The future of work – is human

Blogging, conference, talking;  discussions seem to be clustering around a few themes at the moment. The future of HR, the purpose of L&D.  Our future when the algorithms take over (assuming you aren’t already reading this because an algorithm worked out you might be interested in it) and the promulgation of a range of favourite theories; agile, lean, 70/20/10.

I read a blog by Perry Timms yesterday on the future of work that got me thinking; good.  I like thinking.  I rather like to imagine Perry’s head sticking out of the clouds of our future having a good nose around; he’s wired to look for opportunities and possibilities and who knows; by sharing his thinking and allowing his imagination to envisage possibilities, some of those may well be brought into reality.  I always hope for a TARDIS myself.  Seriously.  It was a bit mind-boggling to go into the future; I’m rooted in the here and now – hoping there’s a future for us all.  Sometimes I doubt it, sometimes I’m scared.  Mostly I trust the process that what will be will be and do my best to be a good and kind person that leaves behind me a trail that will give another person another easy walk.

Something interesting is developing in relation to the future of work and humanity sponsored by the CIPD and facilitated by Jericho Chambers  – you can read about it hereMargaret Heffernan inspired me in March when she was talking to us about the early education system and what we build, and how we can create the conditions for people to think without fear.  I’m exploring the world of independent thinking in my own learning progression at the moment so it seemed sensible that I offered an input to the future of work and put independent thinking into the mix.

I suspect that the future of work is already here, and is happening around us, but of course we won’t know until we look back.  What was it Michele Zanini said? “Many organisations are already living in the past”.

HR and its future?  Will it only change if it has to?  I think so.  Perhaps HR and change is a metaphor for how change mostly happens, we change because it is forced upon us.   I see two different HRs and I wonder what that means for the future of work/future of HR.  I see the global corporates working like machines to keep shareholders satisfied, HR within creating engagement activities with good hearts in the organisations – working to find ways to make the machine human.   The shareholder algorithm perhaps? HR in those organisations is very different to HR in owner led organisations, charities, NGO and public sector.  The bigger organisations HR are siloed, separated, specialised in order to create order. Smaller organisations – the HR people do everything, loads of it, hands dirty.  Often one or two people making sure toilets work, and influencing leaders and unions and everything else in between. Some stuff is the same I guess; recruit, pay, discipline, induct, control unruly managers, influence the leaders to work within the letter and spirit of the law.  Maybe it’s more similar than different.

So much rhetoric about HR; the day-to-day seems to be for so many  – graft.  Restructure, change, rehire, intervene, contain, control – ever liberate I wonder?  I think HR can be the way to see the culture.  An empowered HR is unfettered, happy , experimental, devolved – unlikely then that the culture will be a miserable response to command and control – more likely to be a place where everyone’s connected to a shared purpose, and probably, on balance, people experience work as a good place to be.

Where does L&D fits in with all of this; is there an existential crisis?  Training seems to have become a bit of a dirty word, although I see a lot of training being delivered in the way that it always has. It’s a beautiful thing….to learn new stuff no?  I wonder what reflection L&D offers of the organisational culture.   Is L&D  on the outside of reality?   I read about 70/20/10, how to create learning and development with no budget, my twitter timeline is flooded with “agile”.  Which I read about (agile) and it all made perfect sense; beautifully packaged up as a product to sell. How does this connect to the never changing pain, which I hear again and again, caused by a manager who doesn’t actively, proactively from the heart care for and seek out opportunities for their direct reports?

How much time do HR people have to think independently; wow so much advice, so many “shoulds”.  How much time do L&D people devote to thinking for themselves? How much time are they given/do they take? What is their future?

More than ever people need to think. Think for themselves. Command and control – wow, it’s being held on to, reinforced unintentionally by so many interventions, corporate obedience, corporate fear – dominating.  What if we really think for and then speak for ourselves – then what?

So many questions.

I’m exploring independent thinking as part of The Future of Work is Human – creating spaces for people to think independently within a range of workstreams, facilitating open space at a Big Tent event in October, and – who knows what else.  What do you think?  Would you like to join  in?  Working together in thinking about the future.  There is no plan as such; there is a Big Tent in October; Neil Morrison has written about his work stream here and others will be doing the same.

Contact me, contact Jericho, contact Neil – if you’d like to get involved.
















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