From TJ Magazine: Are you fit for the future?

Brian Kropp on the six trends your organisation should anticipate.

Profound social, generational and technological shifts are revolutionising the workplace, exerting a far-reaching impact on the HR function and its ability to help organisations achieve their goals.

Given the paradigm shifts under way, many companies feel unprepared for what lies ahead. Indeed, according to a recent study by Gartner, only 9% of chief human resources officers (CHROs) felt their business was prepared for the future of work.

The study also found that most CHROs are focused on the same three topics: AI and automation, the gig economy, and an ageing yet multigenerational workforce, at the expense of a number of critical, ‘hidden’ trends.

Ensuring your organisation is fit for the future involves planning for, and embracing, the changes in the way work will be done over the coming decade. Rather than looking at the overarching trends in silos, leaders should focus on the big picture of what the future of work can, and should, look like in their organisation.

Gartner has identified six trends which threaten to have a detrimental impact on organisations that fail to prepare.

  • Unethical use of employee data. The increasing digitalisation of work has created a wealth of employee data, both provided by staff and daily activities. And, with emerging technologies such as machine learning and neural networks, the volume of such data is growing exponentially.

Organisations, meanwhile, are using this data in increasingly complex ways, including for talent decisions such as performance evaluations and layoffs. This can be high-risk – if the results are perceived as biased, unjustified or the result of opaque reasoning, employers face engagement, productivity and retention risks, as well as reputational issues.

Gartner’s research found that, by 2022, 45% of large organisations will identify misuse of employee data, potentially leading to a data scandal. To prepare for such a threat, HR will need to take a leadership role in data ethics to protect both the HR function and the wider organisation.

There will be a need to be particularly vigilant to ensure that health information and performance data are kept private and used appropriately.

  • Removing barriers to access

Talent shortages are having a major impact on organisations, compelling companies to find new ways to tap into new pools of skilled talent.

Fortunately, as AI and emerging technologies reduce barriers to access, organisations have the opportunity to address skills shortages by increasing the accessibility of their work.

Meanwhile, the ageing workforce is leading to growing disability rates in the workplace and, therefore, increasing demand for adjustments. Many organisations have already begun offering solutions such as job sharing, flexible hours and remote work in an effort to retain workers considering retirement.

An increase in accessible technology will allow organisations to easily offer adjustments, expanding the workforce and enabling ageing workers to participate in the workforce longer. Gartner research predicts that the number of people with disabilities in the workforce will triple by 2023, due to AI and emerging technologies.

To give themselves the widest possible talent pool and preserve institutional knowledge, organisations will need to audit their recruitment and talent management systems to identify and eliminate any barriers for people with disabilities.

Beyond technology, leaders will also need to ensure managers receive training in the management of people with disabilities.

  • Overhauling the manager’s role

New technologies are enabling a growing number of tasks previously carried out by managers to be automated – from expense management systems, to chatbot interventions and algorithmic management platforms. And while replacing such tasks with technology requires an upfront investment, it also brings significant potential savings.

To ensure automation is conducted effectively, leaders will need to work with IT colleagues to identify the best opportunities to automate manager workflows. Organisations may decide to reduce the number of managers, or shift their focus to more strategic tasks.

Companies will also need to support career paths that allow employees to extend their degree of responsibility and influence without taking on management tasks.


About the author

Brian Kropp is chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. Find out more at



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