The Future of Work | Five Emerging Trends to Expect

Growing trends are inevitable in the workplace. As the modern world constantly develops, the workplace and the workforce need to grow and improve with it.

Because of this, Income Group’s Marketing Assistant Alice reached out to two prominent figures in the HR and payroll community to get their valuable and honest opinions on the trends we are starting to see emerge in the workplace.

For this blog, we spoke with Anita Lettink from Strategic Management Centre, who is a Future of Work Keynote Speaker and author. We also chatted to Pete A. Tiliakos, the founder of GxT Advisors who is the Principal Analyst & Advisor as well as a host for his podcast ‘HR & Payroll 2.0’. Thanks to both Anita and Pete for their time!

1.      Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The first trend creeping into the modern workplace is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The use of AI in everyday life has skyrocketed with the development of technology like ChatGPT. The reason? AI has become so accessible for everyone with these newer technologies being developed meaning even your average worker can use AI to help with their everyday jobs.

Artificial Intelligence

Alice: what are your opinions on AI in the future of work?

Anita: “AI isn’t new, the HR community have been using AI in the form of algorithms for over 5 years. Algorithms have been used in e.g., recruitment for shortlists and in payroll to find anomalies.

What is new is that since OpenAI which was introduced last November, people have started to realise what is going on with AI because everyone could experiment with it online.

When you look at HR, you must consider the ethical use of AI. The European Union is introducing AI legislation which classifies solutions that use AI into four categories. In New York, if you use AI in recruitment you have to disclose it to a candidate and offer an alternative route. Legislators everywhere are looking at more protection for people to ensure they understand what is going on.

We will definitely see more of use of AI in HR going forward with it being more accessible.”

Pete: “It’s going to replace manual work, it’s going to replace those monotonous tasks and roles that no one wants or ideally should be doing and allowing them to shift their time to a more value-added role that’s more analytical and emotionally intelligent.”

What’s going to be exciting is when AI gets applied to data and it starts to surface insights and those insights are going to be incredibly impactful for organisational agility – the ability to seemingly see what’s coming around the corner, predict, and anticipate the next thing. For HR that’s going to mean better talent decisions, better outcomes for payroll and pay, better diversity all these things should be improved and advanced using AI.

I have been calling this the golden age for payroll. Payroll has been starved of innovation for so long. Now they’re getting these things and I’m very much encouraging practitioners to lean in, embrace it and allow it to take your role to a whole other level and let you bring more value to your business.

HR gets whipped all the time for not being strategic enough – hopefully, this automation and AI are going to give them those tools to become much more strategic value outlets for their business.”

 

2.      Flexible Hours / Four-day Working

Since the Covid pandemic flexible hours and a four-day working week have become a lot more common in the job market.

Alice:  What are your opinions on workplaces offering flexible hours or a four-day working week to their staff?

Anita: “Some experiments for earning the same money for four days of work are underway in the UK. In other countries, I see a bigger focus on the use of flexible hours.

Companies are starting to take a more project-based approach to work. Employers aren’t quite as focused on days but looking more at outcomes. A big advantage to that is the flexibility that comes with it.”

Pete: “I think the word flexibility is key – if you want to win the battle for fine skills, I think it’s going to be enabled by how flexible you can be as an employer.

You think about your own personal life, there are so many ways you can in your personal life, why can’t it be that way at work?

Employees are now expecting that, I want to work the shifts I want, I want to work the types of roles I want, want to be able to have more autonomy to have a better work-life balance. They want their pay the way they want it, when they want it, and they should have it, it’s their money they’ve earned it.

So, I think all of those little things that employers can do to enable more flexibility are going to give employees the option to create their personalised experience for them that meets their needs.

Everyone comes to work for a different reason, we’re all motivated by something different and our needs are very different and I think that employers are finding that in order to bring the best people in, not only do you have to have a great culture and meaningful work but you have to offer a really great experience and that experience has to come with being able to create the personalised experience for you.

As you saw during Covid, more workers are now asking why do we have to go into the office, and why do we have to work these set hours when I can get the work done in whatever hours I want, as long as I cover it what’s the difference? That’s I think the agility that organisations now have to get. People are realising there are other ways of accomplishing the same outcomes without having to do it the way we’ve done it.”

 

3.      Remote/Global Workforce

The pandemic had a huge effect on the need for remote/hybrid working. Without remote working a lot of businesses wouldn’t have survived the pandemic. Since then, there has been an increase in the number of people expecting remote working to be offered in jobs or companies have continued to offer it since the pandemic as it gives companies a lot of advantages. One of those advantages is the ability to create a global workforce.Remote Working

Alice:  Have you noticed an increase in businesses adapting a global or remote workforce?

Anita: “Despite the whole media hype around announcements from CEOs to bring people back in the office, what I often see is that this is not black and white. Bringing people back to the office doesn’t necessarily mean they’re onsite full-time, it means that people work in hybrid situations, with 2 or 3 days onsite.

Companies have also discovered that when they don’t find the talent in the region or in the country there’s a huge opportunity to look at the global workforce and see if you can fill positions that are unfillable with remote workers. I suggest that companies think about what work must be done in a specific location, what work can be done somewhere else, and where that somewhere else is.

It’s perfectly OK to say as a company, that you want everyone in the office or on our location. You must realise though, that your talent pool will be a lot smaller than it would be if you allow people to do some of the work remotely, or work 100% remote work. That balance is crucial for business success. But it’s also important to keep in mind, that some work can’t be done in a hybrid or remote way. The focus is often on office workers, but let’s not forget that 80% of the workforce is tied to a location (e.g., hospitality, retail, healthcare).”

Pete: “There are arguments for productivity on both sides around remote work and whether it’s right for your business or not, and it’s not right for every business – there are just some jobs that you have to come in for and be facing to the customer or to the thing you’re doing. But I think part of the skills gap is the leadership executives, are they really prepared to manage these types of roles? I think they can be but I think their brains and their programming have been towards the old ways of doing things so they aren’t skilled at managing hybrid workforces.

I think remote work is another flexibility and talent enabler. The idea that we can now go outside of our borders which you almost have to to be competitive for talent. You can’t just put a posting out anymore and say we’re going to get people from all around our metro area to come and apply for these jobs and we’ll just get more people to do what we need and we’ll scale – that’s not really true anymore, now that you can go beyond borders and say I can get the best talent no matter where on the planet they are – that should be super exciting and I think more firms need to lean into that because now you’re talking about expanding your skills, deepening your talent pool, enriching your diversity and giving opportunity.

Remote work to me is a human opportunity enabler – it gives people an opportunity to connect to work and opportunities that they might not otherwise have had access to had it not been for remote work. I think remote work can be very liberating.”

 

4.      Focus on Employee Wellbeing

The wellness industry is massive, and employers are starting to notice. Companies are starting to have dedicated employee welfare teams and offer access to wellness apps to help their employees in any way they can.

Alice: I think this is a very modern trend in the workplace and it just keeps growing. Have you noticed this growth in a focus on employee wellbeing?

Anita: “We are starting to understand the connection between financial wellbeing and overall wellbeing much better. We are also discovering that mental health issues are more often related to financial related issues than we previously thought. For example, if you are in debt and you are worrying all the time about how to pay your bills, and what new bills will be on your doormat when you come home – you’re not bringing your best self to work, and you’re not productive because your brain is consumed with your personal situation.

Employers are taking much more liberty in addressing financial health issues. A closer connection between employers and employees was forged during the pandemic, which allows for a more personal connection. Because of this, you see all kinds of financial health apps popping up, and the conversation between employers and employees about financial situations is becoming more normalised – both asking for help or giving help.”

Pete: “Wellbeing is a conundrum that I think has landed on the doorstep of the employer now. There’s a converging soup of problems in the world – inflation has gone crazy for most of us since Covid. There are now talks of whether there’s going to be a recession, we’ve seen some layoffs. There’s a lot of stress and anxiety around just money and that’s creating financial wellbeing problems amongst other mental health and other issues and employees are bringing that to work.

They don’t have a choice – it doesn’t go away when you go to your job, you still have to pay your bills or you’re still worrying about a medical thing or a car problem or whatever pops up in our lives so I think employers are now facing a conundrum. Employers have to deal with this, or it will continue to impact our productivity, and our workers. And they should be investing in their workers and hoping that they’re balancing more than just their work life, that their personal lives are balanced as well so they can bring a positive and focused energy to work.

I think employers are now looking at it in context with that flexibility offering of being very flexible and open and supportive of employees and that’s where I think financial wellness tools have really taken off. Employers are recognising they’ve got to do something to help employees and that’s where I think some of these tools like Earned Wage Access and other financial wellness and education and assistance is really meaningful.”

 

5.      On-Demand Pay

One way of improving financial wellbeing is by implementing on-demand or Earned Wage Access schemes.

On-Demand Pay/Earned Wage Access

Alice: Earned Wage Access has a huge number of benefits to the employee as well as the employer. What are your thoughts on these schemes?

Anita: “On-demand pay is a very relevant topic; we saw it first appear in the USA and UK. With employers understanding there is a bigger connection between financial wellbeing and mental wellbeing, EWA could be a help as it bridges the gap to the next paycheck and helps employees.

There is less of a focus on EWA in mainland Europe for a variety of reasons. While some employers offer it, employees typically use it to finance unplanned or unexpected purchases.”

Pete: “I’m a huge fan of EWA. I think it’s a very empathetic way for employers to help employees solve challenges.

More and more people at £100,000 or more are living paycheck to paycheck even when they’re making 6 figures, so EWA is not purely for your hourly frontline worker. I think Earned Wage Access is a phenomenal tool to help people solve that and all those economic problems, inflation and just the stress that we’re seeing.

Earned Wage Access has been largely marketed globally as a stop-gap to not having enough money to get to the next paycheck, and that certainly is what it can do. But what I think we’re missing out on here is that it’s a flexibility enabler, it gives the employee the autonomy to choose for themselves, to empathetically and with dignity, solve problems.

What I have noticed is that it has very little impact on the payroll department, but the impact on the employees and the impact on the business is massive. The ROI to the business turns out to be engagement, retention, referrals, they all go up.

It’s another way for the employer to say we care with this increased focus on wellbeing. It’s an instrument for the payroll manager to solve problems in a very modern, rapid, real-time, compliant manner.”

Income Group are another massive supporter of the introduction of Earned Wage Access to the UK. Income Group have been one of the first few companies to encourage this way of thinking by introducing our own on-demand pay software to the market. If you would be interested in finding out more about our EWA software reach out today.

 

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