Art of Mentoring recently partnered with the Australian HR Institute’s (AHRI) 2021 National Conference ‘Transform’. An impressive line-up of speakers from around the world presented data and findings on the current state of play. My main takeaway from the event was an affirmation and deeper understanding of what we’ve all been feeling – businesses need to innovate to remain competitive, the war on talent is more intense than ever and wellbeing is front and centre on the agenda.
Let’s take a deep exhalation after that last sentence. It’s a lot to handle amidst our everyday demands. Society is undergoing a major evolution and HR is at the epicentre for workplaces. Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explained it succinctly in his presentation, “human brains are still wired to manage small amounts of information and today’s society is demanding us to do more, so we are turning to technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and external consultants to help us cope with the new demands.”
HR tech is undergoing a huge transformation and receiving investments beyond what we’ve ever seen. Microsoft, Go1, LinkedIn and more are hedging their bets that HR tech is one of the most lucrative industries for the future, and they’re not wrong. For the HR professional however, these transformations present the additional challenge of understanding new technology on top of your existing day-to-day role. Not to mention the pressures of responding to pandemic related needs of the business, attempting to do more with less money and being the wellbeing advocate for a potentially burnt-out workforce. Big breath in.
The upside? Technology helps us do two main things in the workplace; streamline repeatable tasks to increase output and satisfy our customers (both external clients and our own people). Dr Daniel Susskind, workforce futurist, unpacked the conversation around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, discussing where it could help or hinder the profession. He concluded that these technologies are augmentations allowing us to expand creative capabilities, automate the mundane tasks and process more data. Does this mean AI will destroy millions of jobs? Susskind explained that despite the rise in these automated technologies, people will still be needed for creative work. Dr Ben Hamer from PWC added that by 2030 there will be more jobs than people, so those that can upskill and be flexible will be well placed to handle the disruption.
The topic of Covid’s impact on Wellbeing was paramount during the conference. Aaron McEwan from Gartner, explored the importance of re-evaluating the Employee Value Proposition. He suggested shifting the focus from remuneration to wellbeing as a fundamental measure of value. This was supported by Dr Ben Hamer’s compelling data regarding the number of people (50%) considering resignation, with wellbeing, learning opportunities and a shared purpose listed as their key decision drivers. Furthermore, conference discussion panels comprised of several senior HR leaders who identified the urgent need to accelerate social events into the digital space to maintain wellbeing and connectedness of their people.
Human experiences like fatigue, burnout and safety were raised as reoccurring themes. The stigma remains around mental health and CEOs who have been less affected by Covid disruption are pushing for growth through this pandemic, meanwhile their people are crumbling under the pressure. These significant experiences cannot be remedied by a few simple courses or yoga sessions, there needs to be a cultural shift. Sarah McCann-Bartlett’s (CEO of AHRI), discussed HR as the conduit between the business (senior management) and the people of the business (employees). In the current pandemic, this couldn’t feel more relevant where dialogue and respect for both parties’ needs are crucial to achieving success for businesses and wellbeing for their people.
So, where to from here? Whilst technology is intended to help us reduce administrative, repeatable task through powerful interfaces and increase the speed of connectivity, it simply cannot be to the detriment of wellbeing. The answer to achieving both is human connection.
In the mentoring space we are seeing a ground swell around the need to create meaningful human connection. By this I mean something that takes us out of our daily tasks to enjoy deeper connection, reflection and inclusion. This is where creativity flourishes (that which AI won’t replace), where the person feels considered rather than a number. Seek recently released data showing 10 things that motivate employees as being Purpose, Flexibility, Wellbeing, Equality, Empowerment, Learning, Democracy, Choice, Challenge and Belonging. These are all strengthened by mentoring programs where mentees choose the focus of the relationship and develop strong connections that will support them in navigating their choices, ultimately affecting their wellbeing.
The AHRI conference was a welcomed opportunity to reconnect with people and move away from the project management tool for a few days. It inspired a renewed need to connect with others and explore what can be done better. If you have any thoughts or have anything to add then I would welcome you to reach out to me, I’d love to hear from you. Contact Us
Alex Richardson, 2021
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