Last year at this time, experts correctly predicted that the 2017 job market would continue to improve, giving both job seekers and employees increased leverage, and as a result, companies emphasized improving their candidate and employee experiences. Others forecast that employers would redefine the workplace, utilizing design principles to transform physical spaces and technology, and to implement virtual work considerations. Not surprisingly, most believed that workforce diversity would continue to be a prominent focal point across all industries. Here are some trends we expect to see in 2018.
Leaders encourage more human interaction. Companies will continue to design workspaces to facilitate interpersonal relationships among employees. In 2017, IBM discontinued its remote-working program, pushing thousands of employees back to the office. Apple and Google have created innovative workspaces to promote relationships and cross-team collaboration. These companies have found that employees' personal interactions enhance creativity and relationship building, leading to better outcomes. Expect to see companies re-think telecommuting programs, while leaders will put greater emphasis on phone calls, video conferencing and in-person meetings. Conversely, it's worth pointing out that flexibility is vital to many in the workforce, and to many candidates, an option to work remotely is essential. Creative arrangements, such as the "gig economy," characterized by a mobile, contract-based labor force that is geared to the younger workers, will play an enhanced role in accommodating a diverse workforce.
A new wave of learning. Education is one of today's most disrupted industries, with third parties such as LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, edX, Udemy, Udacity, and The Khan Academy offering an abundance of courses, credentials and certifications. Expect to see more employers accepting alternative credentials as they seek to build diverse talent pools and expand their reach. With soaring tuition costs, younger generations are increasingly resisting the traditional degree path, and some are avoiding college altogether and opting instead for free or low cost online courses. With unemployment at a 16-year low, companies will focus less on traditional majors, such as computer science, and look increasingly to alternatively credentialed candidates who present with the desired skill set.
Companies focus on upskilling and retraining current workers. In today's rapidly changing economy, current skills are becoming increasingly less relevant. As more industries face disruption, companies are transforming and aligning business models to meet new customer demands. For example, AT&T notified 100,000 employees that their roles would not be relevant in ten years; the company subsequently created a $1 billion Workforce 2020 initiative focused on upskilling the employee base. In 2018, we'll see other employers invest money into training and development programs in order to fill skills gaps. Generation Z, representing 25 percent of today's U.S. population, will enter the workforce facing an even greater skills gap: roughly 65 percent of the jobs they will need to fill do not yet exist.
Innovative and flexible work spaces. Companies will continue to implement flexible workplaces, which can transform working areas such as conference and meeting rooms into spaces for team building and other activities. These features allow companies to be creative with their space, and give employees the freedom to innovate and experiment. Features of a flexible space can include moving walls, foldable tables with wheels, and lightweight stackable chairs. In addition, hoping to foster collaborative and productive environments, companies are implementing novel features, as pioneered by Google, like quiet spaces, coffee bars with baristas, pet-friendly offices and nap pods.
Talent analytics will become more sophisticated. As data evolves beyond metrics like employee engagement and retention rates, more organizations will prioritize strategic workforce planning. These tools will help leaders build better teams, make processes more agile and lean, analyze resource utilization across a company, and accurately evaluate teams' successes. Businesses able to recruit based on fit and skill will land the best hires next year. In 2017, 69% of companies surveyed by EngageRocket, an HR tech startup, actively took steps to improve their methods of exploring people data, compared to only 10-15% previously. We expect this trend to continue.
Increased use of technology to refocus on diversity. Although diversity has been part of the national conversation for decades, we have recently seen companies investing heavily and with innovative solutions to improve the composition of their workforce. More companies are adopting a broader definition of diversity, creating employee resource groups to support all types of diversity, including gender, ethnicity/culture, age and sexual orientation. In 2018, more companies will use technology like AI, which can be programmed to eliminate unconscious biases by ignoring demographic information, when evaluating candidates.