As we start to close out 2018, it’s a good time to look back on what we’ve learned about the modern workforce to make predictions about what will happen in 2019. Understanding the changes that are likely to affect the nature of work, the workplace, and hiring decisions will make you more savvy about the kind of jobs your pursue and the skills you’ll want to hone to obtain them.
1: Employers Will Face Talent Shortages, Giving Top Talent the Upper Hand
Businesses continue to struggle with finding and retaining top talent. Part of the reason is that HR departments tend to be slow to update their compensation and rewards packages. Or they adhere to outdated models that don’t give candidates the flexibility modern recruits are looking for. Large, inflexible companies are losing top talent to smaller, more nimble startups that can offer more money and more freedom. Of course, this also often comes with longer hours.
What this means for job seekers is that if you’re a top candidate in your field, you need to be playing hardball with potential employers. Be creative when it comes to your compensation packages, and don’t get caught up on dollar signs alone. Vacation time, travel allowances, stock options, and individualized career path options are all tools you have in your negotiation toolbelt.
It also means you have an opportunity to consider what’s most valuable to you. Longer hours for more pay and responsibility, or more traditional scheduling with more vacation time and stricter roles? As companies fight for the best talent, you have an opportunity to design roles that are congruent with your career goals. Take advantage of that before accepting an offer.
2: Job Transience Will Have Companies Scrambling to Retain Top Talent
For the past decade or so, we’ve seen a shift in the psychology of employment. Employees used to be more or less loyal to their companies—it was not uncommon for people to spend decades at the same company. This isn’t as true anymore. The modern approach to work is less company-centered and much more focused on individual careers. People stay at their jobs for as little as 2-3 years these days before leaving to pursue raises and promotions.
The upshot for job seekers is that companies are desperate to build institutional knowledge—and keep it. It hurts business when good workers leave, taking their knowledge and relationships with them. For job seekers, expressing a desire to develop one’s career within the company is key. Demonstrate an interest in building strong teams and undertaking cross-functional training. Even as an individual contributor, expressing interest in both learning and knowledge sharing with others to preserve knowledge across teams in the event of turnover can be a huge bonus to hiring managers, thus a huge bonus to you.
3: Companies will hire for culture and soft skills
Disruption is only becoming more common. Technological advances are accelerating and the global market is highly competitive. For businesses, this means that nobody can predict what hard skills will be necessary tomorrow. All they know for sure is the ability to learn fast, adapt, and make predictions is key to success.
For that, savvy businesses are hiring more for culture and soft skills than hard skills. This isn’t true in every field (healthcare and engineering come to mind). But for most jobs, smart hires are team players, good communicators, coachable, and think abstractly.
For job seekers, this means finding a company or team that fits your personality or career aspirations is key. Managers can and will train employees for hard skills, but soft skills are more difficult to develop. Emphasize your soft skills in interviews and develop real-world stories of instances where your soft skills advanced a company initiative or served the bottom line.
4: AI, machine learning, and automation will fundamentally change the landscape of work
As disruptive technologies like blockchain, machine learning, and AI are increasingly incorporated into the workplace, certain jobs that rely on repetitive, logical actions will slowly be replaced. Jobs that can be performed more efficiently and effectively by machines will be increasingly difficult for human workers to find.
This transition is already at play, but will certainly not be complete by the end of 2019, so there is no immediate fear of job loss for most American workers. Moreover, even in industries where automation is currently displacing human workers, there is still a need for people—someone must train the machines, monitor their performance, make adjustments, and design new workflows.
So even as AI changes the nature of human work, it will not replace the need for human workers. It merely means that human jobs will become even more human-focused. Skills like creativity, empathy, leadership, and complex decision-making will become increasingly valuable. This is especially interesting in an age where STEM-based skills have for so long been the rage.
This is also really good news for liberal arts majors! As soft skills like those mentioned above remain the domain of humans, these skills will become more important as people are relieved of more tedious, logic-based tasks. Workers skilled in abstract thinking, empathy, and leadership will find their careers on more solid ground.