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Modern App: Digital Megatrends 2018: What They Are, How to Act

Tiffany Poeppelman, LinkedIn, and Evan Sinar, DDI

Technology trends are continually being monitored and assessed to spot the digital forces that are already upon us and those that are just over the horizon. Although some technologies will first impact us as a consumer, nearly all will eventually find their way into the workplace. A technology trend becomes a business imperative becomes a driving force reshaping the work of leaders and employees. For this issue of the Modern App, we’ve researched eight high-profile technology reports and distilled 95 individual trends to core themes—the digital megatrends—disrupting the modern workplace. Ultimately, we seek to apply an integrative structure to create a broader view of where I-O professionals must soon engage.

We chose eight well-regarded and multidisciplinary technology reports for 2018—report authors span research firms, consulting organizations, and technology providers with varying market perspectives yet a unifying focus on crucial technologies. Importantly, most of these reports deal with technologies in a context broader than the workplace—that is, they prioritize the technology context first. We feel that this is a key orientation for I-O psychologists preparing for the effects of digital trends on the businesses that employ us, hire us for consulting engagements, and draw on our research to inform their practices.

Looking beyond the work context and to multi-disciplinary information sources also allows these megatrends to serve as a natural complement to those determined through the excellent and long-running SIOP’s Top 10 Workplace Trends list with its distinctively workplace-first orientation. Note that though in some cases, full-length versions of the tech reports require a subscription or purchase, executive summaries sufficient to understand the basic nature of each trend cited are freely available. The eight reports from which we distill the digital megatrends:

We began by affinity clustering each of the 95 trends cited across the reports into 15 categories and further into three tiers based on their prevalence across reports. The full grid showing our trend classification model across all reports is shown in the Appendix. In this column, we focus our detailed discussion only on the Tier 1 trends—those we consider digital megatrends—identified in a majority (5 or more) of the underlying technology trend reports. We plan to explore Tier 2 and 3 trends in later Modern App columns and/or SIOP conference sessions, and we welcome input on actions you may already be taking on these within your own research and practices.

For each megatrend, we overview it, project the nature of its intersection with the workplace, cross-reference how it’s characterized within individual technology trend reports, and propose framing considerations for how I-O professionals can engage with it.

Three Tiers of Trends







Companies are continuously seeking ways to do things faster and better. Technologies that are joining the market offer a promise for efficiency and better collaboration. The possibilities are tantalizing and continue to draw corporate attention. The digital megatrends below are those your company may already be researching or investing in and, if not, will soon. These megatrends are setting the pace of technology-driven business change.

Digital Megatrend #1: AI Is Priority A1


  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is the only trend cited across all eight reports, often in multiple forms and facets within each.
  • Of the many operationalizations of AI, most focus on how machines can imitate and ultimately improve upon human intelligence. Using human reasoning as a model is just one of many reasons companies and people invest in AI. Others include building systems to think like humans or to get a machine to figure out how human reasoning works.
  • Many technologies that utilize AI are focused on building machines that use human reasoning as a guide to enhance capabilities to drive efficiency and productivity.
  • Although many people fear AI, it’s often because they worry it will replace them. However, many applications instead focus on solving cognitive problems related to human intelligence (includes learning, problem solving, pattern recognition, etc.).

Intersection With the Workplace

  • Enhanced decision making through improved efficiency and predictive accuracy for personnel decisions currently made by humans.
  • Reinvented business models drawing on data as a corporate asset.
  • Personalized customer and employee experiences based on structured and unstructured data gathered from and about them.

How Characterized Within the Technology Reports (See the Appendix for Information About Which Reports Cite Which Trend)

  • AI in hiring; the AI cloud; more consolidation in AI; China’s AI boom
  • AI foundation; event driven
  • Software learns to learn
  • Citizen AI: Raising AI to benefit business and society
  • Machine learning; neuromorphic hardware
  • User-facing AI
  • Artificial intelligence: Going behind the buzzword
  • Artificial general intelligence

I-O Psychology Considerations

  • Ensuring a clearer and more comprehensive change management strategy for new AI tools in which companies invest. As systems and tools get smarter at work, it will allow employees to use their time in a more productive and strategic way. Clearing establishing that picture will be key.
  • How can we guide nonbiased AI through stronger data ethics awareness and toward blended approaches combining the strengths of machine and human intelligence for business and personnel decisions?
  • What approaches are most effective for building and communicating “explainability” for AI and machine learning models for those affected by their outcomes to maintain procedural and distributive justice?


Digital Megatrend #2: Blockchain Redefining Trust and Verification Models


  • Blockchain’s defining feature is that data is not stored in one single location, meaning records are publicly verifiable. That is, there is no centralized database that a hacker can disrupt. By storing blocks of information that are identical and incontrovertible across its network, the blockchain cannot be controlled by any single entity and has no single point of failure.
  • Referred to as the new backbone of the internet, uses of blockchain go far beyond cryptocurrencies to any market with valuable assets. Originally applied to bitcoin and digital currency, companies are rapidly finding new uses for it. The distributed trust systems enabled through blockchain are challenging models of centralized authority.

Intersection with the Workplace

  • Blockchain, in conjunction with the gig economy and personal ownership of one’s career, is being used to provide an immutable, verifiable record of an individual’s accomplishments, including for job-related certifications and experiences.
  • As blockchain disrupts traditional authorities for what constitutes “trusted” information, the balance of workplace power will shift from institutions to individuals, and from centralized to decentralized data storage systems.

How Characterized Within the Technology Reports
(See the Appendix for information about which reports cite which trend)

  • Blockchain; Cryptocurrencies
  • Distributed Trust Systems Challenge Centralized Authorities
  • Blockchain to Blockchains
  • Blockchain 2.0
  • Internet of Thinking: Creating Intelligent Distributed Systems

I-O Psychology Considerations

  • What qualifications and experience structures will serve effectively as a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive groundwork for a blockchain approach applied to personnel decisions?
  • Will increased consistency and verifiability of this information extend the use of employee qualifications beyond their current applications for employee decision making, and will it extend mediocre levels of validity for experiences versus other hiring tools?
  • In a decentralized system housing this information, who bears responsibility for establishing job-relatedness of the variables captured therein, and how can organizations confidently incorporate these data into their selection processes?


Digital Megatrend #3: Extended Reality All Around Us


  • How we look at and experience the world are changing.
  • Augmented reality (AR) is enhancing a version of your reality by adding digital information on the image of something. One of the most well-known examples of this is Pokémon GO.
  • Virtual reality (VR) is using technology to create a simulated environment, which means the world in front of you is completely different than reality. Digital reality is a wide spectrum of technologies and experiences that digitally simulate reality in one way or another.
  • A mixed reality example is the Microsoft HoloLens, a holographic computer allowing users to interact with blended virtual and augmented aspects of their environment.

Intersection With the Workplace

  • Training approaches will evolve to include these types of methods. With prices dropping, these approaches will increasingly become another—and perhaps even a primary—way of providing experiences so learners can practice the job in a realistic, yet simulated environment.
  • Customer and candidate experiences will change. Imagine helping future candidates get a glimpse at what the company and environment will be like.
  • Fused experiences will require new business models and new organizational structures to connect the physical and virtual experiences of both customers and employees.

How Characterized Within the Technology Reports
(See the Appendix for information about which reports cite which trend)

  • Immersive Experience (AR, VR, mixed reality)
  • Customer Experience Becomes Immersive
  • Extended Reality: The End of Distance
  • Immersive Technologies (AR/VR)
  • Augmented Reality: The Age of Augmented Reality Is Here
  • Digital Reality

                I-O Psychology Considerations

  • Which interpersonal constructs, for example, empathy and extraversion, best translate to mixed reality representation and measurement through simulated interactions among employees and with customers?
  • How must training approaches be adapted to the availability of mixed reality technologies, and how will these technologies change employee expectations for length and immersiveness of training experiences?
  • What job characteristics (e.g., KSAOs) are most—and least—suited to representation using augmented and virtual reality? Will these techniques extend to complex individual contributor and leadership roles, or will they be limited to positions with a higher emphasis on physical and routine-based skills?


Digital Megatrend #4: Enterprise Security and Infrastructure Is a Global Concern


  • It’s no surprise with the digital disruption and increased use of devices, apps, and other software, that data privacy and security infrastructures will need to continue to improve. People-centric security will be critical to protect individual data.
  • Also, more and more businesses are being born in the cloud leading to many considerations and demands for managing a business online and ensuring data privacy.

Intersection with the workplace

  • Data management and security technologies that enable contextual privacy will not only involve technology capabilities but business practices. The use of personal data and data-centric security approaches will continue to evolve.

How Characterized Within the Technology Reports
(See the Appendix for information about which reports cite which trend)

  • Ransomware as a Service; Hacktivism on the Rise; Strange Computer Glitches Will Keep Happening
  • New Open Source App; Vulnerabilities; Organizational Doxing
  • Encryption Management; Zero-Day Exploits on the Rise
  • Remote Kill Switches
  • Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust
  • Automated Security Intelligence and Breach Response Unshackle S&R (Security and Risk)
  • The Public Cloud Accelerates Business Innovation
  • Data Veracity: The Importance of Trust
  • Enterprise Data Sovereignty
  • Reengineering Technology

                I-O Psychology Considerations

  • Privacy investments can change a culture of a company which will require an I-O lens for establishing an environment of employee trust despite a heightened level of suspicions about external “bad actors.”
  • As hacking, phishing, and other corporate attacks escalate, what new or adapted skills and traits must employees possess (e.g., new forms of vigilance and technology savvy) to reduce rather than add security risks to the use of technology in the workplace?
  • How can job analysis techniques be structured and revised to keep up with changing demands for security-related skillsets, both within and outside the IT function?

Closing Thoughts

The quickening pace of technology adoption dramatically amplifies the urgency for business professionals to attend and react to impending technology influences. In this column, we’ve reviewed a set of 2018 technology trend reports, resulting in key digital megatrends for I-O psychologists to become aware of, and to act on, through our research and practice efforts. Our ownership of and proactivity on these megatrends will heavily determine our role and influence in mediating their soon-approaching impact on employees, leaders, customers, and the future of work itself.

Reach out with feedback and suggestions!

Contact us on LinkedIn: Tiffany Poeppelman & Evan Sinar

Contact us on Twitter: @TRPoeppelman & @EvanSinar


Interested in reading other past issues? Find them here!

  • 2017 Technology Trends: Are I-O Psychologists Prepared? – January 2017
  • #SIOP17 Program Preview: Technology Roundup for Orlando – April 2017
  • #SIOP17 Review: Technology Takeaways from Orlando – July 2017
  • Modern App: Don't Believe (Most of) The Technology Hype – September 2017
  • The Modern App: How Technology Is Advancing Team-Centric Work – March 2018
  • The Modern App: Technology & I-O Crossovers: How Multidisciplinary Views Are Vital to Our Learning – June 2018

Appendix: Cross-Report Trend Classification
2018 Technology Trend Reports


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