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Achievers ACE 2018 Conference Toronto Key Takeaways

ACE 2018: Key Highlights and Takeaways

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

They call it the Silicon Valley of the North. And with good reason.

Understanding that Toronto has been driving innovation and charting the future of tech, Achievers chose to host its  ACE 2018 conference in the city it calls home. The Six, as it is affectionately called by residents, quietly emerged as the fastest-growing tech-jobs market in 2017. The boom has positioned the city as a worldwide leader in the tech scene, outpacing historically tech heavy cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and New York and emerging as fertile ground for the future of technological innovation.

In the shadow of the iconic CN Tower, HR professionals and a diverse range of thought leaders gathered to accelerate the conversation around employee engagement, recognition and how technology is shaping the future of human resources. Furthermore, Achievers announced the 2018 Top Category Winners for the Most Engaged Workplaces Award and the Elite 8: organizations that are pushing the boundaries of workplace engagement.

From the elegant and modern Delta Hotel by Marriott, the gathering kicked off with an important announcement from Achievers’ Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, who unveiled the The Workforce Institute and its commitment to changing the way the world works through academic research and engagement science. Through the initiative, Achievers will source, curate, conduct and translate workforce science into simple, accessible content available to the public through research-driven institute studies and insight papers. As the world rapidly evolves and changes, the aim is to stay ahead of the curve with reliable sources and cutting-edge technology.

With an eye to the future, the ACE 2018 conference was graced with numerous thought leaders who outlined not only how drastically the HR space has changed in recent years, but also where it is going. To this end, the breakout sessions began with futurist and best-selling author Brian David Johnson highlighting the tectonic shifts in the workplace. The conversation was focused on what the forward-thinking companies of today can do to disrupt, mitigate and recover from the obstacles standing in the way of their unified success. Weaving together disparate stands from areas such as cultural history, social science and economics, Mr. Johnson fashioned a poignant and compelling argument for organizations to not just note the radical evolution of the workplace, but to embrace it. Through focused, strategic planning, the tech savvy company of today can harness the power of AI and focus on the new realities captivating the imaginations of the current great workforce: millennials.

Through this useful lens, various ACE 2018 keynote speakers identified and explained obstacles and strategies for us to enable employees to be both engaged and efficient. One crucial strategy is to improve communication within organizations. Communication and human nature expert Celeste Headlee focused on the science behind having better conversations in the workplace. All too often, the constant influx of external stimuli distracts and derails our conversations, creating costly instances of miscommunication. Furthermore, the inexorable wave of millennials entering the workforce has profoundly changed the way we communicate in business settings. Through active listening we, as small communities and large organizations, can find better ways to collaborate and engage in a positive way with the new workplace dynamics.

To that end, day two keynote speaker Neil Pasricha spoke of the power of positive psychology and the neuroscience that underpins it all. A combination of science-based research and humorous personal stories and anecdotes helped him foreground the importance of positive employees on your teams. Flipping the conventional wisdom that motivation leads to action, the discussion fleshed out that it is actually the other way around: action leads to motivation; positive work leads to happiness. Driving the point home, Mr. Pasricha highlighted that it is never too late to take action. Regardless of the barriers you imagine are in the way, taking the time to put happiness first, personally and professionally, will lead to positive action that will feed off itself and drive the changes you require.

Similarly, Tiffany Dufu spoke about the ever-evolving workplace and how female millennials are an underutilized cohort in our modern workplaces. In a poignant discussion relevant to all millennials (male, female, et al.) the organizations that are best equipped to leverage the success of the shift workplace are those who provide support for working families. From her best-selling book, Drop The Ball, Dufu focused on the importance of achieving more by doing less. Ambitious organizations and employees would do well to reevaluate their expectations and acknowledge that to have it all, we do not necessarily need to do it all. By embracing imperfection, we can focus on what we truly care about: achieving real goals and creating rich and rewarding lives.

All of this leads to one fundamental question shared by all attendees: How do we captivate the workforce of tomorrow? The answer revealed itself to be: By listening to what they have to say, today. Through this, we can prepare ourselves for the new realities of the future. Creating and embracing that future requires a beautiful confluence of reality and imagination. The 2018 Achievers Customer Experience managed to strike the perfect balance, exposing attendees to the evidenced-based reality we work within and the next generation of HR. In many ways, the conference embodied the future we all desire: one that is optimistic and ours for the making. The future is not some distant unobtainable entity beyond our comprehension. The future is right now. Today. The future is in our people.

Achievers would like to thank all speakers and every client, partner and friend for their participation in ACE 2018! Stay tuned for more information on ACE 2019 in Chicago!

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About the Author 
Darren SavageDarren Savage is currently a Customer Success Manager who works out of Achievers’ Toronto office. Prior to his arrival at Achievers, Darren was a journalist for various publications in the Greater Toronto Area. He left the profession to explore the world before transitioning into a sales role where he provided immersive educational experiences through travel for high school students. He now manages a diverse portfolio at Achievers where he helps his clients develop successful employee engagement programs.

 

 

 

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AI and HR

Perils and Promise: What Machines and Millennials are Doing to HR (Part 3)

Part 3: … And What You Need to Do About It

(Read Part 1 and Part 2)

This is the third installment of my blog series. We’ve looked at how changes in the workforce are changing HR and we’ve also explored how a constellation of technologies will change the future of work and the very nature of labor itself. Next, we are going to get specific…what should you do about it?

As an applied futurist, it’s my job to not only envision the possible and probable future but to also work with organizations to figure out what they should do. How can you not only take steps to prepare for what’s coming, but how can you actually shape it?

My intention is to make it simple and easy to apply what you’ve learned. Essentially, here’s what you can do on Monday to prepare for the future.

Monday Focus: The Machines

Machines really aren’t that complicated for HR. Technology does not get to decide it’s future. Humans and organizations get to decide how it is implemented. All work is about humans. Everything we do as professionals is about people. As anyone in HR knows, all business is people business. So, let’s start with people.

As we imagine a future where we have autonomous technologies, what do we need to do to make sure we are keeping humans at the center? We always need to keep humans at the center of what we do. We have seen through time that any time we stray from keeping humans at the center of our decision-making, we get ourselves in trouble.

Autonomous technologies are going to afford us incredible efficiencies. They will streamline our work and they will also do away with many roles the people are actually doing today.

This is where I tell you that if a machine can take your job, then your job probably sucked. Really! If a machine can do your job, then it means that your job was turning you into a machine. The real opportunity for machines transforming the workforce is that they will free us up to be more human. We let the machines do what the machines are good at and we as humans engage with other humans. This is how we future proof the future of work. Be human.

As we bring in more autonomous technologies into the workplace, we must make sure that we are keeping humans at the center. This doesn’t mean that people have to do everything. However, we do have to ask ourselves WHY. Why are we doing this? Why are we automating this system or task? And WHAT do we hope to get out of it?

To be more specific, if you are going to implement an AI or autonomous technology in your business there are some pretty simple questions you should ask IT professionals, engineers, or vendors about when it comes to the use of these new technologies in the workplace. You don’t have to be a technology expert; you need to be a people expert.

Your To-Do List:

  1. Ask: What are you optimizing for?

All algorithms optimize.  You can’t consider all of the data all of the time. When you write an algorithm you have to limit the data that you are feeding into it. In short, you have to make choices. You have to ask yourself what are you optimizing for? What is the work that you are trying to do?

  1. Ask: What is the bias?

All data has bias. Algorithms have bias as well. At the highest-level bias is the prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Recently there have been well-documented cases of data and algorithmic bias in law enforcement, healthcare and the courts. It is important to understand how your organization is choosing the data they will be using. Urge your organization to get to know the data and also the bias of the algorithms.

In recent years, the high tech industry is coming to grips with the reality of bias to the point that the IEEE computer society is making recommendations for how to deal with it. This conversation will make sure that you are keeping a human perspective in these systems and having a healthy discussion on any blended team of technologies and HR professionals.

  1. Ask: Who is your outlier?

Always look for the outlier. In every system and in every algorithm, there is no way to completely understand all the data sets and all the people. When you have a system that is set up, it is always a good exercise to ask yourself, “Who are we not serving?”

“Whether your AI solution drives an internal system for HR or a customer-facing system that impacts your brand it’s important you constantly look for the outlier,” Renny Gleeson, Managing Director of Business Innovation Group for Wieden + Kennedy, explained in his upcoming report “Artificial Intelligence and the Home.” Wieden + Kennedy is a global, independent agency that creates strong and provocative relationships between good companies and their customers. “Who is the system not serving?”, Gleeson continued.  “To train your AI you need as much historical data as possible. How do you prevent your exciting new AI from trapping your organization in the status quo it’s been trained in rather than the future you seek? This search, this constant questioning, allows your organization and your brand to have a better chance of serving better – and finding the error before the error finds you.”

The constant interrogation of the autonomous system that we are using is important. Using these systems to gain efficiencies is great and they will give us incredible gains in productivity, but we have to remain vigilant. We have to keep people at the center. We must constantly interrogate the algorithms and the system to determine who are we not including. Who is the outlier?

Ok, that’s the machine part of this.

Millennials (and Gen Z)

We need to stop acting like they are not in the room. They are here and we need to involve them in the process. More importantly, we need to make sure they are helping us to make our organizations more attractive for the next generation after.

Your To-Do List:

  1. Stop talking about millennials. Start talking about purpose.

They are in the room. They are in your company. Understand that they are the key to your success. Millennials and Gen Z are more purpose-driven than any other generation in the workforce. Not only does the work you do matter but WHY as an organization are you doing this work? What is your higher purpose beyond just making money? Because it matters.

For some, these conversations might feel foreign but they are necessary because talent has choices. As the largest percentage of the labor force, millennials and Gen Z can choose where they want to put their time. Good talent always has a choice of what organization to work for.  Give them a reason to work for you.

  1. Empower millennials.

How are you empowering the next generation to make your organization successful? As the boom generation, they will have mass and be the ones to take the reins. What are you doing to ensure that they are benefiting from your experience? Are you giving them the freedom to make a new environment?

Are you creating physical and digital places for employees of all generations to mingle and collaborate? From co-working spaces to couches and long tables, where are the spaces in your organization that encourage people to gather. These are the spaces where relationships are built and innovation springs forward. They are communities inside of communities. Once you’ve discovered the nature of these physical spaces for your group, search outside their digital equivalent.

  1. Curate your culture and make millennials mentors.

As HR professionals you understand your organization. Fostering a positive and inclusive culture is extremely important. But, also as important is making sure that when you do bring in these new workers, they are a good fit to the true culture of your workplace. Because purpose matters so much, make sure that your organization’s purpose is in sync with the possible employee’s purpose as well.

Millennials are mentors. It’s time for them to not only take over the workforce, but empower up and down inside the organization. This not only means mentoring Gen Z but also “mentoring up.”  I’ve also been asked the following by senior level leaders that are baby boomers or Gen Z: What can they do to prepare their organizations for the future? My response is get a millennial mentor. They are the future workforce. Let them help you be as successful as possible. Remember the future involves all of us.

Come see me at ACE 2018 to learn more about what machines and millennials are doing to HR. Check out my entire blog series, starting at Part 1.

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Do you want to learn more about AI and HR? Check out Achievers’ webinar recording “Engagement: How AI Helps HR to be More Human, Not Less.”

Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Brian JohnsonThe future is Brian David Johnson’s business. As a futurist he works with organizations to develop an actionable 10 -15 year vision and what it will feel like to live in the future. His work is called futurecasting, using ethnographic field studies, technology research, cultural history, trend data, global interviews and even science fiction to provide a pragmatic road map of the future. As an applied futurist Johnson has worked with governments, trade organizations, start-ups and multinational corporations to not only help envision their future but specify the steps needed to get there. Johnson is currently the futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Director of the ASU Threatcasting Lab. He is also a Futurist and Fellow at Frost and Sullivan.

Johnson speaks and writes extensively in ongoing columns for IEEE Computer Magazine and Successful Farming where he is the “Farm Futurist”. He has contributed articles to publications like The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and Wired Magazine. Johnson holds over 40 patents and is the best-selling author of both science fiction and fact books (WAR: Wizards and Robots, Humanity in the Machine, 21st Century Robot and Science Fiction Prototyping). He was appointed first futurist ever at the Intel Corporation in 2009 where he worked for over a decade helping to design over 2 billion microprocessors. Johnson appears regularly on Bloomberg TV, PBS, FOX News, and the Discovery Channel and has been featured in Scientific American, The Technology Review, Forbes, INC, and Popular Science. He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter. In 2016 Samuel Goldwyn released “Vintage Tomorrows” a documentary based upon Johnson’s book of the same name.

 

AI and HR

Perils and Promise: What Machines and Millennials are Doing to HR (Part 2)

Part 2: AI + HR = Promises and Perils

(Read Part 1 and Part 3)

This is the second installment of my blog series. We’ve looked at how changes in the workforce are changing HR. Next, we’re going to explore how a constellation of technologies will change the future of work and the very nature of human labor itself.

In 2016, I wrote a paper for Frost and Sullivan called “The Coming Age of Sentient Tools.” In it I explored what comes after “the next big thing.” You know the next big thing…it’s the thing that everyone is writing, talking, or worried about. In fact, there are a lot of next big things that are coming. Over the next 10 years, we will see a constellation of technologies moving into the mainstream that will have fundamental change on how we live and do business. They will especially effect HR.

Artificial Intelligence

The modern definition of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is “the study and design of intelligent agents where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximizes its chances of success.” To be clear, I am not talking about machines that are smarter than humans or even Super AI. There are legitimate concerns raised by people like Stephen Hawking but this is an ethical, moral, policy, legal, and ultimately philosophical dissuasion. It is a discussion that needs to happen, but I am not a philosopher. I am a futurist; I work with people to build futures.

When I talk about AI, I am generally referring to “industrial AI”. This is the AI that lands our planes, helps us find a movie to watch, or the next book we will buy. It does work and it’s coming. Over the next ten years we will see AI move into more and more of our business lives. This move is filled with promise but there are also perils.

AI promises to streamline how we work, take over simple and repetitive tasks, and even discover insights in large data sets that are beyond human comprehension. It’s going to be pretty amazing. But with automation and the lack of human inside comes peril.

Internet of Things and Smart Cities

Over the next ten years, we will see the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Cities more into the mainstream. One way to view both IoT and Smart Cities are different sides of the same coin. On one side of the coin you have IoT, the ability to turn anything into a computer. Essentially, if you can find a reason to make devices smart, sensing, and connected, you can do it; from thermostats to door bells. If there’s a reason, you can do it.

The other side of this coins are smart cities; a larger connected environment of buildings and city infrastructure. What would it mean to make an entire city smart, connected, and sensing? It would mean everything from energy efficient and safer buildings to smart parking meetings and even autonomous transportation of people and goods.

Imagine how these devices and buildings that are now aware could transform the workplace.  There is a real promise for safer, healthier, and more sustainable and productive places to work. I even like to imagine, what would it mean to have an office that not only allowed you to get your work done better and faster but also tried to make you laugh on a Monday or get you excited about your weekend on Friday?

But all this intelligence fueled by data exposes employees to a broader landscape of threats and misuse. HR has a specific and important role to play as these amazing new capabilities are brought into the workplace.

Robots Both Physical and Digital

Finally, we will see more robots. Right now, if you see a robot moving down the side walk it is interesting and maybe slightly odd. But imagine a future when seeing robot at work or on the street delivering dinner is commonplace.

A helpful way to imagine all of these technologies as they make their way into the workplace is to see them as autonomous technology. This could be physical autonomy like self-driving cars or warehouse robots. But autonomy can be strictly digital like AI, chat bots, and machine learning algorithms. These are the machines that will radically change HR.

But, how can we do business when the very nature of labor is changing? If machines begin to do more human work, how do we define work for humans? Ultimately, we will need to reimagine how we value human labor.

Come see me at ACE 2018 to learn more about what machines and millennials are doing to HR. Stay tuned for the my next blog post covering machines and millennials, but more importantly, what you need to do about it!

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For more information on AI and HR, view Achievers’ webinar recording “Engagement: How AI Helps HR to be More Human, Not Less.”

Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Brian JohnsonThe future is Brian David Johnson’s business. As a futurist he works with organizations to develop an actionable 10 -15 year vision and what it will feel like to live in the future. His work is called futurecasting, using ethnographic field studies, technology research, cultural history, trend data, global interviews and even science fiction to provide a pragmatic road map of the future. As an applied futurist Johnson has worked with governments, trade organizations, start-ups and multinational corporations to not only help envision their future but specify the steps needed to get there. Johnson is currently the futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Director of the ASU Threatcasting Lab. He is also a Futurist and Fellow at Frost and Sullivan.

Johnson speaks and writes extensively in ongoing columns for IEEE Computer Magazine and Successful Farming where he is the “Farm Futurist”. He has contributed articles to publications like The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and Wired Magazine. Johnson holds over 40 patents and is the best-selling author of both science fiction and fact books (WAR: Wizards and Robots, Humanity in the Machine, 21st Century Robot and Science Fiction Prototyping). He was appointed first futurist ever at the Intel Corporation in 2009 where he worked for over a decade helping to design over 2 billion microprocessors.  Johnson appears regularly on Bloomberg TV, PBS, FOX News, and the Discovery Channel and has been featured in Scientific American, The Technology Review, Forbes, INC, and Popular Science. He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter. In 2016 Samuel Goldwyn released “Vintage Tomorrows” a documentary based upon Johnson’s book of the same name.

 

millennials

Perils and Promise: What Machines and Millennials are Doing to HR (Part 1)

Part 1: Millennials and Gen Z

(Read Part 2 and Part 3)

I’m a futurist. I work with organizations to look out into the future, modeling both positive and negative futures. I do this using a process called futurecasting. The inputs and research are a mix of social science, technical research, cultural history, economics, global cultural trends, expert interviews and even a little science fiction. As an applied futurist, I not only construct possible and probable futures, but I also work with organizations to implement actions today to prepare and even shape their tomorrow.

Starting in 2016, organizations began asking me not just about the future of work but more specifically about the future workforce. Who are the employees of the future? How will you find them? How will you retain them? There’s good reason for this. We are experiencing a shift in our labor like we have not seen for decades.

Let’s start with the math:

  • More than a third of the current workforce are millennials and in 2016 they became the largest generation in the workforce.
  • 10,000 millennials turn 21 every day in the U.S.
  • And probably the most important statistic: By the year 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce

That answers the question: The workforce of the future is millennial and also a little Gen Z. Gen Z is the generation that is entering college today.

Now, if you have read this far you are probably not a millennial because most millennials know this and quiet frankly are getting a little tired of people talking about them like they are not in the room. Right now, they are 1 of every 3 people in the room. Look around…

Millennials and Gen Z are one of the most heavily researched, studied, talked about and honestly complained about generations in history. But what can HR organizations and employers do to prepare? One simple way to get started is to just ask them.

Julia Rose West is an author and futurist that studies millennials and Gen Z. On a recent podcast “Navigating the Noise: Meet your New Employee, Customer, Client and/or Boss” about the next generation of workers, I asked West what organizations should consider when bringing these new employees into the labor force.

Regarding Gen Z, Rose remarked, “We’ve seen a lot of jobs ending in career switching with millennials, but Generation Z is projected to do a whole lot less of this. Partly because they grew up during the recession, and they’re drawn to stability…they would rather take up new roles and challenges with an existing company, than change companies.”

Many HR departments are changing how they recruit and retain new workers. Some are even exploring how they lose their millennial workers and how they can bring them back again. Traditional organizations like manufacturing and warehousing had to think twice about why employees left their organizations for other companies. They are seeing that their next generation workers want to continue to explore new roles and new companies. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to return, especially if there’s an environment that embraces personal growth and change. In fact, they are coming back with more diverse and expansive job experience.

How can HR adapt to millennials and Gen Z?  The answer is simple. West points out that these generations, “hold out for fulfilling work. Once they find that work, they’re less likely to leave a company, as long as the company’s mission and work continues to align with their values.”

So, do your company policies and values align? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire a millennial or two into your HR department, if you haven’t already, and listen to them.

Now it should be said that these sweeping generalizations about the next generation labor force are not 100% accurate. Individuals have their own traits and desires, but you can’t escape the math. The workforce of the future is changing…are you?

Come see me at ACE 2018 to learn more about what machines and millennials are doing to HR. Stay tuned for the my next blog post covering AI and HR.

Learn More Red CTA Button

 

 

Are you curious about AI? Check out Achievers’ webinar recording “Engagement: How AI Helps HR to be More Human, Not Less.”

Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Brian JohnsonThe future is Brian David Johnson’s business. As a futurist he works with organizations to develop an actionable 10 -15 year vision and what it will feel like to live in the future. His work is called futurecasting, using ethnographic field studies, technology research, cultural history, trend data, global interviews and even science fiction to provide a pragmatic road map of the future. As an applied futurist Johnson has worked with governments, trade organizations, start-ups and multinational corporations to not only help envision their future but specify the steps needed to get there. Johnson is currently the futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Director of the ASU Threatcasting Lab. He is also a Futurist and Fellow at Frost and Sullivan.

Johnson speaks and writes extensively in ongoing columns for IEEE Computer Magazine and Successful Farming where he is the “Farm Futurist”. He has contributed articles to publications like The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and Wired Magazine. Johnson holds over 40 patents and is the best-selling author of both science fiction and fact books (WAR: Wizards and Robots, Humanity in the Machine, 21st Century Robot and Science Fiction Prototyping). He was appointed first futurist ever at the Intel Corporation in 2009 where he worked for over a decade helping to design over 2 billion microprocessors. Johnson appears regularly on Bloomberg TV, PBS, FOX News, and the Discovery Channel and has been featured in Scientific American, The Technology Review, Forbes, INC, and Popular Science. He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter. In 2016 Samuel Goldwyn released “Vintage Tomorrows” a documentary based upon Johnson’s book of the same name.