2019 Workplace Trends to Watch

No need for a crystal ball—QP examines 5 trends that will shape the future

Smart, successful organizations get that way because they stay on top of the “next big thing” that might reshape their workforces or change the way they do business.

The start of a new year usually affords organizations the chance to consult with experts and crystal balls that offer predictions on what to expect—and what might need to change—in the coming months and years.

Here are some highlights of workforce trends—in no particular order—that could influence the way you do business in 2019 and beyond:

AI and robotics

While few organizations today consider technology a formal part of their workforce, that’s going to change quickly. According to the employment agency Randstad US, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the fastest growing workforce segments. While it’s far from replacing humans in the workforce, this technology will help organizations deliver even greater value, Randstad US predicts.1

Members of the workforce are also getting incrementally accustomed to using and communicating with robots in and out of the workplace, whether they realize it or not. A recent study showed that 93% of workers would trust orders from a robot.2 Another study found that 145.2 million users currently rely on virtual assistants to complete tasks. That usage will only grow in the short term.3 In addition, voice technology that has become increasingly common in homes (Siri and Alexa) seems to be on its way into more workplaces.4

All of this technology bodes well for the bottom line: Another study5 found that organizations augmented by automation technologies are 33% more likely to be human-friendly workplaces, in which employees are 31% more productive.6

Independent talent

According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report,7 nearly 42 million people work independently—that is, as independent contractors. Many of these workers are highly-skilled professionals who earn more than $100,000 per year. The improving economy is leading to more work and pricing power for this segment of the population, especially for those who have in-demand skills.8

These highly skilled employees are beginning to realize that they also can become high-earning independents and enjoy the many benefits that come with that lifestyle, including increased flexibility and higher job satisfaction. As organizations continue to seek out these type of employees, demand for them will only increase.9

This prediction seems to fit with others that see workforces becoming more transient this year. By 2020, it’s predicted that about 50% of the U.S. workforce will be temporary, contract or freelance workers. While many have viewed this shift as economic chaos and disorder, it provides organizations the opportunity to save money and employ skilled talent on an as-needed project basis.10

More diversity

The focus on increasing diversity to improve organizationwide performance and workplace culture is already on the rise. An HR survey11 by Harvey Nash, a recruitment consultant and IT outsourcer, found that organizations are increasingly expanding diversity hiring goals to focus on inclusion around gender, ethnicity, culture, age and LGBT-identifying individuals.12

After all, diverse organizations are known to perform better. A recent report from McKinsey & Co.13 found that gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace positively correlate with profit.14 In addition, bringing together wide-ranging perspectives is a key ingredient in innovation and can help drive better business decision-making. Of course, diversity and integration are prerogatives that require buy-in from everyone, including senior leadership.15

Flexible work patterns

More individuals will look to break free from the regular office “9 to 5” and engage in more flexible working patterns that better support their lifestyle. Many smaller professional services organizations, such as IT start-ups, already embrace this trend, allowing this workplace flexibility to quickly become the industry norm.16

What’s happening in some instances is smaller businesses are consolidating, opening offices and bringing people together in shared spaces. This won’t likely change, but there may more non-tech talent looking for a similar balance of remote working—enabled by better rural broadband and the reach of mobile 4G.17

This year, traditional organizations will continue to slowly embrace flexible working models and become more creative when it comes to project delivery and how work is managed.18

Nanodegrees nearing

Technological change clearly outpaces universities’ ability to adapt, and future workers will need continued skills-refreshers to stay relevant. Enter nanodegrees: hyper-specific learning programs that offer certifications for tech-based skills and increasingly important alternatives to traditional four-year degrees.19

For instance, the nanodegree institution, Udacity, has schools of business, data science, AI and autonomous systems in which 50,000 students spend an average of 10 to 15 hours a week in challenging courses built to rival universities. Coursera, an online learning platform, offers certificates in hundreds of subjects, too.20

The fees for these programs are usually much cheaper than even community colleges’ tuitions. In addition, next-generation nanodegree programs may soon include adaptive learning tools that apply machine learning to map individual students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the pace at which they grasp key objectives, to personalize curricula to them.21

More to come

Clearly, these five trends just scratch the surface of what might be headed our way in 2019. Countless other predictions can inform and educate: Some may be on the mark, while others may fall to the wayside.

That’s where leaders at good organizations make their money: sorting through the predictions, measuring market forces and determining directions to take to move their organizations forward.

—compiled by Mark Edmund, associate editor


  1. Randstad US, “Randstad US Identifies 8 Work Trends to Watch in 2019,” PR Newswire, Dec. 5, 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/randstad-us-identifies-8-work-trends-to-watch-in-2019-300760111.html.
  2. Oracle, “New Study: 93% of People Would Trust Orders From a Robot at Work,” June 28, 2018, https://www.oracle.com/corporate/pressrelease/robots-at-work-062818.html.
  3. Pedro Hernandez, “AI Assistants to Lend 1 Billion Users a Virtual Hand by 2025,” Datamation, Jan. 2, 2018, www.datamation.com/applications/ai-assistants-to-lend-1-billion-users-a-virtual-hand-by-2025.html.
  4. Dan Schawbel, “The Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019,” Dan Schawbel Blog, Nov. 1, 2018, http://danschawbel.com/blog/the-top-10-workplace-trends-for-2019.
  5. Colin Barker, “Could Automation and AI Be Making Work More Human?” ZDNet, Sept. 21, 2018, www.zdnet.com/article/automation-is-making-working-more-human.
  6. Schawbel, “The Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019,” see reference 4.
  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Highlights: September 2018,” BLS, Nov. 6, 2018, www.bls.gov/web/jolts/jlt_labstatgraphs.pdf
  8. Elizabeth Quirk, “The Top Five Workplace Trends Impacting the Future of Work,” Solutions Review, Nov. 28, 2018, https://solutionsreview.com/talent-management/2018/11/28/top-5-workforce-trends-impacting-the-future-of-work.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Rachael Kleinfield, “Big Shifts: What HR Trends are Coming in 2019?” ToolBox HR, Aug. 13, 2018, https://hr.toolbox.com/articles/big-shifts-what-hr-trends-are-coming-in-2019.
  11. Ji-a Min, “6 Best Workplace Diversity Trends For 2018,” Ideal blog, Dec. 13, 2017, https://ideal.com/workplace-diversity-trends.
  12. Courtney Moran, “HR Trends: 5 Major Human Resource Innovations in 2019,” G2 Crowd Learning Hub, Dec. 3, 2018, https://learn.g2crowd.com/2019-hr-trends
  13. Vivian Hunt, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, “Delivering Through Diversity,” McKinsey and Co., January 2018, www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity.
  14. Moran, “HR Trends: 5 Major Human Resource Innovations in 2019,” see reference 12.
  15. Randstad US, “Randstad US Identifies 8 Work Trends to Watch in 2019,” see reference 1.
  16. Matthew Hamilton, “Three HR Trends to Watch for in 2019,” LinkedIn blog, July 28, 2018, www.linkedin.com/pulse/three-hr-trends-watch-2019-matthew-hamilton.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Inc. Staff, “From Brain Zapping to Nanodegrees: These Workplace Trends Are Coming to Your Office,” Inc., November 2018, www.inc.com/magazine/201811/inc-staff/business-workplace-trends-to-watch.html
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.


Study Finds Gap Between C-Suite and Employee Perceptions

A majority of C-suite executives believe their organization pays attention to employees’ needs when introducing new technologies in the workplace, but only half of staff say the same, according to a recent Pricewaterhousecoopers survey.

The report, titled “Our Status With Tech at Work: It’s Complicated,” showed that executives think they’re choosing tech with their people in mind—yet the survey reveals a disconnect where leaders and staff do not agree.

“Technology is such a central part of the overall work experience that you can’t separate it from your people agenda. Organizational leaders looking to institute a technology-led transformation or implement new workplace technology need to also now consider what motivates people when it comes to technology at work,” said Carrie Duarte, a PwC partner. “It cannot be one or the other.”

The report is the latest in PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series. For more information and additional findings, visit www.pwc.com/us/techatwork.


Executives Must Step Up Industry 4.0 Efforts

Most manufacturers fail to enact transformational change at a pace that matches what Industry 4.0 (i4.0) requires for businesses, a new report by KPMG International warns.

If manufacturers continue on the current trajectory, they are likely to be disrupted by competitors and new market entrants, KPMG said. CEOs must form top-down strategies and implement large-scale changes to meet the realities of manufacturing in today’s market.

“If manufacturers aren’t well on their i4.0 journey by 2020, they will have a problem keeping up with new market entrants. They don’t have to have completed the journey, but they must have the foundation in place: a strategic approach, a holistic plan of transformation and the right culture to embrace change,” said Doug Gates, head of industrial manufacturing at KPMG.

For more information from the report, visit https://tinyurl.com/kpmg-industry-4-0-report.


5 Organizations Named 2018 Baldrige Recipients

Five organizations were named recipients of the 2018 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Announced in November. The recipients are:

  • Alamo Colleges District, San Antonio (education).
  • Donor Alliance, Denver (nonprofit).
  • Integrated Project Management Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, IL (small business).
  • Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Jasper, IN (healthcare).
  • Tri County Tech, Bartlesville, OK (education).

The Baldrige judges also are recognizing best practices in one or more of the Baldrige criteria categories by organizations that applied for the award but were not selected as recipients in 2018. This year, the judges chose two organizations for this honor:

  • Howard Community College, Columbia, MD, was recognized for its practices in leadership.
  • Mary Greeley Medical Center, Ames, IA, was recognized for its practices related to its patients and other customers.

The 2018 Baldrige Awards will be presented at a ceremony during the Quest for Excellence conference on April 7 in National Harbor, MD.

For more background on 2018’s recipients, visit http-tinyurl-com-2018-baldrige. For more details about the conference, visit www.nist.gov/baldrige/qe.

New @ ASQ

What's on our minds

Open enrollment for ASQ’s 2019-2020 Emerging Quality Leaders Program begins this month. This 12-month program accelerates the transfer of executive knowledge, soft skills and leadership experience to high-potential, mid-level quality professionals through on-site and virtual learning. For more information and to apply to the program, visit asq.org/emerging-quality-leaders.


In the December 2018 QP Salary Survey report, Table 1 in Section 2 (p. 32 of the print version of QP, and p. 18 of the complete QP Salary Survey report) included a breakdown of average salaries by ASQ certification and without ASQ certification. Columns four and five were inadvertently reversed. A revised table has since been updated and is included in new PDF versions of Section 2, the complete salary survey report and the full December 2018 issue. QP editors apologize for this error.

Getting to Know…

Denise Wrestler

Current position: Independent consultant, CYA Medical Device Consulting, Dallas.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

What was your introduction to quality? My first job was as a quality engineer for a pharmaceutical company in Texas. It was my first experience in the quality world and required a lot of writing.

Do you have a mentor who has made a difference in your career? Laura Halper, a now-retired regulatory affairs professional. She helped me transition into the consulting world. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for her guidance and support.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Life is too short to be unhappy with your job duties, pay and work environment. You must be at least OK with all three for a job to last.

Previous noteworthy jobs? I’ve held multiple positions with multiple firms—mostly in the medical device industry. My most noteworthy job was the one I had just before starting my consulting firm. It was for a medical device design development site in Coppell, TX. By far, it was the best job I’ve ever had, and I worked with some amazing people.

Are you active in ASQ? I’m a regular contributor to QP’s Career Coach column, and I attend the ASQ Biomedical Division meetings in Dallas-Fort Worth. I’ve also attended and presented for the ASQ Dallas and ASQ Fort Worth sections. I’m planning to volunteer at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in May in Fort Worth, TX—very close to my home!

What noteworthy activities or achievements outside of ASQ do you participate in? My husband and I just opened a pizza restaurant. It’s been a very exciting (and often exhausting) achievement for us.

Personal: Husband, Robert, and three daughters: Catherine, Rosie and Violet.

What are your favorite ways to relax? My husband and I love to travel. I love craft projects: crochet, knitting, cross-stitch, card-making and painting. I’m always teaching myself a new hobby. I also enjoy drinking wine.

What was the last movie you saw? “The Godfather.”

Quality quote: “You can do what you want so long as it’s documented and justified. And legal.”

--Ningning Jing, 05-04-2019

At least 2 sections of this article are misleading. Independent talent and Nanodegrees nearing use questionable sources and misleading information.
Independent talent classifies professions such as doctors, attorneys, dentists along with moon-lighters, diversified workers and contract workers as independent contractors. This does not meet the IRS definition of an independent contractor. For the record, contract workers are employees of the contracting company. This is important when filing taxes, paying FICA, and meeting government requirements for employee coverage. The figures came from studies performed in 2010 and from the "Freelancers Union".
Nanodegrees are nothing new. Most people with technical degrees take additional courses and seminars to enhance and update their skill set. Institutes offering specialty degrees are often for profit organizations offering degrees at high costs versus future salaries. To tout these organizations as replacing traditional degrees is to support a myth costing many young people their future. If you don't understand calculus and force diagrams how do you understand the technology built on their premise? There are good organizations out there to help the professional develop advanced skills but that is their place not to replace basic education.
--Sherri Gallagher, 01-12-2019

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