As part of the Europe trip with the Reinvention Movie I had the opportunity to share my perspective on the future of work as part of “A future beyond HR” – think tank organized from 2bahead. The following is the manuscript for my speech about the journey towards ourselves given in Leipzig.
- The journey towards ourselves
How does the future of HR look like?
What is the Human Resource department of the future?
In the future HR is dealing with the elementary question of what makes us human. The HR of the future works around three main topics, which are to identify humans that match the organizational philosophy of the organization, support humans with their personal development and establish a work environment that is life-affirming and increases the physical and mental well-being of it’s members. In that way every individual is able to work efficiently and effectively, feels physiologically safe and can thus create value for the whole organization.
Well, that sounds at first glance like the tasks many people with HR responsibilities are already engaging in. So what is the difference?
The difference lies in the tasks itself and the tailor-made approach for every individual. But before diving into the details let’s point out an obvious development. HR will be supported from new technologies, which through automation can take over standard procedures. These include for example salary calculation and pay, vacation management or recommendation and choosing of education options. Through this support people in HR can focus on the value creating part of their role and HR function.
Identification of human potential and alignment with organizational philosophy
In the future is the main responsibility of HR functions to not only to look for formal education, certificates from the past or previously hold positions or titles of potential applicants. How successful and reliable can the prediction of the future potential of a person be, if the focus is only on achieved tasks in the past?
Much more will the focus be on the motivation and attitude of the individual. What is the intrinsic motivation of a person to work? Which experiences did a person make that they have chosen to be on exactly this life path right now? What is the vision of the individual and what kind of legacy does that person want to leave behind? Which strenghts does that person bring along to pursue their personal life purpose, but maybe even more importantly, which values does that person represent in their behavior and actions?
The personal purpose, vision, as well as the values of the individual need to match then of course the purpose, vision and values of the organization, or at least not be contrary to it. The prerequisite to be able to match those is that they have been made conscious and transparent, on a personal as well as organizational level. Why does the organization exist? Which values does the organization represent?
Support personal development
Instead of solely horizontal development is the personal development of the future primarily vertical. Under horizontal development increases in efficiency and effectiveness are understood, for example through the learning and adaption of new methods or approaches which are often taught in trainings, seminars or workshops.
Vertical development focuses on the understanding of self. How do I behave in specific situations and what beliefs, assumptions and narratives are behind that? It is a process of self-reflection and self-awareness. The purpose is to become conscious about how do I behave, why do I behave in that way, and am I satisfied with the created result? Only through this self-reflection process can I become aware of my own behavior and the underlying worldview that this behavior represents, to be able to decide if I want to continue or change my current behavior.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what beliefs do we have in regard to Human Resources. What does the name HR imply? Is the human a resource that can be used and exploited until it is not further needed and if it is not performing according to ones expectations be simply replaced?
And what is the alternative to such a belief? Is the human a self-organizing, social being with feelings and free will?
Life-affirming work environments
The last aspect is about creating an inspiring work environment in which the well-being of the individual human is at the center of all efforts. As we are all part of social species we require a socially sustainable environment. According to the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, such an environment is build upon five principles:
- The capacity for common meaning making (evolutionary purpose),
- the capacity for self-organization and working autonomously,
- pursuing life-long learning (mastery),
- having diversity (wholeness), and
- having trust in the environment and its members (psychological safety)
In the following will I explain each principle more in detail with examples from my own life, to show that the future has already begun.
Everything I do has to give me a sense of meaning. I need to receive fulfillment from doing a certain task. To contribute to something that I find purposeful is my greatest drive. I am loyal to my own purpose, not to an organization or a supervisor.
I have complete autonomy over what I am doing, how I am doing it, when I am doing it and with whom I am doing it, as long as I am transparently communicate with the people who are affected from my work and integrate their concerns and objections. No one than myself can reduce or stop my motivation to do something. The energy investing can only be steered and guided through systems or processes, which again I have to agree with.
Every day I am educating myself, acquire new knowledge, take breaks to simply digest and embody the information that I have received. In this time of reflection I accommodate the new knowledge with my already existing knowledge. Through this natural process of adaption I am also considering how I can bring back my learnings into my work. As a team we have weekly retrospectives in which we speak about the work done, which experiences we made, what we learned from them and how we can improve next time.
With my work I am supporting diverse projects to have a widespread impact. I am working with a heterogeneous group of people from diverse cultures and with different work experiences and backgrounds. We work together with other organizations in projects that vary in regard to their length. We come together to solve a currently pressing challenge, and if that is done our project group resolves and finds other tasks to engage in.
I am trusting on that other humans are always giving their best. No one has to earn that trust or has to prove that they are trustworthy, it is something that I am giving in advance without any expectation in return. Through fast iterations and experimentation in our work in combination with direct feedback we ensure that we are adaptive and can correct course if necessary. With the help of transparency of who works on which tasks and has what responsibilities I am informed about the current development status and progress of my team and the organization as a whole. This reduces the obstacles for me giving trust in the first place.
- Social interaction is elementary for us humans
Essential human questions
In essence it comes down for me to two questions, which naturally arise in a social context, when we meet other human beings and are engaging in interdependent relationships with them. Those questions are:
- Why do I work?
- How do I want to treat other people?
The first question aims at our identity. Who am I or how do I want to be perceived from other people? What is the work that represents my identity or how can I best express who I am?
The second question is related to the kind of relationship we have. How do I want to interact with other people? How do I want to be treated?
Inner work – The journey towards ourselves
Our believes, the narratives that we tell ourselves about the world determine how we perceive the world and how we act accordingly at the end of the day. If we can become conscious of our perception, our worldview, then we can also find alternatives to it and change them over time. This requires inner work. It is a journey towards ourselves in which we learn more about what we prefer and how we function as we peal one layer after another off from our fragmented self to eventually reach our authentic, whole self. We all have individual beliefs. That is why, no one can do this work for us.
We are always human, but what makes us really human and how can we organize work around our human needs? More and more people and organizations are asking themselves those questions and are embarking on a human-centric way of working, for their own sense of meaning, but also for the one of their fellow humans.
What believes do you have in regard to the way we organize work?