The latest workplace trends point to a radically different marketplace in the next five to 10 years.
For instance, here’s a headline you probably wouldn’t have expected to see a decade ago: “B2B eCommerce Market Worth $6.7 Trillion by 2020: Alibaba & China the Front-Runners.”
China is poised to dominate the business-to-business (B2B) market, and Alibaba—its predominate eCommerce site—is already bigger than Amazon.
That’s just one marketplace shift among many that will change the workforce itself and how we engage employees in the coming years. In “What Are The Biggest 21st Century Workplace Challenges?” Barbara Mitchell, co-author of The Essential HR Handbook, writes:
“The workplace has changed significantly in this new century, and the pace of change isn’t slowing down. We have moved into a global economy in which events and actions in formerly remote parts of the world have a real impact on U.S. business. We’ve moved into the knowledge economy, too: The service industry has replaced manufacturing as the core U.S. enterprise.”
A Cisco whitepaper, “Transitioning to Workforce 2020,” advises understanding trends that will “radically transform working life” in the near future. Organizations that don’t adapt risk extinction, it says. Here are some of the primary 2020 workplace trends the report identifies.
A Global Village
The first is globalization:
“The sensory-expanding, media-saturated ‘global village’ that futurist Marshall McLuhan first envisaged in the early 1960s has arrived in the form of the Internet and the web.”
These technologies have enabled many—primarily first-world—companies to build distributed workforces united by digital communication. These companies:
“ … not only cross but also transcend traditional socioeconomic and political boundaries.”
And while globalization originated in North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea, the paper says firms in China, India, and other developing regions are beginning to expand their operations and recruiting efforts to other regions.
As a result of globalization and distributed workforces, company hierarchies are evolving to flatter, more democratic workplaces with looser, more collaborative management styles, the paper observes.
“Instead of trying to minimize conflict, forward-looking organizations are beginning to encourage a sort of creative friction that is better able to solve problems and deal with risk. These transformations will cause upheavals in the ways that organizations have been accustomed to staff, plan, lead, and invest.”
English continues to dominate as the language of business. Only Chinese is spoken by more people worldwide, but Cisco’s paper notes that some 350 million Chinese citizens also speak English. Author Robert McCrum, author of Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language, uses the term “Globish” to describe the English language as enriched by new words and phrases originating in countries with other first languages.
Follow the Money
Money—where it comes from and where it goes—is also changing. With globalization, more of the world‘s financial activity is concentrating in the developing world. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, “Global capital markets: Entering a new era”:
“MGI research suggests that global capital markets are entering a new era in which the forces fueling growth have changed. For the past 30 years, most of the overall increase in financial depth—the ratio of assets to gross domestic product (GDP)—was propelled by the rapid growth of equities and private debt in mature markets. Looking ahead, these asset classes in mature markets are likely to grow more slowly, more in line with GDP, while government debt will rise sharply. An increasing share of global asset growth will occur in emerging markets, where GDP is rising faster and all asset classes have abundant room to expand.”
The Aging Workforce in Developed Countries
The workforce is evolving too. In overall terms, Cisco’s report says, North American and many European workforces are aging and shrinking along with their general populations and the parameters of what we consider “working age” are expanding. In most of Asia—except Japan and South Korea—the Middle East, and South America, the workforces are growing and getting younger.
The Rise of Women
In another workplace trend, more women hold college degrees and have reached influential positions in a variety of organizations. This is changing the dynamic in formerly male-dominated workplaces. In the developed world, there hasn’t been a significant change in the number of women at the highest levels of management, but women are beginning to achieve top management positions in developing economies.
Technology That Connects us
Online and mobile technologies that barely existed a decade ago, including wikis, blogs, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Dig, are now mainstream, and enable worldwide, instant communication.
As the Cisco report says:
“If Facebook were a country, it would have the third largest population in the world.”
Businesses are increasingly using video conferencing to replace travel, and mobile phones are revolutionizing business communications. They’re also transformative in other arenas.
“ … from Iran, where election protests were orchestrated by phone, to South Asia, where help lines provide agricultural advice to farmers in remote villages.”
Businesspeople in developed nations often use smart phones and tablets to replace computers, which will also likely happen in developing regions as their wireless networks grow and prices drop.
These workplace trends are expected to create what Cisco’s report calls Workforce 2020:
“ … a globalized, virtualized cohort of workers whose native environment will be the Internet and whose identity will be shaped by the generational, technical, economic, and social market transitions that are now taking place nearly everywhere.”
It’s a New World
Clearly, these workplace trends are driving radical change in marketplace structure and the way businesses operate. So how do we engage workforce 2020 in workplace 2020? That’s exactly what we will examine next. Stay tuned!
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