The whole world of work is changing rapidly, or as Kevin Wheeler puts it – the future of work has become a disruptive landscape ridden with dragons. As a result, HR professionals are now tasked with being “wizards” to proactively predict their organisations’ requirements as well as work magic day-to-day. The number of jobs is declining, given new models of augmentation, supplementation and eventually full-blown robotic automation. Economists – and Wheeler – predict that work is probably not going to exist in the future in any format that it does today – bitcoins may replace traditional currencies and workers might trade weekly payslips for guaranteed incomes. What’s an HR professional to do?
There’s no need for HR to hide behind an invisibility cloak; amidst this chaos, Wheeler sees clear actions for human resource directors, or HRDs. In a world where personal brand management has become the mantra of millennials in the workforce, building networks to source the skills needed is key. The “new” sharing economy means HRDs will need to use their own networks – internally and externally – to address talent shortages and identify those people who can authentically contribute what’s needed whilst collaborating productively within the corporate culture. Encouraging this degree of expansiveness, Wheeler advises HRDs to encourage fluidity beyond borders, fostering more conversation and cooperation.
When did HR change so dramatically? Wheeler acknowledges that post-World War II, control and compliance remain key elements in the world of human resources. Yet as the composition of the workforce changes to include new employment models that aren’t necessarily tethered to benefits packages, the purview of HR needed to change as well. Layered upon the people changes are the technology shifts: biological computing, Wi-Fi everywhere, wearables and common computing platforms shared by multiple stakeholders throughout the enterprise with sales, marketing, operations and HR all using the same tools instead of barriers being created by silo’d solutions.
Technology will impact far more than how workers work; there are many additional dragons lurking out there. Wheeler sees wearables as having significant bearing on conventional HR deliverables such as learning and development. When a car mechanic can have the automotive manual displayed in his Google glasses while working on the vehicle or nurses can watch a video on their Apple watch before a procedure, it’s apparent that training models need to be redefined and streamlined. Putting the power of knowledge in the hands of the workers responsible for its execution also means these workers are deepening skills that make them even more marketable. Flight risk abounds; competency, capability and motivation give employees more mobility.
Wheeler also raises the interesting point that “managers will become obsolete.” Impossible to imagine? He sees self-managed groups with rotating leadership as the norm. Hierarchy will become a distant memory and innovation will spike through collaboration and sharing.
As for HR, Wheeler offers several tips. First, to effectively plan future talent needs, talk about the future of the business. It’s not reasonable for HR to operate as a separate entity; it needs to be well integrated with the goals and objectives of the organisation. Second, ask line managers what constitutes workforce productivity in their estimation. Factor this valuable information into talent planning. Third, be strategic about change – some functions and tasks simply won’t fit into new models. Don’t hold onto the past. Lastly, be open to new constructs. Wheeler says while everything is changing, some HR deliverables will actually intensify in importance: organisational development, employee engagement, coaching and networking.
HRDs – are you ready to wave your magic wands?
Talent futurist Kevin Wheeler has firsthand knowledge of the need for better strategies and approaches to finding, developing and retaining people. Globally known as an expert on human capital acquisition and development, he is a much sought-after speaker, author, teacher and consultant. Wheeler is also the founder and Chairman of the Future of Talent Institute (FOTI) and a university professor on HR topics.
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