Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

The Future of Work 2015 conference

On Monday I attended the Future of Work conference, run by the AUT NZ Work Research Institute. This was an academic conference so it was all about research projects that investigated different aspects of the future workplace.

Here my summary of what I took out of the day.

Grant Robertson from Labour talked about the Future of Work Commission and that they would have a plan by 2017 to present to New Zealanders (even non Labour supporters!). He shared a story of talking to some young woman students and asking them about summer jobs. They handed him their business cards. They’d started a graphics company and were selling prints at markets. For them the future of work is full of opportunities. However for a 16 year from a lower socio-economic upbringing, with low literacy in a delivery role, earning minimum wage without set hours, it’s not the same story. Technology and the changing workplace is increasing the split between the haves and have not’s.

Gail Pachecho talked through research showing that if you have a range of mental health issues, these impact on negatively on your employment status for full time or permanent work.

Michael Quinlan from University of NSW talked about research showing that precarious employment impacts negatively on health, and that our workplaces are looking more like 19th century factory’s with zero hours, toxic environments and people working long hours. 86 studies found there were negative health effects from downsizing.  Outsourcing is also creating negative health effects not just for employees but for instance in hospitals, for patient care. We’re rewarding the wrong behaviours (e.g. truck drivers rewarded for driving hours means they drive too many hours). The PDR model he shared predicts if someone is going to resign and if bullying is going to occur.

Yvette Blount from Macquarie and Tim Bentley both talked about teleworking. The term was first coined in the early 70’s by Jack Niles. She asked what’s changed in 40 + years and talked about technology disrupting the health care profession. People are using apps to do an MRI on themselves, self-diagnosing and asking their doctor for treatment advice only. Or there are now physio practitioners who use technology and have never met their patients in real life. The challenges are going to be getting doctors to use technology, understanding the privacy issues around it and building the skills of dealing with virtual teams with multi-stakeholders, managing large amounts of data and integrating technology with standard health processes.

David Paterson from MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) rounded off the pre-morning tea session talking about workforce trends. We are an aging population and won’t have enough people participating in the workplace to achieve the GDP that we need (we’ll be about 191,000 short, which is better than original predictions).

Professor Jarod Haar from Massey cheered things up after morning tea, presenting research on Maori Leadership traits and how these tie in Authentic Leaders, and which traits impact positively on people. He also raised that one of these traits was humility so recruiting big talking leaders who say how great they are is not the right approach. If you ask Willie Apiata if he was a great leader, he’d say ‘I’m a normal guy’. It’s this type of humility that makes him someone others want to follow.

We then moved onto several presentations about the aging population. Bev Cassidy-MacKenzie from EEO Trust talked about what NZ looks like if we were a village of 100. Tim Bentley, Director of the Future of Work programme highlighted benefits of the aging population and Blair McCarthy from Office for Senior Citizens brought Gen Z into the equation about managing a 4 generational workforce. From all of this there are some programmes that companies are using to engage with their older workers however many haven’t really thought through this yet.

We heard about employment law issues in the future from Michael O’Brien from Kensington Swan, research into that blind and deaf people want to be more involved in work and companies should look to see how they can utilise this talent pool. Auckland Council shared their workforce planning story of moving into a new building and changing everyone to being on laptops and more flexible working.

Marcus Ho then talked about organisational resilience, Gail Morris discussed that learning will change to the focus being on doing (rather than teaching) and Sara Walton shared that in Dunedin their future of work project involved doing a scenario of what would happen in a slightly downward curve and a slightly upward curve. Business owners didn’t like the downward curve and were excited to create the upward curve.

We ended by hearing research from Michael O’Driscoll from Waikato University that 15% or 1 in 6 employees have suffered from behaviours which are classed as bullying (although if asked if they were being bulled the % is much lower). Cyber bullying is a small % at the moment but will increase in the future with technology. Every company needs a bullying policy.

Should it be all about the research?

The research is important, and it’s important that business is involved  – which is why I’m on the MPOWER Advisory Board to try and link HR people with academics.  However I struggled with the format of listening to a different speaker every 15 minutes for several hours with the only chance to discuss being morning tea and lunch. I also found a day of research without talking about what we do with it, quite depressing (we didn’t talk about how focusing on what’s going wrong can impact negatively on your health!).

Let’s move forward

I’m looking forward to discussions leading from what I’ve shared here and what the presenters shared – about where we can focus, and what we can do to change the game around these issues. I’d like to think that the future of work isn’t quite as depressing as made out at the conference. If we’ve designed work badly and it’s creating a toxic world where we won’t have enough people to fill roles, where we are ignoring those with mental health or sensory disabilities and where cyber bullying is increasing – let’s talk NOW about how we can change that.

If anyone else attended, what were your key takeaways?

If any of the presenters are reading this and I haven’t correctly represented what you were sharing, please do feel free to comment below.


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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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