The world of work is changing rapidly, and that pace will only accelerate in the next 10 to 20 years, Staffing Industry Analysts’ Peter Reagan told the crowd at a keynote speech this week at the CWS Summit North America conference in San Diego.

There are three main forces that will affect the future of work: the rise in the percentage of contingent workers as a percentage of the overall workforce; exponential technology advances in the form of artificial intelligence and robotics; and candidate behavior being driven by world events potentially beyond our control.

Children today will grow up in a world where technology will have an unfathomable impact on the way work is done, how it is done, where it is done and by whom and how. “Technology will rock the very core of what we currently call employment,” said Reagan, senior Director, contingent workforce strategies and research.

Workforce mix. He also noted a survey in which staffing buyers said that the median percentage of their workforce that will be contingent in the next 10 years is 25%. In addition, 57% of buyers think contingent workforces will be part and parcel of corporate strategy within the next two years, and 56% are thinking of bringing total talent in within the next two years.

Keeping ahead of change, rather than simply keeping up with it, is going to be key for contingent programs going forward. “Program complacency is not an option,” Reagan said.

Total talent. He expects to see companies increasingly bring contingent and permanent workers together under total talent management programs. Such programs should include what he describes as a “centralized decision tree,” a formalized decision-making process that decides the best source to get the work done — be it externally, through an independent contractor, statement-of-work consultant, time-and-materials hire, reassigned internal staff, etc. And sometimes that decision-making process may find that the best decision is to delay or even cancel a project.

Gig work. Reagan also noted that future workers will want to work differently than previous generations. More and more people will want to work on a gig basis — often multiple gigs at the same time. Organizations will also need flexibility as they adjust to changes in both their business’ and their customers’ needs.

Change the concept from counting people, to making people count, Reagan advised.

As organizations adapt to rapid change, they will consider whether it worth investing in employees and nurturing talent because the time available to get them up to speed will progressively shrink. Meanwhile, technology will allow jobs to be broken down into smaller tasks to get work done more efficiently, and statement-of-work options will become more attractive given that firms will have more spend available for SOW than for staff augmentation.

Proceed with caution. Program managers must also keep on top of compliance issues and new and changing legislation which are poised to impact future contingent workforce strategies.

Another trend Reagan noted is an increased interest in bringing programs in-house. “Proceed with caution,” he advised. The objectives of your program will change from just filling jobs to supporting the organization at the strategic level, so make sure the program is measurable, comprehensive, geographically appropriate and aligned to the changing needs of the business.

Rapid change will require flexible programs that are able to scale up and adapt, and Reagan disagrees with old adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

“If it’s not broke, make it better,” he said.