People and Culture SVP Laura Butler shares four HR predictions for 2020, from flexible work environments shifting from perk to expectation, to automation creating more high-value jobs.

The world of work is changing fast, from the types and volume of digital tools we use to get work done to where we get work done.

HR leaders who stay ahead of workplace trends (especially when it comes to workplace technology) that honor the way people work today—while positively impacting business outcomes—are more likely to help their teams and organizations be competitive and successful in today’s fast-paced, constantly changing work landscape.

Workfront’s 2020 State of Work report revealed many data-driven insights about how technology will shape HR in 2020—insights that become invaluable when leaders act on them to improve the way their people work. Here are four technology predictions I gleaned from the State of Work report that will help HR leaders prepare their teams for the future of work.

1. Continued boom in remote and flexible work will require companywide digital collaboration.

There’s been a 159% increase in remote work since 2005. Consider these compelling stats about flexible work from the 2019 Global Workplace Survey:

80% of respondents would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.
85% of respondents say productivity has increased as a result of greater flexibility.
75% of respondents believe flexible working is the new normal.

There’s no doubt about it: flexible work is our new normal. And for good reason: it attracts and retains top talent, boosts productivity, improves agility, and saves money.

Employees increasingly expect to be able to work how and where they want. To make this a viable option, it’s important to have better ways to discuss work than catching someone in the hall or popping into their office. Businesses need collaborative work management technology and tools that support this flexibility, like having a centralized place to see (and collaborate on) all work across the company—something that, according to our State of Work report, 76% of employees wish they had.

Delivering modern technology, like an easy-to-search centralized platform for work that enables collaboration and makes it easy to keep projects, employees, tasks, and approvals organized will be increasingly important. And given the pending exodus of baby boomers from the workforce and millennials’ tendency to change jobs every couple of years, documenting work processes and making information readily accessible in one centralized place will be key to prevent work from being stalled whenever there’s a personnel change.

2. Recruiting and retaining top talent will require modern workplace technology.

The majority of State of Work report respondents—91%—crave modern technology solutions and believe that workplaces with modern technology attract and keep the best talent. 8 in 10 respondents expect workplace tools to look more like Amazon and Instagram than traditional enterprise tools. And nearly all respondents—95%—agreed that it should be as easy to find information at work as it is to find information on Google.

There couldn’t be a clearer sign that, in 2020, enterprises will need to use workplace technology and tools that match the personalization, user experience, and ease of information access provided by the technology they use in their personal life to stay competitive in recruitment and employee work experience.

David Karandish, founder and CEO of Capacity, an enterprise artificial intelligence SaaS company, believes that enterprises who fail to stay current with technology are taking risks when it comes to recruiting top talent. “As the talent war continues, and Gen Z keeps demanding a great enterprise experience, a company that ignores tech tools in the workplace does so at great risk. But don’t take my word for it—ask your youngest employee if they have more experience with WhatsApp or TPS reports,” Karandish says.

3. AI-driven automation will create opportunities for more creative, high-value work.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer hype. It’s changing the nature of work (and our relationship with technology). HR leaders should feel empowered—not threatened—by AI. The AI-driven automation of rote tasks, for example, will enable workers to make more efficient use of their time, freeing them up to sharpen and focus on uniquely human skills, like creativity.

Think of all the smaller tasks we take on every day, like answering emails, organizing electronic documents, administrative work, and sitting in needlessly long meetings. All of these take up valuable time that could be spent performing high-value work that requires uniquely human skills. Automation can help us be more effective at work so we can use our time and skills on tasks that require the human touch.

In 2020, HR leaders should look for ways to leverage automation to increase productivity and collaboration among their teams, like automating repetitive tasks, communications and approval processes, and compliance workflows.

4. Bridging the gap between the work and the why with technology will improve engagement and business outcomes.

Sixty-five percent of the State of Work report respondents wish they were rewarded more on results than deliverables. HR leaders need to find ways to help people see how their work (daily tasks) connects to the why (strategic company goals) and impacts business outcomes.

Giving people visibility into how their daily work influences big picture goals and outcomes will help bridge the long-standing gap between the work and the why. The ability to see a direct link between people’s individual input and the company’s collective outcome will help your teams be more productive and increase employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.

In 2020, technology will play a substantial role in your ability to increase employee visibility into companywide strategic goals and make it easier for team members to understand how their work contributes to end results.

In 2020, add technology that helps people get work done.

In the HR Technologist State of Work survey, 84% of respondents believe their companies are missing opportunities by not moving to more modern workplace technology. Given that 91% of workers crave modern technology solutions and 88% view technology as an important part of the employee experience, HR leaders have a huge opportunity in 2020 to deploy technology that honors how and where people work so they can do their best work.

The most successful, competitive companies let their work strategy drive their technology strategy (not the other way around) and deploy technology that helps people get work done. They support people with the technology and tools they want and need, like digital collaboration tools that support remote work, modern tech that attracts top-tier talent, and collaborative work management solutions that centralize everything about people’s work in one place (even if your people work all over the place).

As HR leaders kick off the new year, they can increase employee engagement by adding modern workplace technology that aligns strategy and execution, enables collaboration in a flexible work environment, attracts and retains the best talent, and creates opportunities for high-value work.

About the Author:

Laura Butler SVP People and Culture, Workfront

As Workfront’s SVP of People and Culture, Laura is responsible for creating and reinforcing a culture that the most passionate, innovative, and customer-focused talent wants to be a part of and has spent the last 20 years shaping global talent management strategies for Fortune 500 corporations. Laura has received multiple awards and industry recognition for her work in diversity and inclusion including Diversity Inc. Top 5 Utilities, 2016 ERG Above & Beyond Award for PG&E Woman’s Network, Human Right’s Campaign’s Best Places to Work and the #14 spot on the Training Top 125 in 2017 for strategic leadership development. Laura has been recognized as a global thought leader in Human Capital Management and was named to the San Francisco Business Times Most Influential Women list. The White House also recognized Laura, resulting in an invitation and face-to-face meeting with former Vice President Joe Bidden, for her work focused on veterans.

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