Weekly News Roundup
As technology speeds us into an increasingly uncertain future, we can find ourselves behind a step, simply reacting to or overwhelmed by the exponential changes around us. We might be mapping trends and implementing technological solutions based on those trends to keep up, not fall behind and accelerate past our competition. We believe technology is taking us in a direction, and want to plan for it.
Yet who is in the driver’s seat – technology, or us humans? And to what end?
What would it look like for us to design a future of work that would meet our human capacities, needs, aspirations and values and help us flourish and thrive? When we talk about the future of work, we largely talk about technological advances and technical solutions. While these are important, it’s also vital that we design the future of work in ways that will allow us to flourish in our full humanity.
As an executive advisor and coach to CEOs and founders, I have seen firsthand how leaders are challenged to keep pace and get ahead of the digital revolution while balancing the very human needs of their employees, teams and customers. Below are three elements I believe will be key for leaders to consider in the future of humans at work:
1. Human Skills
Many of the skills of the future will require a human connection, not just digital expertise. With every generation that is born into ever-advancing technology, it’s not just about keeping pace with that technology. Digital is increasingly becoming second nature to us. I believe what will set apart leaders, innovators and employees will be their social-emotional capacities, ability to discern what matters, empathy, care, connection and even love — things that technology cannot do for us.
You can start building your muscles around these soft skills today. As you go about your day, ask yourself, "What opportunities do I have to be a little more human and a little more caring?" When you are in a meeting, walking down the hall or talking to a colleague, what small acts of kindness or connections can you make? In my experience, it can be a simple as putting down your phone, looking someone in the eyes and smiling.
2. Social Connection
We are innately social creatures who rely on reading nonverbal cues contained in our faces and bodies to read what is going on underneath the surface. Human connection and social interaction are vital to employee wellbeing. This is why I believe we will need to design our future work environments and customer interactions for more, not less, social connection.
In the middle of a stressful, busy day loaded with deadlines, it might feel impossible to find space to connect. Yet notice that as you begin to make these small gestures of kindness and connection, it begins to affect those around you. Social connection is the foundation of teams functioning well and of building the kind of trust that technology cannot create for us.
Explore when you can intentionally create space and time in your schedule to connect. For example, give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning before your first task to say hello to your team. Design meetings that address team tension, and encourage employees to attend in person so you can better read nonverbal cues and find ways to signal safety through your body language. I believe the more you design work around humanness, the more permission you give others to follow suit.
3. The Ability To Unplug
From my perspective, knowing how to unplug will be more vital than ever. The level of sensory bombardment has reached a high, with seemingly everyone carrying a smartphone that can double as a TV and computer in the palms of their hands every waking moment. Our current environments are impacting how we evolve, and technology is designed to keep us hooked. I believe knowing how to let go, decompress and unplug, and become more present — through practices including breathing, meditating, being in nature or play – could become central in the future of humans at work.
Just as we schedule our activities, we can schedule a time to restore, unwind and unplug. It's simply a matter of prioritizing it. In my coaching, I recommend my clients block off times during their day that must be reserved for restorative practice. Take a few moments to breathe and meditate (phones and computers off) at your desk. Take a walk in nature, or sit by flowing water — if your office has a fountain in its lobby, that will do. Tapping into the rhythms of our own bodies and nature can be a powerful way to reset.
While there is a certain perpetual motion of technological advancements, we also have some agency in designing a future we want. It is too often that we are the workers in our lives and not the designers. It's about learning the art of living well and designing our work (and lives) in ways that accentuate our humanness, not replace it.
As a driving force behind an organisation’s culture and people, Human Resources (HR) has a valuable role to play in developing good leaders and helping them succeed. Since management can directly affect employee satisfaction, performance and loyalty, it’s important to actively facilitate the growth and success of quality managers.
In many ways, HR needs to ‘lead the way’ when it comes to good leadership. Yet showing leaders how to be successful doesn’t just happen, it often requires specialised training and experience. One way of kickstarting this process is by obtaining an MBA with a specialisation in Managing and Leading People, to help you manage, motivate and inspire with leadership styles tailored to achieve your organisation’s strategic goals.
Read on to explore other ways that HR can help managers succeed in the workplace.
Define what a good leader is
Beyond managing operational efficiencies and solving immediate problems, managers need to be engaging leaders, inspiring their teams to perform at their best. There are some unique skills that naturally inclined leaders possess, such as conflict resolution, communication skills and problem-solving capabilities. However, the success of management doesn’t necessarily come down to possession of these skills alone. Success will look different from organisation to organisation.
It’s the responsibility of an HR department to define what qualities good leaders exemplify in their company. This may come down to involving team members in a cross-company activity to help define your organisation’s values and ideal leadership qualities. Findings can be presented in a document or video that describes in plain English what good leadership looks like. This can help to develop a set of standard expectations and a common language around leadership so that employees and managers are on the same page.
Make sure they understand their purpose
Effective leadership starts with articulating a clear ‘why’. HR should provide leaders in the organisation with a contextual understanding of what’s expected of them, and how their behaviours and responsibilities directly lead to success in the business.
Clarifying purpose is especially important for new managers, as transitioning into a management role can be overwhelming. New managers need to learn new skills while balancing existing duties. They need to assume responsibility for their team, while also completing their own work to the highest standard, as well as reporting to their own manager too. Feeling that they’re an integral part of a bigger plan can help new managers feel more motivated to succeed.
Prepare them for obstacles and challenges
Managers may face different challenges to other employees, and it’s HR’s responsibility to prepare them for these obstacles. Not only do managers need to tackle issues with their own work and wellbeing, but they also take on the vast array of challenges their employees face. These can include a range of interpersonal issues from conflicts and performance matters, to mental health or personal concerns. HR should provide resources and training to better prepare new managers for these potential challenges.
Keep in mind, there are times that even the most proficient leaders will need support. It’s important to help managers understand when an issue requires HR input. This may be scenarios such as hiring, termination, unusual leave requests or employee complaints.
People in management positions shouldn’t be left unsupported. HR needs to guide and assist them to set them up for success. This may involve more one-on-one time with their direct report, setting them up with mentors or exploring other professional development opportunities.
Some managers who have come from highly technical roles need help developing their soft skills, such as negotiation, conflict resolution and communication. Managers who have transitioned from another area of the business or another industry altogether may need extensive support to understand the subject matter and learn what their team does on a day-to-day basis.
Other practical things HR can do to support managers include:
· Develop their skills in running good meetings · Teach them how to prioritise building trust with their team · Set clear expectations around how to conduct performance reviews · Clarify when they should seek help from senior management · Encourage them to admit they don’t know it all – nor do they need to.
Create opportunities for continuous learning
HR can help leaders achieve success in their roles by fostering an environment of continuous learning and improvement. They should encourage and facilitate development opportunities for managers of all experience levels. Practically, this could include regular training sessions, professional development workshops or external courses, and implementation of new technologies and systems to improve team management. You can help managers succeed by highlighting their strengths and helping them navigate their weaker attributes. Assisting established leaders to improve their feedback techniques, or their ability to recognise leadership potential in their team members can improve processes across the entire company.
Motivate and inspire them
It has been discovered that the “Cascade Effect” can cause employees engagement to be affected by their managers, which in turn is influenced by their managers. In the same way that leaders should motivate and inspire their teams to achieve success, HR can demonstrate what it is to be a good leader, by motivating and inspiring managers.
Employees are highly engaged by good management and can be demotivated by poor management. Set a good example by motivating your leaders to succeed, and you’ll be fostering an environment where they can inspire their teams to do the same.
If you’re considering a career in HR, or are looking to develop your skills in fostering great leaders, the MBA at Southern Cross University can help. With the ability to specialise in managing and leading people, this qualification can take your HR knowledge to the next level.
Automation, education, and the future of work Training Journal
The automation of work is nothing new – since the Luddites destroyed their looms in the early days of the industrial revolution, there has been a balancing act between technological progress and fears over employment opportunities.
But the growth of technology is gathering pace, and the effect on our working lives is becoming more apparent. Everyone from Obama and Trump to the most prolific business leaders agree that we should be prepared as a society to deal with the rising tide.
PwC suggests that anywhere between 20% and 40% of jobs are potentially at risk of automation by 2030 – particularly low or semi-skilled roles – and economists agree that automation has played a far greater role in job losses, over the long run, than globalisation. While educators have already begun to establish closer links with industry, in the future learning methods will need to become even more flexibile.
But, of course, few people want to stop technological progress. Indeed, most governments want to spur it on, recognising its transformative power in our ability to do business. So, the question becomes: how do we educate and train for a fast-changing business landscape and mitigate against high unemployment as a result of automation?
Education, education, education
The relentless pace of technological advancement means that employers and educators need to start laying the groundwork to encourage a more agile approach, rather than prioritising the development of narrow skill sets, which become irrelevent and out-dated. We need flexible and adaptable workers, who are able to morph to suit the changing workplace.
In the future world of work, it is likely that an individual will need to move from skill to skill with ease, with flexibility that will allow them to adapt to new or changing careers as opportunities come and go. But for this to become a reality, there needs to be a change in the way that we approach education and skills training.
While educators have already begun to establish closer links with industry, in the future learning methods will need to become even more flexibile. Practical, project-based learning, which emphasises applied knowledge rather than rote learning, will become the norm, and success will be measured not in grades, but in how well training has addressed business needs.
A culture of lifelong learning is essential to encourage employees to develop their skills as they work longer and deal with rapidly changing technological landscapes. And this helps support not just new recruits but those already in work - those most at risk from the rising tide of automation.
With two-thirds of the workforce of 2030 already in employment, it is crucial that in-work learning becomes just as important as traditional schooling, so that workers are equipped with the skills they need to take advantage of new opportunities created by automation. And the pace of change is so great that even those joining the workforce today will need to continuously update and evolve their skill sets over the course of their working lives, so that they too are not left behind.
With little time, and pressured work environments, we believe that distance and online flexible learning are likely to be key. Affordable for companies and more accessible for employees, the concept of anytime-anywhere learning is likely to further proliferate the employment landscape. Apprenticeships will also form a vital part of the puzzle in this new learning landscape. The training now spans different levels - from GCSE level right through to master's degree level - so employees can undertake multiple apprenticeships throughout their working lives, growing their skills and keeping their knowledge up-to-date.
And of course, the Apprenticeship Levy, which applies to employers in England, who have an annual pay bill above £3m, provides increased impetus to use the funds to help STEM skills shortages or to retrain employees for new job roles.
But it's important that apprenticeships are delivered flexibly to fit around organisation’s demands, scalable for consistent training across multiple sites and provide high quality work-based learning for real organisational impact.
So, education and learning need to change significantly over the next decade to deal with issues raised by automation and the rise of advanced technologies. And, while most conversations about the future of work focus on how new technologies and ways of working, such as artificial intelligence and the gig economy, will dramatically reshape modern industries, less is said on what we should be doing now to prepare for an unpredictable future.
The 'future of work' and the 'future of education' conversation are inherently linked, and educators, employers, employees and government must all work together to ensure that adequate pre-work and at-work education is provided to help us all cope with this unprecedented pace of change.