By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy
Human resource professionals have the potential to emerge as heroes of our disrupted age. Who else in the enterprise is charged with thinking long and hard how to assist employees do the best work of their lives in an environment that is perpetually changing? Having taught at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management for fifteen plus years I can emphatically state that earthquakes are not conducive to optimal performance. Organizations today do not just exist on or near a fault zone, they operating in an environment of constant tremors, pre-shocks and after-shocks. HR professionals need to be driving efforts designed to let senior executives know what does the organization currently know about disruption; what does the organization in general and specific executives in specific roles have to know about disruption; and how can the organization best bridge the gap between what is known and what needs to be known?
Everything is Shaking
The global commentariat labels the technological, economic, political and cultural upheavals we are experiencing “disruption.” If the verb “disrupt” was a stock, it would be trading at an all-time high. “Disrupt” and “Disruption” have become the most prominent verb/noun pairing in the business press today. Every magazine has run at least one cover story about “Disruption.” Graduate programs in business, engineering and media around the world devote significant class time to the topic. The University of Southern California [USC] offers a degree in disruption. All these efforts have tended to create more heat than light. Most organizations are still reasonably uncertain what must be done about disruption.
Questions That Need to Be Addressed
Technology frequently dominates the disruption conversation. This may be because, daily, things once impossible/crazy expensive, are now possible/affordable. Google and NASA have reportedly tested versions of quantum computers, which they said are 100 million times faster than a traditional computer. Strategists are asking: Which industries won’t be affected by this increase in speed? HR professionals are asking the tougher question: what does all this increased compute power mean to workers?
Very few organizations have rolled up their sleeves and “whiteboarded” what autonomous vehicles might mean to them. Quick Service Restaurants [QSR] may be ahead of the pack on this one. 50 to 70 percent of fast food sales occur at drive-thru windows.
Very few organizations have plans in place to participate and participate actively in the sharing economy [i.e., an economy where the emphasis is not on buying/owning an asset but rather on “subscribing” to a service that provides access to that asset - think Uber and Airbnb].
We are in for a wild ride over the next couple decades. Are the HR professionals in your organization doing all they can to make sure that this ride ends happily for the humans involved?