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Take It From a Futurist: There’s No Need to Fear These Four Transformational Trends in HR

Cornerstone Editors

Change has a bad reputation. The mere prospect of it is known to be scary, unsettling and intimidating. But as a comfort, we must remind ourselves that change is also exciting, exhilarating and the only way to make progress—in life, and at work.

In the corporate realm, change—at the hands of technology or otherwise—often seems to threaten long-standing companies and the jobs they provide. But what if we looked at change differently? Kevin Mulcahy, futurist and author of The Future Workplace Experience, says that there are two types of change: transformation and disruption.

"Transformation is when you're leading change, and disruption is when change is being done unto you," says Mulcahy, who works to help organizations "future proof" their HR strategies. You want your business to fall under the "transformation" category, not under the "disruption" umbrella, Mulcahy says.

Now, if the word "transformation" makes you cringe, you’re not alone. To make transformation concrete and actionable, rather than a vague buzzword, businesses must become aware of key trends and do their part to participate in the trends when appropriate. This is where Mulcahy’s work as a futurist comes in: when it comes to transformation of the HR space specifically, it’s his job to identify key trends and make recommendations for businesses to make the most of what’s happening around them. Here, we explore four of the many developments he has noticed.

1) Work Has Become Experiential

Experiential work is the notion that, for employees, the last best customer experience they had becomes the minimum expectation for the quality of experience they have in the workplace, according to Mulcahy. "Basically, I want my IT help desk to be the same experience as when I go to the Apple Genius Bar. I want my cafeteria to be the same experience as when I go to my hip, cool cafe."

Workers are comparing the outside world to workplaces, Mulcahy explains. HR departments are not competing against other HR departments; they are competing against other consumer practices. This sets a high bar for on-the-job experience, but don’t fret—embrace the challenge and aim to provide the level of enjoyment that employees expect. Conduct surveys to determine what kinds of perks or benefits they prefer and deliver them, when possible.

2) Technology Is a Productivity Enhancer

No surprise here—technology is reshaping workplace experience, Mulcahy says. Some companies are using Slack to improve communication, while others are preparing to use implantable or wearable technology to enable their employees to work better while on the road. And Mulcahy is not just talking wrist wearables—he's talking exoskeletons that help employees to lift very large boxes and augmented reality glasses that help workers to visualize data more effectively. And of course, let’s not forget artificial intelligence, which promises to automate repetitive tasks, and on-demand learning technology, which provides employees access to skill-building resources whenever they want them.

Sound futuristic and scary? It shouldn’t be. Most of this technology is designed to enhance workers’ productivity, not steal their jobs. You certainly don’t need all of these new tools, though. Experiment with different gadgets and software to determine what works for your business. Software trials often provide an opportunity to test run new technology without a monetary commitment. And, if you’re more interested in testing out some promising hardware like a wearable, invest in one and see how it performs before rolling it out to your entire team.

3) Home-ing From Work Is on the Rise

Mulcahy says he has seen a shift from working-from-home to "home-ing" from work. Companies are allowing employees to complete personal to-do's from the office to make it easier for workers to spend more time in the building, Mulcahy says.

"If I want you to stay later, well, I need to enable you to have your laundry delivered to our office building," he says. The office concierge will collect the laundry and have it waiting downstairs. Employers can make ordering food easier and getting packages delivered to work simpler.

This way, employees do not need to run home because the laundry place is closing at 5 p.m., or because they have to meet the UPS delivery person, Mulcahy explains. Employers are recognizing that they are chasing people out of the office, he says, and this is a good thing. As our work lives and home lives increasingly intertwine, it’s okay for businesses to get a bit more flexible on defining work hours. You’ll want to ensure that productivity doesn’t suffer, but if your employees are still performing at 100%, there’s no reason to loosen the reigns.

4) You’ll Have to Choose Between a Mission Statement and a Purpose Statement

"Employers are talking less about their mission statements, and talking a lot more about their purpose statements," Mulcahy says. A purpose statement, he says, tells people what a business exists to do and why.

Younger generations are demonstrating higher levels of attraction to companies that have a sense of who they are and what they want to contribute to the world, he says. And those are concepts discussed in a purpose statement rather than a mission statement, according to Mulcahy.

"It's a 'what' versus a 'why,'" he says. "I think generations and candidates now need to feel a sense of connection to your 'why.'"

A purpose statement produces a more emotional connection to the business than a mission statement does, Mulcahy adds, so participating in this trend is a no-brainer. Define what your business stands for, and make it clear to your existing employees and applicants.

Photo: Creative Commons

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