One way to generate innovative ideas is to stop trying to think outside the box, and to get yourself a smaller box instead.
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From Oculus Rift to HoloLens, innovations in virtual reality have companies scrambling to create the first great headset on the market. While originally focused on the gaming and entertainment industry, there's no denying that virtual and augmented reality technology will directly impact the way we work and communicate as well.
Human Resources departments have finite resources of time, money, and focus. When it comes to effective Strategic Workforce Planning, what not to do is as important as what to do.
HR needs to equip themselves with the knowledge, methods, and frameworks that will allow them to be strategic - but organisations need to enable them to use these tools.
Recently Pew Research ran a survey on the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics on the future of work. 1,896 experts responded to the survey, with 48% believing that automation and robotics will displace a significant number of workers by 2025. The 52% of techno-optimists nonetheless recognised that many current roles will be displaced, even if net employment is the same or higher than it is today.
Frey and Martin at Oxford, in their "The Future of Employment" study, suggested that 47% of current work could be automated in the next 10-20 years, and many of the roles forecast to be automated are jobs traditionally held by younger workers, or lower-skilled work. Some of the roles most likely to be automated, according to the study, are:
- Telemarketers - 99% likelihood of automation
- Hand Sewers - 99%
- New Accounts Clerks - 99%
- Data Entry Keyers - 99%
- Clerical Work in a range of categories - 98%
- Tellers - 98%
- Bookkeeping - 98%
- Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks - 97%
- Cashiers - 97%
Imagine the "career ladder" with the first three rungs hacked off - that's the future we're heading into if these roles aren't replaced. How will we support people entering the workforce if there are no entry-level roles?
What was particularly interesting to me in the Pew Report was:
a. That the respondents were high-profile economists, futurists, journalists, and technologists representing organisations including the New York Times, Yahoo, Google, the Institute for the Future, the European Union, The Economist, and NASA - in other words, the people who are in a position to shape the future; and that
b. Many respondents assigned responsibility for guiding the adjustment to governments, educators, or luck. Some key responses are below:
It's impossible to accurately predict the future, but it is possible to forecast multiple futures, and plan initiatives to respond to those scenario - even if we don't know precisely how the future will unfold. It's clear that whether you believe that net jobs will be destroyed through automation or not, there is a huge transition already happening, and the pace is accelerating. Reports like the Oxford and Pew papers are a wake-up call, but they're not a solution - and we all have a role in determining whether our future is utopian or dystopian.
What are some ways that you believe we can support people undergoing technological unemployment, particularly if the number of unemployed rises above historic levels? How do you see work looking in 2025? How do we support people entering the workforce, if robots and algorithms are doing all the entry-level roles?
Mars One is an initiative to create a human settlement on Mars, with the first crew expected to depart earth in 2024. Although I can't imagine applying to go on a one-way mission to Mars, I'm fascinated by the concept and intrigued by the process.
Needless to say, taking a job like this is no small commitment - you are literally giving your life to your job, and the first crew of four's commitment and preparation will determine the success of a program to colonise another planet. (No pressure).
What's particularly interesting to me is the selection criteria - although there are some age requirements and no doubt health requirements, the five key criteria are Resiliency, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to Trust, and Creativity / Resourcefulness. Technical skills can be taught, even on a scientific mission - but the right persona is critical. We see this playing out in all different industries, all round the world - what differentiates a competent member of the workforce from an exception performer is rarely a technical skill - but we typically source for and develop on technical skill alone.
What are the competencies, skills, and personas that separate high performers from everyone else in your workforce? Knowing that, what are you doing to build HR initiatives to stack the deck towards high performance?
If all of your HR practices are common practices, you don't have a strategy.