The road ahead
What percentage of employees will willingly accept rapid change, and be able to cope with, and adapt to, it?
Jan 24, 2017
By Ian Hendry
Regular readers of Canadian HR Reporter will know that, for several years now, a small group of SCNetwork’s CHROs have gathered annually to reflect on the current state of HR. The content from those discussions is converted into two, sometimes three, articles which appear in the publication.
In accordance with that tradition, a group of us recently met to discuss a wide range of issues, and I am quite certain it will make for interesting reading. As many of our members know, several of our events last year (with more such events planned for this year) reflected upon the impact of change, both in terms of its speed, and its disruptive nature.
As you consider the organization in which you work, or organizations with which you work, what percentage of employees do you think will willingly accept rapid change, and be able to cope with, and adapt to, it? The simplest answer might be, “not enough.” With this in mind, it will not surprise you that our group talked about HR being the core resource in envisaging the future of work and forging ahead to prepare industries that will need to adapt and/or transform.
Amusingly perhaps, but not surprisingly, Donald Trump’s name came up immediately when the word "change" entered our discussion. If Canada is a nation of exporters, and the U.S. is our principal trading partner, taxation at the border will undoubtedly have a huge impact on Canadian business? The question of what this potential economic change will mean is the current #1 issue for many industries.
Every day I come across something new in technology at which I marvel. Yesterday, I learned of Catalin Voss, who at age 21, is working on an application that deploys Google Glass, linked to a smartphone, to help autistic children recognize human emotions through facial expressions. Some of you may laughingly remember the mood rings of the 70’s, but how will we deploy apps that tell us of employee moods based upon their facial expressions?
What about the possibility of wearing a headset that will actually change a person’s mood? These are in the realm of probability in the not-too-distant future and are likely to be the type of technology embraced by millennials. If, as predicted, this demographic does make up between 50% -75% of our workforce by 2020, pertinent data and valuable information at an employee’s fingertips will be table stakes.
I think it is fair to say that, in the past, our organizational CIOs have taken the lead in advancing technologies to be deployed? Our collective view is that those days are gone. Rather, CHROs, acknowledging that our approach to work and the way it is organized is rapidly shifting, should be taking the initiative to create workforces that are both agile and resilient.
Technology will be the primary catalyst to make that happen and HR needs to know how to source and deploy it. Deloitte, in one of its opinion pieces, has said, “at its core, how we work in future will be more networked, more devolved, more mobile, more team- based, more project-based, more collaborative, more real-time, and more fluid.” That means many component parts, facilitated by technology, will need to be adopted, organized and integrated over a relatively short period of time. That’s quite a daunting challenge, but to many CHROs it is both exciting and energizing.
This theme is central to our first meeting of the year on Jan. 24 when Carol Leaman, the CEO of Axonify, will be our speaker. Jobs will be modified because of technology and employees will need to keep pace with that. This may necessitate entirely new skill sets requiring constant learning by employees. Companies can no longer stand still. Carol leads in a LMS world where she needs to forecast the “people requirements” of the future, while at the same time, operating in real time with her own employees and existing clients. How does she see the future unfolding? What is her message to HR? How does she find the talent to stay ahead of the competition? What is it like to be a woman in a male-dominated tech sector? Carol’s thoughtfulness and candour will make this a very worthwhile investment of your time and will help you as you think about the speed of change and how you can thrive in it.
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Suanne Nielsen is president of the Strategic Capability Network and senior vice-president and chief talent officer at Foresters in Toronto.