Article: Disrupting the workplace: Ideas for the future

Learning & Development

Disrupting the workplace: Ideas for the future

The Annual SHRM conference 2013 brought forth several disruptive ideas on how the future workplace will shape up
Disrupting the workplace: Ideas for the future

Work and performance will be a result of how effectively a professional will be able to leverage his networks


The two-day Annual SHRM India Conference 2013, which concluded in Gurgaon on September 20, brought forth thought leaders from all across the country and globally to discuss some of the emerging trends in the workforce. The theme of this year’s conference was “Future of the Workforce”.

The first presentation was by Ben Casnocha, a writer and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Casnocha kept the audience hooked with his ideas and predictions on what future workplaces and employment will look like. He introduced to the audience a concept called “Tours of Duty” and argued that type of employment as we see today will soon vanish and companies will employ skilled workers through contracts that mutually benefit both the hired resource and the hiring company.

He also brought forth some radical predictions that the occurrence of emotional relationships will soon vanish from the workplace, and the workforce will be a dynamic set of individuals who work either individually or collectively to achieve goals for individual and collective benefit of the organisation.

The duration and nature of these employment contracts or tours of duty will depend on the nature of the requirement. Some futuristic organisations in the global stage have already experimenting with the tours of duty concept where employees (or more appropriately, workers) enter into an agreement with their employers that they will help the company achieve several outcomes in return for outcomes that promote his employability and personal brand.

As a result of this radical shift in the type of employment, HR’s talent conversations will cease to remain in its present shape and form. Casnocha argues that such type of contractual agreements not only align with the expectations and preferences of the coming workforce generations, but also build mutual trust between the employer and the employee.

As we move to a world that seeks perfect alignment between the demand and supply market, professional and social networks will become the single-most important channels for bringing the demand and supply markets together. Work and performance will be a result of how effectively a professional will be able to leverage his networks within and outside the organisation for information and expertise.

One of the most critical things by which an employer can maintain a steady supply of skilled talent in the future will be through effective alumni networks. Companies that have been able to build effective alumni networks have already started reaping the benefits on employer brand and talent supply. While no industry has yet been able to collectively build great and noteworthy networks, the consulting industry globally is ahead of the lot. Companies such as Bain, BCG, and Mckinsey have very strong alumni networks and most other industries globally are lagging behind.

Jeff Pon, CHRO of SHRM, offered an interesting session on how behaviours and thinking of human resource professionals need to evolve to cope with the challenges of the future. Pon argued that HR professionals should have a keen eye on final outcomes and the broader impact of their actions, rather than just focusing on individual HR activities.

Pon articulates his argument with the story of three quarry workers who were asked what they do. Each one had a different point of view about the same job. While one thought that his job was simply breaking stones, the other thought that his job was to break stones and earn a livelihood. The most engaged of the lot thought that he was breaking stones so that they could build a cathedral. Pon argues that every HR professional should carry the motto, “I am building a cathedral.”

The event was also marked by an interesting session by David Lewis, CEO of Pinnacle Performance, a global communication skills company. Through anecdotes and several exercises, Lewis drove home the point that good communication is an outcome of three essential elements: Analysing the audience, understanding their reactions and modifying delivery.

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Topics: Learning & Development

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