These days there are numerous trends driving change -- and opportunity -- in the workplace. We've rounded up the top 10 that promise to make the biggest splash in coming years.
No longer is artificial intelligence synonymous in our minds with robots gone rogue. Increasingly, application developers are getting requests from clients for apps that use 'machine learning,' and with good reason -- adding AI elements can significantly improve many processes and facets of everyday life, including personal-information security (face and voice recognition), spam-reduction and more.
Think you'd never use AI? Think again. Tagging on social-media sites, talk-to-text programs and products (think Google Allo and Alexa) and various personal-assistant apps all rely heavily on artificial intelligence.
2. Return to live interaction
More and more, savvy businesses are finding that there's a limit to consumers' appetite for DIY. When it comes to customer service, live interaction may be worth the investment. (Millennials, who yield considerable purchasing power in today's economy and make up a large part of the workforce, in particular, crave 'real-person' interaction online.)
With reputations now both made and broken online -- and anyone with an internet connection and basic typing skills able to publicly review pretty much anything -- sorry is the company that ignores its customer-support programs.
3. Generation Z
Generation Z, also known as Post-Millennials or the iGeneration, are those individuals born in the mid-1990s or later -- in other words, people for whom there has never been a world without internet. This group makes up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, and with its oldest members now entering the workforce, employers would do well to consider it and its characteristics as they update office policies, because despite being so close in age, Millennials and members of Generation Z are different.
The latter expects things more quickly, is even more tech-savvy and is more likely than their predecessors to skip higher education altogether, going straight to work following secondary school. They also have a more entrepreneurial bent, perhaps because of the ease with which they have been able to access the 'side-gig' economy.
4. Rising wages
At the start of 2018 U.S. wages rose 2.9 percent, the fastest rate since 2009. Meanwhile, the jobless rate is at record lows in many states, with unemployment remaining steady nationally. What does this mean for employers? Getting and being able to afford to keep top talent may be more difficult, particularly for smaller, leaner businesses. (But don't worry -- there's also some good news for smaller businesses; see numbers 7, 8, & 9.)
5. The reemergence of 'social learning'
More and more of the U.S. workforce is working remotely, which is good news for company bottom lines and employees' work-life balance -- but bad news for social learning, the kind that happens when we interact with other people.
Businesses are finding creative ways of shoring up social learning offerings for employees while continuing to allow remote work. Chief among these will continue to be the use of social-learning platforms, or learning management systems (LMS). Platforms such as Moodle and TalentLMS rely on content sharing -- discussions, document uploads, and comments -- between users, helping bridge the gap between remote and in-office (or remote and remote) personnel.
6. Live-stream video
Live-stream-video sites (think YouTube Live, Vimeo Live, Ustream and the like) are gaining momentum among businesses, in part for their ability to help bridge that same gap. In recent years such tools have made huge improvements in reliability, helping to eliminate worries about choppy, lousy connections during important meetings and encouraging live meetings across time zones.
7. Serving the local community, not just customers
With members of the workforce placing more and more value on their employers' CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs, being socially responsible is now practically a requirement for businesses. These days it's not uncommon to find employers offer paid days off for local volunteerism, nor is it uncommon to find that employees take them.
Employees who volunteer as a team are more likely to be engaged in their work -- and that engagement means they're more likely to stay at their jobs. According to Michael Stroik, now a director at 3M: "A highly engaged workforce is more likely to exert extra effort and have lower turnover rates, which can be linked to increased output, sales, and profitability."
8. Focus on problem solving
Businesses looking for marketing help are increasingly interested in solutions to their specific problems, not the fancy features and full 'suites' of services offered by marketing firms. In the future we expect to see clients continue to ask for -- and agencies continue to offer -- leaned-down, more bespoke work that gets to the heart of each client need.
9. Increasing reliance on subject-matter experts
As technology continues its lightning-speed race with itself, businesses will turn more and more to subject-matter experts to help them keep up. As part of this effort, we predict a greater number of in-house brown bags with SME (small-to-medium enterprise) speakers, as well as other continuing-education efforts in the workplace. Why? Keeping existing talent up-to-date as technologies grow, evolve, and appear makes much more sense financially than continually adding to a workforce or 'swapping out' existing staff for people savvier only in particular areas.
10. Blockchain goes mainstream
Perhaps the biggest of the trends we foresee in coming years is greatly increased reliance on blockchain, across industries and countries. What is blockchain? Put in layman's terms, it "enables an economy where trust is established not by central intermediaries but through consensus and complex computer code," according to the Economist. Essentially, it's a secure method of recording transactions.
Currently, pharmaceuticals and fashion are among the industries using blockchain, but we predict that more and more fields will jump on the wagon in the near future. Why? Apart from the increased security of its transactions over traditional-bank transactions, blockchain has increased transparency and lower overhead costs.
Wherever these trends take you and your business in the next few years, you're going to need office space -- the flexible, high-quality, amenities-filled kind. Metro Offices, the Washington, D.C. area's leader in temporary, shared and virtual office space for more than 25 years, has you covered no matter what your needs. Browse our locations today.