards undistributed. The pendulum swung so far in the distributed direction during Covid, and while it has benefits, it also creates challenges. For early stage companies and small teams, I predict that some may skew to be in person for collaboration, efficiency, and engagement."
~Rebecca Price, Partner, Primary Venture Partners 

A Self-Managed and Remote Workforce

Several years into the ongoing remote work experiment, we as leaders have learned quite a bit. Some of us may have discovered that our people are at their most effective when they’re clocking in from their couch, others that the structure of the office is necessary –– at least a couple days per week. But by and large, it seems that remote work is here to stay in one form or another, and the future of work will be contingent on our abilities to trust teams to self-manage and collaborate.

Part of this will be shifting from a micromanagement approach to a macromanagement style. Instead of obsessing over each employee’s every move, take opportunities to clearly communicate organizational objectives and let employees sort out how those objectives will be achieved. By all means, intervene and reevaluate when needed. But by giving teams the freedom to carve their own path toward success, you’ll find greater team engagement and higher retention rates as a result.  

"Developing skills related to competencies like prioritization, time management, change management, EQ, and communication will be crucial to a sustainable distributed workforce. It's also important for companies to set clear goals with an outcome oriented approach. When a company is clear about what they need done, and they can measure that in a simple way, employees will have the best idea of the work they need to do to ensure those outcomes are met. Investing in technology that helps a company understand its skills gaps, along with the resources needed to close those gaps, will be the best way to ensure the company is set up for success in the long run".
~Rebecca Taylor, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, SkillCycle

A Shift in the Meaning of Employee Benefits

Perhaps one of the defining attributes of the future of work is time as our people’s most valuable asset. Competitive salaries, employer-sponsored health care plans, and retirement plans will all help to attract and retain top talent, but organizations which walk the walk regarding employee work-life balance are the ones who will stand out. This began with flexible work environments, as we’ve seen across numerous industries, but four-day work weeks could very well be on the horizon for some.  

"Challenging conventional norms, we will continue to see the workforce shift from a time based work-day to an outcome based work-day, breaking away from 9-5.  In our digital economy, many professionals can do their work effectively asynchronously and at any time of day.  This is an attractive benefit for those looking for flexible work hours to care for family, schooling and even hobbies.  That said, this trend could lead to the erosion of interpersonal relationships and culture, the vital ingredients of performance, productivity and innovation.  For this reason, it is critically important that organizations that choose to empower an outcome based work-day be clear about the work that must remain synchronous and proactively create community building events and activities to preserve relationships and culture". 
- Emily Golden, CEO & Strategic Talent Advisor, Golden Resources

It should also be said that the key to engaged, entrepreneurial-minded employees might mean benefits befitting an entrepreneur. Profit sharing, or “shared capitalism” as the Harvard Business Review called it, can improve engagement and satisfaction in a way that traditional compensation structures can’t. These benefits fund themselves by getting employees more invested in the company’s overall success. 

Decreasing the Time Spent in Meetings to Focus on Outputs

“Heads-down days” are already part of the HR leader vernacular, but we anticipate the future of work will see as-needed reprieves evolve into a regular occurrence. In fact, the chatter on our community forum proves that many organizations are already experimenting with meeting-free days (or weeks) with the result being reduced stress, improved productivity, and –– in the case of Zapier –– up to 3,000 hours saved in cross-company meeting time. By replacing this time with asynchronous work, HR leaders give team members the opportunity to drill down on pressing tasks, improving focus, output, and satisfaction.  And as with many internal programs, the big takeaway from our community is that successful implementation requires full executive buy-in and clarity about the way it works "here":

"Companies that make the implicit explicit will win. It’s one thing to have meeting-free days. It’s another to be clear about what meetings are for and maybe, more importantly, what no-meeting days are for at your company. Establishing the ground rules for working async gives people greater clarity and expectations. This allows people to be more sure of themselves, their roles, and goals. This in combination with less interruptions and context-switching invites proactively > reactivity. Ultimately, I see this shift as the most profound and the most necessary". 
~Amanda Halle, Founder, Mindful Growth Partners

Being Grounded in DEI

As teams and companies become increasingly culture driven, codifying diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as central to your company culture should be a priority. But while HR leaders should be finding ways to incorporate DE&I into hiring, development, retention, and productivity efforts, they may also find themselves responsible for educating organizational leadership (and management) on the meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Being grounded in this understanding will make it easier to make decisions with DE&I in mind and compassionately address any issues which may arise.  

"HR leaders play a crucial role in fostering a culture of inclusion within organizations, which means involving employees at all levels in shaping and implementing DE&I initiatives, establishing clear metrics and goals, and prioritizing DE&I in company culture. This is particularly important as companies become increasingly culture-driven, with DE&I being central to the company culture. HR leaders should also be responsible for educating organizational leadership and management on the meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion, so they can make decisions with DE&I in mind and address any issues that arise compassionately. 
In 2023, there will be a greater focus on intersectionality, allyship, expanded DEI metrics, greater use of technology, and mental health and well-being in the workplace, which HR can support by providing opportunities for support and networking, offering diversity and inclusion training, soliciting feedback, and involving employees in shaping and implementing DE&I initiatives".
- Claudia Ponce, Head of People, Brace Software

Leveraging Freelancers, Contractors, and Agencies

During times of economic uncertainty, growth-motivated organizations must find a way to accomplish business objectives –– even as teams are reduced or hiring slows. Under these circumstances, leveraging freelancers, contractors, and outside agencies can be vital. Freelancers and contract workers allow organizations to accomplish priority goals without hiring full-time personnel to do so, empowering sustainable growth while also introducing fresh perspectives. 

But as businesses increase their reliance on contractors and agencies, HR leaders should establish freelancer policies which need to be put in place as they prepare for the future of (contract) work. Establishing clear rates, delivery times, and expectations can help smooth out the relationship on both ends, and prevent freelancers from unwittingly becoming "benefitless" full-time employees. And ensuring that the HR tech stack is capable of integrating 1099 workers is rapidly becoming table stakes, particularly for global organizations. 

"There is a trend right now, “Quiet Hiring,” defined as filling open positions by redeploying existing employees or by tapping contractors with in-demand skills. 
We are continuing to see a surge in demand for contract workers from our clients. The benefits of hiring contract workers: it provides flexibility to scale headcount up and down based on business needs, contract workers come with a wide breadth of experience - adding diversity in thought to the company, plus when working through an agency like Landing Point you not only can quickly identify talent to start ASAP, but the agency is responsible for all administrative paperwork/payroll/benefits so there isn’t any risk to the end company. There are so many benefits to hiring contract workers, as mentioned though, it’s important to recognize that contractors can sometimes feel like they are less than full time employees given their lack of access to certain internal resources or benefits. The solve for that is to find the balance of treating contractors well, but not necessarily expecting the same as full time employees since contractors aren't receiving company benefits".
~Erica White, Partner, Landing Point 

Increased AI Footprint

Of all the future of work trends listed here, AI seems to be the trendiest. But despite the headlines, memes, and LinkedIn think pieces we’ve all seen about ChatGPT, we predict that AI is here to stay. 

As to whether it’s the solution to all of our problems, that’s up for debate. The way we see it, AI is less of a solution and more of a tool: learning to use it effectively and efficiently will help teams unlock productivity, and HR will be on the forefront of the how when it comes to deployment of this tool. 

For HR leaders, three areas of focus about AI are becoming clear. First, AI will help reduce the time spent on mundane operational tasks –– giving us more time to actually lead, thus moving HR further into the realm of the strategic partner. Secondly, it’s quickly becoming a workplace tool that requires smart policy and parameters. People leaders will be on the forefront of shaping and iterating on workplace practices and policies about how AI is used and deployed. Particularly, if HR leaders are grounding their cultures in DEI values, use of AI will need to be monitored for bias. Finally, forward looking HR practitioners will be reshaping their workforce planning to accommodate the new skills required around this tool (and the ones that are no longer needed). HR leaders staying ahead of the upskilling curve will find their organizations better positioned to exceed their business goals.

"As HR leaders, we must recognize the increasing presence of AI in the workplace and take proactive steps to learn how to effectively leverage it in our workflows. Ask teams across your organization how they're using AI, what they're excited by, what they're concerned about. Spend time gaining direct experience and exposure with the technology yourself. Only then can we draft policies, understand security risks, and mitigate potential bias. Investing time in understanding AI will not only benefit our organizations but will also position us as strategic partners in driving productivity and success.... and yes, I used Chat GPT to refine this paragraph".
~Alicia Henriquez-Bull, Head of People, Liveblocks

Emphasis on Sustainability and Governance

At a time when activism and awareness are at historic highs, it should come as no surprise that sustainability would play a role in the future of work. But how will organizations support these efforts? In Europe, employers are expected to report on three criteria –– environmental, social, and governance (ESG) –– as well as their adherence to each. While sweeping ESG laws don’t exist in the U.S. (yet), some companies have voluntarily implemented ESG-adjacent policies, opening the door for sustainability-oriented businesses to establish their own initiatives. 

If, like us, environmental and social issues occupy a decent chunk of your mental real estate, your team and your company can be a force for good. Providing pathways for employees to donate time or resources to causes central they personally believe in (and which align with the organization’s mission) can quite literally change the future. 

"Corporate volunteerism isn't new, but we are seeing more organizations implement company-wide volunteer days as part of the strategy to both bring distributed teams together and retain people with a mission driven mindset. Serving the communities where they live and work is a deeply embedded value for many, and organizations that provide the flexibility and dedicated time to do so will find higher retention rates, and a workforce that feels a greater sense of inclusion and belonging in their communities."
~Nicole Fealey, Former People Leader & TroopHR Experience Lead

Which of These 9 HR Trends Will Shape the Future of Work? 

We’ve outlined our top future of work trends, and the Troop’s community of HR leaders will continue to evolve and level up as these trends evolve. 

"Like it or not, salary transparency is here to stay. As new litigation is enacted throughout the United States, HR professionals must frame proactively their strategy for openly communicating compensation ranges within an organization. 
Consider the benefits of salary transparency. This practice promotes fairness and equity, as employees can understand how their pay is determined and what they can do to progress to the next level. In addition, transparency challenges organizations to account for their past and current hiring practices to ensure that all employees are compensated appropriately. Additionally, it creates trust between the employee and employer, fostering a positive work environment.
However, the implementation of salary transparency also has its drawbacks. At the beginning stages of enacting this practice, an organization will need to do a full review of employee compensation equity using benchmarks or a job leveling system. Based on the result, an organization may need to make salary changes that will impact the annual budget. In addition, salary is only one part of the total compensation package, and it may be more impactful to have transparency around other aspects, such as bonuses. 
Despite these potential drawbacks, salary transparency has, and will continue to have a positive impact on the workplace, and organizations should strive to create an environment where compensation is discussed openly and equitably."
~Kat Marsh Campbell, Founder of the HowardHelen Consulting Group

Want to Stay Informed on the Future of HR Trends? 

While we expect the above HR trends to play a huge role in shaping the future of work, the nature of work evolves with each passing day –– and it’s up to us as HR leaders to understand and adapt to these changes. To stay up to date on future of work trends, and to make sure you don’t miss out on key insights from Troop’s HR leaders, join today.   

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