CIPD: Experts ask if employers are ready for a VUCA world. We’re living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, delegates heard at the HR Vision conference in London. “The global workforce will shift significantly over the next seven years,” Tom Keeney, director of workforce management and employee relations at BT Group said in his session on strategic workforce planning.
He said that the number of 15 to 29 years olds in work will fall by 500,000, while the number of 60 to 74 year olds will increase by 1.5 million. Keeney also said that many of the traditional roles in today’s labour market will be redundant. This is backed by research from Oxford University revealed that 47 per cent of jobs in the US are “at risk” of being automated over the next 20 years.
With such seismic events set in train, are organisations prepared for future challenges? And how can a forward-thinking HR drive real change to meet these issues?
Speakers at the event shared their top tips:
HR needs to be innovative
“As HR professionals, we should be asking where is the innovation? How can I encourage innovation in my employees and the organisation as a whole?” said Will Hutton, principal of Hertford College, University of Oxford and chair of the Big Innovation Centre. He advised delegates to look to the market changes and align business strategy and workforce planning accordingly.
“Global megatrends are set to rapidly alter the labour market and the traditional workplace,” he added, and “unless HR has a seat at the board and is there in the decision-making process, businesses won’t survive”.
There’s no longer an ‘I’ in leadership
In his session, Nick Pope, global learning director at Unilever, looked at the changing model of leadership and the high potential of teams, rather than individuals. Citing research from America, he said: “The impact of the board functioning as a team is a greater predictor (eight times) of corporate performance than individual director demographics.”
He advised HR to reconsider the way it trains its leaders: “Developing leadership teams capable of driving change in the company will be much more beneficial in the long run.”
We need to make learning fun again
Learning at work has become a chore and something we do out of necessity, said Roman Rackwitz founder of Engaginglab. But game-like environments help to facilitate learning and according to his research on gamification, games are the best way to fuel intelligence.
“There are five things we want from any game, and consequently any workplace: clear goals, obvious rules, room to manoeuvre, information transparency and real-time feedback,” he said.
L&D professionals should harness this in their training programmes, and create a sense of competition in the workplace, he said: “Fun can’t be commanded, but you can design for it.”
Legacy organisations can’t rest on their laurels
“Telefonica is over 90 years old. It’s not a sexy Silicon Valley start up,” said Sally Ashford, deputy global CHRO at the telecoms company. She described how Telefonica is inviting young talent to “join the journey” through the Talentum stream, and help transform the company in the digital world. A women-only leadership programme is helping the company increase diversity at the top of the organisation.
“Many of our senior leaders are Spanish, have spent most of their career at the company or in the industry,” she said. “It’s time to welcome broader ideas into Telefonica from the top down.”