It’s been just over a week since the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference wrapped up. When I attend a conference that’s so large, so overflowing with various ideas, concepts, and best practices, sometimes it takes a few days for me to process what I’ve heard and learned. One of the sessions I attended that I’ve mulled over for the past week was Lance Richards’ concurrent session on “Work 4.0: The Future of Work.”
There’s no shortage of these types of futurist musings of late, but I always find value in hearing various speakers’ takes on how exactly they see our workplaces changing moving forward. There were two key concepts that I took away from this particular session.
The Untethered Workplace
As technology becomes more prolific in both our work and personal lives, we’re shifting into a world where work doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to a specific location. The concept of a “sit, stay” culture no longer resonates with workers who are connected via smartphone 24/7. Lance Richards cites millennials as apt to sleeping with their phones nearby; the first and last thing they do each day being check work email. I’m not even convinced that’s unique to that generation any longer. Regardless, in a world where this is the norm, why do we get so caught up in where and when the work gets done, rather than focusing on whether or not it is? If I’m handing work emails at 6:00AM or 11:00PM, why should I feel bad if I need to leave the office at 4:00PM? Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a situation in which we simply can’t afford to lose the talent that we have, why not consider moving the work to them rather than forcing them to come to the work? If we have the technological capabilities to facilitate this, what’s the hold up?
The implications of this for managers is that it’s going to become essential that they, well….manage their teams more effectively. As HR pros, are we ensuring that our supervisors and managers have the skills they need to more effectively manage remote workforces? Do they have the necessary planning & organization, shepherding, and communication skills? Do they have the ability to rally their teams around collective goals when their teams may not be all in the same place? Do they have the skills to build effective working relationships when they are not face to face?
Talent Supply Chain Management
The “War for Talent” is as ubiquitous of a phrase as any in the world of HR and talent; Lance Richards suggested that in reality there is no shortage of people in the world, however people does not equal talent. The question is how do we convert people into talent? In a world where 10,000 Boomers per day are retiring, and 6000 people per day are dropping out of high school, how are where do we find, develop, and retain the talent we need? Richards suggested that HR pros need to become masters of talent supply chain management. This could include better workplace planning through analytics; building better working relationships with local schools and colleges to help shape curriculum, ensuring that the future workforce has the skills we as employers need; building alumni networks and doing a better job of tracking what our former employees are up to; and learning to leverage “on-demand talent” – as we shift into a reality where more workers will deliver work on a more compartmentalized basis (i.e. performing various jobs for different companies concurrently), we’ll need to become better talent engagers. We won’t necessarily need to own the talent, as long as we know where to find and engage it when we need it.
And that may require a completely different mindset about how we structure jobs, job responsibilities, and teams.
Some Final Thoughts
Though I do believe we are and will continue to see these types of shifts, and as HR pros we need to not only be aware, but also able to effectively leverage and adapt to these changes, I also struggle with how this plays out in all industries. What about retail and healthcare, where it’s absolutely necessary to have certain employees onsite at specific times? What about manufacturing? When you have teams who are physically building or assembling something, there’s not as much of an opportunity for flexibility there.
But yet the world continues to change, and people’s expectations about work/life balance/integration and the nature of work continue to change. Even in these types of industries I believe we need to figure out exactly how we apply some of these concepts. Maybe it’s not a remote workforce, per se, but are there other ways we can leverage flexibility? And how do we leverage on-demand talent in these types of industries…. seems like that could be a natural fit in industries such as retail, where labor needs tend to fluctuate with seasons.
Moving forward, no matter what type of industry we work in, as HR pros we will continue to think bigger…about who constitutes our workforces, what they desire out of an employer/employee relationship, and how we sync that up with what our business needs require.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.