Airbnb, for example, dates back to 2008 and as successful as it has
been, even today, it represents less than half of one per cent of the
hotel industry. The first self-driving vehicle came from Daimler-
Benz more than 40 years ago and drove 1,000 km from Munich to
Copenhagen in standard heavy traffic at speeds up to 130 km/h
with minimal human intervention.
Fourth, they miss the elephant in the room. New technologies
do eliminate jobs through automation; but many more are lost because
new technologies eliminate companies. In 1973, Kodak had
120,000 employees. Today, they have 6,000. They were so “invested”
in recording the Kodak Memory™ on film that they ignored
the industry-changing impact of digital cameras.
And fifth, at worst, they imply that there will be a net loss of
jobs and raise the spectre of mass unemployment. At best, they offer
vague suggestions of the types of new jobs to come. The reality
is that technology and automation cut costs, increase incomes and,
inevitably, demand for new services and products and new jobs.
This has been ongoing for hundreds of years and while we may not
know precisely what new work will appear, we can be confident
that it will. In 1800, the global population was around 1 billion;
today, 7.6 billion humans inhabit the planet. If new jobs had not
been created, there would be billions unemployed.
However, the most critical question missing – like worrying
about an asteroid hitting the earth – is “what should we do about
it today?” This is an issue that goes right to the heart of what HR
professionals do. It’s about people strategies; leadership; talent
management; education and training; organization development;
employee engagement; and counselling business partners.
To quote Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every
little thing gonna be all right.” However, this is not a prescription
to sit back and do nothing, but a reflection of the fact that whatever
happens, it will not be tomorrow or next week. Through
thoughtful planning and creation of effective strategies, organizations
can make sure they are prepared for the future.
There are four actions that companies – and HR professionals –
need to take today and they need to be integrated and systematic:
1. Be absolutely clear about your core business.
Misunderstanding this is the biggest threat to (and, in many
cases, opportunity for) the organization. Kodak’s business was
not “film,” it was “recording memories;” newspapers are not in
the “printing” business, but “information delivery.”
2. Track technology changes that may impact your organization.
Disruptors will come from outside your industry, so it is vital
to make sure someone in your organization is tasked with this.
3. Based on the understanding of your core business and the
implications of changing technology, define your skills and
talent needs two to three years out, audit what currently
exists in your organization to create a gap analysis and put
specific training, development or hiring plans in place to meet
4. Identify your organization’s current products and services
and assign each to one of three categories – those you will
selectively discard; the ones that you do today and have to
be done as efficiently as possible; and those that you need
for the future. This is based on work by Vijay Govindarajan
and offers a methodical way to ensure you future-proof
In summary, there will be changes to every job – what a job means,
old ones will vanish and new ones will appear – but this has been
happening for generations and the future will not be fundamentally
different. In technology, we all suffer from “macro myopia” to some
extent – overestimating the impact in the short term and underestimating
it in the long term – and that means we either do nothing
or panic (and, effectively, do nothing). Above is a recipe for a middle
ground that makes more sense. n
Bill Greenhalgh was the CEO of the Human Resources Professionals
Association from 2006 to 2017, and is currently the president and
CEO of Stratx Inc. Attend Greenhalgh’s presentation at #HRPAAC,
“The Intelligence Revolution – A New Age of Opportunity,” on Jan. 31
at 3:00 p.m.
CLEAR ABOUT YOUR
THIS IS THE BIGGEST
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IN MANY CASES,
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54 ❚ CONFERENCE ISSUE 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL