Reportedly, 65% of children entering primary school today will grow up to take jobs in roles that don’t yet exist—and somehow, we need to be prepared for this. While no one can predict the future, we do already have some growing workplace trends to help inform strategy.

Big data

A 2017 UAE Government White Paper, The UAE and the Future of Work, reported that by 2020, ownership in personal internet devices in the Gulf is expected to have risen 866% since 2010. We’re always connected, creating huge amounts of data, and it’s rapidly changing how we operate our businesses.

For a start, it requires specific skills to collect and store all this information. We need new digital skills  and IT security architects—roles that didn’t exist  a decade ago. Yet, 77% of organizations list missing skills as the single biggest problem they face. How are you meant to identify gaps in the workplace if you’re not sure what’s missing?

Thankfully, storing data offers the opportunity to mine it, extract powerful analytics and improve decision-making, especially when hiring and managing talent. Employee self-assessments and performance reviews, for example, offer a chance to get to grips with the worker landscape and prioritize filling gaps in knowledge.

Automation

Three years ago, 91% of jobs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) were carried out by humans. Today it’s 85%. In three years’ time it’s expected to be 75%.

Automation is a scary prospect for many in the workplace, but reducing human error and costs are just part of the story. Nearly half (45%) of EMEA responders named transformation—the augmentation of human performance—as automation’s main role.

However, job loss due to automation is still an issue. It’s estimated that 5% of employees will have 100% of their day-to-day tasks automated. Employers have to help workers upskill before it is too late, while also shifting the types of jobs on offer—adapting some roles to be carried out by workers with low skill sets, while redesigning others to satisfy those with wider skill sets.

Instability

The next three years will see a 6% drop in the number of full-time employees, globally and across the EMEA. As automation deconstructs jobs, work stability is falling and the use of non-employee talent—such as freelancers—is rising. The full-time worker model is slowly changing—24% of Middle Eastern employers expect a rise in contingent workers over the next few years.

Changing expectations

Today’s workers know that technological advances can give them greater flexibility and freedom in their employment. And the vast amount of information at their disposal means they are far savvier about the kinds of extra rewards that top-level employers can offer. Increasingly globalised talent networks are creating competition at all levels, meaning employers have to think about the Employee Value Proposition—balancing rewards and benefits in return for performance.

Most employers are yet to reconfigure their benefit schemes in response to worker trends, which means that the biggest talents—the workers who could transform their business—will look elsewhere.

Societal change

Middle Eastern society is changing, fast. More women are entering the workforce and there’s a growing demand for gender equality. Between 2006 and 2016 the number of women in work more than doubled from 20% to 48%. But more than this, the government is waking up to rising levels of youth unemployment, and in so doing is demanding big business help to better prepare the next generation for employment.

Companies have to adapt to this. For example, women may have different requirements in terms of benefits and work flexibility than men, and millennials are far more tech-savvy and expect more flexibility in their day-to-day work.

The future

These are the current and emerging trends now, but who knows how long they will last. Or when the next wave of technology will completely change things once again.

Keep monitoring the trends and keep adapting strategy to suit them. It’s the best way for any business – for your business – to stay ahead of the game.

*Ahmad Waarie is a Managing Consultant for the Middle East at Willis Towers Watson.