Technological advances and changing workplace needs are shaping the future of work. Changes are anticipated across numerous industries, creating new workplace structures, new competencies for organizational success, and new learning and skill development demands for workers. The drivers of change below connect shifts in the world of work to opportunities and challenges for associations.
Updated in 2018
Machine learning, innovative robotics, data analytics, and affective computing mean that growing swaths of work are potentially automatable. The impacts of automation on work and workers will vary substantially by industry, occupation, and even workplace—but they could transform most kinds of work and affect workers at every level, including senior management. Associations’ members and their own workforces will increasingly be affected by automation.
Added in 2021
The global scientific enterprise is changing. New regions are developing research centers and funding science on the scale of traditional science hubs in the West, while in the West, citizen science and DIY research are supplementing and challenging traditional scientific institutions. At the same time, falling trust and rising sociopolitical polarization are impacting science, while automation brings new changes and challenges.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Updated in 2021
American society and workplaces will continue to grow more diverse, equitable, and inclusive as values evolve and younger generations increase their share in the demographic mix. This will occur against a backdrop of social and political polarization—with the workplace as a primary arena in which contending views collide and issues are worked out. To meet these challenges, inclusion and equity efforts should be treated as a systemic priority, supported by a new generation of tools and processes.
More Human Humans
Updated in 2020
In the face of expanding automation, the relative value of certain human qualities, including social skills and creativity, will increase markedly. Humans will remain relevant less by knowing and more by thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating at the highest level.
New Forms of Work
Updated in 2020
Freelance, gig, contract, and temporary work and the infrastructure to support them (e.g., online platforms and reputation systems) are growing. Many employers view these non-permanent workers as relatively disposable, and offer them lower levels of benefits and pay. However, firms are becoming increasingly reliant on flexible workers, and growing numbers of independent professionals are joining the flexible workforce. Associations will have new opportunities to serve these workers and advocate for their interests.
Reputation by the Numbers
Updated in 2018
Vast amounts of data will support reputation systems, and reputation will increasingly eclipse credentials for landing a job. As worker reputation systems and human resources analytics grow, assessment of an individual’s suitability for a job will be driven by a person’s algorithmic match to needs.
Re-Working Career Pathways
Added in 2018
The idea that the course of people’s professional lives is settled in their twenties is long-outmoded, but employers and life structures have been slow to adapt to this fact. However, organizations are increasingly assisting workers with midlife transitions, such as going back to school, enhancing skills for new career directions, or allowing for reduced hours so that employees can pursue other interests. Such steps create a need to rethink work, education, and social safety nets to accommodate new approaches.
Toward a Spectrum of Abilities
Added in 2019
Changing attitudes and technological interventions are shifting the nature of disability and blurring its boundaries. Gaining ground is the concept that disability and ability are not a binary but instead a spectrum, with every individual’s physical, behavioral, and cognitive traits falling on multiple points along that spectrum. These changes will increase the number of workers who would once have been characterized as “disabled,” while also broadening that category. Organizations will need to navigate a complex and evolving terrain of expectations and rules.
A World Reshaped by COVID
Added in 2021
As the worst pandemic in more than a century ebbs through the early 2020s, some of its effects will prove ephemeral, as deeply rooted habits and institutions return to their previous states, while other trends that have been kicked into higher gear will accelerate. Associations will face an evolving, patchwork environment of regressing and accelerating trends.