Saturday, 29 October 2016

Bazuka that VUCA...part 1 of 2

A couple of weeks ago I was a speaker on a webinar discussing the future of HR along with Neil Morrison and Alan Moratelli from Core HR. The webinar was perfectly moderated by Georganna Simpson from and on behalf of People Management and you can listen to it HERE

In this blog I thought I might expand on some of the things I talked about, especially because it's #cipdace16 next week and several of the speakers are discussing this very topic, not least Margaret Heffernan as keynote speaker, whose interview in People Management was the prompt for the webinar in the first place. 

It was my first webinar and I really enjoyed it, despite a technical hitch that meant my slides kept going backwards after I moved them forwards! I'd definitely do it again and it taught me the impact of tone of voice when that's all you really have to distinguish yourself with. For me that means even more practicing. 

Anyway the webinar was inspired by Heffernans interview discussing the future of work, which she will expand upon at #cipdace16. I originally signed up as an attendee but got upgraded a few days earlier and decided I wanted to look at the future of HR primarily in SMEs (although this focus was eventually lost and it became more generic), drawing on my experiences of working in a few different places and what I've learnt from both conference speaking, blog and article writing and tutoring on CIPD qualifications. 

I detest the acronym VUCA. It's often bandied around by those wishing to appear trendy or cool but there's some validity in the concept. However if we are to cope with VUCA, and survive and deliver meaningful HR in this world there's a few things we need to note. Hence the title of this blog and my webinar talk. 



The Heffernan interview said that HR need to fuse technology, innovation and people. To me, this conjured up a picture of Inspector Gadget, but she's right and I think four main HR roles emerge that do this: 

  1. Data analysts. We need HR professionals who can select and use the right data. Who can throw data sets together, correlate them, analyse them and predict trends. At the moment few can. 
  2. Wellness advocates. Not just in an individual sense, but also in an organisational sense. We need HR staff who can be the guardians of organisational wellness, looking at systems of engagement and motivation and performance and how these all link together and complement each other. 
  3. Engagement champions. Plenty of large firms like Netflix, and Virgin Group, are already ditching bureaucracy and encouraging HR to let go of policy and focus on the individual. We will need more of that, of social engagement in the workplace and looking at how people are treated and how they feel about work. 
  4. Performance coach. An old role but a growing one for HR. Helping people to identify what performance actually is, and the best conditions under which to produce it. Clive Woodward spoke at last years CIPD Conference on this, and how he got players/employees to visualise being under pressure and practice performing under such conditions. He used the available technology to capture performance data and made sure players had the skills to analyse, share and discuss it. 
Heffernan also talked about the need to give people flexibility and develop adult-adult relationships. I agree, and there's a number of factors driving this that HR need to take account of (and many are, pleasingly): 

  1. One size doesn't fit all. Many organisations are gearing up to deliver 24/7 services to customers who want that. This requires the ultimate flexibility and HR have to be able to lead organisations towards that by individualising the employment experience. And if you do that, the employees are likely to do the same for customers. I read that one organisation brought in a dating coach to train its staff how to flirt with each other and customers. I laughed, but then realised that's about making people feel special, wanted, unique. So I'm all for it, and here we are back at my oft-referred to analogy of HR being pimps for the employment relationship. 
  2. The gig economy. Many employees will be spending a lower proportion of their working week with one employer, and may have multiple employers. This changes what HR teams have to do in terms of employee engagement and means we have to be more flexible. 
  3. Demographics. Plenty of available data here about an older workforce and multiple generations at work but this does prompt us to think about how employees needs will change in what can now be a 65 year working life. An organisation I was in a senior HR role for built and maintained houses, and worked on component lifespans. So a house might last 100 years and in that time it may have 4 kitchens and 5 bathrooms. That helped with workforce planning, but if we are in human RESOURCES then maybe we have to look at employees in terms of their working lifespan. I look back at myself at age 16 and I was a completely different person with no interest in HR. I'm 41 now, and who's to predict what I will want to do age 66? I may have realised my dream of being a professional wrestler! But for certain, my learning needs and reward needs will have changed. How many HR teams segment their workforce in this way?
  4. Localism. Devolution is gathering pace, and many organisations are now expected to collaborate at a local level on many things - employing more local people, delivering joined up services and addressing local skills needs. This requires a different set of HR practices. 
And in part two, coming later this week, I'll explore what kinds of HR practices and responses I think are appropriate in this future world of work. 

Till next time… 

Gary 

PS In other news, Florida looks a no go now, as eldest child is against the idea and we don't want to spend all that money to spend a fortnight with a surly teenager who may ruin it for everyone. Back to the drawing board…