AHRI CEO, Lyn Goodear FAHRI, unpacks the results from the recent member survey outlining HR’s thoughts on the future of work.
Most of us are resigned to the idea that we can’t do much to alter the past, but setting aside notions of pre-destination and astrological forecasting, which are premised on the idea of a fixed future, I’ve always believed that we can influence what happens in the future.
The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was of similar mind when he offered the view that it’s ‘better to make a good future than to predict a bad one’. I’m with Isaac.
The results are in
Given those pre-conceptions, you can imagine my initial astonishment when I was shown the findings from our member survey a couple of months ago on the Future of Work: HR Hopes and Fears. Asked about their idea of the future, only 12 per cent of the 1128 respondents saw the future starting today. While seven per cent saw the future revealing itself in 15 or more years, the remaining 81 per cent saw it happening somewhere between one and 10 years’ time.
The result was clear-cut, and I was being shown a clear majority view that I was not part of. I was firmly with the 12 per cent. Nevertheless, I felt obliged to consider what the 88 per cent were thinking, and quickly decided to resist the temptation to assume such a large majority was in denial.
I saw part of the answer when I looked at the other findings. Respondents were not simply asked about how their workplace would fare in a future characterised by emerging technologies making inroads. They were also asked to think about their own HR jobs in a future workforce peopled increasingly by non-people.
Impressively, 96 per cent see these technological additions to the workforce as an opportunity rather than a threat, with 79 per cent seeing the possibility of improving processes and productivity. Also, while acknowledging machines will replace jobs, 78 per cent expect that many of the replaced jobs will be redesigned so the machines will operate with an augmented human presence.
These are relatively big numbers and they all implicitly involve HR playing a central and continuing role as workforce planners.
What does the future hold?
With further reflection on the data, I began to see that the majority of respondents have their feet firmly on the ground. They see that while emerging technologies may create more jobs than they replace, 69 per cent also see a lag in the redeployment of displaced workers. And 87 per cent agree that they would need to acquire new skills for the future and are confident they can do so. I am pleased to be able to say that AHRI’s certification imperative is playing a role there.
In addition, 43 per cent see that the emerging gig economy will be likely to negatively impact on performance, customer service, workplace culture and ethical behaviour.
To the extent I am still with the 12 per cent, I see it as critical that the HR partner in the business acts today, not tomorrow, in order to influence the agenda. Being an ‘influencer’ is one of the 10 behavioural attributes that AHRI certified practitioners are required to demonstrate.
There has never been a time when that quality matters more. HR must get on the front foot in asserting, from a position of strength and influence, the primacy of people.
I stand with my UK counterpart Peter Cheese from the CIPD, who says that HR needs to “make sure the future of work is human, and that we design workplaces that make the best of people, not just clever technology.”
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the February edition of HRM Magazine.