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Mike Hammer aka Hib

SP3M Group LLC - Blended Workforce Designers

The HR Gig Doctor

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How can HR build new bridges for future work?


The assumptions, strategies and techniques that have helped HR in the past will not suffice for navigating through the disruptive tsunami that is set to impact every business and its workforce. In the second of this series, Mike Hammer – aka ‘The Gig Doctor’ – explores how to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly from the bridges already crossed in order to build new bridges for future work.

At the 2019 Davos World Economic Forum, IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty stated that “as tech automation continues to outpace reskilling and the skills crisis gap widens, job insecurity fears among wage earners are real and growing. One hundred per cent of all jobs are going to change – most new roles will be digital.

In a society where the top two concerns are security and job retention, a large portion of the worker population feels disenfranchised. You have to change the model of education to meet future skills needs and give new pathways to the future.”

In this global environment, the pressure for HR to help define the talent path ahead is increasing.  My mission, for this content series, is to help HR leaders become more aware of the upcoming seismic shift, understand its complexities and get ready to change at the pace our world is changing around us.

GPS versus HR mapping strategies

We know how easy it is for our smartphones to map our route to a known or unknown destination. The mobile app then gives us audible directions as we progress toward our destination.

We take GPS for granted as an integrated part of our life activities. But what if the landscape were to change like after a flood, earthquake or hurricane? What if GPS data were, on occasion, in error or not reliable? What if road signs, landmarks and bridges were no longer where we used to find them? We tend to become dependent on what has been routine and worked well for us in the past.

Similarly, the phenomenon of a rapidly changing global economic landscape and massive people migrations presents a dilemma for many HR and business executives in attempting to chart a path forward.

The experiences and road maps we often use to apply to our route forward may no longer be reliable with continuously shifting variables. Change is constant while the skills necessary to meet future product or service demand is ever evolving faster than we can keep up with.

We often rely on past methods and practices to enable predictive people skills required at any given time in the future. Even strategic workforce planning models keep evolving.

HR will need ongoing data collection, data analysis and interpretation to know what skills will be required, to what degree and at what time.

So how do we identify which HR strategies are no longer applicable to future work planning?

If I knew the explicit answer to that question, I would be traveling the world giving TED talks and advice to C-suite executives for a tidy fee.

A more likely and efficient approach is to recognise and accept that the world and work processes as we have known them are continuously evolving.

Let’s take reskilling current employees for future work as an example. It is a major topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum and from recent LinkedIn data. The Toward a Reskilling Revolution report concluded: “95% of the 1.4 million workers in the U.S. that will be displaced in the next decade can be transitioned to new positions with similar skills and higher wages.” Easier said than done, given the recent track record and outcomes from jobs automation.

As Ginni Rometty noted, there are not enough education programmes to reskill those with just a high school diploma. How much is your company willing to invest in reskilling those workers who will be displaced by the great economy-crushing tsunami?

Reality check

While some hiring decision makers may choose a moralistic approach to reskilling and spend heavily on retraining, the likely underreported choice is to not invest in reskilling. Why?

  • The transition through disruption will create a smaller pool of available skilled jobs

  • Far too many of the displaced persons caused by disruptions of the norm will not have the time, patience or discipline to complete the learning curve necessary to qualify for the newer, higher skilled jobs

  • The spend on reskilling based on decades of corporate training expense and outcomes is a deterrent

  • Some of the skills required for future work have yet to be identified

The right questions for HR to start asking

The real questions HR professionals and business executives should be asking are regarding the future of their company. How has e-commerce affected your revenues and profits? In what markets will your company be expanding or opening new markets?

With this knowledge, what technologies will the company purchase that will automate tasks and jobs in your organisation going forward? With reduced labor processes, what new skills will be required to meet future demands? Which employees have the capacity for reskilling to the identified skills needed? When will you need them and for how long? What skills will be required from specialised contractors and when?

If these questions sound familiar, they are. Whether called ERP or Lean Process or the Toyoda Way, many of these techniques and processes are now applicable to people analytics.

There will be gaps in the road ahead with no bridges to cross.

Soft skills and skills development will still be important to success. However, HR will need ongoing data collection, data analysis and interpretation to know what skills will be required, to what degree and at what time.

While math and algorithms are not top of mind for HR professionals, they are the common business language across all functions of an enterprise – normally known as financial speak. It’s the language of business one must use to identify and understand people skills, associated cost for same and potential return on the company’s investment in labour.

Analytical skills in HR are essential

It is about numbers not feeling. Yes, this all sounds a bit geeky, but it is necessary. It will be outside the comfort zone of many HR professionals and management executives. If HR does not have persons with applicable analytics skills, hire or contract them.

Current HR flow process technologies are great and getting better but are not the panacea many profess. We’ll discuss these internal and cloud-based technologies in a later article.

With a solid analytical evaluation of a company’s, current and future products and markets, HR can set a baseline from talent/skills currently employed or contracted. Then and only then is one able to apply people data by a skilled analytics practitioner to develop a model of the skills required and in what quantity going forward.

Avoid driving the road ahead blind

Without these processes, one is attempting to drive the road ahead with only rear views of where you have been. And without permanent roadside markers or signs, you will be driving your road ahead blind.

There will be gaps in the road ahead with no bridges to cross. First, you need to determine if there is an alternative route (solution). If not, then you must develop a build or lease scenario.

What is the cost/benefit analysis if you build a new bridge (reskill/retrain or hire specialist) or lease transportation to cross (buy contract skills to get across the chasm)? You must perform this evaluation continually as you approach bottlenecks or roadblocks to your destination.

NEXT TIME: Building many bridges to future work

To progress along our journey to future work, we must recognise the gaps (people skills) and roadblocks (budget/management) earlier and act upon them more swiftly than we have in the past.

We will explore how to identify the gaps and roadblocks and how to have a solution ready to apply when the occasion presents itself.

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Mike Hammer aka Hib

The HR Gig Doctor

Read more from Mike Hammer aka Hib