Friday, 3 July 2015

Defusing the timebomb

This week I attended The Future of People Management, a joint conference from Acas NW and CIPD Manchester branch. It contained a range of speakers on topics related to how the world of work will change in the next 10 years as a result of unalterable demographics and social changes. Here's my summary of and thoughts on the event. 

It's only a summary though of the main points that grabbed me, it's impossible to capture everything from everyone without making this post too long. However, should you want to read in depth about some of the research referred to by many of the speakers, check out THIS from CIPD. Even if you just read the Executive Summary it's enough. 

First up was Professor Steven Taylor giving a good visual run through of the key demographic trends and graphs. He summarised the main implications for HR were about our capacity to deal with a VUCA  world, how flexible we can be in responding to change, how we can overcome resource limitations to demonstrate added value and how we need to up our game in terms of talent attraction and management. I'd not argue with that, and indeed he said that skills shortages and tight labour markets are likely to push recruitment and retention to the top of the organisational agenda for the next ten years. This is in sharp contrast to the employee relations and downsizing agenda of the last ten years and I wonder how many HR professionals will be able to re skill accordingly?

Taylor also called for an updated version of the Leitch Report to take account of new employment and economic trends and realities, something which I would second. 

He also pointed out that if current rates of net population increase continue, the UK will reach 80m by the middle of the century and become the largest country in Europe.  Taylor was of the opinion that this should not be allowed to happen if we are to remain competitive, and I'm unsure if I agree with this, what do you think?

Next up was Peter Monaghan from ACAS NW talking about rebooting the psychological contract and what that means for HR as expectations of employees and employers change. There were a few generalisations in Peter's talk, which he acknowledged, such as older workers being culturally stuck, but in the main I agreed with what he said.

Peter tried to redefine the psychological contract, speculating on what employees and employers would expect from each other over the next ten years.  Below is his list, which attracted some criticism on Twitter for being outdated but in my opinion many employers have yet to wake up to this reality let alone consider it outdated.  Anyway. His list:

Employees should promise to:
- be productive
- be flexible in return for flexibility
- be loyal in return for loyalty
- give great customer service
- be innovative
- be collaborative
- commit to their own development, 
- be honest
- not to do daft things on social media

And employers should promise to:
- provide a pleasant and safe work environment
- listen and act on employee feedback, 
- provide opportunities to collaborate, 
- provide opportunities for flexible working
- provide opportunities for development
- recognise and praise great work
- provide their best in terms of pay and job security

As examples of companies who are doing this, Peter encouraged us to look at Virgin Group, Netflix and Zappos. Of these, I do struggle to get my head around the unique management culture in Zappos and think that's maybe too far too soon. 

Also worth a read on this subject is THIS recommended by Peter and quite relevant. 

After Peter came Professor Carol Atkinson on redefining wellbeing. She talked creating an environment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation, and how some organisations are doing this. 

Peter Cheese, unexpectedly delayed in the morning, opened up after lunch. I found his talk very interesting on the challenges facing the HR profession in the future, and he shared some eye opening statistics that illustrates the size of the challenge. For example, 65% of today's school children will end up doing jobs not yet invented, and most of the top 10% "in demand" roles today didn't exist ten years ago. 

That's scary. And yet most of the audience were in HR ten years ago and probably hoped to be in HR in ten years time (not me though, I still think there is time for me to become a professional wrestler). So I'm not convinced HR as a profession has evolved in quite the same way or at the same speed. What makes us think that HR is needed in ten years time and if it is, how will we come to understand the jobs our children will be doing?

The final two speakers had hard acts to follow after these.  Cathy Brown spoke about how engaging managers focus their people, treat them as individuals, coach and stretch them - and plugged the Engage 4 Success brand which is worth checking out.  Finally, Emma Swan from Taylors Law talked about how workplace flexibility is the biggest challenge for many of her clients, and how we need to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes.

And then I left.

The conference was in a wonderful building at MMU, easily accessible by public transport but not so easy for those of us in a car.

Overall I enjoyed the conference and left with a lot to think about, both in terms of how I apply the learning and knowledge in my current role but how I can develop my own thinking on future-proofing the workforce and defusing the demographic timebomb that approaches.

I've got some thoughts developing already and will share some of these in an upcoming blog post.

Did you attend this conference and, if so, what were your thoughts on it?  Even if you didn't, what are your thoughts on the future of work as outlined by some of the speakers?

Till next time...


PS in other news, my fiancee has gone back to work after maternity leave this week and our daughter has gone to nursery at the tender age of 8 months.  She has cried each morning and its been hard on us all.  So I've been a bit distracted this week.  Hopefully she will settle.

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