Changes impacting the workplace are many, and they are happening fast. The most senior HR executives working for America’s largest employers are at the forefront of these changes and the challenges they bring, with a uniquely encompassing viewpoint of how they are impacting the workplace here in the United States and globally. The Initiative on the Emerging Workplace seeks to faithfully represent their views in a series of reports, beginning with the Workplace 2020 project, which was released spring of 2017.
While immigration reform continues to be mired in legislative gridlock, companies face serious challenges as a result of the existing law’s inadequacies. Many companies continue to experience difficulty finding sufficient workers to fill both lesser-skilled positions and high-skilled ones, depending on industry, season, and demand, among other factors.
However, the U.S. debate over immigration reform often fails to place immigration policy in the broader economic context. In recent decades, policymakers have largely failed to adjust immigration rules to admit the manpower—from Ph.D. scientists to unskilled workers—that U.S. companies require to compete and grow. The consequences of inaction negatively affect our national economy, communities, workers, and global competitiveness.
Workplace 2020 aims to be a travelogue for senior HR executives and government policymakers alike, mapping the trends shaping the workplace, the outdated policies that govern it—and the way forward. It is the product of countless conference calls, surveys, in-person meetings around the country, discussions, and interviews with the most senior HR executives working for America’s largest employers. It represents their firsthand knowledge of the workplace, and not the independent work product of HR Policy staff or any other organization.
The changes detailed in this report are many, and they are happening fast. Recent developments in the economy, technology and workplace demographics are impacting where, when, and how work is done. A compelling example is the rapid advancement of communications technologies and phenomena such as artificial intelligence and social networks, which are ubiquitous now but were created as recently as 2002. Millennials, often associated with being at home with such technologies and the largest generation of workers since the baby boom, are becoming a large plurality of an increasingly diverse workforce. Furthermore, the ongoing debate regarding worker status in the “gig economy” highlights a significant evolution in the traditional employer-employee relationship.
With these changes come a number of challenges. In order to remain competitive, companies must craft timely and effective policy. Many companies, however, are falling behind in keeping up with shifting worker expectations and preferences. In some cases, internal resistance to change can be as difficult to navigate as significant outside barriers. Human resources is often at the helm of these efforts to implement modern workplace policies. As with any aspect of business, failure to remain current with marketplace demands can spell failure.
One of the greatest challenges, however, comes from an outdated workplace policy regime. The legal architecture that sets the contours for federal workplace regulation is generally composed of a handful of major statutes. These laws (not to be confused with regulations implementing them) reflect assumptions about the workplace of the time they were enacted. The most recent of these—the Family and Medical Leave Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993—will be nearly 30 years old by 2020. Some date back as far as the 1930s. On the other hand, policies that allow employers the flexibility to accommodate modern workers’ needs would be a building block for increased national competitiveness.
Chief human resource officers are on the forefront of these issues and challenges, with a uniquely encompassing viewpoint of how they are impacting the workplace here in the United States and globally. Workplace 2020 delves into the issue areas most important to employees and employers today, from the shifting nature of the employer-employee relationship, to Millennials, flexibility, retirement, and workplace security, among others. Each section explores the state of these issues in workplaces across regions and industries, and will be followed up with accompanying reports providing more in-depth analyses.