What does the 'future of work' mean for HR?

The future is really anything you make of it. Now, sharing your ‘alternative view’ can win you top prizes

What does the 'future of work' mean for HR?

At this point, the “future of work” is anything you make of it.

As Alex Swarbrick, regional director, Asia Pacific at Roffey Park Institute aptly put it: “From the ILO to the OECD; from Deloitte to McKinsey; research and opinions on the future of work proliferate and offer mixed perspectives ranging from optimistic to doom laden.”

He shared with HRD some commonly recognised trends, such as the growing polarisation of the labour market. There are candidates “at the top” with highly sought-after skills attracting high rewards and favourable conditions. Then there are those “at the bottom” with low skills competing for limited opportunities in a crowded market.

In the middle, he said, lies a growing number of former “white collar” technical functions increasingly becoming the domain of AI.

To add to that, the gig economy is flourishing at both ends of the spectrum.

“Alongside those shifts, the nature of organisations is also in flux,” he said. “Many become flatter – with previous notions of hierarchy, of boundaries between the inside and outside of the organisation. And the concept of ‘work’ being time- or location-specific is becoming meaningless.”

Swarbrick said the topic has long been of keen interest to Roffey Park Institute. As we work towards understanding this uncertain future, the topic continues to be of vital significance, which is why it’s the theme for their international research competition this year.

Roffey Park is currently inviting submissions for ‘The Human Aspects of the Future of Work’. The aim of the competition is to encourage research papers that offer an innovative approach and perspective on established ways of thinking.

Their CEO Robert Coles urged entrants to offer alternative views that “provoke us, educate us, entertain us.”

Winners are picked by the region, and the top entry in Asia stands a chance to win a prize worth $4,000. The closing date for submissions is July 26.

Entries need to meet the following requirements:

  • No more than 5,000 words
  • Be evidence-based
  • Clearly written, structured and accessible to practitioners
  • Combine insights from practice, theory and/or research
  • Be original and not published elsewhere
  • Appropriately referenced

“Of all managerial disciplines, HR has been described as the least agile and the most risk averse,” Swarbrick said. “We’ve been justifiably criticized for being disproportionately preoccupied with the individual rather than the organisational system and managing risk rather than fostering innovation.

“The future of work calls HR to shift its own culture from one of control to flexibility, and to help our organisations and leaders be more comfortable and skilful in managing the ambiguities, complexities and polarities facing businesses.”

For more information and details on how to enter Roffey Park’s international research competition on “The Human Aspects of the Future of Work”, contact Sara Gopal at saradevi.gp@roffeypark.com

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