I recently spoke at the Hacking HR forum in Munich about how HR professionals can leverage technology and design thinking to build a more human-centric future of work.
This is one of my favourite soap box topics so please excuse the ‘kitchen sink’ effect as we touch on workforce trends, attracting younger talent, technology and wellbeing, and how HR can leverage design thinking to prepare for the future of work.
Not so long ago the future of work was all about transparency, flat organizations, and the gig economy. At the time, everyone was worried about millennials entering the workforce with new ideas and expectations.
Fast forward a few years and technology leaps later and that distant ‘future’ has arrived, the millennials didn’t turn the world upside down after all, and we’re preparing to embrace a new generation of workers who learned to play Candy Crush before they learned to walk.
Now, I know we keep saying this, but this generation isn’t looking for a traditional, hierarchical work experience in a dreary office with 30-year-old software and an outdated corporate strategy that includes – or at least doesn’t explicitly rule out – destroying the earth.
They want variety, connection, entertainment, new experiences, instant gratification, and LOTS of feedback. They don’t expect these things because they’re entitled, naïve or lazy but because that’s what they grew up with. It’s what they know.
In other words, the future of work is once again being invented by technology and a new generation, blah, blah, blah, so it must be Tuesday.
This is an opportunity and a call to action for HR because the younger talent companies are trying to attract aren’t inspired by business models that pre-date Instagram.
They have a broader worldview and more options than previous generations.
The businesses that thrive in the future will operate with purpose, not just for profit.
The humans who thrive will be ones who have in-demand technical skills, great social skills, or deep expertise in areas that require problem-solving and improvisation.
How do we prepare for a future where you have to learn and adapt continuously to keep up with change? How do we deal with information overload and make space for the deep work that powers innovation?
At some point the answer to this question will be a creepy – excuse me, I mean performance enhancing – chip in your brain but until then:
Technology can help people in their daily work and interactions. The right technology can make work less frustrating and more collaborative and engaging, whereas technology that distracts, interrupts or duplicates work has the opposite effect.
Collaboration has a dark side
Let’s face it, many companies still seemed designed for maximum distraction for the sake of surface collaboration, from competing priorities at the top level down to the mushroom-like technology sprawl and never-ending meetings on the front lines where progress and innovation go to die.
With so much noise and self-inflicted urgency standing in the way of real work, it’s no surprise that at many companies, people feel increasingly isolated, worried about the future, and burned out.
People who are stressed out, overwhelmed, or distracted aren’t in the right mind space to collaborate or take care of customers, let alone think systemically or innovatively.
What makes people happy instead?
There’s a brilliant TED talk by Ingrid Lee called Where joy hides and how to find it. One of the takeaways is that people who work in bright, colourful surroundings are more confident, energetic, healthy, trusting, and friendly.
Imagine the difference that one thing could make on human performance.
Inclusion Drives Engagement
In a survey of 93 global organizations conducted with my colleague Yvette Cameron in collaboration with UNLEASH, we discovered that including people in work experience design drives higher engagement.
Not including them, ditto, lower engagement.
Putting human wellbeing at the heart of technology decisions represents a cultural shift for most organizations, so we need a framework to help us design a better work experience.
Which brings us to design thinking
Design thinking can help HR create a better work experience by listening to people and using their unique perspectives to design more inclusive organizations.
Here’s how design thinking works in a nutshell:
- Talk to people and spend time in their shoes to define the problem(s) you want to solve.
- Brainstorm with a diverse team to get as many ideas and perspectives as possible.
- Visualize your best ideas and go back to your stakeholders.
- Use their feedback to improve your design.
- Implement the solution in short sprints with iterative checkpoints.
- Keep listening and improving as your roll out the solution.
The future of work needs HR professionals that actively listen and help create workplaces that support human well-being and higher purpose. HR can prepare for this future by embracing design thinking and selecting HR technology through a lens of human wellbeing at work.
*If you’d like to learn more about design thinking, this article Design Thinking for Leaders and Innovators explains design thinking and this short video describes how design thinking differs from traditional strategy, planning and execution processes.
Originally published on LinkedIn
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