Changes to industrial relations, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), workforce demographics, as well as the growth of mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technologies will soon 'casualise' the workforce.

A panel of industry experts, including Frost & Sullivan managing director, Mark Dougan (moderator), ComOps general manager, Daniel Sheahan, Sage MicrOpay managing director, Craig Osborne and Entity Solutions CEO and founder, Matthew Franceschini, discussed the importance of employers' flexibility in attracting essential skills at a HR Forum presented by latter three companies in Sydney.

Franceschini said that entering a new world of work started with IT and was now moving into everything else.

"It is a global phenomenon and is the biggest shift we ever had historically in the workforce. Now we have work-life blending, an ageing population, social media, and so on -- it's a completely different workforce paradigm," he said.

The panel listed the top challenges employers will face in the coming year. They include:

1. A shift towards a more flexible, mobile workforce: The rapid growth of working from home, BYOD, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices and the adoption of Cloud-based technologies will pressurise employers to introduce more flexible measures within corporations, Osborne said.

"It's not impossible to make that transition in traditional areas where clearly in the past, you worked on the basis of sitting physically in a chair for eight hours in the office," he said.

2. Employees' expectation to be recognised for being 'always on': With the Generation Ys entering the workforce and adopting technologies at a faster rate than the baby boomers, they expect employers to acknowledge their commitment to working from their mobile devices or from home no matter the time of day, according to Sheahan.

"There is a generational gap in what people want. There needs to be a reconciliation between what the new workforce wants and what's been driven in terms of legislative change," he said.

The speakers concluded that to attract the younger candidates into the workforce, businesses need to offer greater choice in remote working and telecommunications and incorporating changes to the physical workplace layout.

3. A resurgence in unionisation: The discernment that executives are being overpaid at the expense of the general worker is strengthening the reception of unions.

Sheahan said that the introduction of organisations such as Fair Work Australia is being received well by the workforce but, employers should not see it as a problem as they are not as pragmatic as they might be in terms of conditions in the workforce.

4. The blurring of lines between contract and permanent staff engagements: An ageing population and the growing numbers of Generation Y desiring flexibility has given rise to this trend, according to Franceschini.

He said although there will be a demand for permanent staff, there could possibly be a surge in assignment and project-based engagements.

5. New OHS rules hold directors directly liable for the consequences of their companies' compliance: The panel discussed that in order for companies to evade the penalties, the new culture of safe workplaces will affect the way a company employs people, their roles and responsibilities and hours of work.

6. The skills shortage is not going to disappear: The speakers predicted that all the challenges faced by the industry will pose a threat to the skilled workforce. Sheahan suggested that HR professionals become more creative in the way that they retain their existing organisational skills base.

"In five or 10 years, the problem should ease as the Gen X and Gen Ys move back up into the senior management layers. But today, they need to focus on how they attract the right people and how they will use technology," he said.