Perspectives POINT COUNTERPOINT ile teams. For IBM, agile working cannot be supported by the loosely

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  • PEOPLE + STRATEGY8

    Perspectives | POINT | COUNTERPOINT

    How the Internet of People Will Change the Future of Work By Anna Tavis

    When conversations turn to the future of work, the focus is often on technology first and humans second. To shed more light on the human side of the equation, we invited senior HR professionals and leading experts to present their views on what the future may hold for people in the Internet of things (IoT) economy.

    Ravin Jesuthasan, lead author, opens the discussion by building on the main theme of the 2015 book he coauthored, Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment. Jesuthasan’s key idea is that under the conditions of the Fourth In- dustrial Revolution, the “traditional trap- pings of employment fall away,” while “new intermediaries step in to connect and support pools of talent that engage with companies in a myriad of ways.”

    The parallels with IoT are transpar- ent. If IoT connects all types of digital devices and enabling applications that were previously unheard of, the “Inter- net of people (IoP) will connect various pools of talent, enabling continuous upskilling, boundaryless careers, access to work opportunities, income contin- uation solutions, and access to various other benefits.” Work and organizations, Jesuthasan proposes, will “continue their inexorable shift away from longer-term obligations to employees” and people will find community in the networks they create among themselves in coworking spaces and on diverse and specialized collaboration platforms, of which the or- ganization will be just one such option.

    Not so fast, caution all four of our re- spondents. Here are the reasons why the promise of IoP that Jesuthasan presents will not work.

    The scenario of an “inexorable ride away from the organization” does not really hold for Diane Gherson, CHRO at IBM. Speaking from her experience of running the HR function at one of

    the world’s longest-standing and most successful tech giants, Gherson describes the new IBM work model in terms of ag- ile teams. For IBM, agile working cannot be supported by the loosely connected network of part-time workers. The new work order demands “co-location of agile, empowered teams, loosely coupled and tightly aligned to deliver outcomes valued by their end user.” To scale agile working, IBM went back to co-locating team members with clients breaking down functional silos and encouraging experimentation and learning and en- couraging facilitating casual interactions at work.

    Peter Mulford, global head of innova- tion for the strategy consulting firm BTS, cites multiple data showing problems with the narrative of decoupling talent

    from the organizations. No question, cost savings in the short term are attrac- tive to most employers. What is not clear are the longer-term consequences of employees disengaged from the organi- zations they work for. Michael Porter’s strategy research showed decades earlier that businesses’ strategic success depend- ed on a diversity of talent “that work together as a team” not on “crowdsourc- ing tasks to the lowest qualified bidder.” Mulford also cites Gideon Lewis-Kraus, who noted that “the most important thing happening in Silicon Valley right now is not disruption. Rather, it’s institution-building.”

    Uri Ort, Reece Akhtar, Dave Winsbor- ough, and the team of organizational psychologists at Hogan X question the psychological validity of the proclaimed

    When professional conversations turn to the future of work, the focus is often on technology first and humans second.

  • VOLUME 40 | ISSUE 3 | SUMMER 2017 9

    benefits of the “uberization” of the econ- omy. As Hogan’s multi-year research has compellingly demonstrated, human mo- tivation depends on three fundamental needs: to get ahead, to get along, and to find meaning. Freelancing falls short of meeting these fundamental psychologi- cal requirements, and “the psychological payback that traditional organizations provide to their employees,” the Hogan X team argues, remains critical to employee well-being and organizational performance as a whole, technology notwithstanding.

    Brian Kropp, practice leader at Cor- porate Executive Board, brings the con- versation back to the importance of the role companies need to play in the face of the automated options the new econ- omy offers. Based on CEB’s findings, Kropp presents a continuum of options where, on the one end, companies are increasing their investments into train- ing and development with the intention of bringing their employees along to the next economy. Those companies are set to create a win-win scenario for employ- ees and companies alike by working to engage their workforce and to increase productivity. On the other end, there are companies that are chasing the lower costs that the “gig economy” offers and possibly taking on more risk by disen- gaging their workers, losing institutional knowledge, and potentially damaging their reputation as employers.

    The impact of automation on hu- mans is not yet fully understood. Fuzzy boundaries between the two economies will most likely persist and widen as workers continue to migrate between different types of employment. Even if the gig economy slows, it is not going away. Platforms, apps, and coworking spaces will continue to multiply and improve their user services. Commu- nities of practice will become expert at providing those intangible benefits that human workers need to thrive. Yet, despite some warnings to the contrary, innovative, fast learning organizations will maintain their stronghold on the employment of choice. They are loosen- ing their administrative grip on workers’ mobility while refocusing on cultural uniqueness and employee experience to meet the demands of the next genera- tion of talented nomads. IoP deserves a

    closer examination, and we are here to contribute our share.

    Anna Tavis, Ph.D., is associate professor of human capital management at New York University, Perspectives editor, and coeditor of Point Counterpoint II. She can be reached at anna.tavis@nyu.edu.POINT

    The Human Response to AI By Ravin Jesuthasan

    As a participant at the World Economic Forum’s annual meetings in Davos, one can’t escape discussions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its implications for society, organizations, and work. The inherent relationships and dependency between these three elements cannot be overstated. The twin forces of technology enablement and the democratization of work are enabling rapid transformation in how work is done, where it is done and by whom or what. This in turn is redefin- ing what the organization actually is and its value exchange with its sources of work. Is it a self-contained entity, as in years past, or the permeable hub of an ecosystem for work? As more work escapes the boundaries of employment and companies increasingly embrace the plurality of means for work— whether that be free agents on a talent platform like Upwork, independent contractors, AI or robotics—the impli- cations for society will be profound. As the speed of the Fourth Industrial Revolution rapidly eclipses that of the previous three, companies will seek to seamlessly optimize speed to capability, cost and risk, shifting work between these various sources while eschewing longer-term contracts and liabilities in favor of more variable costs that are aligned to when work is delivered.

    The shift in work from a singularity of focus on employment to this new plurality of means, as described in Lead the Work, will see organizations continue their inexorable shift away from the implied promise of long- term employment (think implied promises of long-term employment,

    defined benefit pension plans, and retiree medical programs) in favor of work relationships that are shorter in duration. This trend has been playing out for some time as companies first transformed the traditional employ- ment relationship to reduce their long-term obligations, then shifted to utilizing alternative sources of workers (contingent talent, outsourcing) and more lately have started to use AI for the many routine aspects of work.

    The rapid growth of cognitive automation is creating a new set of work providers that promise a step change in the aforementioned metrics of speed to capability, cost, and risk. Analysis by Willis Towers Watson sug- gest cost savings of 60 to 80 percent for cognitive automation over traditional employees. This is in contrast to the 25 to 30 percent savings typically real- ized through outsourcing. So, where does all this leave employees, or more broadly, human talent?

    Without a doubt, we humans still have (and will for the foreseeable future) a pivotal role to play in work. As automation increasingly takes hold of the routine aspects of work, jobs will be reconfigured to emphasize the non-routine, truly human elements. But how will humans engage with or- ganizations? Even as companies reduce the traditional elements of security in the employee value proposition, our engagement surveys continue to point to the primacy of meeting that very basic human need.

    Will we see the return of DB pension plans? Will we see companies reverse the declining trend of investing in the development of the workforce as the demands for reskilling acceler- ates? No, as the traditional trappings of employment fall away, new inter- mediaries will step in to connect and support pools of talent that engage with companies in myriad ways. Much like IoT is connecting all types o