By Marcus Mossberger
While many people were surprised by Brexit, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, I’m hoping you might consider another once-unthinkable idea — the case for HRexit.
Please note: I don’t mean the secession of the HR profession from the corporate landscape. Rather I’m highlighting the need to completely rethink the way that HR leaders serve the individuals and organizations we work for as a result of two main paradigm shifts: the role of technology in the evolution of work and the gig economy.
Let’s start with the second of these important changes. Some 51 percent of executives plan to increase or significantly increase the use of contingent workers in the next three to five years. In fact, already more than one-third of U.S. workers are freelancers, so this is hardly a new concept. But millennials are arguably the first generation to embrace the notion that “work” has evolved into a temporary construct that will continue to evolve and change more and more rapidly in large part due to technology.
Take Brent Lager, co-founder of community improvement nonprofit The Call KC (and a millennial). Lager decided early on in his career that stability took a back seat to purpose. While he has been working to get his organization off the ground he frequently takes temporary substitute teaching gigs or other project-oriented work to stay afloat.
“I have no illusion that there is an employer out there that will guarantee me a job for the next 20 years, and frankly I’d rather focus on ways I can give back to my local community than maintain a steady income,” he said.
The legal and regulatory challenges created by this new model have been well-publicized as organizations like Uber attempt to avoid the idea that their drivers are actually employees versus independent contractors. In reality, it won’t be long before this is a moot point, as Uber has made it clear — based on their technology investments — their long-term bet is on self-driving cars. Uber is arguably among the most fascinating organizations in the world considering the fact that they will acutely face these two paradigm shifts as intensely as any other company.
While Uber has HR professionals to perform traditional duties (for its actual employees), someone else is likely exploring the idea of replacing their drivers (their humans) with machines. It’s talent acquisition minus the talent. So where does that leave HR? There is arguably no simple answer.
The Deloitte report suggests that 76 percent of the executives surveyed expect automation will require new skills in the workforce in the next one to three years. So, we could refocus our efforts on the people side of our organizations and ignore the idea that artificial (not human) resources may well be best positioned to deliver results for our organizations. Or we can find a way to partner with IT, R&D and other internal stakeholders to completely reimagine how we create value for our employees and our shareholders.
The removal of menial tasks by robots and learning machines may be welcomed if we provide tools and resources for people to gain new, higher-level skills. And the ability to find and adopt new technology to remain competitive will become as important as any functional skill in the organization.
If HR doesn’t do it, someone else will.
Marcus Mossberger is senior director, health care HCM Strategy, at New York-based Infor. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.