Thriving in a changing world of work: exploring the drivers of the people profession in 2030

As organisations and people professionals navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are reflecting on how the current situation will have a long-term impact on how and where we work. One thing is for certain – COVID-19 has been a huge disruptor in all spheres of life, and this will have far-reaching societal, economic and workplace impacts.

While COVID-19 has been a huge disruptor, it isn’t the only driver of change in the world of work. It was just months ago that Brexit dominated headlines in the UK, and businesses were gearing up to deal with the implications that Brexit had for the economy, recruitment and talent pipelines. This will undoubtedly still impact our workplaces as Brexit discussions continue.  And there are many other forces of change; from technological change to education provision.

To make the biggest impact in the next decade, people professionals need to understand what the future could look like, and equip themselves to shape this future and thrive. At the CIPD, we’re taking a collaborative, evidence-based approach to explore potential futures and what this means for our profession.

What do we know already?

Our 2015 research From best to good practice: developing the principles identified eight key drivers of change that influenced the world of work and considered how prominent they would be in the future (see page 30 of the report for more on all of these themes);

  1. Utilisation of technology
  2. Workforce diversity
  3. Globalisation
  4. Diversity of employment relationship
  5. Industrial change
  6. Individualism
  7. Social responsibility
  8. Quality of education

Five years on, these trends still influence our workplaces, impacting areas including talent management, business models and employment relations. Our recent People Profession 2020 Survey highlights that economic change is also a key concern for both in-house and independent professionals, along with digital transformation, industrial change and social responsibility.

It’s important we understand the challenges and opportunities created by changes in these areas and how they’ll influence the people profession’s future roles, capabilities and priorities.

What’s driving change now?

All of these trends have the potential to influence the people profession – one topical example is social responsibility. Social responsibility – or to put it in other terms, responsible business – could be a key driver of change in the years to come, as COVID-19 has shone a light on responsible business practice. This especially true when it comes to employee support and health and safety. But what does an increasing focus on social responsibility mean for the world of work, and the people profession?

We could see increased consumer and business interest in sustainability, environmental impact and employee wellbeing. This has the potential to disrupt some business models and job roles in industries where practices are unsustainable. In turn, organisations may need to turn the dial up into corporate social responsibility and reputation management.

However, this also creates challenges. There could be job losses in industries that don’t adapt these practices. Upskilling and training may be needed for those whose jobs are displaced. There’s also a risk that organisations pay lip service to sustainability.

These potential future scenarios pose questions for our profession. What capabilities will we need to create the most value for businesses and employees in a world when social responsibility is a driver of how things are done? How will this change current practice?

On the flip side, if social responsibility falls off the radar in tough economic circumstances following COVID-19, what role will people professionals play in challenging poor working practices, and what capabilities will they be expected to bring to an organisation?

Where to next?

We can’t predict what will happen in the next decade and beyond, but we can look forward and understand the trends and drivers of change that will impact our profession.

Research insight on future workplace trends helps to develop our professional principles. In a changing world of work, principles are imperative to guide in a situation where there’s no precedent and best practice. In 2020, we’ll continue this research journey to engage with our community of people professionals on the key drivers of change in the world of work, and importantly, how this will shape the people profession the next decade.

The CIPD are inviting people professionals to take part in an online hackathon, from 10-20 August 2020, to try and uncover, explore and co-create a vision for the People Profession 2030. Follow updates on the People Profession: now and for the future site and the CIPD’s social media channels for further details. Read the articles and blogs on our Latest insights page and prepare to share your insights and reflections on the future for the people profession.

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