Technological advances, demographic changes and economic and societal shifts are changing the ways people work and how they are managed. This article points to Baby Boomer retirement as a major source of an emerging talent deficit despite delays in retirement due to the ongoing “Great Recession.” The author explores the areas of talent shortages in the U.S. and Europe that are currently emerging despite record unemployment, particularly in the IT, healthcare and education fields. It points to the roughly 225,000 annual U.S. graduates in science, technology, engineering and math that is only half of the 400,000 that will be needed annually by 2015.

The article then focuses on the efforts made by cutting-edge companies to use scenario planning to visualize company labor needs in the future and create an environment that will attract and retain these types of workers. One Danish company, for instance, with a growing need for engineers designed an open workspace without walls or cubicles, with the entire building equipped with wireless phone and Internet access that allows their people to work anywhere, conduct impromptu brainstorming sessions and collaborate as they kick back on couches, laptops in hand.

Another approach discussed involves a scenario where networks of independent contractors are used, not only at lower levels but also in higher managerial levels on one- or two-year contracts. This allows companies to weather bad periods without demoralizing reductions in force and rehire when conditions improve. Internal HR would focus on “talent management” while unions or professional groups act like the guilds of old, providing members with benefits like insurance and retirement fund management.

The article touches on the potential role of online social networking groups like LinkedIn and Plaxo that currently give free agents a place to promote their services and predicts that these will evolve into Ebay-like sites where recruiters can view worker profiles and see references and ratings of their work while HR managers post projects that freelancers can bid on. The author also explores trends such as “co-working” sites where freelancers can interact with each other, paying monthly fees or daily drop-in rates to access desks, wireless Internet and “a more professional, collaborative alternative to working in coffee shops and libraries.” Online resources are listed that provide additional visions of work and future human resource management.

Source: Adrienne Fox, At Work in 2020, HR Magazine, January 2010

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