Future of Work Takeover
The future of work is taking over the way people do their jobs, including HR professionals. What does the takeover look like and how does human resources adapt to the new changes in order to stay competitive in every aspect of the HR function?
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is the future of work. I say this because, as the editor of the HR Exchange Network, I’ve asked every HR professional I’ve interviewed recently a single question: what does the future of work mean to you as an HR professional and to your company?”
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I’ve received a plethora of answers, and below is a general series of topics that seem to always come up as part of the discussion.
Future of Work
For a moment, think back to 2010. What would the phrase ‘remote workforce’ mean to you? More than likely, it would describe a very small group of people within the workforce; telemarketers and such. Fast forward less than ten years and the definition is very different. Now, the number of remote workers has grown in size and it’s still growing. In fact, Buffer’s State of Remote Work report says remote workers will account for nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce by 2020. In addition, the remote workforce is not only growing in size, but also in the level of positions on a “remote payroll.” level.
Full-time employees from the lowest ranked to the top executive spend entire days at home logged in to their company’s mainframe through a remote client. Some don’t even stay at home, taking their laptop with them to the library or favorite coffee shop to work. They are video conferencing with fellow remote workers and conducting full scale projects without having to be in the same room with their team mates.
In fact, the same report mentioned above says 90% of the remote workers they surveyed said they would spend the rest of their career working remotely.
Remote workers aren’t just full-time employees. A growing segment of them are freelance or gig workers; workers who shop their skills out to multiple employers at a time. This has real implications for HR.
“This whole concept of the gig economy, that’s going to change the workplace significantly,” Jami Stewart said. She’s the Senior Director of HR Services at Cisco Systems, Inc.
“It changes the way that we lead and manage teams,” she said.
Stewart explained that, in a gig economy, the person is not a resource controlled by the company. Instead, the person is shared with other companies. It’s a significant change to the workplace in that gig employee can change companies based on their skills and desires with no strings attached.
AI and Machine Learning
It’s hard to separate technology from the future of work. In most instances, HR professionals focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning in relation to the topic.
Take chat bots for instance. These are not full on robots. They’re computer programs designed to answer questions from a human and then produce the information requested. It’s just like Amazon Echo or Google Home devices, except for HR or other functions within a company.
HP is one of the most recognizable technology companies in the world their finance department uses a large number of bots; more than 300 to automate mundane tasks. In doing so, HP allows their employees to do higher level work which increases their level of engagement.
Autonomy and Flexibility
As a new class of worker begins to fill in the ranks within the workforce (mostly Generation Z), there is an overwhelming desire to have real automony and flexibility. This supports this idea of the entrepreneurial spirit these workers exemplify.
Nextel Brasil went through a difficult time during its history as a company. Essentially the company was failing and had to regroup and to, in essence, stay alive. In the process, the company made some significant organizational challenges.
First, they changed the way the organization was structured to allow for more autonomy. In doing so, they stripped away 30% of the managerial level and created fewer layers. This meant decisions as well as communication between employees and executives happened much more quickly and frequently.
Secondly, the company embraced flexibility as a matter of survival. They didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to offer bonuses or salary increases. They also wanted to make sure they targeted those employees who were digital natives. So, they had to create new differentials. Flexibility/flexible scheduling was one of them.
Culture is key especially when considering the future of work. As Peter Drucker said, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ You can strategize all you want, but if your culture isn’t right, you’re not going to get there.
Adidas know this all too well. It’s one of the world’s largest athletic apparel companies with more than 50,000 employees. Gregg Tate, Adidas’ former Global Senior Vice President of Human Resources, told the HR Exchange Network the company wants to shift is culture to focus on “enticing people to join and stay with the company, looking at role models who inspire us, capitalizing on the diverse perspectives we have within the company and creating an environment that inspires people. We then translate that down to three C’s of what we want to base our culture around -- creativity, collaboration and confidence. ”
This strong culture contributes to the company’s branding and reinforces the employees’ commitment to their work.
“When you work for a company with such recognizable products and personality, it’s easy to be passionate about your work. We believe that, through sports, we have the power to change lives. That’s easy to get people to rally around."
Beyond the Future of Work
Throughout this article, we’ve covered big pieces of the future of work puzzle and explained out it seems to be taking over human resources. Having said that, most HR professionals who’ve talked about this topic aren’t focused on the technology that makes it real, they focus, instead, on how to keep those employees connected to each other, the business, and the culture. That makes one thing quite clear: the future of work is people.
Picture courtesy Stock Photo Secrets