Hourly Workforce Trends to Watch in 2020

With unemployment at a 50-year low, the competition for reliable hourly workers has never been so stiff. For traditional employers, the challenge of recruiting and retaining a strong workforce is only compounded by gig companies luring workers with the opportunity of working when and where they want, with hours that best fit their schedules.

In 2020 and beyond, we’ll see traditional employers shift hiring and retention strategies to go head-to-head with gig companies. More job descriptions will highlight flexible scheduling in addition to what gig companies haven’t thus far delivered: Protections and benefits (workers’ compensation, guaranteed minimum wage, sick pay, health insurance, etc.) that have a direct impact on a person’s livelihood. The increase in jobs that offer both flexibility and worker protections will also be a result of state regulations such as AB5 with additional states like New York and New Jersey following suit.

Automation will bring more opportunities for upskilling and career growth which will also serve as a strong recruiting and retention strategy among employers especially within retail, warehousing and manufacturing.

Other key workforce trends employers can expect for hourly workers in 2020 include artificial intelligence and machine learning hiring strategies, increasing worker organization efforts and union memberships, and the growth of jobs in distribution, delivery and logistics.

Here’s more on hiring and workforce trends to look for in 2020:

Automation and Upskilling

Despite all the chatter about automation eliminating jobs, ecommerce growth is sure to drive demand for more warehouse and delivery workers. As employers continue to invest heavily in automation technology, opportunities for upskilling will only increase. This is especially good news for hourly workers hungry for career advancement.

Smart employers will emphasize upskilling and career growth opportunities such as learning workflow management tools and other warehouse management technologies as another key strategy for recruiting and retaining their hourly workforce.


Data from Bluecrew and other industry reports clearly indicate hourly workers favor flexibility above all other aspects of the job, even pay and perks. A Bluecrew analysis of more than 10,000 job offer rejections found that a quarter (26%) of jobs were rejected due to the hours offered, compared to 10% of jobs rejected due to pay.

Employers increasingly recognize that in a tight labor market, offering flexibility around scheduling and hours is another strategic way to attract and retain workers without increasing wages or negatively impacting the bottom line. More employers will adopt staffing technologies and platforms to seamlessly provide the flexibility hourly workers want.

Worker Classification

The cat-and-mouse game will continue between regulators and gig companies with regulations like AB5 in California coming into effect in January 2020 and the potential for similar laws to emerge in other states such as New York and New Jersey.

As lawmakers try to define and clarify existing worker classification rules that ensure protections like workers’ compensation, overtime, minimum wage and sick pay, gig companies will continue to fight back and invest in ways to avoid providing worker protections by classifying drivers and other workers as independent contractors.

Fewer Retail Positions, More Fulfillment Center Jobs

With the rise of ecommerce and consumers increasingly shopping online, retail workers are now tasked with fulfilling online orders in store as more of them turn into omnichannel fulfillment centers for faster delivery.

We expect a decrease in the number of retail store positions due to this increase in online shopping. However, this will be more than offset by growth in jobs across warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers, logistics and delivery needed to fulfill consumers’ online ordering. 

Backlash Against AI and ML in Hiring is Over

More employers will adopt or at least test out machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance hiring strategies in 2020. By focusing on objective job performance data of employees and eliminating inherent biases such as appearance, employers will find more reliable, higher-performing workers and will be able to staff up significantly more effectively.

Worker Organizations and Union Membership

As the popular backlash builds against income inequality and declining worker benefits and protections, private-sector, non-union worker organizations will continue to emerge to advocate for fair pay and labor protections among various groups including teachers, retail workers, drivers, etc. Traditional union membership will also grow for the first time in decades.

Adam Roston is CEO of Bluecrew

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