Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic.
But many of the associated workforce challenges organizations have been grappling with over the past few years — skills and labor shortages, business continuity challenges, climate change, and more — have been looming on the horizon for decades. 1Smart organizations have learned that they must pay close attention to emerging trends so they can be as agile as possible to maintain business continuity during times of uncertainty or dramatic shifts in workforce indicators.
#1 – The Growing Influence of Gray-Collar Workers
Workforce conversations have traditionally centered around either white- or blue-collar workers, overlooking many crucial, and growing, subsets of the workforce. Gray-collar workers exhibit a unique combination of physical and technical skills, such as healthcare, field engineers, and warehouse automation, making their skills difficult to fully automate with high-projected job growth.
65% of the top 20 fastest-growing roles are gray-collar opportunities
Gray-collar employers are among those struggling most to attract and retain their people due to pandemic-related burnout, demand for remote and hybrid options, and an aging workforce — in addition to the general labor and talent shortage. Organizations will need to focus on understanding and investing in this specific segment to remain competitive. We have some suggestions.1
#2 – The New Ethics of Leadership
We’ve entered a new era of social activism. Employees and customers alike expect organizations to embrace hot-button issues such as social justice, ethical AI, employee wellbeing, and climate change. Employees’ standards are high, especially amid a historic talent shortage.
The use of employee surveillance technology grew 100% from 2020-2021
Being an “employer of choice” has never been more challenging. Valuing the relationships and voices of employees, trusting them in the new virtual and remote world of work, putting people before profits, and overcommunicating through challenging times are several pillars where leaders must commit.2
#3 – The Rapidly Changing Compliance Landscape
The speed with which new workforce legislation rolls out has been steadily increasing since 2008 — a trend that was further amplified during the pandemic. With increased OSHA activity, vaccine mandates, and heightened lawsuits, the compliance landscape looks like it will only continue to become more volatile.
To stay agile, HR and business leaders will need to completely rethink their approach to compliance. What’s more, we anticipate businesses will eventually be required to report on their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, so we suggest leaders gain visibility into their figures as soon as possible. These are currently voluntary, but don’t be surprised if you see them becoming mandatory, standardized, and audited within the next decade.3
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1 Fastest Growing Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm.
2 Tatum Hunter, Here Are All the Ways Your Boss Can Legally Monitor You, The Washington Post, September 24, 2021, found at
3 Penalties, Fines & Audits for Employer Compliance in 2021, New City Insurance, July 22, 2021, found at https://newcityinsurance.com/employer-compliance-penalties-fines-audits.