Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and noted futurist, Christian Kromme.  Here he forecasts a future in which we'll all be programmers.

We are living in a time of extraordinary change in which every individual, business, industry, and government is being impacted by simultaneous breakthroughs in computing power, connectivity, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. These waves of disruption are gathering momentum across the globe with exponential technologies automating all rational processes that cross their path. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics can and will automate many hard skills that can be defined by rules. As a result, many hard skills will become cheap and abundant, and many traditional jobs will be automated in the next decade. But we will also see the birth of many new jobs! 

The introduction of the internet destroyed many jobs, but did you know that for every job the internet destroyed, it created 2.6 new jobs? Technologies like AI and robots will probably do the same; they will destroy millions of jobs based on hard skills. Still, at the same time, AI and robots will create tens of millions of new jobs based on soft skills that technology is unable to deliver.  

So, what will these new jobs look like, and what kind of skills will people need to fulfill those new jobs?  

I believe the human workforce will be the flexible and creative “skin” around increasing technology. We are moving towards an economy with fully personalized products - for every human and for every need a different custom product. Producing 1,000 customized products is exponentially more complicated than creating 1,000 of the same product. So, we will need all the exponential technology and a lot of humans to fulfill the needs of this future economy. 

Will everyone become a programmer? 

I believe it is very likely that the majority of our production workforce will become our programming workforce. But not programming as we know it today, like coding on a computer. No, future programmers will be different. Humans will teach AI and robots how to perform specific tasks. This is already happening; former call center employees are now teaching chatbots how to respond to and interact with customers. Factory workers are teaching production robots how to perform specific production tasks.  

Let me give you an example of what programming in the future might look like. Today, most of us have a family member or partner who knows exactly how and when you like your breakfast or your coffee. Not because you programmed him or her that way, but because they learned from previous conversations and experiences and adapted their behavior to suit your preferences. I believe that this is what automation and programming in the future will look like, only it will be driven by AI and not just by our human interactions. Just tell the system how you like it, and software routines are created to suit your needs. It will all happen behind the scenes, so you probably won’t be aware of it, but it will be happening. It’s not that much of a leap.  

Because AI systems can learn quickly, you won’t have to tell the machines things twice. Now, if you have children, you will probably be able to imagine how wonderful that would be! In a custom product economy, the production processes will be changing all the time, so the machines will need human feedback and training to do the right thing. And human beings will be the ones that inspire and train the machines by merely telling and showing them how. I’m confident that machines, sensors, and AI technology will soon be able to read non-verbal reactions too. Imagine a computer having the emotional intelligence to understand your gestures and emotions, or detect a change of tonality in your voice? In the future, everyone can be a programmer, even if you cannot type one line of code. 

What do you think of Christian's predictions? Do you believe you'll be working more closely with robots and/or artificial intelligence solutions in the future?

As the Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, I get to talk to a lot of smart HR people about their challenges and their successes. The successes I hear about are generally born from the necessity of resolving tough challenges. Irrespective of industry, world region, or company size, most HR professionals are torn between the often-competing priorities of supporting individual employees while respecting the overall objectives of the organization.  And the main thread that runs through these success stories is that great business strategies only work when they are based on clear eyed, data-based problem statements.

A former boss of mine used to say that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I don’t think she originated that expression, but it has always stuck with me. If you are trying to resolve issues based solely on how people feel about problems or proposed solutions, you’re bound to fail. This can be particularly tricky with HR challenges. People issues inevitably are accompanied by strong emotions. Employees’ lives outside of work are filled with responsibilities and stressors – partners, children, elder care, volunteer work, illness, second (or third) jobs, etc. What appear to be minor changes in the workplace can upset the delicate balance that employees are managing between your workplace and the rest of their lives.

How you manage necessary changes in HR practices makes all the difference in whether those changes will be successful. What changes are you likely to need to make this year? At the Workforce Institute, we believe there are six major trends that organizations of all sizes need to prepare for in 2019.

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more mainstream. Don’t expect robots to replace your employees any time soon, but there are many use cases for AI that can help smaller organizations achieve efficiency and operational effectiveness. Using things like predictive analytics and assisted decision-making capabilities, available in most HCM solutions, ensure HR at your company as well as managers are spending time on things that retain key talent instead of spending their time buried in approval requests, etc.  
  2. Tight labor markets make great frontline managers more important than ever. Our CEO says that people join companies, but leave managers. If your managers aren’t helping your employees develop and move up in their careers, they’ll be moving on to greener pastures before you know it. Companies of all sizes need to be thinking of their employee experience as a key differentiator and a way to attract the talent you need to remain competitive.
  3. People will increasingly pursue alternative paths to employment this year. As more people question whether the value of a college degree justifies huge student debt, more people will pursue alternative paths to employment and employers will need to revamp their job requirements accordingly.Do your candidates really need degrees for all the job postings you have that currently require them? Are you considering alternative candidates and new ways of evaluating job fit?
  4. Compliance with federal, state and local legislation is more challenging than ever. From the ACA to minimum wage changes, there has never been a more complex environment when it comes to managing compliance with labor and employment laws. Research we published in 2018 indicated that more than half of human resources and payroll professionals (55 percent) have witnessed compliance activities by their colleagues that created unnecessary risk. If you’re not sure of what the most current labor laws are in your locations, you may want to check out what resource your HCM vendor makes available to you, so you can stay on top of the right updates to keep your company compliant.  
  5. Employees expect more flexibility from their employers when it comes to where and when they work and better self-service technology to support that flexibility.  We know it can be difficult to balance all your employees’ schedule preferences against the needs of your organization, but the more effective you are at doing so, the more loyal those employees are going to be. In research we published in 2018, 9 out of ten employees globally felt their employers could do a better job with scheduling.  
  6. Disaster preparedness will become a bigger part of your HR strategy. You don’t have to be a climatologist to see that extreme weather is having a bigger impact on business operations. You need to have a plan to deal with them. Here are 7 tips for managing your people and your business through extreme weather.

As you prepare for 2019, consider these predictions and the potential implications to your business if you don’t start talking about them now with your leadership, your managers and your employees.

This article was originally published on the What Works blog at Kronos.

Today's post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

We've published a number of articles this year focusing on the promise - and some of the potential pitfalls - of implementing artificial intelligence solutions in the workplace. At the bottom of this post, you can download an infographic that summarizes some of the research on this topic we've released this year.  Sooner or later, you're going to encounter AI in your workplace.  How do you prepare for that?

I've spent a lot of time on both sides of the new technology issue - as a provider deploying software for customers and as the customer trying to make a vendor's technology work in my environment.  Success with these projects can be summarized in the old expression "This would all be so easy if it weren't for the people".  I don't know where this expression originated, but I've heard it many times, especially when I was knee deep in a complex change management situation.  It's funny, in a dark humor kind of way.  Because of course there is no successful end game unless you can satisfy all the people who'll be affected by the new technology.   

Artificial intelligence solutions can generate real fear among employees who may worry that it will eliminate jobs or be particularly hard to use.  So what's the magic formula to implement the right AI solutions in your business without alienating your employees?

What has been your experience with AI to date?  What would you add to the list of tips above?


Download Infographic PDF

In a recent post entitled Can Artificial Intelligence Make Work Better?, I talk about some of the results of global research we conducted early this year to understand how workers feel about their experience at work and what they feel could make it better.  On February 21st, I participated in a SHRM webcast entitled Employee Experience Falling Short of Expectations: The Perception Gap You Can’t Afford to Ignore in which study author Ian Parkes and I discussed the results of this research and the implications those results might have for leaders looking to improve their employee engagement.

If you'd like to learn more about the research, you can watch and listen to a replay of the webcast with Ian and me here.

Later that same day, SHRM hosted a tweetchat to discuss this same research.  We had 161 people join the conversation, and there was plenty of lively debate about what it takes to create better employee experiences at work.  If you weren't able to join this SHRM #Nextchat live, you can click here to see all of the comments from the folks who tweeted in response to the following questions:

Q1. Why is there still such a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to processes such as scheduling and time-off requests? Shouldn’t technology be taking care of all this by now?

Q2. How does your organization manage schedules, and how much control do employees and managers have over their schedules?  Is this different for different categories of workers (hourly onsite plant worker, an exempt teleworker) or types of scheduling requests (PTO requests, shift swapping)?

Q3. How are you ensuring that your employees are receiving and taking vacation, sick time and other paid time off they need—when they need it—to be productive and healthy and avoid burnout?

Q4. Often managers are slow to recognize burnout in employees or don’t understand the symptoms. How can managers spot it?  What are the signs?

Q5. What is your organization doing to identify and fix the issues and problems that can cause employee burnout?

Q6. The complexity of working life continues to grow and negatively impact the employee experience—and, ultimately, retention. What’s one thing your organization is doing to make your employees’ working lives better and to retain employees?

Q7. What technologies are getting outdated in your workplace, and what new technologies are you investigating or investing in to improve productivity and the employee experience?

Q8.  What advice can you share with other HR professionals about how their role needs to change in the new world of work to ensure that all HR policies and procedures make employees feel like trusted partners in the organization?






Future Workplace ExperienceThe following post is by WFI board member, Jeanne C Meister, Partner at Future Workplace and Co-author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees.

The future of work is about developing a workplace that emotionally connects to employees and customers, understands the impact of technology on the workplace and provides myriad ways to learn and grow on the job.

This is the call to action of my latest book, written with my colleague Kevin J. Mulcahy, The Future Workplace Experience. In our book, we include findings from The Future Workplace Forecast, a survey of 2,147 global HR leaders and Hiring Managers across seven countries and ten industries probing new practices companies are using to adapt to the future workplace.

We summarize these practices into ten rules to master disruption in the workplace. Here are three of those rules:

1. Make the Workplace an Experience: The essence of making the workplace an experience is to integrate all the components of work—the emotional, the intellectual, the physical, the technological and the cultural – into one seamless experience. The goal: the employee experience should mirror the best customer experience. Companies that excel at making the workplace an experience listen to what their employees and customers are saying, and then makes changes based on that feedback. One example of this is the Empathy Lab at Facebook, which gives Facebook engineers the chance to experience for themselves how employees and customers will use their products giving them an emotional connection to their customers. There is growing evidence that businesses are more profitable when they are empathetic to the needs of their customers. In fact, the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2016 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings.

2. Pilot Artificial Intelligence in HR: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a huge market, predicted to surge from $8 billion this year to $47 billion by 2020, according to IDC. Some say it resembles the Internet in the mid 1990’s, and will be built into all kinds of products and services. Marketers are already using chatbots—or artificial intelligence computer programs designed to simulate a conversation through written or spoken text—to deliver personalized conversational experiences. One interesting new use case for chatbots is as learning assistants in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) where the number of learners can range from hundreds to thousands. In 2016, Georgia Institute of Technology used chatbot Jill Watson as a teaching assistant for a MOOC entitled, Knowledge Based Artificial Intelligence. According to Dr. Goel, the professor leading the MOOC, chatbot Jill Watson was able to answer 40% of student’s most frequently asked questions within one year, freeing the human Teaching Assistants to answer more complex questions. In addition to providing intelligent assistance during a course, AI can also help personalize the learning experience by capturing data and applying machine learning algorithms to create a Netflix-like learning experience where learning opportunities are recommended based on a user’s specific areas of interest.

3. Create Accessible On Demand Learning: According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, 65% of children entering primary school today will work in jobs that currently do not exist. This indicates that being a serial learner, constantly looking for new ways to grow and develop on the job, is now a requirement to stay employable. To enable serial learning, a growing number of companies are creating virtual corporate universities that combine a company’s proprietary courses with curated, publically available learning from MOOCs, Ted Talks, podcasts and blogs, to create a personalized learning pathway for learners. Creating more opportunities to access on-demand learning will continue to grow in importance as CEO’s like Randall Stephenson of AT&T challenge workers with this mandate: “Spend 5-10 hours a week learning online or become obsolete.” The message is clear: being a serial learner will help you to avoid technological unemployment.

The new world of work is not something we see in the future: it’s here. HR leaders must take action to prepare themselves, their teams and their organization for a workplace which requires constant upskilling, piloting new technologies and creating a culture where the workplace is an experience valued by both workers and their leaders.

I love the idea of the "Empathy Lab" at Facebook that helps employees acquire insight about how their customers experience Facebook. What's your organization doing to get ready for the workplace of the future?

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