Blog Post

HR in 2030 and beyond: Robots, data and AI (oh my!)

Mike Bollinger

VP, Strategic Initiatives, Cornerstone

In an era of mass personalization, we can only see shadows of our future and the significant shifts that lie ahead.

With computing power, alternative energy, manufacturing practices and basic business models changing right before our eyes, I wonder what the effects of this projected massive change might look like. How do emerging technologies, demographics and the pace of change impact new business models that will require ever-evolving strategies?

Taking a step back, who could have anticipated that the automobile would contribute to the creation of strip malls and supermarkets? There were likely no media executives using electronic printing presses who anticipated the concept of social media or 24x7 always-on websites. I am also constantly reminded of the extraordinary efforts for building the intercontinental railroad. As the construction teams hammered away, they never thought to look up and see the airplanes flying over their heads.

Technology sets the pace of change

If you think about the pace of change over the last 20 years, our relationship with data is a massive part of it. Flashback to 2001, it took us a billion dollars and 13 years to sequence the first human genome. Today, it costs as little as $3,000 and takes only a few days.

We at Cornerstone are keenly aware of this, and in fact — as part of the Global AI Agenda 2021 program commissioned a study from MIT Technology this year — Work in Asia’s data age. This study focused on how the steady advance of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies has reshaped work and jobs for the past decade and how it has impacted Asia organizations.

It is hard to see around corners or into the future, but having an idea allows us to prepare and adapt. I invite you to take a journey with me on what the future of HR might look like and the technology that HR may employ 20 years from now.

The future of work requires we understand and embrace data

In the 2020 update to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020, the organization suggested that by 2025, half of all tasks will be performed by machines, compared to 29% today.

People have been saying that for years, but what is fascinating about this update isn’t that machines are taking jobs, but where they’re taking them.

If the first thing we’re going to see is automation in the workplace, we must tackle data. Artificial intelligence depends wholly on clean, consistent data. One of the fallacies of humans putting data into systems is the constant variability.

We are starting to see robotic processing automation, or RPA, automate the data tasks that consume the day-to-day responsibilities of HR professionals. This automation creates incredible value for AI by making data more consistent.

West Monroe Partners’ human resources department uses a bot named “Rosie,” borrowed from the classic American sitcom The Jetsons, to enter new employee data into their systems. And now what once took an HR representative about 25 minutes takes Rosie only five.

From there, I firmly believe technology will impact everything in HR, from compensation to recruiting.

Blockchain will empower candidates to control their personal information in the hiring process (think trading a token for access to resumes, portfolios and more). We at Cornerstone participate in the Velocity Network Foundation with that very goal in mind.

HR support services will be rapidly automated through voice navigation, and trust me; it will feel totally natural. We’ll be asking Siri or Alexa to crunch some numbers or have them proactively nudge us to read an article that will inform an upcoming meeting.

At Cornerstone, we look at new and unique modalities for people to train, from integrating the learning experience platform into VR glasses to hosting hologram-led courses.

Learning in the flow of work

The idea that as an employee, I’m learning in the moment will become predominant in multiple ways:

  • I’ll learn something new right then and there
  • I’ll consume it right in the flow of work
  • I’ll use it immediately

Like how on-the-fly translations in global meetings work now, learning on the job could look like this: An airplane mechanic is working on an engine, and they’ve never seen a specific part before. Their heads-up display then automatically presents the information on that part. Or a salesperson, in the middle of a conversation, is notified of a new legislative change that pertains to that customer.

Working in an augmented reality

We’ll also see augmented reality actually become a reality . Through technology, we can create an ideal holistic learning environment where we’re always learning, and it will become a natural part of how we work. Moreover, the learning experience will be enhanced when our trusty robot assistants proactively look at our behavior and recommend an action.

Look, there’s far more data than we can ever consume. The beauty of machines is that they can translate that data and tell us what we may need before we even know we need it.

So the machines are taking/saving our HR jobs

Actually, I don’t believe that tech replaces jobs. New technologies don’t eliminate entire occupations; they affect portions of jobs.

For HR practitioners, we now see robots performing specialized roles within recruiting, scanning social media and using hundreds or thousands of data points to identify the right person. Machines can also help with identifying diversity and culture fits in the recruiting process.

study done by Oxford calculated the susceptibility of occupations to automation. They indicated that the HR administrative jobs had a 90% chance of being automated by 2035.

For instance, HR spends a lot of time putting data into the system. Remember that bot called “Rosie”? Well, she is an example of RPA inputting the data for employees. And what about responding to HR processes, like “Hey Siri, where can I find this benefit in my HR system?” A bot will answer that for you. Compensation? I’m sure a bot is figuring out how to automate that right now (and hopefully eliminate the pay gap while it’s at it!)

However, that same Oxford study noted that HR professionals who are directors and officers are far more likely to be untouched by automation if they are involved in strategy and leverage valuable soft skills.

So, why do I think that tech doesn’t replace jobs? I believe automation provides us with an opportunity to elevate our roles and explore entirely new career paths that don’t exist today.

The World Economic Forum’s  claims that while technology may displace 75 million jobs, 133 million additional new roles may emerge concurrently. The skills we have today will not be the skills we need tomorrow, and we might have several careers throughout our lives. How exciting is that?!

Work to understand and embrace data

If I could share one piece of advice for my fellow HR colleagues, it would be to understand data and embrace it. The data still requires your ability to have insight, guide it in the right direction, and use technology to act and personalize your people’s experience. With every individual craving a unique experience, we must partner with technology to solve the personalization requirements.

I’ll end with a quote I have always loved from Joanna Bloor, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Amplify Labs, which truly exemplifies how I feel about the future.

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

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Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Blog Post

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock

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