An economist's workforce predictions for 2017

Companies will need to provide equal pay, better benefits

Want to know the workplace trends you should expect in the coming year? Glassdoor's chief economist Andrew Chamberlain shares his predictions for 2017 with Fast Company

Trend #1: HR will rely on data science

With big data playing such a pivotal role in our everyday lives, there's no reason that it wouldn't influence the workforce, according to Chamberlain. However, he notes that while "people science" has made its way into many industries, HR and recruiting have yet to catch up. The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for HR to get in on the game.

"Using data science in HR to make even small improvements in recruiting, hiring, and engagement has the potential for huge benefits to organizations," Chamberlain says.

Organizations must be data-informed to succeed

He recommends considering tools such as:

  • Workforce analytics that track employees' progress through the organization;
  • Sentiment trackers to collect feedback in real time; and
  • A/B testing tools to experiment with different workforce management strategies.

Trend #2: Jobs will become more automated

As technology advances, more activities such as answering email or scheduling meetings can be automated. In fact, research from the McKinsey Global Institute found that at about 60% of all jobs, about a third of all tasks could be automated with current technology. But that's not a reason to panic just yet, Chamberlain says. 

Use this toolkit to create programs for the Millennial workforce

"The jobs that will be most affected by automation are routine jobs that need to be done the same way and that don't require much flexibility or much creative judgment," he says. Therefore, "Workers increasingly need to build skills that are complementary to technology—learning to run the machine, not doing the same work the machine automates."

 Trend #3: Traditional benefits will come out on top

New-fangled perks such as free food, gym memberships, and help paying back student loans aren't boosting employee satisfaction as much as traditional benefits like health insurance, 401(k) matches, and paid time off, Glassdoor's research shows.  To keep employees happy and engaged, companies should consider skipping the flashy offerings and sticking to what workers want the most.

Trend #4: The pay gap will decrease

Equal pay isn't just an ethical issue—it can mean the difference between retaining quality talent and coming up short. According to Glassdoor's research, a whopping 67% of U.S. employees say they would probably not apply for a job at a company that did not pay its male and female workers equally. Now that more wage data are available, Chamberlain argues that organizations have no choice but to approach pay from an egalitarian standpoint. 

Trend #5: The gig economy will slow down

We've heard a lot about innovations in the gig economy, with companies like Uber and TaskRabbit transforming the workforce, but don't expect the freelance economy to continue thriving, Chamberlain says. Not only do few U.S. adults earn income from online gig platforms, according to research from the Morgan Chase Institute, but the model also isn't sustainable.

"The fastest growing jobs today are ones that require human creativity, flexibility, judgment, and 'soft skills,'" Chamberlain says. "That list includes health care professionals, data scientists, sales leaders, strategy consultants, and product managers. Those are exactly the kind of jobs least likely to function well in a gig economy platform" (Dishman, Fast Company, 12/15). 

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