4 disruptive work trends set to take-off in 2013

How will the way small businesses and start-ups operate change this year? oDesk’s Gary Swart shares ‘future of work’ predictions

Whether it’s calling into meetings via Skype from a coffee shop, catching up on work emails while commuting, or finishing up a report at home on an iPad, there’s no denying that work has changed. In the Industrial Age, everyone worked in the same place at the same time. This traditional work model made sense before, when it was literally impossible to work from somewhere other than the office or factory. But in the Information Age, technology has broken down the barriers that required bringing the workers to the work. Work can be done anytime, anywhere – which opens up a world of freedom and opportunity for both businesses and professionals. Start-ups and small businesses can access talent on demand, only when they need it, which is why British businesses are already embracing flexible work. A survey conducted last year by Genesis Research Associates and commissioned by my company, the online workplace oDesk, found that 94% of UK businesses surveyed agreed that “within 10 years, the majority of businesses will have blended teams of online and on-premise workers”. So what will the next phase of the online work revolution bring? Here are four trends I believe we will see truly emerge in 2013:  

1. Specialists will dominate the job market

In the past, being highly specialised in one thing wasn’t usually viable; there just wasn’t enough volume to support it. Today, the internet is cracking open the potential market available to specialists, creating a long tail of opportunity that not only supports them but seeks them out. Specific experts can now deliver to many local markets where their skills are not commonly available.   For example, London-based entrepreneur George Smith, founder of Intelligent Interactions, has built his entire business using specialised online contract workers. His entirely virtual staff includes a senior C# programmer specialising in video streaming, a WS02 developer, an Amazon Web Services developer, and an ExtJS developer – all roles that are far too specialised to support a full-time, on-premise employee. “I use online work for the skills I can access,” he said. “I’m technical but I have become a manager. Now I just direct people.”   With this in mind, in 2013, deeper focus will be considered basic career guidance, especially as higher demand for specialisation leads to higher compensation.  

2. Online team management will be an attractive asset for job candidates

As more and more work is done online, the ability to successfully manage distributed teams will be considered a valuable professional skill to master. Additionally, because of the accessibility of online work, even entry-level employees will be able to try their hand at developing this online management skill. As a result, job candidates will not only be evaluated for their ability to manage online teams, but may be more compelling candidates if they come with an established online team of their own – a phenomenon that will accelerate in the coming years. According to the Genesis Research survey of 162 UK businesses that have hired online, 84% of respondents agreed that “in the future, employees will bring their favorite online workers with them as part of their own team” when they start new jobs. Those who do so – who are what we call supermanagers – will be able to get more done in less time with fewer resources, and will consequently be highly sought-after in the job market.  

3. Big use of big data will power agile staffing (as analytics-driven HR takes off)

To stay competitive, businesses are moving faster than ever, and creating flexible teams that they can adapt as dynamics change. However, this “need for speed” has to be balanced with process analysis if a business is going to be both fast and successful. Businesses that are using big data to streamline their processes will start applying this analysis to hiring and managing. In 2013, analytics-driven HR will become an important way for companies to gauge the effectiveness of things like team structure, individual progress, collaboration tools, workflows and decision-making processes, and working relationships between team members. Examining data on team interactions and outcomes will help teams keep moving in the right direction even while sprinting.  

4. A new disruptive skill will emerge that we can’t even imagine yet

If this year will be the year of specialisation, what will be the next big skill to specialise in? It likely doesn’t exist yet. Look at mobile apps, for example, and you can see how quickly high-demand skills take off. In Q3 2008, businesses spent $62,500 on mobile app development on oDesk; in Q3 2012, they spent $6.3m, and that’s still growing at a rate of 133% year-over-year.   Interestingly enough, two of the biggest growth skills we’re seeing on oDesk right now are HR (at 272% growth this year) and statistical analysis (at 190% growth this year), already bearing out the trend towards analytics-driven hiring and managing. In fact, we’ve even seen job posts in those categories that are as granular as a “LinkedIn Specialist” or “Yelp Researcher & Analyst”. Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, which has 2.5 million contractors on its database and claims to be the world’s largest online workplace. www.odesk.com

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