Our Weekly TOP 5: Trends In The World Of Work

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This week's digest of the must-read articles on the world of work includes the gig economy, flexible working and artificial intelligence.
February 28, 2020

#1. More action needed on the UK skills gap

The picture of the skills gap in the UK looks bleak, as summarised in this article. Two-thirds of employers in the UK have struggled to find skilled workers in the past year, and Brexit is likely to make talent scarcer. Meanwhile, funding for adult learning and apprenticeships has fallen, in real terms, since 2010 and just a quarter of UK workers have undergone upskilling or reskilling in the past two years. The article points to some measures that aim to fix the problem, such as the National Retraining Scheme, but there is clearly much to be done.

💡 Governments and businesses must work together to bridge the skills gap. It’s a win-win: companies will have the workforce they need, and governments will save money by reducing unemployment.

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#2. Employees fearful of flexible working

Flexible working options, such as compressed work weeks, remote working, and flexible hours are increasingly expected by employees, according to research. However, a report from Deloitte says that almost a third of workers are worried about taking advantage of flexible options because they fear it might damage their career prospects or opportunities for professional growth.

💡 Companies must be more proactive in promoting flexible work options so that employees are not afraid to use them. The result will be improved employee experience and wellbeing, higher productivity, and a greater ability to attract and retain talented people.

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#3. Reshaping benefits for gig workers

We know that the gig economy is booming and bringing with it changes in the way that work, companies and even society, is organised. One significant change for gig economy workers is the loss of benefits that they would typically expect as employees, such as family leave and sick pay. A new startup, Collective Benefits, is seeking to address this by offering a range of protection and benefits packages for gig economy workers that can cover them regardless of the platform that they work on. While this does address a failure in the current insurance market, it does still follow a model in which costs that would previously have been carried by the employer are passed to the employee. There is scope for more radical solutions with employer or government contributions and broader changes to the social contract.

💡 Gig work is coming, like it or not. Instead of trying to wish it away, as some seem to be doing, we must shape it so that it works for everyone.

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#4. AI needs a revolution in training

The effect of artificial intelligence (AI) on the workplace has been “underappreciated and underanalysed in public policy terms”, says Harvard Law School professor Daniel Tarullo in this Bloomberg interview. He warns that AI will not only affect low-wage workers but also professional jobs. He warns that the changes could lead to “permanent scars” and that the pace of change could further drive people away from the political centre towards more extreme positions, something that has already become apparent to an extent in the US. However, there is still time to prepare and it will take a revolution in education and training.

💡 There’s still time to prepare for AI! But it will take more investment in reskilling and smart strategies to maximise collaboration between humans and machines.

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#5. HR teams are growing but frustrated

And finally, HR teams are larger today but there is growing frustration over how much time they spend on admin. The typical HR department today has one HR practitioner for every 63 employees, compared with one per 118 employees in 2007. But XpertHR’s 2020 survey found that 62% of businesses say they lack sufficient meaningful data to assess HR performance and just 5% of time is spent on analytics. Perhaps offloading some of the admin tasks to automation will give HR professionals the opportunity to do more rewarding work.

💡 HR professionals are the superheroes of the future of work. But unless we free them up to do what they’re best at, they will not be able to rise to the challenge. Could AI be the solution that will put the human back into human resources?

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