The CIPD’s Festival of Work returned to the beautiful London Olympia in Kensington this week.

Along with the usual throng of supplier stands, the 2022 Festival of Work also included two full days’-worth of talks and presentations from HR and industry experts. Ranging from developing top talent in your organisation, to discussing the ins and outs of diversity recruitment tactics, there was certainly something for everyone.

In amongst the packed schedule, there was one talk in particular that caught my attention. It was presented by Melanie Norris-Greene from the CIPD and delved into the subject of future work trends and how both HR and people managers need to prepare.

cipd festival of work exhibition

Consistently changeable

As we all know, the past few years have been a byword for uncertainty in the world of work. While HR and people managers have risen to the challenges of furloughs, remote working and the Great Resignation, it’s expected that the next few years are going to bring about even more transformative changes.

To identify the top 5 future work trends, the CIPD spoke to thousands of HR professionals across a wide range of industries here in the UK. This also helped inform another report released earlier this year – Effective cross-functional collaboration in a changing world of work – which explores how people professionals are partnering across business functions to future-proof their organisations.

The research reflects the CIPD’s goal to lead the way in both understanding and shaping the future of the people profession. In addition, their research aims to help to inspire, equip and support people professionals to drive change at the heart of business – making better workplaces for all.

So, without further ado, here are the top 5 future work trends that the CIPD believe HR need to prepare for…

The 2022 top 5 future work trends

1. The continued digital transformation of HR

The CIPD believes that continued digital transformation will lead to an evolution of HR jobs, depending on the level of technology adoption over the next decade. Highlighting a report by the OECD, Melanie pointed out that digital transformations will likely lead to one in ten HR jobs ceasing to exist within the coming 15–20 years, and a further 32% being significantly different due to continued automation developments.

The CIPD believes that people analytics and big data, process automation, and AI will all play their parts in the transformation of HR. Melanie mentioned that they’ll be vital when it comes to enhancing the employee experience to meet the needs of ever-changing workforces. In addition, the continued digitisation of HR will undoubtedly lead to improved workplace efficiencies that will help boost the bottom line for many organisations.

While COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this (and other) emerging trends, it’s vital that humans be at the centre of any technological change. Organisations and their HR teams need to understand how HR tech will add value to their lives, enhance the employee experience and affect bottom lines; not just implement change for the sake of it.

2. Internal changes: the evolution of organisational models, structures, and processes

The CIPD’s research found there’s a sense within the HR community that businesses aren’t set up to change or adapt to challenges quickly. Traditional ways of working (such as, for example, always working in an office) are becoming redundant, and the COVID-19 pandemic has – like digital transformations – led to many businesses undergoing internal changes at breakneck speed with little or no preparation.

In order for businesses to thrive when undergoing rapid changes, Melanie discussed how the modern workplace will require more agile, adaptable business models. Also, so-called ‘horizon scanning’ is something that people professionals will need to do more of. This is so HR teams and line managers can be proactive in identifying the potential challenges to a business looming on the horizon, rather than just being reactive.

3. Shifting workforce demographics and robust D&I strategies

One of the most important trends Melanie talked about was the fact that employee demographics are changing rapidly. Specifically, every organisation is having to deal with the disruptions and challenges brought on by an ageing workforce.

The CIPD predicts HR will play a vital part in understanding how an ageing workforce is going to affect businesses: be it reducing bias in their recruitment efforts or considering how they retain and upskill younger workers to ensure a consistent talent pipeline. Now is also the time for organisations to focus on identifying how they can manage absenteeism effectively and refine their succession plans to cope with a maturing labour force.

Alongside the challenges of an ageing employee base, Melanie also highlighted that diversity and inclusion strategies are going to become even more important to employees. Inequality and discrimination both in our society and workplaces are, unfortunately, still a huge problem. Challenging these issues in all their forms – as well as being actively anti-racist – is going to be an ongoing imperative for the people profession beyond 2022.

4. Diversifying employment relationships

It’s not exactly big news that the world of work is not just 9-5, Monday-Friday for everyone. For example, the growing acceptance of remote / hybrid working and the rise of the ‘gig economy’ are just two examples of how more diverse employment relationships have developed in the past few years.

It’s also the case that the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic uncertainties have shifted many people’s priorities in terms of what they want from both a job and a career. It’s now becoming obvious to those in HR circles that changing employee expectations suggest that employees want a more personalised, flexible relationship with their employer.

This diversification of employment relationships does raise some important questions: how do organisations treat people who are in different contractual relationships fairly? How do they ensure that these people are able to work effectively together? And what does that mean for how HR manages the employee experience?

The CIPD believes that people professionals will need to take ownership of how companies engage with their employees and facilitate these ever-evolving employment relationships. They will also be required to lead the way in terms of what the different employment journeys look like and how best to support atypical career paths.

5. Renewed focus on sustainability, purpose and responsible business

Lastly, sustainability and responsibility are considered by the CIPD to be the biggest movers up the HR agenda. However, when we talk about these subjects, it’s not just in terms of the environment:  sustainable and responsible business practices must also come with real purpose that have genuine positive impacts on the environments of both local and global communities.

It’s looking increasingly likely these practices will fall into HR’s remit, and it’s something they must be prepared to tackle. Employees are savvy to how organisations conduct themselves, and the CIPD’s research has shown they will vote with their feet if they feel a business is not taking sustainability or corporate and social responsibility seriously.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.

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