Why Aren’t We Asking These Questions (1 of 2)
While the world is busy working on their year end reviews and future forecasts, it seems like a good time to take stock in a larger way.
The workplace is changing rapidly, right in front of us. Driven by Moore’s Law, the relationship between our people and their technology is reshaping the way that work gets done, the way we interact with the HR Tech System, how we communicate with each other and the rate at which our companies adapt or die.
Hyper-adaptivity, which is the driving force behind the rapid spread of agile technology, is the way things work. The continual speeding up of technical change constantly undercuts the firm ground on which companies walk. More than a mandate, change is an issue of survival.
But, you don’t hear a peep about this in the various forecasts of the future or reviews of the year gone by.
Here are some of the questions we think every HR Department should be asking.
- What is HR’s role in a world where employees increasing wear technology or have it embedded. How do you tell where human performance ends and machine performance begins?
Most employees have a phone in their pocket and easy access to a headset. These communication devices increasingly track, monitor, coordinate and direct their owners. The memory they hold describes company secrets, chronicles love affairs, documents location, records helth care data and holds key contact lists. Tools that add personal biometrics (like theFitbit, Up or Nike Fuel) deliver moment to moment performance feedback. And, the functionality is exploding.
So, the question is whether we’re hiring people or the combination of a person and their tech suite. If it’s the latter (and it surely is), why isn’t HR rapidly becoming the arbiter of the people-technology intersection? As humans and technology become less distinct, will we continue to draw the same lines about credentials and experience?
- Should the company own the technology that employees use/wear so it owns the data?Does HR test and recommend the tech?
The data generated and collected by employees as they move through the workday is becoming an important asset of the company. (One can imagine a day in the near future when an all employees are profitable from day one because of the value of their data). Currently, because employees mostly purchase their own devices, the data about work and life in the organization is lost to the people who need it most. Since much of the data describes individual and collective performance, isn’t this exactly HR’s charter?
- Technology is rapidly outpacing the law. How does HR navigate a world in which the law is 10 years behind working reality?
By the time a law can be enacted and enforced, technology has moved on. Increasingly, regulation is an after the fact intrusion on established work practices. From now on, HR will be partnered with the legal department to figure out the smart thing to do while the government gets its stuff together. Both HR and Legal have made their money by being the providers of conservative advice in these areas. It’s a dysfunctional approach when technology is setting the pace. The role will continue to need to focus on risk mitigation but the playing field will have several other factors.
- What is the impact of external factors on the performance, mood and agility of the workforce?
This is where big data from the oputside starts to hit the organization. From the availability of parking spaces in the company lot to the impact of stock market performance on productivity, our understanding of the enterprise will include gobs of real-time data from external sources.
- What is the gross carbon footprint of the workforce and how do you reduce it?
If you haven’t seen Openpaths, take a look. This New York Times app gives employees a market for (and the opportunity to see in real time) the location data tracked by their phones. The data is incredibly valuable to market researchers (and to the company). The overall enterprise carbon footprint is driven largely by employee commutes and travel. The data in the phones of the workforce is a simple way to capture, quantify and think about reducing the organization’s eco impact. The keys to many secrets lie in the data that employees generate and consume.
- What is HR’s role after all of the administrative stuff is automated?
We are at the end of the first era of software. After a generation of automating administrative processes, there is almost nothing left to turn into software. Thank goodness. The idea that good management involves filling out forms and following rigid work-flows is extremely 19th Century. Meanwhile, new technologies that are more likely to resemble the actual flow of the work that people do are rapidly emerging. It looks like the first generation of software will obsolete itself at about the time it’s finally finished.
- How does HR manage and monitor HR in the Supply Chain?
Apple’s Labor and Human Rights page documents the details of working conditions and environmental impact for nearly 1 Million employees in the supply chain around the world. It’s a model of the evolving role of HR. The management of the enterprise as an ecosystem (pioneered by Cisco) is a component of the contemporary HR Operation. Little conversation on this topic is available in the blogosphere or from the usual professional associations. There are huge opportunities for the management of talent and the development of competencies that drive productivity. Apple’s process begins with audits. In the long haul, innovation will flow up and down the supply chain.
John Sumser is the founder, principal author and editor-in-chief of the HRExaminer Online Magazine. John explores the people, technology, ideas and careers of senior leaders in Human Resources and Human Capital. John is the also principal of Two Color Hat where he routinely advises Human Resources, Recruiting Departments and Talent Management teams with product analysis, market segmentation, positioning, strategy and branding guidance.