The Landscape of the 21st Century Workplace: Emerging Trends You Need To Know as a Career Development Professional

By Caitlin Williams

Of course we know the workplace is much different than it was a decade ago, and we know the Great Recession further heightened these differences in ways none of us could have predicted. But simply knowing that the workplace is different isn’t enough. Knowing and understanding the impact of the changes on workers, and using this information to better assist those we work with on their career development are required.


Recently, I researched emerging workforce and workplace trends as part of co- authoring the revised edition of Career Moves: Be Strategic About Your Future, (ASTD Press, September 2013). In doing this research, I focused on eight trends that have significant implications for workers’ learning and for organizational talent management.


While helpful to training professionals, knowledge of these eight trends can also make a huge difference to those of us who help workers develop their careers and help organizations develop their employees. This article focuses on trends 1 through 4.

The Eight Workplace Trends Career Development Professionals Must Know:

In this article:

Trend #1: Learning Takes Center Stage

Trend #2: A Culture of Connectivity

Trend #3: Shifting Demographics and Increasing Diversity

Trend #4: Globalization 3.0


In the next article: (click here to read Part 2)

Trend #5: The Impact of Economic Turmoil and the Recession

Trend #6: The Talent Trifecta

Trend #7: The (R)evolution of the American Worker

Trend #8: New Work and the New Skills It Will Take To Do It


Trend #1: Learning Takes Center Stage

Organizations must lead their sector to remain successful. This means employees need a frame of mind that embraces 24/7 learning. Such learning includes participation in formal training initiatives and informal learning activities, engagement in technology-enhance learning, and the establishment of learning networks and relationships with mentors and advisors. If workers are not embracing learning, they are no longer seen as relevant.


As a practitioner:



Trend #2: A Culture of Connectivity

The solitary night watchman of the last century has given way to the networked security services team member collaborating with others to make sure the job gets done. Every worker today must understand the necessity and the benefit of being able to connect with others, through online space and face-to-face.


Our complex worldwide workplace depends on both high tech and high touch skills. Meeting customers’ needs, innovating constantly and improving workplace performance cannot happen if we don’t play well together.



Trend #3: Shifting Demographics and Increasing Diversity

Not that long ago the media announced that the workplace would soon see four generations working together. Today, we need to add one more. Generation Z (as they are referred to by the media), born somewhere between 1995 – 2000, will begin entering the workplace to work side by side with those of different ages, including Boomers. Never before has our workforce experienced this.


Simultaneously, our increasingly diverse workplace now offers an increased richness reflecting workers of different races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, family configurations and priorities.


The bottom line: increased benefits and the possibility of increased challenges for workers learning to communicate and collaborate with one another.



Trend #4: Globalization 3.0

Globalization 3.0 means that the ability to more easily connect on a world-wide scale impacts not only corporations, but individual workers, as well. This shift brings both good news and challenging realities. While workers can reach out to colleagues and collaborate and network with those half way around the world, it also means that competition for jobs isn’t limited to applicants from one’s local neighborhood. As career professionals, we know that. But the implications are not always so clear to the workers we assist.



Next Steps

As you review and consider the first four trends, how will you put these trends to work for you and your clients? Their future career success and your ability to make a difference depend on it.


In Part Two of this Career Convergence series, you will get additional insight into the remaining trends facing our workplace and workforce today, along with additional insights, information, and suggestions for action.


In the meantime—what are your thoughts? Please share them below to continue our conversation on this critical issue.



Williams, C. & Reitman, A. (2013). Career moves: Be strategic about your future. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training & Development Press.



Caitlin WilliamsCaitlin Williams, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, trainer and coach whose passion is bringing out the very best in the people she works with. Caitlin helps individuals and organizations identify opportunities to shine through improved performance, the demonstration of strengths and the pursuit of making a difference in the world. Originally from Ohio, Caitlin spent the last 8 years living and teaching in the Bay Area. She recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina where she continues to coach and speak on workplace issues and on the value of focusing on strengths in work and in life. Email her at Caitlin@drcaitlinwilliams.com.


Printer-Friendly Version

1 Comment

Mindy Thomas   on Wednesday 10/02/2013 at 10:41 AM

Dr. Williams:
I think the eight trends you have identified are spot on and I can hardly wait to get my hands on this book. This is so timely for career practitioners. As the complexity of emerging technology intersects with career satisfaction, we need to ratchet up our knowledge base in these critical areas to ensure our clients success.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.