It was a scorching hot couple of days in Sydney for the HR Tech Fest 2015 at the Australian Technology Park. Inside, futurist and innovation strategist Anders Sorman-Nilsson took a cool look at what’s to come for business. Change is exponential, he warned, with the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 country dropping to 15 years, down from 67 in the 1920s. The themes of disruption and change carried throughout the event as thought leaders, HR professionals and companies presented case studies and musings on the progress of technology as it relates to HR.
In an environment that embraces digital natives and digital immigrants, digital foreigners are being left behind and technology uptake advances on. Speakers touched on generational gaps within the workforce and how these separations play out in terms of employee performance and productivity. As labour markets shift, millennials and Gen Y are taking over workplaces. Meanwhile, leadership remains firmly in the hands of baby boomers, who are generally out of touch with what their younger workforce wants. Bringing out the best of this inter-generational workforce is, in technology terms, like combining the analogue heart with the the digital head. After all, anyone who was around at the time remembers their first vinyl purchase, said Nilsson, whereas who remembers their first MP3 download?
Conversations never strayed too far from analytics, a word feared as much as revered in HR circles. Michael Molinaro, an American working in the UK for Barclays Bank, gave some of the most useful advice for HR. Analytics, he believes, is the golden key, delivering visible ROI on HR technology investments, making HR a true player in their organisation and bringing respect to the role that isn’t always there.
In Molinaro’s experience, many businesses know they want data but haven’t figured out what it’s for. Ask yourself, “What are the business issues we are trying to solve?” he advises. Start small in an area that is manageable and build the skills and expertise needed to broach the higher level stuff.
Many speakers outlined the paradigm shift taking place as the freelance economy overtakes many traditional business models. All companies are in the information business whether they like it or not, argues Brian Sommer, president of Vital Analysis in the US. Building on this concept, social media has taken a prominent role in organisational profiles as well, says Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources and HR blogger. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and although the enthusiasm for social media is there, anxiety about damaging employer brand keeps comms from really diving in. All this and more points to a landscape where old HR practices and approaches no longer mesh with what modern workforces want and need.
While the rate of change seems bracing, Nilsson is quick to point out that in fact, this is the slowest it will ever be. Perhaps it’s time for HR to ask: Are we keeping pace?