Five Ways Workplaces Will Change For The Better In 2019


We’re probably all feeling the tension between the changes affecting our work lives right now and the ones still on the horizon but likely coming soon. We’re already seeing some of these trends gain steam, while others are just materializing and have yet to fully form.

Without further ado, I’ll throw my hat into the ring and offer up my thoughts on how things might play out in 2019.

1. Persistent low unemployment forces companies to adjust their hiring practices and retention strategies.

Tech giants Apple and Google have already announced they no longer require job candidates to have college degrees. Others are fast-tracking the hiring process with automation and skipping in-person interviews, while opening their doors to non-traditional applicants. Nonprofits like Path Forward are partnering with more companies to help people who’ve been out of the workforce connect with employers who need them.

Meanwhile, I think the battle of the fancy perks has peaked, and we’ll see companies moving to investments that help employees grow their skill sets, develop as professionals, and have a better work experience. People who actively want to learn and grow are being recognized as the most prized talent, and companies see an opportunity to attract and retain them by offering impactful learning and development programs along with purpose-driven work.

In Udemy’s “2018 Skills Gap Report,” 51% of survey respondents actually said they’d leave a job for better learning opportunities, and in our “2018 Millennials At Work Report,” 42% said L&D is the most important benefit (after salary) when deciding where to work. The future belongs to the motivated, and we’ll see more companies doing their part to build a culture where adaptable learners can thrive.

2. Companies will adapt to employee demands, not vice versa.

One of the big takeaways from our “Millennials At Work Report” was that millennials really aren’t any more entitled or demanding than older generations. What they have is strength in numbers, however, and they’re using their power to effect workplace changes that employees of all ages can appreciate.

So, companies are loosening their policies around remote work and flexible schedules, both of which millennials strongly favor. Younger workers are also insisting on better work-life balance and expect their employers to offer health and wellness benefits. They want employers to establish norms around digital communications, too, and set boundaries for our always-connected culture.

And, as mentioned above, millennials expect employers to partner with them on learning and development. They know job skills are changing fast, and they’re more than willing to put in the hard work to stay current. They also want effective managers who take an interest in their career goals.

3. Inclusiveness moves to the front of the diversity conversation.

The #MeToo movement brought much-needed attention to a specific workplace dynamic that undermines women. We also read a lot in 2018 about the persistent wage gap as well as the stress gap and the leadership gap.

2018 was the year companies started taking a long, hard look at diversity or the lack thereof. Abundant research has shown that diverse teams perform better, are more innovative, and make better decisions. Not to mention, people want to work at diverse companies, so it’s a hiring and retention strategy too. For that to work, however, diversity has to be paired with inclusiveness, which I expect will be a big focus in 2019.

I also think we’ll be hearing more about ageism, as we continue to discuss ways to bring more women, people of color, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented groups into leadership. As the population ages and workers delay retirement, companies will realize older employees have plenty of relevant skills and knowledge and, yes, they can be lifelong learners who are continuing to grow professionally too.

4. More of life moves online, including learning.

I just found out my colleague has changed up her routine since joining Udemy. Instead of  watching TV after putting the kids to sleep, she and her husband take online courses together.

She’s far from alone in shifting her attention away from TV to internet-connected devices. On a related note, mobile has surpassed desktop as the place most of us interact with content. Screen time is up across demographics, and that’s not necessarily good news. We’ve all read the risks to developing brains and cognitive skills, not to mention social skills.

Among adults, at least, I predict we’ll be more mindful of our screen time starting in 2019, especially with the introduction of new apps to tell us (or shame us) exactly how many hours we’ve been staring at our phones. Like my coworker, I think we’ll find ways to make screen time more productive and less passive.

5. The robot debate rages on and on.

Will robots steal jobs, change jobs, create jobs, or some combo? Ask 10 people, and you may get 10 different opinions. While you might be able to shop and dine without human intervention, there’s still a shortage of long-haul truckers and bus drivers, and self-driving vehicles have a way to go.

We can’t predict exactly how the continued adoption of automation and artificial intelligence will impact our economy, but I will go out on a limb and predict that the debate over it will persist in 2019. I won’t predict whether we’ll have a clear answer by the end of next year though.

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