Looking Ahead: How the Changing Workforce is Reshaping Business in 2017

What are shaping up to be the biggest business issues in 2017? We posed this question to Workday executives, customers, and partners, and also checked in on what leading industry analysts and researchers are predicting for the coming year. In part one of this blog series, we reported that legislative change, taking action on data and analytics, and resiliency planning is top of mind for CFOs and CIOs. In this post, we discuss why keeping up with a changing workforce is a big business imperative for anyone responsible for nurturing or managing the human side of the business.

Demographic and social forces are resulting in a younger and more diverse workforce. Meanwhile, technology is continuing to change the way people work.

“Bring Your Own Device has turned into Bring Your Own Collaboration.”—Diana McKenzie

“People expect the ability to work whenever and wherever they want,” says Diana McKenzie, Workday’s CIO and senior vice president. Because of this, employees are turning to the tools they use in their personal lives—Skype, for example—to solve collaboration challenges in the workplace.

As a result, McKenzie says, “Bring Your Own Device has turned into Bring Your Own Collaboration. Much like the BYOD challenge CIOs faced several years ago, today’s CIOs must determine the right strategy to help their business maximize the opportunities these new technologies can afford, while limiting the potential downsides associated with fostering a BYOC approach.”

One of the biggest demographic shifts is the “silver tsunami,” where 10,000 Baby Boomers are expected to retire every day—and in their place, a younger generation will be joining the workplace in unprecedented numbers.

“HR will play the significant and challenging role of engaging and enabling five workforce generations through tailored learning and development.”—Greg Pryor

“Employers will struggle to adjust to the current shift in demographics, with millennials set to take over 50 percent of the workforce by 2020,” says Greg Pryor, vice president of leadership and organizational effectiveness at Workday. “Baby Boomer and Gen X employees will wonder if they are positioned to win or lose in this new world where HR, workplace culture, and corporate structure are seemingly transformed to cater to the next generation. ”

Pryor predicts that with millennials expecting to rise rapidly through an organization, tensions could arise as they are promoted into managerial roles before they’re ready. “HR will play the significant and challenging role of engaging and enabling five workforce generations through tailored learning and development,” he says.

Workplace learning can help ease misunderstandings between different generations by helping everyone understand the shared culture and values of a company. And, it can create a common vocabulary between first-time managers and employees of all ages.

Josh Bersin, principal of Bersin by Deloitte, says that the ongoing demographic shift, along with millennials’ reluctance to simply mimic the leadership styles of their older peers, will force companies to rethink how they develop talent.

“In 2017, I do not believe this large and complex [leadership] market will be reinvented—but I do believe we will see a large push for new leadership models, new development strategies, and a much more significant focus on building leadership skills among younger employees,” Bersin writes in Predictions for 2017.

The changing workforce and business environment is also impacting higher education. Institutional leaders are grappling with how to make sure that the newest generation of workers have the skills that companies want—bridging the gap from education to occupation. “This shift is impacting higher education learning models and how institutions equip graduates with the skills they need—beyond the traditional classroom— to succeed in the workplace,” says Liz Dietz, vice president of student strategy and product management at Workday.

Dietz says that in 2017, we’ll continue to see colleges and universities adapt to new learning models, such as competency-based education, and adopt modern administrative systems that not only support competencies, credentials, and extended transcripts, but provide more comprehensive data and insights around student progress and success.

As a 2016 Nobel Laureate once said, “The time’s they are a-changin’.” So, stay tuned as we continue to chronicle the most important business trends in the year ahead.