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The workplace is changing faster than ever. The 4th Industrial Revolution is driving technological and social change in the UK. Workers are worried about AI taking their jobs. At the same time, they are diversifying their income through the gig economy.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is also behind the growing cultural shifts towards greater transparency. People are realising that Big Data is their data. They demand to know how businesses and governments are using it.
Here are our six big workplace trends driven by the 4th Industrial Revolution that will change D&I forever.
All UK employers with more than 250 employees (50 employees in Scotland) must publish their gender pay gaps by April 2018. With only a tiny proportion of those due to report having done so in 2017, expect a deluge of reporting in the New Year.
Employers are already committing to transparency across the Protected Characteristics and other metrics, such as social mobility. This voluntary activity will probably continue, as employers strive to keep up with their competitors and peers. Employers should expect mandatory pay gap reporting to be extended to race and possibly disability in the near future. There will be widespread drives to increase disclosure rates in the workforce and the increasing availability of hard statistics will push diversity issues up the leadership’s priorities.
Generation Z, born in the mid-90s, will begin flooding into the workforce next summer. HR and marketers are still struggling to adapt to millennials, but the next generation is already leaving school and university.
Gen Z were born at the beginning of the 4th Industrial Revolution and will challenge employers more than any before. Recent changes to the UK’s educational curriculum and testing will create a two tier generation; those who have been coding since the age of six, and those who leave education with no coding skills at all.
As employers struggle to meet the needs of Gen Z, they will also be dealing with the ageing workforce. Because people are living longer in good health, they are working longer. Now one in four retirees are returning to work within five years of retirement.
How employers deal with so many distinct generations in the workplace will be key to preventing intergenerational conflict. Boomerang retirees, millennials and Gen Z will all have very different expectations of the workplace. They will also differ on what behaviour is acceptable. As well as cultural impacts, the generations will have very different needs in terms of workplace benefits. Employers will need to be agile in meeting the rapidly changing needs of their employees and customers.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is defined by biological technologies becoming mainstream. When combined with Artificial Intelligence, these technologies will have a dramatic impact on reducing the barriers for those with physical disabilities.
In the shorter term, the UK Government is pushing to increase the number of disabled people in work by 1 million by 2027. Expect to see changes to Statutory Sick Pay in order to support phased returns to work. These changes were recommendations in two of 2017’s major Government inquiries, the Taylor Review and the Stevenson/Farmer Review.
The visibility and acceptance of mental ill health will grow, as will government and employer initiatives to tackle it. Widespread social and technological change is likely to cause mental stress and ill health as the 4th Industrial Revolution continues. Employer wellbeing strategies must rapidly adapt to manage this impact on the workforce.
Workplace adjustment passports are a document that provides line managers with information about the employee’s condition, specialist equipment and agreed adjustments. They have been adopted across the UK Civil Service and in some large private sector organisations. The UK Government is also setting new expectations that equipment provided through the Access to Work scheme will be portable from employer to employer. Employers should expect some form of passports to be introduced on a national scale.
The UK’s productivity puzzle has been swept under the carpet for years. It will soon be dragged kicking and screaming to the top of the agenda. AI and automation are likely to cause massive job realignment in many low-productivity service sectors, especially in contact centres and distribution.
The 4th Industrial Revolution will dramatically change the way we work. Remote working at present is often limited by organisational technology and management distrust. enei’s 2014 research on agile working and personality types found that agile workers are more efficient, productive and effective than those working traditional patterns.
The trickle-down effect of disruptive innovators who deliver agile working for employees will drive other employers to remove inflexible working practices. If they don't, they will lose top talent to employers who allow work anywhere, at any time.
As the demand for specialists rises, there will be an increase in the number of highly skilled individuals freelancing, either fulltime or alongside their fulltime roles. Employers who are tempted to lock staff into restrictive contracts to prevent these extracurricular activities may find they lose employees to more lucrative self-employment opportunities.
Online platforms will continue to make casual work more accessible and acceptable. Expect to see more crackdowns on those who exploit self-employment statuses, as well as changes to employment definitions generally.
As the 4th Industrial Revolution brings AI and automation into the mainstream, leaders will be forced to adopt more human centric roles. Inclusive behaviours in the leadership population will be highly prized as retention of top talent of all backgrounds becomes harder. As more data is gathered on workforce diversity leaders will become more engaged in driving change, and external stakeholders will demand greater action on inclusion.
Employers who deliver inclusive leadership training to “accidental managers” will have a head start on their competitors in the search for talent. Expect more leaders to emulate leadership celebrities such as Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandberg as inclusive traits such as inspirational motivation and confidence building drive business success.
Global employers are struggling to implement D&I initiatives consistently across their operations. Workers are now connected across timezones and continents. However local customs and cultures often represent barriers to D&I.
Employers are realising that initiatives that apply the values of UK or USA based head offices simply don’t translate. On a global scale, one size doesn’t fit all.
Nonetheless, global D&I remains a key challenge. Global employer values will continue to be a key consideration of consumers. The impact of technology and consumer pressure will increase supply chain transparency. Employers will be forced to account for the actions of their suppliers. Larger organisations will demand corporate and cultural alignment with their values, and suppliers can expect to have D&I considerations forced upon them by key customers.