Archive for the ‘FutureofWork’ Category


Blog Post by: Ian Gee and Carole Grimwood

Our next two blogs are polarised, the first will look at the ‘Dystopia in the Future Workplace’ and the impact technology will have on HR and OD.  In it we have taken our research and imagined a worst case future, one that we assume none of us would ever want to be a part of.  We have taken a look at how such things as AI, VR, Gamification and Big Data will affect the way we work in a negative way, leading us all as employees being both cut adrift from the workplace community and enslaved in a new machine age driven gig economy.  The second one, ‘Utopia in the Future Workplace’ will look at how much of an enabler and liberator technology will be and how it will provide us all with an incredible opportunity to revolutionise the way we work for the better of all and reinvent ourselves and the HR profession.

Now neither the Utopia or Dystopia we imagine are real.  Hopefully it goes without saying but just in case…. the Utopia and Dystopia blogs are fictional extremes to highlight potential scenarios and do not represent the views of the authors! You may therefore wonder why we have bothered to write them. In both scenario planning and the development of organisation simulations, it is very useful and some would say critical to push our thinking hard to explore as fully as we can both ends of the Utopia to Dystopia construct. In doing so we can really think through what we would like to happen and how to make it so.  If you want to read more about this we can highly recommend Mary Midgley Essay ‘Practical Utopianism’ in her book ‘Utopias, Dolphins and Computers. Problems of Philosophical Plumbing’. (Midgley, M., Routledge, 1996)

It would be great if when you have read both blogs you could help to enrich them by including your ideas in the comment section. We will then do a review and identify the common and distinct themes in both blogs and publish them along with both your and our reflections at the end of this series.



Blog Post by: Ian Gee and Carole Grimwood

It’s my birthday! If you’d asked me 20 years ago I’d have said that I’d be celebrating my retirement today – drawing a reasonable pension, looking forward to catching up with reading, travelling, learning a new language, joining a yoga class, generally indulging myself before I cast off this mortal coil. As the years pass however, the retirement horizon continues to stretch further into the distance. I do have a private pension plan, (several in fact), and I will receive a small amount in about 10 years but it won’t be enough to cover the basics. I’m not on my own, this is now the norm.

When I was younger I worked in HR, but most traditional HR work is now automated. I remember people saying that there were some things, like recruitment and selection, which would always need to be done in person. Managers used to pride themselves on their intuitive ability to select the best candidate, whilst we HR experts were always striving for a more objective approach. Now a Selectorbot conducts a video interview and applicant responses are analysed using a sophisticated algorithm. Apparently, this makes a much better job of identifying talent and predicting performance. We should be careful what we wish for.

I’m lucky that I still have one of the skills that hasn’t yet been fully automated. I have to make use of digital tools, techniques, and data of course (no one could get by without staying on top of the technology) but there is still a face-to-face element thank goodness. I don’t sit in the same room as the people I provide support for though – I do all my work from home. Apparently, with virtual reality we can’t tell the difference. I’m not convinced but I go with the flow.

So, I’ll be doing some work today and spending yet more time trying to find some new clients. Like the vast majority, I’m self-employed. There is no job security and there are no regular hours. It’s a very crowded market place and you need to be constantly in the ‘on’ position and ready to go to be in with a chance of picking up work. This is the reality of the gig-economy.

You never really feel that you are truly part of something either. I’m just a temporary cog in a machine now. Can you remember all the effort that we used to put into employee engagement – the holy grail of productivity and business success? All those initiatives to develop engaging leaders, to give employees a voice and ensure that they felt valued by the organisation. There used to be awards for it in the HR world! The trend these days is to gamify work to raise productivity. It’s all about prizes and badges and tokens. It makes me feel like I’m back in primary school.

The combination of home working and self-employment can be very isolating and there has been a massive increase in stress and depression. Alongside that though, there are many, much more effective, drugs to manage psychological illnesses. We must be grateful for small mercies I suppose!

At least I still have a modicum of autonomy and control. The people who have to work in roles where even as recently as 2010 they would have been employed are also engaged as contractors (they used to call it uberisation). They are increasingly manged by chip. Implants monitor attendance, productivity, health, and even mood. Sometimes I think it’s getting difficult to spot the difference between real people and the robots. In fact, it’s easy – the robots don’t have moods, or sickness absence, and they don’t need a loo break. They also learn a good deal faster. So much pressure!

Not too long ago we also used to put a lot of emphasis on creativity. That wasn’t just about major innovation to invent new businesses, new products, and new ways of working. We used to say it was important for all employees to come up with ideas for improving the way things were done. Human creativity seems to be pretty much redundant now. The power of artificial intelligence applied to the ever-increasing mass of available data has seen to that.

We also used to put a great emphasis on the idea of a career back in the day. When I was young, everyone wanted a career and success in life was largely determined by this. The notion of a job for life vanished pretty quickly but we hung onto the need for career development for a long time. Initially development was actually provided by organisations. Later it became much more of a personal responsibility. Now it’s not even an important concept. You get a gig because of what you can do and not for any potential that you might have. The only thing you need now in this gig world is flexibility, adaptability, resilience and to be prepared to keep up and work with the technological advances.

The worst thing for me though is the loneliness. I enjoyed the sense of belonging that comes from working for an organisation. I loved being part of a real, physical team. I enjoyed having the time to develop relationships with my colleagues. I remember when I started applying for my first jobs in HR I was told that I should never say ‘I want to work with people’. But you know what? That’s exactly what I want.

Hey – What a Wonderful World!

Posted: November 7, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in Dystopia, FutureofWork, Human Resources, OD, Technology, Utopia


Blog Post By:  Ian Gee and Carole Grimwood

It’s my birthday and I can honestly say I have never been happier!  After over 20 years working in HR I feel I am truly doing the best work of my life.  When I look back to my early days I can only think how constrained I felt and how hard it was to really add value to the organisation.  It’s been a long hard climb to get to the top table.  I am there now and I like it!

In the not so ‘Good Old Days’ it took ages to do anything. I could never be certain that the data I was basing recommendations on was up to date or even real.  Today I can get workforce data at the click of a button and track how it changes every hour.  In fact, I don’t even need to do that!  I coded an app that does it for me.  The app sends alerts to my phone when it thinks there is something I ought to be aware of.  It does this 24/7.  My coding has urgent conditions that ensure I am woken in the night if it is something vital and impactful to the bottom line.  The kind of thing that needs to be brought to the attention of the leadership team.  Of course these are pretty rare events. None the less, my fellow SVP’s are very impressed with how on the ball HR is.  These kinds of things have shown how important the HR function is to the survival and growth of the business.

Do you remember how in the bad old days over 70% of M&A’s and OD initiatives failed to add value to the enterprise?  More often than not they destroyed value.  I often wondered why we bothered launching new corporate initiatives that drained everyone’s energy. Well not any more.  The organisation simulation I developed using Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality mean that the CEO, board, and staff have the opportunity to experience the future before it happens.  In doing so they can understand the likely consequences of their actions long before any real decisions are made. Working with our marketing colleagues we have adapted this to incorporate customers and suppliers in the process. This has given all of us the opportunity of refining change and M&A plans, truly understanding how culture drives and if you ignore it, kills change.

Our People-Data Chat Bots, which we in HR co developed with an external supplier, help us track the implementation of changes and steer the course to success.  They have solved the long standing problem of ROI by generating, gathering and interpreting current metrics and predicting future metrics in a real time way.  We no longer have any excuse for not knowing what is going on or having a dreadful 2 quarter time lag in knowing if what we are doing is making a difference and likely to succeed.  Change and OD have become a real time activity rather than a suck it and see, or let’s keep our fingers crossed one.

In the past I spent ages trying to get my fellow SVP’s to understand the importance of engagement and generosity in the workplace. How it impacts on productivity and why as a board we should be concerned about it.  Like most other businesses we had annual employee surveys and the like. But to be honest, very little happened as a result.   In HR we worked with a set of coders and app developers to build a companywide sentiment measurement tool (CWSMT).  The CWSMT scans all company communication, voice, email, social media etc., reading voice tone and identifying levels of happiness and generosity amongst employees.  The CWSMT helps us to quickly identify company ‘hot spots’ that require further investigation and exploration.  If we are not happy with the levels of engagement, we then give employees a ‘watch bot’ to wear.  We call these “Fit-For-Future -Work-Bits’ (FFFWB). They record detailed biometric and social data, analyse it and identify probable causes for the ‘Hot Spot’.  This has helped us to spot issues to do with the capability of local leaders, lack of skills, both cognitive and empathic, on the part of employees and even practical things like ways of working getting in the way of effectiveness, engagement and happy employees.   The FFFWB will even develop appropriate and tailored training programmes for the individuals concerned. They are amazing and accurate to a 98% tolerance level.  Employees often elect to wear them so they can build their skills and capabilities and get real time feedback on what they do well and not so well.

We use the FFFWB as part of our talent management programme.  The old days of identifying talent by sitting in shuttered rooms and talking about employees using highly subjective data are gone.  The FFFWB does it for us.  Not only do they provide data on skills they also provide us with data on relational and empathic ability.  They help us weed out people who do not share and live our values or our ethical stance.  In doing so they have helped us leave the bad old days of cortisone driven business decision making behind!

The majority of our employees, including HR professionals, are part of the gig economy, working with ‘at will’ employment contracts.  Our use of enhanced technology, including virtual reality gives them the freedom to work when and where they want and not to be bound by the old 9 to 5.  Yes, we have systems that look at and track the data for individual outputs, but now through the use of AI we can turn this into outcome data.  We and employees can see not just what they have done, but understand how they are being paid for the outcomes of their work.  This has helped us in HR to develop new compensation, benefits and reward packages that truly link the work people do to the beneficial effect it is having on shareholder value as well as things like environmental impact, customer satisfaction and enterprise sustainability.

Should employees decide to leave we offer them a data dump of all the biometrics and machine data we have gathered on them over their time with us.  We provide them with a ‘Data Dump CV’ (DDCV) that they can take to other employers.  This helps them sell themselves for future ‘gigs’ by really showing what they have done and the outcomes and the positive impact of their work.  Gone are the days of having to worry about people stretching the truth on their CV’s.  Our employees love the DDCV as not only does it help them understand what they are good at, it shows when they are good at it.  This helps them structure their time.  So some employees know they are most productive in early mornings, other late evenings.  They have real data to show prospective employers what they can do and the added value they bring.  This has helped many of them to raise how much they charge and get paid what they are worth.  We encourage all our gig employees to ask future employers to share the sentiment data for the team or part of the organisation they are looking for a gig in.  In this way they can easily avoid toxic organisations and seek gigs in places that will help them build their careers.

By embracing tech, in all its glorious forms, I think HR has finally liberated itself from being damned as a profession that is only interested in the ‘soft stuff’.  We have found a way of making the soft stuff hard and credible and easy for the rest of the organisation to see the importance of.  What more could I want on my birthday?!