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Future of Work Key Takeaways - Anthony Bruce PwC June 18, 2018

Key takeaways from the presentation given by Anthony Bruce, Partner, HR Consulting, PwC at the May Digital Leadership Forum session on Building the Workforce of the Future.

How people work and the future of the workplace

As a critical capability of any organisation, HR will undergo and support a transition into the workplace of the not-so-distant future. Many organisations across industries will be looking at current changes in society with more than their fair share of uncertainty about what it means for organisations.

Automation is threatening an ever-increasing list of jobs, some of which we would never have imagined being at risk even 20 years ago. We are faced with the looming prospect of an under-skilled workforce and a host of job titles which will no longer be relevant. Luckily for HR, it is placed at a critical intersection to make a massive impact and make it just as important, if not more so than it ever was before.

Where we are now

This transition has already begun in many companies, where human relationships across multiple layers of management are becoming devoid of face-to-face interaction, technology and data are changing this. New entrants to companies, often graduates fresh out of University or apprentices are, used to extensive one-to-one tuition and support, are moving through the early years of their careers having had limited contact with their immediate higher-ups. These interactions are increasingly played out through a computer screen or infrequent conference calls.

This lack of human connection is only going to increase in coming years. Humanity has taken thousands of years to get here but we are now at the point of exponential technological growth creating opportunities that change the nature of organisations and the peoples’ contracts with them. The transition into the traditional sci-fi notion of the future is happening right now.

Where does HR fit into this?

As previously mentioned, HR roles are primarily business strategy and people-centric. They require people skills and the very personal human touch which will arguably never see a comparable digital replacement, not for many years at least.

One thing that is already becoming clear is AI’s emergence in the technological realm. Lightning-quick calculations and rapid logical deductions are something that AI, by its very nature, is made to do. The good news is that humans, by their very nature, are made to interact with other humans.

This leaves a core group of skills that are going to be highly valued in a world of AI, CEOs tell us thatr they are the ones that will create competitive advantage and that are at a premium:

  • Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Leadership

HR professionals ultimately have a massive role in taking care of the values, culture, leadership and behaviours of an organisation. Technology will take away some of the operational aspects of HR, but that is as much an opportunity to develop the field as it is a threat.

To steer a smooth and effective shift towards human-AI cooperation in the workplace, business philosophies will have to be guided from the top down. CEO and board-level decisions will require creative leadership to ensure back-office, front-office and human operations all fit together smoothly.

Trust and accountability are going to become fundamental issues when AI and other technologies are implemented throughout every aspect of our daily lives, especially when it reaches a point that even the most well-versed individuals begin to lose their understanding of how it is operating or how decisions are made or arrived at.

Risk and regulatory issues regarding AI will, again, be best tacked using human creativity and emotional insight.

The workforce of the future

Advances in medicine and healthcare mean that today’s new born babies will likely live until the age of 100. Pressures on the pension and social welfare systems also mean that people will have to work well into their latter years and the workforce will have 16-year olds and 80 year olds working alongside each other.

This raises issues surrounding how organisations deal with these workplace demographics and the kind of cultures they implement. These decisions, of course, will be informed by the mandate HR manages and the organisational constructs, operating models and culture of an organisation become critical enablers or barriers.

Already there have been changes in the traditional work arrangements associated with younger and older age groups. Conventional wisdom has told us that young people typically prioritise personal development and flexibility, whilst older age groups look for security in employment. This is an oversimplification but points to wider and longer term changes.

Nowadays, young people are much more likely to seek secure jobs and contracts which facilitate financial commitments like buying a first home. Conversely, older people may look for job flexibility so they can spend time with grandchildren and will be much more likely to seek flexibility which will allow for personal development and the learning of new skills.

Once again, the continued differentiation, resilience and agility of organisations’ in a future of work will be driven by human-centric skills. HR has a massive opportunity to drive this, but will they have the courage?

Snapshot videos

Take a look at Anthony Bruce's snapshot videos from the event

This article was brought to you by Anthony Bruce from PwC.

We hope this gave you some insight and continued curiosity for our future sessions which include Digital Disruption, Innovation in the Workplace and Digital Transformation sessions