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Cornerstone OnDemand recently hosted a lively panel discussion on “Predicting the Future of Work” with three of the brightest minds in the business. End of year is a natural time to think about the future, of course, and we look forward to reading some interesting prognostication on 2013 in the next couple of weeks (for starters, try this piece by IDC’s Lisa Rowan).

The Cornerstone webinar featured Josh Bersin (Bersin & Associates), Yvette Cameron (Constellation Research) and Elaine Orler (Talent Function). Moderated by our very own sage soothsayer Jason Corsello, the panel tackled a range of questions centered on the theme of what to expect in the world of work as we move into 2013.  This included conversations around:

  • The current state of learning and training in organizations;
  • The state of recruiting and the perceived “skills gap” in hiring decision-making; and
  • The role of technology in the workplace and how we work.

Is the Future Already Here? Broad Themes for 2013

The panelists started off with some broad thoughts about the future of work and trends that are impacting HR practitioners today and into the new year. 

Josh Bersin noted that, increasing specialization of jobs (due largely to globalization and advances in technology) means we are seeing flatter/cross-functional teams and that the individual employee’s value today is driven more by skills than the definition of the job role. Josh also noted the increasing impact of diversity in the workplace – not just ethnic, but also generational and age diversity alongside different employee backgrounds and experiences. And it’s more than just a casual observation: Bersin & Associates research shows that diverse teams actually work better.

Yvette Cameron focused her 2013 themes on a single word: MORE. She believes that the future of work is already here and that in 2013 we should expect more, more, more of what’s already going on (especially around the impacts of technology in the workplace and Big Data). On the data point, Yvette went further to remind us that we are doubling the amount of data out there every two years. The ability of organizations to use this data for meaningful impact is both a challenge and an opportunity for decision-makers in the coming year.

Elaine Orler is an expert on recruiting, and she focused her 2013 themes on the challenges facing businesses in terms of not only attracting and hiring Millennials, but also in re-recruiting Baby Boomers. Elaine also noted the change in so-called resume currency: “The concept of a paper resume is gone. The concept of an online profile / upload your resume is moving away.” In its place, we should expect performance-based and assessment-driven applicant profiles.

Learning & Development: You Can’t Hire Your Way Out of This One

Josh started off the discussion of employee development by reminding us that training actually works.  Simply put, the sophistication of an organization’s training initiatives is seen by Bersin & Associates as a huge differentiator between high-performing and low-performing companies. Further, organizations that do systematic development planning generate twice the revenue per employee, due principally to the continuous skills development focus that accompanies development planning.

Josh also noted that, according to recent Bersin research, the entire corporate learning and development market grew by 12% in 2012 (despite the recession). This is due to the fact that “companies have basically realized that they cannot hire themselves out of these problems, they have to train their people out of these skills gaps.”

The Shifting Nature of Employee Learning

The conversation perked up when the panel got into less formal streams of learning and development. That’s not surprising, considering that there does seem to be a lot more uncertainty about how informal, social and video-based learning should play out in the workplace.

Yvette discussed the fact that learning can (and should) play out in all forms and modalities – not just from the typical “training department” and the CLO. Mentors count in this respect, and so do peers. All manner of informal learning that can happen here, there and everywhere.

Video-based learning through ubiquitous, consumer-side technologies like YouTube came up. Josh argued that, while YouTube can certainly be a good training tool, he fears that trainers too often don’t know how to properly use it, and training departments too often have limited resources, technical architecture and internal support.

Filling Talent Gaps

Jason Corsello shifted the conversation to the recruiting problem – that is, why do we always hear that there are too many applicants for too many jobs, but we still struggle to find the right skills.  Elaine tackled this one and suggested that five years ago, a company might have 100 positions to fill, and they had the luxury to be creative in filling the positions.  Today, that same company might have only five jobs to fill, and there’s severely limited creativity in how to fill them.

She went further to argue that recruiting today is often about filling specific talent gaps. Companies are no longer looking for more general sets of attributes: for example, the team player that has long-term growth ability and who can be taught a specific craft or skill.

This discussion dovetails nicely into the results of the recent Cornerstone OnDemand survey, which highlighted, among other things, the lack of investment by employers in the area of filling skill gaps internally through better employee development, alignment and engagement. Learn more here.

How Does Technology Fit Into This Picture (and What Is SnapChat)?

Yvette kicked off a conversation of how technology will play a role in the workplace of 2013 by noting that we’ve already moved from systems of transaction to “systems of engagement” – accessible technology that fosters collaboration, just-in-time learning and daily engagement with work. These types of systems are essential in an age with the line between work and life has been considerably blurred.

When it comes to figuring out what interesting technology is around the corner, don’t even get our panel started about SnapChat. Elaine discussed the emergence of new tools for social collaboration: “The concept that video takes over the voice conversation, the concept that a picture says a thousand words…I think these are the kinds of tools that teens today and the next generation is going to look to have in the workforce.”

The panel got going on a few other related topics as well, all revolving around the core theme of what we can expect to see in the world of work in 2013.  For the full replay of the event, please click here.

And many thanks to Josh, Yvette, Elaine and Jason.