Equating your human workforce with “capital” is only slightly less demeaning than referring to them as “meat”. Still, this report by Deloitte deserves some attention: https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/human-capital-trends.html. Here’s my summary:
TREND 1. The Organization of the Future: Arriving Now
Like most consultancies, Deloitte pushes the self-serving idea that digital transformation makes old forms of organization obsolete, so most companies will need Deloitte’s help to adapt. The logical conclusion of this line of thought is holocracy, about which I remain skeptical (see my Holocracy screed).
Self-serving or not, Deloitte is not wrong about this trend. Firms affected by digital technologies need to adapt more rapidly to compete more effectively. We do see firms migrating towards organizational structures based around teams/outcomes vs departments/functions. Startups (most of my customers) naturally assume fluid organization structures.
But teams are arguably less cost-efficient if centralized shared-services get replicated within those teams. Worse, business risk from decentralized compliance can grow (or explode into public view: c.f. Zenefits, Uber, Theranos, etc.).
This explains another trend we see: So that their teams can focus on their mission with less distraction at less cost, firms are adopting digital automation for shared-service functions such as HR, risk, compliance, facilities, etc.
TREND 2. Careers and Learning: Real Time, All the Time
“New learning models both challenge the idea of a static career and reflect the declining half-life of skills critical to the 21st-century organization.”
As a former liberal arts graduate, I agree that what is most important is to learn how to learn. But while new learning models may “challenge the static career”, they won’t change human nature. Most people are not by character life-long learners. There is a limit to what coaching or HR consultants can achieve with job retraining. (Not many former coal miners are going to enter the personal service professions.)
While there will always be a place for classrooms and individual instruction, I believe firms can make learning and more experiential. Nobody learns how their smartphone works by going to a class, but by a combination of good design principles and social learning. Ecosystems within firms can change workforce behaviors by designing a variety of affordances and incorporating just-in-time learning techniques. But most of the time they just fire the ones that don’t keep up, especially if they are old.
TREND 3. Talent Acquisition: Enter the Cognitive Recruiter
“Our chapter on talent acquisition highlights how leading organizations use social networking, analytics, and cognitive tools to find people in new ways, attract them through a global brand, and determine who will best fit the job, team, and company”
Frankly, this sounds Orwellian and creepy. Most likely, Deloitte is referring only to the problem of recruiting high-skill knowledge workers. Personally, because I read books, I’m disturbed when large firms adopt business practices articulated in dystopian fiction.
TREND 4. The Employee Experience: Culture, Engagement, and Beyond
“Workplace redesign, well-being, and work productivity systems are all becoming part of the mandate for HR.”
HR? Really? Personally, in almost no firm I know does HR lead such efforts. Only the managers directly managing and measuring productivity can have a meaningful effect. Most managers in HR are there only to mitigate risk, not increase productivity.
TREND 5. Performance Management: Play A Winning Hand
“Even though HR technology tools have not quite caught up, new approaches to performance management are working, and they are increasing productivity and changing corporate culture.”
In a digitized firm, the relationship between managers and workforce can dissolve, risking workforce alienation (or a push to unionize — c.f. Uber, again). Digital communication tools can help, but there’s no substitute for real human relationships.
TREND 6. Leadership Disrupted: Pushing the Boundaries
“Organizations are clamoring for more agile, diverse, and younger leaders, as well as new leadership models that capture the “digital way” to run businesses.”
As a corrective to thinking leadership is everything, see the recent Atlantic article on the need for followers. If nobody follows, then nobody is leading either. (And note the implicit ageism.)
TREND 7. Digital HR: Platforms, People, and Work
“Fortunately, the path to digital HR is becoming clearer, with expanded options, new platforms, and a wide variety of tools to build the 21st-century digital organization, workforce, and workplace.” Agreed.
TREND 8. People Analytics: Recalculating The Route
“Data about people at work has become more important than ever”.
More creepiness. It’s hard enough for any Joe the Plumber to control his personal information on Facebook, much less at work, where even your bathroom habits are ripe for optimization via data.
TREND 9. Diversity and Inclusion: The Reality Gap
“Despite these efforts, however, we see a reality gap. Issues around diversity and inclusion continue to be frustrating and challenging for many organizations. “
No fooling. As the literature on digital bias shows, algorithms focused on tactical productivity quickly become exclusionary, reinforcing pre-existing social norms. Not to mention fake news.
TREND 10. The Future of Work: The Augmented Workforce
“Companies can no longer consider their workforce to be only the employees on their balance sheet, but must include freelancers, “gig economy” workers, and crowds…. augmented with machines and software. Together, these trends will result in the redesign of almost every job, as well as a new way of thinking about workforce planning and the nature of work.”
Agreed. Although equating employees and balance sheets suggests a bionically enhanced Lord Darth Vadar is now in charge of HR.
“Change is already taking place: In this year’s survey, 41 percent of our respondents have either fully implemented or made significant process in adopting cognitive and AI technologies, and another 35 percent report pilot programs.”
This sounds like big-league consulting BS to me. Echoing my opinion of holocracy: Can’t we just learn to be better managers?