Tight labor markets will remain in 2023
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Mark Ralls from ActivTrak predicts that in 2023, tight labor markets will remain, focus and collaboration will emerge, and VR will be dead on arrival. He also explains why AR will accelerate learning, that AI will augment every function of work, and change human roles.
Nearly 2M fewer professionals immigrated to the US as a result of the pandemic. Combined with overall demographic shifts, that means today’s tight labor markets aren’t going away. Companies must arm employees with the tools and processes to be as effective as possible while empowering them to be self-aware and set limits and goals that ensure well-being.
Sustainable productivity will become the shared goal.
This is the Goldilocks compromise between employee work-life harmonization and employers’ need for high output to achieve business outcomes. One measure of success will be defined by women returning to the workforce after dropping out during the pandemic, bringing their considerable talents and leadership skills to companies that foster flexible work environments.
Focus and collaboration will emerge as key productivity metrics.
New metrics for success will help companies survive and thrive in the new year. Focus time and collaboration time will emerge as the new foundational measures of productive work for knowledge workers replacing total hours worked, pure outcomes measures and "presence" in offices and will be the primary metrics contributing to outcomes-based performance goals.
The 9 to 5, Monday-Friday work week will be the exception, not the norm.
Employee preferences will drive labor market trends resulting in increased flexibility well beyond work location, and organizations will adopt more creative and innovative ways to employ employees on a part-and full-time basis — compensating for just-in-time skill sets when needed, and moving away from them when they’re not. People who want to work less, will, and vice versa. Employers will get less hung up on trying to get everyone to work the same amount at the same time, and start adapting to preferences as a trade-off for getting the skills they need.
Workforce analytics will become as ubiquitous as LinkedIn.
In 2003, early adopters of LinkedIn worried employers would see their resumes online and it would negatively impact their current job or position. Today, Linkedin is ubiquitous, transparent, and trusted by individuals and employers alike. Workforce analytics will become just as ubiquitous as companies seek to understand how work is done and better support employees by streamlining processes, ensuring new tools are truly helpful, and more. Until then, companies that adopt workforce analytics will have an unfair advantage, while those that choose to wait for LinkedIn ubiquity will lag and fall behind.
Regulations will hold employers more accountable.
Regulations such as CCPA will establish a common ground for trust and transparency and help create a balance between employees and employers. Heavy-handed approaches to employee monitoring and lack of consideration for employee privacy will backfire, with punitive fines for companies that do not comply. The ultimate benefit of such legislation is the emphasis on privacy and accountability, which will bring both parties to the table to recognize workforce data has value, but also risks.
Workforce data privacy will mirror healthcare data privacy.
Being transparent about what data is captured and how it is secured and revealed, is similar to HIPAA data, which is confidential to a patient, but shared in detail with doctors and healthcare providers as needed to treat an individual. Just as patterns of treatment and trends are necessary for a hospital or facility to provision resources and capacity, in the workforce, employee data should only be revealed at aggregate levels to respect employee privacy, and understand and make decisions based on broader trends.
Technology that elevates the human experience will be high in demand.
A new crop of companies will create AI tools that complement and extend the abilities of human workers. Also, any and all technology that supports wellness and mental health will be in high demand as voluntary or mandated remote work resulting in isolation, and the stress it puts on workers’ everyday lives, increases.
AI will augment every function of work.
Employees from marketing to sales to support to finance will have AI tools to complete daily tasks while the human role will be to build on, enhance, polish, or focus AI output. Routine minutiae will be stripped out of the workday, allowing people to spend more time applying judgment and insight to their projects. In that sense, AI will stand for Augmented Intelligence, which automates tasks with assumptions made through pattern analysis, but is ultimately vetted by human intuition and guidance.
VR is dead on arrival, but AR will accelerate learning and skilling.
There’s been much hype around virtual reality and the metaverse as Meta/Facebook invests billions to create virtual environments for an increasingly remote and distributed working world. But VR goggles will always be an insurmountable obstacle to widespread adoption. Augmented reality is more likely with the rise of improvements in AR glasses, which provide heads-up informational displays to guide and provide information, navigation, and translation, and to increasingly help those with disabilities. Using such technologies to accelerate learning and skill acquisition will also contribute to the future of work.
Mark Ralls has 20+ years of operating experience with expertise in leveraging data and analytics to drive business decisions, and a proven ability to build high-performing and scalable organizations. Prior to ActivTrak, he was president and chief operating officer at Invicti Security, an Austin-based cybersecurity firm. He has also held a variety of leadership roles in business strategy and operations at SolarWinds, Social Solutions, and Vista Consulting Group.
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