As we move into 2023, the transformation of work is well underway, with employee engagement, workplace flexibility, and employee well-being becoming permanent fixtures. The global post-pandemic economy is entering a pronounced slowdown, with inflation, debt, and rising unemployment. Understanding the trends shaping the future of work is crucial for policymakers, company executives, and individuals alike.

Automation and AI: A Double-Edged Sword

Employers are increasingly incorporating automation and AI solutions, which will require re-tooling of the workforce. While algorithms may complement workers’ competencies, they also have the potential to reduce human employability altogether. Building digital dexterity into organizations’ people-management processes is essential for future business success. For example, AI chatbots like ChatGPT are already affecting labor market outcomes, as discussed in a recent virtual public event on the future of work featuring Brookings David M. Rubenstein Fellow Anton Korinek.

Boomerang Employees: Opportunity and Threat

More than a quarter of all “new” hires are boomerang employees, who return to a former employer after working elsewhere. An international survey found that nearly 20% of workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic have returned to their old employers.

Employers can capitalize on the boomerang opportunity while mitigating the risks by analyzing employee records and identifying common trends. Boomerang employees are more likely to be managers than non-managers and often return within 13 months of their departure, frequently due to unmet expectations at their new organization.

HRBPs: Navigating the Changing Landscape

Human Resource Business Partners (HRBPs) must understand the trends shaping the future of work and adapt accordingly. Fairness and equity are becoming top priorities, but hybrid work arrangements can harm diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Hybrid work also drives more turnover, and automation changes the manager’s role. HRBPs will need to work with managers and leaders to spotlight empathy as a key capability for people leaders to succeed in their roles and adjust high-potential employee selection criteria to prioritize human leadership skills.

Curiosity: The Key to Early Career Success

Successful young people in organizations often demonstrate genuine curiosity, which leads to great questions and challenges assumptions in a respectful manner. Reading extensively about one’s company, competitors, industry trends, and role sets the stage for asking the right questions and adding value in early meetings. Curiosity is essential in building early momentum in a career, as it encourages individuals to think broadly outside of their role and look at the bigger picture.