Welcome back to work. Still sifting through your emails? In case you missed them, here are four stories that are set to influence the future of work (and HR) in 2017. Some are funny; some are scary. All contain insights into what might shape the conversation this year.
The Great British Cake Off
In a move that has shocked a nation where baking is considered a national pastime, dentists in Britain have called for an end to “workplace cake culture” in 2017, calling it a ‘danger to health.’ What are the implications for the role of employers’ healthcare responsibilities to the future of work?
The faculty of dental surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons has called on offices to make a New Year resolution to cut down on sugar consumption in the workplace. They have also released tips on how to do so, including considering low-sugar alternatives, keeping a “sugar schedule” to limit sugar intake and ensuring that sweets are not positioned near desks so that people may be tempted to eat more.
They say that while providing employees with sweet treats might be well intentioned – used by bosses who want to reward employees and build company culture – the damaging side effect is their contribution to the country’s current obesity epidemic and poor oral health.
However, contestants of The Great British Bakeoff, one of the nation’s most popular television programs, argue that it’s unfair to place the blame on cake alone. Winner of the series’ 2014 season Nancy Birtwhistle told the BBC that banning cake was “not the solution.” She explained: “I firmly believe that snacking between meals, sugary drinks and junk food are at the root of our obesity and dental care problem – not the occasional slice of celebratory cake.”
Your new insurance broker, Mr Robot
Forget artificial intelligence predictions; the droids are already here. White collar workers in Japan have returned to the office in 2017 to find that their jobs will now be carried out by AI.
This January, Japanese insurance company Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is reportedly replacing 24 insurance claim workers (human) with one program (robot); the IBM Watson Explorer.
The company expects that use of the program will significantly lower yearly operating costs and improve productivity by 30 per cent. According to a company press release, it will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered in order to help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster.
Although Artificial Intelligence systems like IBM’s are beginning to upend the future of work in knowledge-based professions such as insurance and financial services, whether or not robots will replace, or simply augment some rote elements of jobs remains to be seen, according to the Harvard Business Review.
“Almost all jobs have major elements that—for the foreseeable future—won’t be possible for computers to handle.”
Congratulations, most CEOs are psychopaths
A new study out of the US has found that one in five senior professionals can technically be classed as psychopaths.
Researchers from Australia’s Bond University and the University of San Diego say that CEOs with “psychopathic traits” pit one person against another and enjoy getting what they want at the expense of others, yet are often recruited because ‘the line between superficially attractive business management attributes and those which border on the clinically psychopathic can be a very thin one.’
The challenge for HR? To have a robust recruitment process that recognises the difference between driven, committed candidates who harness these traits positively and those who use them negatively. Equally important are internal mechanisms that deal swiftly and effectively with negative behaviours, should such a candidate be hired.
This practical guide by the National Law Review suggests what to consider when selecting a new CEO, and another article suggests that hiring managers with developed interpersonal skills should be top priority.
Portland is now taxing overpaid CEOs
In a move that has wide implications for the future of work in America, Oregon City has decided to take outrage over high CEO pay into their own hands by introducing a tax on publicly traded companies that pay their CEOs more than 100 times the median employee pay.
Set to begin in January 2017, the tax comes off the back of a report by Portland’s Review Bureau whose findings examined the pay gap between CEOs and workers at more than 500 publicly traded companies doing business in the city. According to Payscale, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf made 130 times more than the average median wage of employees, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt 202 times more, and Walmart’s Douglas McMillon 209 times more.
Portland City Council has stated that the surtax revenue, which may end up being between $2.5 million to $3.5 million per year, will accrue to the General Fund and help the Portland Housing Bureau meet the city’s commitment to funding homelessness services. However, how government body’s regulations may affect the future of work in the state moving forward remains to be seen.