The future of work, and HR’s changing role

The son of an acquaintance has three jobs. Or rather, he performs work in three different areas, all while studying for his second bachelor’s degree. He’s a freelance photographer, a web-site/app developer and a DJ – not your standard run-of-the-mill student jobs.

In fact they’re not even “jobs” in the traditional sense; he performs tasks for clients who don’t want to contract with a firm or hire a permanent employee. He provides a particular skill-set for which his clients have a temporary need.

Interim labor – the new face of the workforce

When 30% of your workforce is not on your payroll, then traditional HR models and tools require an update

A client recently told us 30% of her workforce is made up of interim labor. Another firm turned to a talent platform to hire independent programmers to develop a management software tool they now sell to their clients. When 30% of your workforce is not on your payroll and the expertise needed for product development is no longer hired and managed in-house, wouldn’t traditional HR models and tools require an update?

The world of work is not going to change – it already has changed, and continues doing so at an increasingly fast pace. Automation, artificial intelligence and robotics will cause jobs to “disappear” – whether that will apply to 47% of them, as suggested by some (Carl Frey/Michael Osborne & MIT – 2013), or 9%, as suggested by others (ZEW and OESO), remains to be seen.

Organizing and fulfilling whatever “human” work is left (plus the work we can’t imagine yet) will, however, require a different organization, management and reward paradigm.

Replacing the traditional workforce management models

We’re faced with developments in technology; an ageing workforce and the scarcity of specific skills; the drive to continuously increase efficiency and reduce costs; and changing expectations of people joining the workforce today. Our traditional model needs to be partly replaced by, or at the very least complemented by, a plethora of options to get work done: interim resources, talent platforms, outsourcing, alliances between companies, volunteers, and finally, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Lead the Work (don’t just organize the jobs)

More than ever HR will need to understand:

  • The organization’s business strategy and the role of technology in it
  • The cultural attributes and organizational capabilities that really make a difference for competitive advantage
  • The work landscape and the prioritized gaps that must be closed.

Armed with that information, HR can then drive the creation of a tailored work (not just role) architecture and categorization, which in turn supports a qualitative work analysis and design, focusing on closing work and talent gaps.

The HR function will have a key role in supporting companies as they gradually move from a collection of people doing jobs to an entity that organizes work – and the talent (whatever and wherever that may be) that completes it.

The analysis of the assignment (by whom, where, and how is the work best done) and the positioning and culture of the organization (how stand-alone, rigid, collaborative do we want to be or can be) will create a new work model with myriad employment types – and supporting rewards.

Such a diverse “workforce” requires a tailored and segmented approach to talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, knowledge management, learning and development, rewards… and a new Worker Value Proposition, complementing or replacing the current Employee Value Proposition.

The future of work is now.

PS: Some cases in point: The Holiday Inn hotel in Diegem, Belgium implemented a self-service check-in, replacing the manned check-in counter with an automated system. The Associated Press news agency has been using AI to write quarterly earnings stories, and Skype has started translating live conversations between people who don’t speak each other’s language, combining speech-recognition with translation software.

Every job is subject to change… but keep in mind that 65% of children entering school today will end up in jobs that do not exist yet!


 

Ralph Leyssens has over 25 years’ experience in international reward consulting and management. He specializes in the (re-)design, development, implementation and communication of reward strategies, role structuring, sales compensation, STI and LTI design, salary and performance management and benefits and perquisites policies. Ralph has developed and managed complex projects and processes in international mobility management, HR/reward process and policy development and optimization, organizational restructuring and post-merger alignments and integration.

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