‘The future cannot be predicted, but that doesn’t mean we should sit, wait and respond to what happens’
At an unprecedented speed, organsiations are being disrupted and displaced by technology that will continue to revolutionise the workplace over the next 20 years and beyond.
In the lead up to the HR Tech Summit in Sydney, which has a strong focus on what the workplace will look like in the next couple of decades, the head of R&D and work futurist at Atlassian, Dominic Price, told HRD that the days of the lone genius are over.
Price said that time has come where teams are required to solve the complex problems we face. These teams need to be “cognitively diverse, able to collaborate across borders and time zones, be cross-functional, and probably feature five generations”.
He added that the war for talent, increased competition, consumer expectation and technology advancements all mean that it’s more important than ever that organisations stay relevant.
“Team work might be the future, but it's certainly not easy so I'll share with the audience how to evolve from seeing team work as a tax, and reframing it as an investment.”
According to Price, the future of work is a particularly significant topic for HR professionals on three levels.
Firstly, their role is going to be significantly impacted and their value proposition needs to change.
Secondly, they need to find ways of helping support and accelerate the businesses they work in through this significant change.
And thirdly, with a high rate of change, and an increased number of careers (Millennials expected to have 17 careers), a new role of retraining, adult education and continuous learning, all come into focus.
“The biggest tip I'd give to anyone right now is the art of unlearning,” said Price.
This involves looking at how we can take what worked for us in the past, and realise that it won't work in the future.
“Actively unlearning past habits and rituals will give us the freedom of time and space to experiment with new ideas and build the future we want,” said Price.
“It's time for us all to step out of the theory, and into the action.”
Another speaker on the panel, James Hancock, business director at Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah.), said there’s been a lot of thinking about HR technology and the future of work, but now the ‘doing’ has really started.
Indeed, it feels like there’s a growing convergence of workplace trends (flexibility, sharing /gig economy and the flow-on to workplace settings) with the development of technology to support and enhance these trends, Hancock told HRD.
“Instead of shaping HR technology based on existing legacy HR processes and policies, there is now an improved consideration to challenge and redesign the way things have been done and for the technology to match - and it’s about time,” he added.
“Coming in and out of the HR profession in my career, I’ve felt a shifting yet measured mindset change in HR from protection and perfection, towards more nimble ways of doing things e.g. test and learn, fail fast.
“In technology, this has been the way for a long time and in broader business contexts it is also not new – but this alignment is powerful.”
Hancock said that the future of work is an important topic for HR professionals because technology is changing, disrupting and in places killing roles, organisations and industries.
“Depending on where we look, we may applaud, pause, scorn or mourn the outcomes, but as HR professionals our job is to help shape and guide organisations and individuals with resiliency towards the future.”
In particular, there is one piece of advice that Hancock would offer HR professionals relating to technology and the future of work.
“The future cannot be predicted, but that doesn’t mean we should sit, wait and respond to what happens,” said Hancock.
“As HR professionals, we must be better than that – constantly seeking ideas, information and knowledge.”
Hancock added that HR professionals shouldn’t profess to be experts on everything, but each day they should be ready to challenge their whole organisation – not just leaders – to move beyond talk about the future of work to really set practical ways to get there.
Another important topic covered at the HR Tech Summit is Change leadership in HR technology projects which is being spoken about by David Dunne, director, Workday Service Delivery at Alight Solutions.
He said this topic is critically important for HR professionals to continually talk about because it is often overlooked.
“In my experience, it is not difficult to get HR professionals excited about implementing technology which will make their lives easier and more engaging,” said Dunne.
“However, the implementation of HR technology needs to be focused as much, if not more, on the employee experience as it is on the HR team’s experience.
“Investing the time upfront to ensure your people understand what you are doing, why, and how it will benefit them, pays dividends in the long run.”
Dunne encourages other HR professionals to not underestimate or under-invest in change management capability in your implementation.
“Take your people on a journey, which starts pre project initiation, which demonstrates how the technology you are implementing fundamentally improves the employee experience and frees people up to focus on the things that matter.”
Dunne said that the danger with any technology implementation is that you only know what you know, and as the saying goes “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got!”