The Future of Work How technology is changing the office as we know it

New technology has brought digital transformation to the office, but a big side of this new world of work is actually human. Restructuring corporate bureaucracy, a notoriously despised business reality, has been made possible with enhanced digital communications. China-based Haier, the world’s largest appliance maker, has slashed away at bureaucracy by building a company where everyone is directly accountable to customers, a policy that CEO Zhang Ruimin calls “zero distance.” One way this policy is implemented is by dividing the company not into a few domain businesses, but into 4,000 microenterprises of 10 to 15 employees each.

In this context, it’s both an exciting and nerve-wracking time to enter a new career. Today, the most challenging task falls to the universities, which must prepare students to enter this digitalized world of work, where automated technology, hyper-connectivity and technological-human integration are part and parcel of the daily grind. IE University prepares its students for the digital economy through disruptive bachelor programs, online education, digital tools and a host of other innovative offerings, including the exponential learning unit, a dedicated department built to train startup teams how to manage and scale a new company in the information age. This unit gathers professors who are both subject experts as well as being in touch with leading professionals in sectors of the economy that are leading transformation.

These types of tools are tailor-made for the new world of work students will confront. It’s an exciting new world, and IE University offers the tools necessary to be successful in it.

Generation Z: The answer to closing the digital skills gap

Case study: The dawn of the gig economy

The most diverse workforce in history

Case study: Facebook’s quest for diversity

E-learning and AI reshape how people are hired and fired

Case study: Hilton Hotels hires AI for HR

Data is the new oil: Making sense of the world’s most valuable resource

Case study: Big data at AT&T: Cutting out the complexity

Future of Work Takeaways

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Generation Z: The answer to closing the digital skills gap

The world is currently facing a digital skills gap, as technological advancement outpaces our ability to learn the demands of a digital economy.

Generation Z

Millions of jobs are being created against the backdrop of an unskilled labor force. As of today, about 40% of employers in the UK say they have trouble hiring entry-level jobs because of the lack of technical skills. And across the EU, about 37% of workers don’t have enough basic digital skills, according to a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum.

Young people offer a solution to closing this gap. Generation Z (people born from 1995 to 2010), in particular, were born into a digital world and have grown up living on the platforms that anchor down the new job force. They have had extensive contact with digital advertising, augmented reality filters and the impacts of artificial intelligence (if not the technical understanding).

Moreover, Randstad, a Dutch HR firm, predicts that by 2020, 36% of the workforce will be Generation Z. It will be crucial to hire managers to fill their ranks with this generation if they hope to future-proof their companies.


The dawn of the gig economy

Generation Z have come to age during the boom of the gig economy, a movement of deskless freelance workers that spans industries from technology to hospitality, and from finance to construction. This revolution in work includes some of the world’s largest corporations: Hilton, an iconic hotel chain, and IT firm Dell.

The freedom offered by the gig economy has caused some to colloquially brand these workers “digital nomads.” This label has caught on following a trend of some gig economy workers that choose to take to the road, plug in and put in their hours while traveling across the globe.

Yet, not all gig economy workers are bitten by the travel bug. Today, there are an estimated 162 million people working at “desk-less positions” in the US and EU-15 countries, according to McKinsey. This group of workers is in the midst of a dramatic growth spurt. In the UK, for example, gig economy workers have already doubled from 2016 to 2019; today, 10% of the UK labor force is considered a part of the gig economy.


Generation Z: A snapshot

  • 90%

    of freelancers are optimistic for the gig economy’s future

  • 36%

    of the global workforce was Generation Z by 2020

  • 75%

    of Generation Z demonstrate interest in STEM subjects

  • 60%

    of Generation Z won’t use apps if they are slow

The most diverse workforce in history

Future workplaces will stand out from the past for one grand reason – they will be the most diverse in history. As a result, never before will managers of businesses have confronted the complexities of hiring such a wide variety of people, who will inevitably come from different cultural, societal, geographic and educational backgrounds.

This fact is especially relevant to the digital office. The ability to hire across borders has created remote companies with a truly global workforce at the startup level. Just a decade ago, multinational corporations were the only companies able to exhibit this kind of diversity. Now it is possible for a startup to hire a design team from the Philippines and accountants from Texas while being based in Madrid, thanks in part to flourishing freelance work websites, such as

At IEU, the reality of this diverse workforce is on display. The university’s student body is very international, with over 95 nationalities represented today, and both campuses – Madrid and Segovia – have more female students than male, creating an environment of gender diversity that the world’s leading companies now aspire to.


"A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone."
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc.

Facebook’s quest for diversity

In the summer of 2019, Facebook, the world’s sixth largest company, recognized it still had a long way to go to meet diversity goals.


Photo: facebook

During its annual diversity report, Facebook announced that its global workforce was 63.1% male, and had actually become slightly more male than in the previous year. The announcement highlights a basic challenge in the tech world, which has long been male dominated and predominantly white – effectively working against the grain of global trends in diversity.

Nevertheless, Facebook has ambitious goals. The social media giant is planning to become at least 50% “women, people who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islanders, people with two or more ethnicities, people with disabilities, and veterans” within the next five years. As part of that goal, the company aims to “double our number of women globally,” according to the report.

The aim of creating a diverse workforce, acknowledges Facebook, is to reflect their target market. “[Facebook] will be a company that reflects and better serves the people on our platforms, services and products. It will be a more welcoming community advancing our mission and living up to the responsibility that comes with it,” said Facebook.

E-learning and AI reshape how people are hired and fired

Putting humanistic skills and characteristics at the center of new technology will enhance our future workplace. But a lot of those technologies are not mature or do not yet exist. So how can a student today prepare to be a part of this new workforce and be hired by a company?

Human Resources


Perpetual learning will become a crucial skill for all students. After leaving university, the graduate who is able to self-learn on their spare time will be the person that HR departments value the most.

Thanks to the growth of e-learning programs, companies are now offering new work-related education opportunities, much to the delight of applicants. According to research by Facebook, 65% of millennials say they chose their job because of personal and professional development opportunities, including e-learning on-the-job courses. Providing so-called “microlearning” programs also provides a bonus for employers, increasing job engagement by 50%, says a report by Software Advice.

Yet, one of the largest challenges of the future of work will be simply finding it. Already, a lot of major companies have employed automated hiring systems that vet resumes before a human even sees them. In order to pass the automated HR screening, applicants will need to understand the keywords that the AI is looking for. This will take a lot of extra work, and will force the applicant to study the industry and the role in a deeper way. No longer will we be able to expect that a well-polished resume can bring results.

In the future, uncertainty is the only thing we can predict with certainty. As a result, while the area between human worker and machine technology will change rapidly, we cannot truly understand how that will be reflected in the workforce. In this world of constant change, the value of knowledge will depreciate faster than ever before, and job descriptions posted by a company’s HR one year may require a different set of skills the next.


Hilton Hotels hires AI for HR

Some of the world’s largest companies have already started introducing AI systems for their HR departments. Hilton Hotels, a major US hotel chain, is one of the companies leading the AI revolution in hiring (and firing).

Hilton Hotels

Photo: Hilton hotels

While it feels intimidating to face a robot to get a job, from the company point of view there are a lot of benefits. “By using artificial intelligence to source, screen and interview candidates, we have increased our speed to hire by 85%,” says Sarah Smart, vice president of global recruiting at Hilton Hotels. “We have also experienced other business benefits, such as increasing the diversity of our talent pool,” she adds.

Having started applying automation to hiring in 2014, Hilton is one of the world’s pioneers in the area. Going forward, the company foresees ways that the technology will not only help to hire, but also help make decisions on internal promotions and to assess the state of wellness of its workers.



Can money buy happiness? It’s one of the most debated philosophical questions of the modern age.

According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, 56% of workers now say that company culture is more important than salary in terms of job satisfaction.

Data is the new oil: Making sense of the world’s most valuable resource

No matter which industry you eventually work in after leaving university, data promises to be an indisputably valuable resource at your company.

Data is the new oil


In the digital economy, knowledge has become truly powerful. To harness that knowledge, companies should aim to collect ever-greater quantities of information. Those specialists that can distill and make strategic use out of data will become some of the most sought-after workers in the world.

Data will become so inherent to the future of work that the World Economic Forum ranks the adoption of big data analytics as the number-one skillset that companies will adopt by 2022. Also, the following top skillsets on that list (see infographic on next page) all require large datasets to function. Following this trend, IE University offers the Bachelor in Data & Business Analytics program to meet the growing demand.

HR managers also see the importance of hiring those with data skills – as well as the pitfalls of failing to have those skills. With data, the decisionmakers at the top of corporations, startups and governments will be able to zoom in on opportunities and challenges like never before. Without that data, destiny-altering deals can be lost; existing revenue streams may dry up.

Digital skillset adoption by % of companies, 2022

  • 85%

    Big data analytics

  • 75%

    Internet of things

  • 73%

    Machine learning

  • 72%

    Cloud computing

  • 58%

    Augmented and virtual reality

  • 46%

    Wearable electronics

    Source: World Economic Forum

Big data at AT&T: Cutting out the complexity

Big data analytics is the use of advanced techniques on large datasets to solve problems – and it is changing the world of work. This is already evident across some of the world’s largest companies.

Big data at AT&TAt AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, big data is used to simplify complex problems in their customer experience. “Even the simple products sometimes have very complex potential problems,” says Victor Nilson, senior vice president of big data at AT&T. Big data helps to “take the complexity out and turn it into something simple and actionable,” he adds.

AT&T now hires an increasingly large force of data scientists to help save time and money through big data analytics, and they are not alone. PwC predicts an estimated 2.7 million postings for big data-related jobs in 2020. It is not hard to see why many analysts are now calling big data science one of the best career choices today.



Future of Work Takeaways


Generation Z will demonstrate more interest in science and technology than previous generations.


A diverse workplace isn’t just good pratice; it is necessary to succeed.


The job life cycle -from hiring to firing- is being forever changed by technology.


Big data professionals will be in large demand.


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