The Future of Work : a matter of experience, a creativity requirement

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On March 21st and 22nd I’ll be attending HR Tech World in London (and I strongly advise you to do so as long as there are tickets left). This year’s theme : the future of work.

This is an obvious focus : with the advent of robots and AI, employees seeing the world around them changing and asking the enterprise to change too to support their succès, the need for new forms of talent and intelligence, work reinvention is a big challenge for HR. Especially when it happens in a highly unpredictable social, economical, political and technological landscape.

The only thing we can be sure of is that technology will pull this reinvention as it creates new fields of opportunities every day. We don’t know in which direction, to what extent or where the mines and traps will be but technology is paving the way for change. The only thing we can take for granted is that it’s going to happen and we’ll have to adapt.

The future of work is precisely one of the key trends identified by Josh Bersin in the latest edition of his yearly report on the human capital trends , that was published a few days ago.

Source : Bersin by Deloitte

I won’t specifically address the 10 trends and will adopt a macro approach instead. If, from a technology standpoint, the augmented workforce is a trend worth considering, I think that the matter is more global. I would at least include work and digital HR (Trend 7), employee experience (trend 4), the organization of the future (trend 1) and performance management (trend 5).

The future of work follows the future of HR.

As a matter, in the eye of the employee work is seen as a whole, encompassing everything he does, experiences, suffers from all along his journey. So in my opinion the future of work is everywhere and not in a silo. Moreover, the future of work is also the future of HR. Work reinvention follows HR reinvention and I’m not sure we’re that close to the finish line.

Since we are discussing the future of HR and the incredible amount of opportunities made possible by technology, Bersin confirms that the opportunity for HR is to close the gap existing between the evolution of technology, people, businesses and governments.

Source : Bersin by Beloitte

That’s true, provided one does not make the mistake of aligning everything on technology, at the risk of ending with a “whatever strategy”. However, understanding technology, its use cases, usages, the principles that underlies its existence and reformatting the whole to solve a problem and fulfill a need is essential. But technology must remain an enabler, sometimes an inspiration, but should never be the absolute benchmark of practices. Let’s keep in mind what Bersin said in his previous report : the future of HRIS is apps that make work life better. That must remind us the need to always consider technology in the specific context of work and to go in every possible direction just because it’s possible.

Employee experience is mainly a real work experience

This holistic nature of work and the need for considering technology in the context of work bring me back to my current conviction : the guiding principle of a HR strategy in a digital world (rather than a digital HR strategy…since digital is everywhere it’s nowhere and we must think omnichannel first) is the idea of employee experience that is very similar to the futur of work. As a matter of fact, employee experience is what the employee experiences all along his journey, at each touchpoint, and not only with HR. The largest part of employee experience is real work experience and considering that employee experience is a matter among other rather than a global guiding principe is like installing a table football game next to a torture chamber. Reinventing work means reinventing real work and not only HR practices. In other words, when management and business processes put millstones around employee’s neck, that performance and engagement decrease, a company need a common guiding principle that reconciles HR and business operations, with a shared simplification and engagement approach. It was one of my takes from the latest HR Tech World London even if we’re still far from the goal.

Employee experience and the need to be able to go beyond the traditional scope of HR to leverage all the possible touchpoints will my main focus at HR Tech World.

Who says reinvention and experiences, says creativity. Creativity and design are everywhere today and not only in so-called creative professions. It’s an universal need, everywhere in every organization. That’s something I often mention in my talks : the paradox of businesses wanting their employees to change but still hiring their clones instead of people looking more like the “future employee” and can be used as role models, will influence change and personify new behaviors. Businesses like new creative methods but too often when they’re brought by external experts, as if they were afraid of having their employees being too creative by nature.

Creativity at the heart of the future of work.

So I expect to hear things about creativity and design at HR Tech World. And it will surely happen since one of the keynotes speakers is Ken Robinson, an educationalist famous for being the most viewed TED Talk ever. This talk was, precisely, on how education is killing creativity (even it applies to businesses too).

Robinson explains that the public eduction system was designed to reproduce itself (public eduction is designed to prepare university professors) and that it’s very hard for people to be aware of  their own talents when they don’t fit in the model.

That’s exactly the problem businesses are facing when it comes to reinvent work and even reinvent themselves : be creative, identify, accept, recognize, promote new forms of talent that they used to refuse, consider as a risk or even fire in the past. And, beyond this, the need to continuously learn and unlearn.

Experience, creativity, new talents : these are exciting matters I’ll have a close look at on march 21st and 22nd. I hope I’ll see some of you there !

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