These 7 Trends Will Shape Your Professional Future

February 20, 2016, 4:02 PM UTC
Arthrex - Best Workplaces Manufacturing
Courtesy of Arthrex

We have identified seven megatrends that will certainly have an impact on the types of jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, and skills needed for workers in the future. This big-picture review is meant to help you see how they might affect you, and what you will need to do to prepare for the workplace of tomorrow.


A major shift in where business is conducted is occurring now. McKinsey estimates that half of the world’s largest companies will be headquartered in what are now emerging markets, such as Brazil, India, and eastern European countries. Pressure from global competition and other factors resulted in over 40% of the companies that were in the Fortune 500 in 2000 falling off the list by 2010. These were replaced largely by new global entrants and technology companies.

Stretch CoverCourtesy of John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Demographics Shifts

In many economies around the world, advances in healthcare and declining birth rates have resulted in a population that is graying and a workforce that is shrinking. People are living and working longer, with the average retirement age for most people working now expected to be 66, up from 57 two decades ago.

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workplace in most countries, and their voices, connected through social media, will increasingly alter the workplace culture.

Explosion of Data

Experts estimate that from 2009 to 2020, data will grow 4300%. That data will be in the form of content from the past that can be readily structured into a database, and will also increasingly include unstructured data such as that found in social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, and so on.

Organizations that can mine this data to reveal customer trends will lead the markets of the future.

Emerging Technologies

One of the many emerging technologies worthy of mention is robotics. Japan is expecting one in three of its population to be over the age of 65 by 2030, and one in five to be over 75, creating a major requirement for the care of the elderly. Not surprisingly then, Japan is on the leading edge of using robots in service roles. A hotel opened in Japan in 2015 with lifelike robots, called actroids, serving as the check-in staff. Aid assistance in nursing facilities is on the horizon, meaning many of the entry-level jobs in those areas will become obsolete.

Climate change

Climate change will have a strong economic impact in the future. The OECD anticipates that by 2050, more than 40% of the world’s population will live under severe water stress, resulting in floods or drought that, combined, can put the economic value of assets at risk at record highs.

Becoming efficient with resources is socially responsible and cost beneficial. Organizations need to adapt to increasing regulations controlling energy efficiency, waste, water leakage, urban congestion, transportation efficiency, land degradation, freight impact, and other factors. Allowing employees to work virtually also reduces the need for facilities and helps organizations minimize their carbon footprints.

Redefined Jobs

What is a job? Look over a few definitions on the web and it’s easy to see that few of us are still limited to Google’s first meaning: “a paid position of regular employment.” Sure, we have paid work, but from only one source and in a regular fashion?

Instead, the definition of a job looks more like the second meaning from Google: “a task or piece of work, especially one that is paid.” Piecing together multiple gigs at the same time or freelancing in a series of work-for-hire roles is a new normal. The nature of fluctuating workloads requires moving to meet those needs, whether your skills and motivation match or not. Over 83% of executives told us that they plan on increasing their use of contingent, part-time, or flexible workers in the next few years. Those with in-demand skills will be hired to accomplish one specific project, rather than given a full-time position.

The nature of how work gets done is rapidly shifting. Even the lines between workday and personal time are blurring, since work and personal time blend and overlap. Work is no longer a place, but a thing.


Complexity is increasing for both organizations and individuals. At the organizational level, complexity multiplies with layers upon layers of government regulations, in multiple countries, combined with requirements from customers with their own unique specifications.

Organizations that can streamline and simplify structures, processes, systems, and cultures will have the competitive advantage in the future.

At the individual level, the need to master this complexity and balance competing demands is also on the increase. Stanford researchers identified a number of stressors that affect overall health and wellness for employees, including long hours, job insecurity, work-family conflict, and others.

Studies agree resoundingly that these megatrends are forging the working landscape of the future. Some trends may seem far removed from your everyday world; others you may already be experiencing. All of them have the potential to change the way we work in substantial ways, threatening to make many people and even experts in their fields obsolete.

This article is excerpted from STRETCH: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace by Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick. Copyright 2016 by Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick. Published by Wiley; used by permission. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.