5 Human Resources Issues & The Future of Work

September 10, 2015
Robin Dominik Havre
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There’s a lot of talk right now about the future of work. What will offices be like?

It’s an interesting topic and the phrase certainly reflects the fact that so many big changes are happening right now, many which are enabled by technology that’s only just becoming established.

If some predictions are to be believed, the workplace is shaping up into a utopia of high-tech, fun and compassionate environments full of self-motivated employees. Could it be true, or is there a lot of hype?

We’ve put together some of the most interesting ideas and saved the best part till last.

1. A shortage of expertise

Let’s begin with a quick look at a potential future human resource issue discussed in an excellent TED talk. One of the most underlying factors contributing to whatever the future of work may be is what Rainer Strack refers to as the “The surprising workforce crisis of 2030…”

According Strack, (an IC consultant over two decades’ experience) this is a real thing and he’s got the data to prove it. Just about every other aspect of the future of work will be affected by this, and thinking forward while bearing in mind is a good idea.

If he’s right, it could change everything.

2. Conscientiousness

The age of cutthroat sales teams and scary visages of shouty managers has come to an end.

Marketing and managing have become about leading with value and attracting both talent and customers to you by helping them. Sustainability is the next big thing for businesses and social enterprise is on the up. It seems that conscientiousness will play a big role in the future of work.

In one article on this topic from economist and Forbes contributor, Adam Ozimek, it’s shown how this trend towards conscientiousness is beginning to manifest itself in the workplace.

Will hiring more conscientious people and avoiding more aggressive personality types be on the list of future human resources issues?

3. Issues of autonomy

Perhaps building on this idea of conscientiousness, autonomy is proving the next shift in the workplace’s dynamic. No more bossing people around, but rather leaving them to their own devices (metaphorically speaking, of course).

It’s proven that getting the most out of employees doesn’t come by forcing their hand to do something in a certain time frame. But, and somewhat counter-intuitively, giving employees free reign to do what they want tends to produce better results.

Concepts such as “unlimited vacation time” and solid examples from thought leaders are springing up all over the place.

Naturally, this raises issues with the human resource department. But perhaps better intranets with full mobile access will help make autonomous workplaces more realistic, or at least tempting prospects some businesses.

4. People need to work for purpose

Roberta Matuson summed this idea up with an article for Fast Company titled “Do your employees have a sense of purpose? Or are they just doing stuff?…”

In the future (or at forward-thinking companies right now) businesses are selling their staff on the idea of contributing to a greater need. Naturally, this will be easier with some companies than others (a frakking company VS an non-profit organisation, for example) but the important thing is that people want to be working towards something, for a reason.

This is another aspect of the future of work covered by Daniel Pink when he gives an example of how a small shoe company customer team service went from nowhere to one of the best in the US.

Not only did they have autonomy, but also a sense of purpose: to help people by any means available to them.

5. Could it all be hype?

But wait. There’s a problem.

Is all of this talk of the future of work and changes in the office actually some kind of mass anxiety caused by the pending technological revolution?

Look, there’s no doubt that some stuff is definitely changing. But, this won’t be the first time such change has been predicted due to rapid technological developments. And we don’t just mean wrong predictions like 1960’s science fiction TV series that depicted families flying around space by 1997.

A paper recently written for the Journal of Economic Perspectives has the self-explanatory title of The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?

The basic premise of the paper points towards the fact that a similar thing that happened, for example, when automated production lines were invented. It was the end of human workers as we knew it and machines would replace laborers altogether leaving everyone out of a job.

Here we are many decades later and there are plenty of employees working in manufacturing. But now, we’re looking at the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, the industrial internet and other technologies, all made worse by an apparent pending lack of workers by 2030.

Over to you…

What do you think the future of work holds? Is there a lot of hype, or will this time be different? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Robin Dominik Havre

Robin is the CEO of New Intranet. He's helped many companies deploy successful mobile intranets that are easy to use and specially designed for employees not working in front of a computer. The goal of this blog is to provide research-backed intranet and internal communications advice for more successful HR strategies.

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