Workplace technology, new skills and the impact on employers

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Developments in technology have always driven change in the labour market. However, the impact of technology on workforce patterns has to be carefully planned and employers must ensure they continue to match the right people with the right skills to the right jobs.

HR professionals and recruiters will be at the heart of the changes new technologies bring and will be tasked with making the transition to this new way of working as smooth as possible. The technology that underpins our society will have a clear impact on the business world by 2020. The recruitment industry will need to be in a position to source the talent needed to meet the demands that new ways of working will present.

New breed of IT skills

A new breed of IT skills will be needed to implement change and manage the volumes of data that technologies such as Software as a Service and cloud computing will create. New roles will be created across the workplace, ranging from IT professionals and energy and data managers coming to the fore to meet businesses’ technological and environmental requirements.

Over the next decade, a generation that has grown up being used to mobile computing, networking and collaboration tools will enter the workforce. These candidates will be quick to grasp concepts such as remote working and interacting with their team, the business use of collaboration tools, as well as reduced face-to-face time in the office.

Seemless computing

Developments in electronic equipment will help achieve seamless computing and lead to the wider use of mobile and remote working. While the younger generation will be entering the workforce and bringing a high level of familiarity with equipment use, they are unlikely to have much sense of underlying technology.

Employers will be keen to find among the crowd those who have gained a sense of how organisations work, what drives value and where technology creates benefit.

These trends, as identified in the REC’s Technology 2020 report, will not act in isolation. Many of them overlap, while others are mutually dependent. There is one thing to be sure of: collectively, they will have a deep impact on future workforce patterns.

The impact on HR

As remote and mobile working become common practice, a new level of self-management will need to be developed. The new workforce will have reduced face-to-face time, meaning new guidelines on employee engagement, staff motivation and management in light of how staff use social media and collaboration tools will need to be drawn up.

As the numbers of employees working remotely increase, building and sustaining engagement will become more complex. The future remote workforce may feel isolated, as much as it may feel liberated. Communications will be hyper-connected with mobile devices and social networks being an intrinsic part of communicating for the future workforce. As these tools become commonplace, their use will need to be monitored and the policies for their acceptable use will need to be constantly updated.

Demanding more

Members of the workforce of the future will demand more from employers in terms of access to communications and be more experienced in their use of collaborative work tools. Equally, they will have the experience and familiarity to make efficient use of the tools available and build propositions around them to replace the old way of working.

Looking at the next 10 years, developments in technology will mean that all functions will make use of specialist technology. Employees of the future will be faced with continuous training and education on the specialist software and applications that support their function. Even training will be different in the future workplace, combining visual and verbal acuity, technology appreciation and business understanding. As a result, the workforce will be fully engaged with education and training initiatives.

There is a steep learning curve ahead. Employers and recruiters will need to work closely to understand new technologies and how they will affect workforce patterns. The recruitment industry has the opportunity to source the skills for companies to shape the future.

Jeff Brooks, chairman, Technology Sector Group, Recruitmment and Employment Confederation

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