What’s old is new again – with a twist

Four SCNetwork members discuss the presentation by Deloitte
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/30/2019
Four SCNetwork members discuss the presentation by Deloitte

Paul Pittman:  During this presentation, I had concerns for the first 20 minutes as we seemed to be focused on Deloitte’s self-confessed invention of the social enterprise.

But then we got into the survey and other perceived trends, and the presenters did a fine job with a liberal dose of interpretation.

In a nutshell, we don’t use enough technology and we are not being nice enough to people, including helping them move on.

Funnily enough, these are the same results seen in the last survey I conducted a few years ago, but with different jargon.

It is fantastically difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from a standard set of questions asked of a global audience with differing cultural and literal interpretations and (in some cases) concepts that are alien to the local leadership. Nonetheless, some interesting, common threads appear to unite leadership and the HR community.

There’s a mighty leap to technology, which there has to be in the pursuit of increased productivity, but great dissatisfaction was noted too — which makes sense. Think about how many apps you use in business or personally that actually do what they are supposed to. Not many? Ninety-four per cent of participants pretty much agreed — with only six per cent satisfied with their HR technology (probably spreadsheets).

When dealing with people’s careers, development, engagement and productivity, less-than-full functionality will likely do more damage than good.

Before leaping to action on the results of this global survey, it would be wise to consider for a moment its likely participants, who are likely at larger international employers, and have the wherewithal to experiment and invest in employee-centric organizations.

The presenters identified the numbers of employees with “side gigs” — second jobs they had taken in pursuit of self-fulfillment.

Employee-centric social enterprises are no doubt going to thrive but the employees are going to need one or more side hustles to grow or get by. There doesn’t seem much that is sociable or employee-centric about that.

David Creelman: While reporting on the latest trends is fun and perhaps merits reflection once a year, most things don’t change that quickly and some trends are mere blips that will swing back in a few years. As a result, there is pressure to tart up the presentation with more drama and newer words than are really useful. 

 However, I liked the emphasis on alternative work and side hustles because technology enables this in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. Furthermore, it provides a great way for people and organizations to be more adaptable.

I’d go even further to say that side hustles are the best mechanism for Canadians and the Canadian economy to thrive in an era of extreme technological change. This is a trend we should encourage.

 But I didn’t like the notion of “superjobs” or “the human experience.” These new terms are unnecessary inventions. In particular, in a world where HR is just coming to grips with the concept of “employee experience,” changing the label to human experience is counterproductive.

 What I really would like is a report by a historian who could put things into a broader perspective. Is the world moving towards the social enterprise? Perhaps it is, perhaps not.

If I am serious about this affecting my strategy, then I want a historian’s point of view.

Sandi Channing: When Jodi began to speak about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I was intrigued.  I liked the way she tied current trends into three buckets based on the top three levels of the hierarchy — future of workforce (belonging), future of organization (esteem) and future of HR (self-actualization).

It was no surprise then that people were the centre of all the trends, and it looks like everyone is winning. AI is no longer seen as the monster that is taking away jobs. Now the focus is using the time saved by AI to inspire employees to take on new responsibilities and embark on a varied career path contributing to business success.

Organizations are embracing the millennial and gen-Z approach to work-life balance. The definition of learning has expanded from the flow of work to the flow of life by recognizing that life outside of work can teach skills and knowledge applicable to a person’s life as a whole — including work. An alternative workforce is being viewed in a different light, using it to benefit both the business and the workers. 

Leadership continues to be a major force, and will now be measured on both outcomes and the journey to reaching these outcomes. Inspiring people, providing different career paths and coaching employees throughout is equally important.

This requires managers to share talent throughout the organization, encouraging participation on cross-functional teams and to support lateral or promotional movement.

Of interest will be how organizations grapple with managers who have stellar outcomes and less-than-stellar people practices. 

We are in the midst of the fourth Industrial Revolution and these are exciting times. To quote professor Klaus Schwab, success will require that leaders and people “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are, first and foremost, tools made by people for people.” It looks like we’re on the right track.

Jan van der Hoop: Sandi, I am so glad you are one of us. Your view is always so much more refreshing than ours. When I read your comments, I sometimes wonder if we saw the same presentation. Truth is, we saw the same content through different filters.

Yes, I think Deloitte has identified the main themes and opportunities facing organizations in terms of how they organize, engage and create value with their people.

But I agree with Paul and David — it’s hard (and unhelpful) to keep coming up with new jargon to sell consulting. For the most part, there isn’t much new under the sun. These trends have been in place for a long time; they may become nuanced or tinged by technology, economic forces, or the demands of a younger workforce raised with different expectations, but, at the core, the same underlying issues remain.

David, I was tickled by your desire for a historian’s perspective. All things seem new when a person sees or experiences them for the first time — and that “newness” can stimulate an energy or a passion that can overinflate significance or importance.

I think Paul and I are the closest things you’ll get to “historians” in this group, and Paul is eminently more qualified than I. But your question is an important one: Is “X” (in your example, the social enterprise trend) a movement that requires strategic focus, or a blip that will pass?

Panellists:

Paul Pittman, founder and president of the Human Well in Toronto

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research in Toronto

Sandi Channing, senior director of total rewards at Compass Group Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

Jan G. van der Hoop, president of Fit First Technologies in Toronto

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