empty office
An empty office might become a common sight if the following 10 trends follow through PHOTO: Benjamin Child

The digital workplace will fundamentally change the way we work. Established and emerging technologies play a big part in this, but our day to day work and the way organizations manage this work is undergoing a radical shift.   

Gartner VP Matthew W Cain and Gartner research director Helen Poitevin outlined 11 emerging trends that will shape digital workplaces in the years to come at the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit in London earlier this year, many of which held true. But as Cain and Poitevin noted, the digital workplace is not just about technologies. The following 10 trends explore the how the way we work will continue to change over the coming year.

1. Emergence of Skills-Based Guilds

According to Steven ZoBell, chief product and technology officer at Lehi, Utah-based Workfront, while traditional full-time jobs will still exist, a substantial number of workers will be gig workers, organized in "pre-packaged guilds," who can be hired using tools that will be the equivalents of Airbnb for work. These gig workers will organize into skills-based guilds, which encompass the entire economic spectrum across all blue- and white-collar jobs. These guilds will provide an ever-ready pool of workers for organizations looking for freelancers. Contracting with these gig workers will happen at the push of a button in digital marketplaces dedicated to each guild. 

2. Improved Recruiting With Machine Learning

Bill Donoghue is CEO of Boston-based Skillsoft, provider of online corporate training. Donoghue believes multiple notable work-related changes will take place over the next year, starting with the booming job market. Candidate sourcing and candidate screening therefore needs to be more automated with intelligent and relevant recommendations through machine learning. Candidate outreach will improve through appropriate big data analysis of recruiting and hiring data. This will allow for better candidate selection through prescriptive analytics to determine who, when hired, would stay in that job longer.

3. Automation Puts Premium on Creative Skills 

Directly related to this, Donoghue points out that advances in automation, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, are starting to infiltrate the world of work at an accelerated pace. Looking forwards, employees need to think carefully about developing and honing uniquely human skills and capabilities.

These skills include creative and complex problem solving, ideation, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, agility, judgment and all the soft skills like emotional intelligence, collaboration and active listening. Every employee also needs to commit to lifelong learning and reskilling.

With the pace of technological change, a degree earned early in your life and initial career experiences will not necessarily have longevity. Those with the strongest ability to continuously learn new skills and capabilities to upgrade and dynamically evolve their value propositions to an employer will thrive in the digital workplace of the future.

4. Candidate-Centric Recruiting

He also said talent acquisition needs to become more candidate-centric and deliver consumer-grade experiences. Donoghue noted candidates demand more transparency and traceability in the hiring-selection process (which will relate to the younger generations' perception of the culture of the company), more real-time communication channels, self-schedule for interviews, video interviewing and faster time-to-hire. Social recruiting will move into the mainstream.

5. Skills Shortage

As a final point, Donoghue said digital transformation is driving a convergence of business and management skills with traditional IT skills. This technological momentum is causing organizations to rethink organizational structures, roles and required skillsets and capabilities.

New transformational technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics, combined with new capabilities like design thinking and data science are changing the nature of customer relationships, internal processes, business models and value propositions. However, organizations will seek to fill a major gap in skillsets and capabilities. In the upcoming year, employers will look to fill gaps through hiring and employee training in critical areas of digital transformation.

6. AI Supports Relationship Building

Jim Somers is VP of Marketing and Collaboration at LogMeIn, a Boston-based provider of software as a service and cloud-based remote connectivity services for enterprises. He believes artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence and conventional intelligence will merge to facilitate improved workplace relationships and more successful business outcomes.

Face-to-face interactions improve relationships — both in business and personal life, he said. In 2018 and beyond, we’ll see artificial intelligence play a larger role in the process of relationship building among colleagues, customers and partners. Facial recognition technology will be built into remote collaboration tools to read visual cues. Why does this matter? It will enable a meeting host to pivot their conversation if needed, and inform more effective post-meeting follow-up.

7. Personal brands

Somers also said personal branding will grow in importance as digital skills become more widespread. More employees and job-seekers will think of themselves as their very own CEO, identifying less with their company and more with their own personal brand. On the hiring side, companies will look beyond a candidate’s professional accomplishments and prioritize candidates whose personal brand meshes well with the organization. Somers said a company that values out-of-the-box thinking will be more inclined to hire the individual who brought the same type of personality to the interview, rather than someone who played by all the rules but demonstrated little creativity or spark.

8. Goodbye Formal Headquarters

Boston-based Fuze is a Unified Communications as a Service provider. Fuze CEO Colin Doherty said the rise of digital technologies will see many companies dispense with formal headquarters. With technology enabling connectivity regardless of physical location, he said, more companies will embrace a distributed workforce. That strategy will place even greater importance on companies hiring the right people. While hiring can be an arduous process, it's a big part of the equation for embracing new models of work.

9. Workday Fluidity

Because of this, Doherty continued, the work day will change. Younger generations see work as something they do, not a place they go. If organizations are still judging employee productivity or commitment based on time in the office, they’re out of touch.

He said companies are already beginning to embrace non-traditional work schedules. In 2018, this will gain more traction as the desire for workday flexibility increases. Inside and outside of the office, companies that embrace remote work policies will also need to facilitate workplace cultures that encourage investments in other areas. Take the kids to practice, train for a marathon, have an extended lunch — and get your work done while maintaining these other responsibilities and interests.

10. Diminished IT Dependency

All of this will result in a reduced dependency on IT staff and resources. Bill Galusha is a senior product marketing manager at Irvine, Calif.-based Kofax. He said while enterprises will rarely expect this scenario, it speaks to the close relationship between the data gathered by robots and its use by their human counterparts.

He said that with Robot Process Automation (RPA), ownership of identifying business opportunities for deployment, technical requirements and initial development of robots themselves is often pushed to the business group.

IT ultimately takes ownership of the management and deployment of the bots. While RPA can connect disparate systems to automate activities and tasks typically handled manually by human staff, hundreds of other activities can also be automated. This creates the strong need for business groups to be self-sufficient (to a certain extent), while also engaged and locked into IT processes and policies when it comes to RPA deployment.