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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.

 

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.

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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.

 

 

Get In the NoW

The Future of Work is Now

evolution of work

For seemingly a decade now, we’ve heard the term the Future of Work (FoW) and how the workplace is going to be dramatically different…in the future. In my opinion, it’s time to change the vernacular and mindset to the Now of Work – or fittingly, the “NoW”.

Why do I believe this?  Well, I’m no scientist, but I believe another evolution is taking place.  Here’s my thinking:

Beginning of Work BOWBack in the day, there lived a dude, let’s call him Bartholomeus. He existed during the Beginning of Work (BoW). He was literally bowing down a lot, and as part of a family and tribe, shared responsibility for survival. These were difficult times but life was presumably straightforward – hunt, gather, eat, make fire, make shelter, make babies. Work and life were synonymous.

Legacy of WorkFast forward a few hundred million years and you’ll meet Larry. His generation made a profound impact after the second industrial revolution, but this period of wealth creation also created inequalities and dare I say…greed. Most people began living to work. The accumulation of wealth and status came at the expense of health, faith, family and friends. I call this the relative LoW point in the history of work. It’s this Legacy of Work (LoW) that I believe is long past it’s best before date. Say buh-bye to nine-to-five, lifetime jobs, strict hierarchy, suits, male dominated boardrooms, profit before planet, and the dreaded annual review.

Future of WorkNext came Frankie. For the last seven years or so, there’s been a mainstream push for companies to prepare for the Future of Work (FoW). Thought leaders and futurists started to predict that an exponentially changing world meant rapid automation, AI/machine learning, and loss of jobs to robots. What jobs do remain will look very different from, say, 2010. They’ve told us we better act more like a startup tech company and let the millennial “wants” prevail. Fear, from either robots or the millennial hipster, had arrived. The FoW to many people has become an unknown, and even scary or irresponsible proposition.

Now of WorkLuckily, Niobe is here to save the day. She represents the NoW of work. Yes, I believe the NoW is dramatically different than most workplaces today, but excitement should overshadow fear. Organizations that empower and enable the NoW are ones where innovation and agility are rooted in the company DNA. Where technology and a multi-generational workforce seamlessly collaborate and where work and life become one again. It’s not some future state. Bartholomeus would be proud to know so many companies are living and thriving in the NoW today.

This is what the evolution looks like on one graphic.

evolution of work
So why NoW?  I believe there are three forces that have solidified the fundamental shifts in the workplace: the connected generation (not just millennials); technology; and a sharing economy.

If millennials will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020, what about the Centennials (Gen Z) and the Gen Xers (like me) who want a workplace far closer to that of the millennials, as opposed to what most baby boomers are accustomed to? By 2020, we could be looking at over 70% of the workforce wanting an employee experience that models what the millennials have co-created this past decade. Furthermore, the balance of power has shifted because jobs in the digital economy currently favor the skills that young people naturally have. In an exponentially changing world, this is a monumental shift.

It may seem obvious, but technology is changing everything. You either work for a tech company, or you work in a sector, company or profession that will be innovated, disrupted or made redundant by technology – likely faster than most think. So whether it’s the adoption of tech in your operations, or your product or service being innovated, tech will influence your lives.

Finally, the sharing economy has created marketplaces we only dreamed of. Yes, Airbnb and Craigslist are amazing. Those are ways we share or redistribute products and services. What’s most fascinating to me though, is the sharing of skills and knowledge. From democratizing learning, and open-sourcing IP, to the rapidly growing gig/freelance economy, the sharing economy has disrupted the way we live and work at a pace and impact few could have predicted.

When you combine those ‘forces’ as I call them, then it’s hard to dispute that the NoW is here and every company, at some point soon, will have to ride the wave or risk losing and attracting top talent, in an increasingly competitive labor market.

In my next post, I’ll share the top 10 aspects of a NoW company and provide insights into the culture you need to build to remain competitive. Let me say that no matter how rad these are, it’s not about on-tap cold-brewed coffee, foosball tables or Waffle Wednesdays. But for one, it does include employee rewards and recognition.

On September 12-13, 2017,  I’ll be in New Orleans speaking and then leading a workshop at the annual Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) Conference put on by Achievers. Employee rewards and recognition programs are imperative for the NoW and Achievers provides the technology and leadership that you should consider. Hope to see you there!

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About the Author

Rocky Ozaki

Rocky Ozaki, Co-founder, NoW Innovations
Rocky is the co-founder of NoW Innovations, an organization that inspires and brings people and companies together to collectively thrive in the NoW of Work. Join them in their quest to change our mindset to the NoW of work!