Keep up! new “megatrends” could have dramatic impacts on the world of work

new megatrends could have dramatic impacts on the world of work

We are all aware to some extent or other of the ways in which work has changed significantly over the past few decades, but are employers sufficiently aware of, or prepared for, the future trends that will shape the way we work and the performance of our organisations and economies into the future? This is the question posed by HR body the CIPD in a major new discussion document Megatrends: The trends shaping work and working lives” as it launches a debate on the “megatrends” that are likely to shape the world of work, the workforce and the culture and organisation of workplaces over the next decade.

The report highlights key changes that have shaped work in recent times, including:

  • De-industrialisation: In just half a century from 1961, the proportion of the workforce employed in manufacturing fell from 36 per cent to 8 per cent, while the proportion employed in services rose from 49 per cent to 81 per cent;
  • Demographic change: In just 21 years from 1992, the proportion of the employed workforce aged 50 and over has risen from 21 per cent to 29 per cent, while the proportion aged under 25 has fallen from 18 per cent to 12 per cent;
  • Educational attainment: In just 18 years from 1993, the proportion of 16-64 year olds with a degree compared to those with no qualifications almost completely reversed, from 11 per cent with a degree compared to 26 per cent with no qualifications in 1993 to 24 per cent and 11 per cent respectively in 2011;
  • Decline of collectivism: In just 33 years, union membership halved from 13 million in 1979 to less than 6.5 million in 2012;
  • Dramatic shifts in organisation size: In just 12 years, from 1998 to 2010, the proportion of private sector employment accounted for by firms with more than 250 employees fell from 49 per cent to 40 per cent, while the proportion employed in the smallest firms (with one to four employees) doubled from 11 per cent to 22 per cent.

Looking to the future, the report identifies new “megatrends” that could have similarly dramatic impacts on the world of work within the next decade and in a series of follow-up reports in the coming weeks will ask:

  • Have we seen the end of the pay rise? (Responding to four years of falling average real earnings, the most sustained period for at least half a century);
  • Has job turnover slowed down? (Responding to a fall in voluntary exits from firms  – a trend that pre-dates the recent recession and is in contrast to many years of discussion on the end of the “job for life”);
  • Are we working harder than ever? (Responding to a trend for employees reporting that they’re working more intensively than ever before – driven as much by developments in technology as by recession-driven cost savings on employee numbers);
  • Are organisations losing the trust of their workers? (Responding to evidence showing plummeting trust in organisations and their leaders that has been exacerbated by recent scandals in sectors as diverse as financial services and the NHS).

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD, commented: “Our report reveals how much the world of work has changed in recent years.  But the world does not stand still and new trends will emerge that will have equal, if not greater, impact.  We highlight just a few of the questions that business leaders might find themselves having to address – sooner rather than later.

“How do we manage in a world where real terms pay rises just don’t happen anymore? How do we create agile and adaptable organisations when people are staying put in their jobs for longer? How do we maintain the engagement and effort of a workforce that feels it is working harder, and more intensely than ever? And how do we rebuild the trust of workers in business and public sector organisations that has been so rocked by a seemingly unending series of scandals?

“We’ll be delving deeper into these emerging trends in the coming weeks to see whether these are truly new and emerging forces that will stay with us or the consequences of the troubled times we live in. But we’re also asking the profession to highlight the other future megatrends they see taking shape.

“This report is the start of a conversation designed to help the profession get better at anticipating and adapting to a world that is changing faster than our approaches to the organisation, management and conduct of work have been up until now.”

For more information about the CIPD’s mega trends debate, visit The first report can be downloaded here