The Future of Work, Part 2: How Will the Supply Side Respond?

By: Meha Patel, Class of 2019

Broadly speaking, there are three key players to consider within the context of an evolving workplace – employees, employers, and governmental institutions.  Last week, I discussed the future of work from the perspective of employees as automation, the rise of the gig economy, and changing demographics have compelled employees to adapt to a new workplace norm. However, these changes also affect employers and governments with equally meaningful implications.

Of the many changes impacting the future of work, the gig economy poses some of the most pressing considerations around how employers hire and support employees. Workers active in the gig economy naturally change employers and positions more quickly, thus requiring recruiting managers to dramatically improve how quickly and effectively they can connect with prospective employees. Digital platforms have made the job-matching process much easier with powerful algorithms and enhanced search functions. Most importantly, individuals can be more transparent with potential employers through these platform by clearly indicating preferences such as commute time, hours worked in the office, and hours worked per week. On a more macro level, online talent marketplaces can lower unemployment by reducing the time individuals spend looking for a new job. Worldwide, millions of individuals are unable to find work even though there are many available positions, and employers will likely need to transition many of their hiring practices online in order to quickly find these employees and match them with the right opportunities.

Along with changing hiring practices, the gig economy also requires employers to change how they will support these new types of employees. Especially when it comes to benefits, neither employers nor governmental institutions have yet figured out how to help individuals transition from gig to gig. Therefore, from an entrepreneurial and investment perspective, services that develop around the gig economy are extremely interesting. For example, just a few days ago, I met a team of Booth students that is working on a benefits platform specifically designed so that the independent worker has access to a portable and stable set of benefits. Their admirable goal is to provide individuals with the freedom and independence to truly embrace the gig economy without having to sacrifice on the benefits and security that come from a traditional employment opportunity.

Lastly, moving beyond the gig economy, employers are also seeing significant changes affecting the actual organization of the workplace. Over the past few years, the idea of the workplace as a hierarchy has evolved such that now, the most effective employers have adopted a more fluid view of the workplace as an ecosystem built around functional teams. In the process of making this change, employers also have an opportunity to redesign the employee experience and career progression tracks. With individuals changing jobs more and more frequently, successful companies should think about investing in mobility programs and continuous learning opportunities. Lastly, as discussed last week, automation requires individuals to focus on their distinctively human capabilities, and the most successful employers will create workplaces that leverage these unique traits through well-structured job functions and dynamic career opportunities.