Archive for the ‘Utopia’ 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.


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?!