We’re all responsible for ensuring that the digital revolution is inclusive, argues CIPD CEO Peter Cheese.
Technology's impact on my life
I’ve been around technology all my working life. When I joined that became Accenture in 1979, the whole way I thought about business was about how technology was impacting it. Now, of course, I’m doing that through a people lens.
My own challenge has been about how much more we have to interact with, and through, technology. In recent years, this has been about social media. I find it interesting that leaders are expected to be visible on social media, sharing, externally and internally, what we are doing and thinking. It’s a profound shift in communication – how much effort you put in, the etiquette. It’s something a lot of us struggle with.
HR's role in digital transformation
The number-one strategic issue for most businesses is digital transformation: understanding it, protecting our businesses and working with customers. Over the past 30 years, technology has squeezed a lot of the humanity out of jobs.
From an HR perspective, it’s important that your people have the basic knowledge and skills to interact with technology effectively. We’ve engaged in the debate about defining what these skills are for some time; now’s the time to decide what we actually mean.
Creating digitally inclusive spaces
The first level is understanding and supporting your workforce to gain a basic level of digital competency. This isn’t just about developing digital skills, but protecting yourself and the organisation through things such as cyber security and GDPR.
It’s a core HR agenda. Second, it’s about taking a strategic perspective by looking at the future capabilities of the workforce. We need to see the bigger picture when it comes to digital transformation. In the past, strategic workforce planning was along the lines of “we’ve got 27 drilling specialists today and we’re going to need 48 in a year’s time”. It’s not about job roles anymore – they’re going to change. It’s about a profound understanding of capabilities and evolving needs in an organisation as it transforms digitally.
Finally, it’s about educating ourselves. HR has not been good around technology, but technology is impacting everything we’re doing.
Human agency over technology
We need a higher awareness at all levels of what’s going on in the digital world, particularly around how we understand data about ourselves and share it. I’ve believed for quite a while that we’re at a crunch point where we’re waking up to the reality that huge corporations have lots of information about us. They’re getting smarter about how they use it. While some of this is beneficial, such as customising products and services, it has bigger moral and ethical implications around how it can control what we think and how we vote.
We all have agency over technology. What we need to do is harness technology to design jobs and businesses that put people at the heart of work. We can design jobs that get the best out of people’s skills; if we don’t, people are excluded.
The need for transparency
The CIPD has advocated greater corporate transparency for some time, when building trust, behaviours and culture.
It’s vital to shifting corporate mindsets to build businesses that act more responsibly and meet their obligations to all stakeholders – including their people. Gender pay-gap reporting is a great example of where you can use transparency to shine a light on something we’ve been talking about for a long time but haven’t made much progress on. Ultimately, we’ve got to seize the opportunity to address these issues. Peter Drucker said “the best way to predict the future is to help shape it”. It’s time for action.
To watch Peter's session from this year's Future Talent Conference click here.