How employers should think about the future workplace?
In the face of rapid changes in technology, culture, and economies, companies and employees all over the world are noticing a shift in the workplace—and are realising they must adapt. Technological advancements and global competition for talent are impacting the way people work, leading to increased workplace flexibility, ease of communication across geographic locations, and the need to constantly learn new skills. Additionally, there is a growing focus on doing work that is personally meaningful and fulfills a sense of purpose, which is affecting how both workers and employers approach work.
These changes impact workers all over the world, but different global regions are welcoming the evolving workplace in different ways. The ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI), a specialised group within ADP, conducted a qualitative and quantitative study among employers and employees in four major regions: North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific. This study provided insight into emerging workplace trends, how they affect employees, and how they’re expected to play out in years to come.
Welcoming workplace freedom but skeptical toward global competition
The study surveyed employers and employees based on five basic human needs. These included freedom, knowledge, stability, self-management, and meaning. Within each of these needs, the survey categorised workplace trends such as the ability to work from anywhere in the world, the use of technology to learn new skills, a movement away from departmental hierarchies and the sense of purpose employees derive from their work. While globally there is an overall positive outlook toward workplace changes, survey responses varied across the study’s four regions.
When questioned about workplace freedom, respondents across all four regions claimed to already have increased control and flexibility in their work or expect to within the next three to five years. Respondents felt they currently or in the future will be able to do their work when, where, and how they want and will perform most of their work from a mobile device.
In regard to knowledge, the four regions expressed slight differences. In both North America and Europe, respondents believed they already have access to the people, tools, and information they need to get their work done, as well as the time and resources to learn new skills. However, European workers tended to convey apprehension about having to constantly learn new skills. In Latin America, increased access to technology and knowledge was strongly felt, as the region has seen an increase in the use of technology and its impact in recent years. Because the Asia-Pacific tends to be at the forefront of on-demand learning through technology, that region already has increased access to the technological tools needed to connect with others and quickly learn new skills.
Stability tended to be more of a concern of workers in each region, especially certain groups of workers. In North America, women and older men expressed uncertainty related to long-term job security in the face of global talent acquisition. On the other hand, 84 percent of men in the 18–39 age group were excited about this workforce change, as well as the trend toward contract-based work. European workers were concerned about stability. Respondents believed that the global search for the best talent and the practice of hiring contract workers is well underway and could impact their job security. Similarly, respondents in Asia-Pacific were less positive toward these trends and felt that in the future workers will be skills-based and less reliant on working for an individual company. In Latin America, workers expressed excitement about competing for jobs on a global scale and said they were eager to do contract work.
Moving away from hierarchy and toward purpose-driven work
Survey respondents were also questioned about self-management and the possibility that future workplaces will no longer use hierarchical or departmental structures. Feelings toward this trend were mixed. In North America, U.S. respondents were excited about the prospect of technology supplementing some of their workload, while Canadians expressed concern that this trend would threaten their job security. U.S. workers expressed resistance to a future lack of workplace hierarchy, but Canadians were hopeful about this shift. European workers claimed that a shift toward self-management is already underway in their workplaces, but they were skeptical regarding the elimination of hierarchy. In Latin America, there was a lack of belief that workplaces would do away with hierarchies and move toward increased self-management. Surprisingly, Asia-Pacific workers’ responses reflected a belief that gravitation toward self-management and a dissolving of company hierarchy would happen in the future. This change would be particularly revolutionary in this region where company structure has traditionally been a strong cultural characteristic.
As more workers all over the world have come to desire a sense of purpose from their work, meaning in the workplace has become an important trend that is drastically shifting workplace ethos. In North America and Europe, most respondents felt this change is already occurring as workers increasingly focus on opportunities that align with their personal values. Likewise, companies are putting a stronger priority on employee care and wellness. In Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, this shift seems to be occurring more slowly, according to worker responses. But even in those regions, there is a belief that in the future, work will be focused on a need for meaning and that companies will have to adapt to reflect this.