Future of the Workforce – a world of contingencies

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Changes in both the nature and skills required of employees and the dynamics in the global labor market are creating both uncertainty and opportunity. Many labor trends have been stable for long periods of time, yet are now entering a period of greater change. Contingent workforces are on the rise.

What is changing?


  • Businesses will face a shrinking workforce and fiercer competition for skilled workers.
  • 40% of existing jobs are likely to be lost by 2020.
  • There will be new ways of designing how work can be accomplished (e.g., crowd sourcing and AI) to ensure continuous international operations as well as other workforce management challenges.
  • Most service industries will have shed much of their workforce to automation.
  • More than 40% of the US workforce will be so-called contingent workers.
  • It is projected that three out of four jobs in supply chains will change by 2020.
  • New ways of working will also bring other benefits such as improved productivity.
  • It is projected that more of the economy’s workforce will be located in service sectors and the average output per worker (and thus average productivity in the economy) will rise.


  • A “born-mobile” workforce will be constantly connected to both work and home life.
  • A hyper-connected workforce with always-on communication capabilities will result in material benefits for the 21st-century enterprise.
  • Other drivers such as public sector reform, personalization and integration of health and social care are likely to have significant impacts on the workforce as will other developments such as new and assistive technologies and the broader socio-economic climate.


  • Talented human capital will be the most critical resource differentiating the prosperity of countries and companies.
  • With increasing educational levels of the workforce in Asia and other emerging economies the international competition between workers will increasingly begin to affect intermediate and high skill workers elsewhere.
  • As companies continue to globalize and as talent becomes harder to find locally, companies will increasingly be composed of a global, highly diverse workforce.
  • By 2025 Gen Y employees (many now in their 20s) will grow to represent 75 per cent of the workforce.
  • Older workers will likewise play a much more active role in tomorrow’s workforce.
  • An estimated 10 million jobs globally with manufacturing organizations cannot be filled today due to a growing skills gap.


  • Effective implementation of workforce plans will require the appropriate development and right-sizing of the future workforce to meet market demand projections.
  • To make talent management technology work today, employees and managers must see the value of interacting with the tools and trust that HR and the business will leverage their data and efforts to utilize them within the collective workforce.
  • Low levels of immigration and an ageing workforce in most European nations will place knowledge management front and central in the coming decade and beyond.

Recruitment and retention

  • Talent recruitment and retention will become increasingly strategic concerns as shortages and up to four generations of workers require more effort to create the right workforce mix.
  • Expect apprenticeships to become a more important source of workers.


  • Employers will need to ensure they update appropriate policies and train their workforce on how to treat disclosures made by employees and other workers.
  • Relationship-focused (rather than task-focused) jobs will increase in prominence and require up-skilling of the workforce.
  • Responsive and up-to-date policies and programs to ensure that post-secondary education and training systems continue to produce graduates with leading-edge know-how.


  • Teamwork and the ability to adapt quickly to challenges in the workplace will be essential in all sectors of the economy.
  • Firms will also need to become more proactive about partnering with relevant government and educational institutions to develop and train workers.
  • Increasing productivity will require significant innovation from the public and private sectors alike.
  • Successful companies will create a learning culture that captures and perpetuates knowledge while empowering employees-but most have far to go.

Gartner predicts that 40% of middle class jobs could be lost by 2020. Even, if they are half right every business needs to know which jobs will disappear and appear and to plan for a different future.

The bottom line is that many CEOs are missing what could quickly develop to be the most significant technology shift of this decade.

Explore Shaping Tomorrow to find the sources and more resources on the future of the workforce, some of which were used in this Trend Alert and, order our comprehensive report on the Future of Work

Shaping Tomorrow can help your organization rapidly assess and respond to these and other key issues affecting your business, please contact us to find out how we help our clients with workforce planning.


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