Listening Technologies. We’ve seen an explosion of “Employee Experience” technology over the past 18 months being led by the likes of Qualtrics and Peakon. The smaller competitors are already leveraging their agility to embed their systems into everyday aspects of employees’ working lives to provide better insights on what employees want and to better understand what’s not working well.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Simon Ives.
Simon is a full-stack HR professional solving business-critical problems in relation to People and Performance. He is the CEO and Executive Director — Consulting at Coforma, and the global head of HXM Transformation at Glencore. Simon also serves on the MBA HR Specialization Advisory Committee for the Australian Institute of Business.
Simon has worked across both Private and Public sectors in various industries including Mining/Resources, Aviation, Health, Community Services, Learning and Development, Disaster Management, and Hospitality and his work is focused on both strategic & operational human resources with a focus on people-driven business transformation, particularly with a technology focus.
Simon has an MBA, four other graduate qualifications, and a range of complimentary vocational qualifications. Simon’s academic interests are informed by academic philosophy and focus on systems evaluations, artificial intelligence in the business management and planning spaces, and Industrial Relations.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
I was later than most to University. I actually trained as a chef, and spent a fair bit of time in India studying regional cuisines, however at around 25 years old I was ready for a new challenge so I enrolled in a Bachelor of Philosophy. And despite having a range of formal qualifications now, including an MBA, what I learned studying Philosophy has remained the most valuable each and every day in my working life.
Outside of my regular profession I’m a passionate musician. I started learning guitar when I was 13 years old and music has been a mainstay ever since. I studied classical Hindustani music when living and traveling in India, specializing in the tabla, and now I hand-make guitars as well. Music keeps me creative, which is also essential in the workplace.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
In the next 10–15 years work will still fundamentally be done by people. Technology will take the hassle out of work and open up a world of opportunity that people can leverage to enhance the way things are done. With the COVID-19 pandemic we’re already starting to see how technology can be leveraged in relation to work. Working remotely, working asynchronously, and sharing work across geographies are all becoming the norm. In my view, work in 15 years time will leverage technology to get the ‘grunt’ work done and then people will take the outputs from these systems to create meaningful value. Data won’t just be the norm, it will become a necessary part of the background of work, and steer workers towards areas of opportunity.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Start training and developing generalists now, especially in the HR field. Full-Stack HR will soon become the norm. Professions in the 2000’s have been largely defined by service delivery models that focus on specialist teams that complete work in conjunction with Business Partners or other forward-facing advisors. In the Human resources field, it’s more common than not to see teams of Payroll specialists, Recruitment specialists, Industrial Relations specialists, Learning & Development specialists, HR Data & Analytics specialists, Performance Management specialists, Compensation and Benefits specialists, and the list goes on and on. Specializations are important, particularly if you are working in a specialized team, however the value that a specialist can add to both meeting Company objectives and ensuring Human Rights can be enjoyed by all workers is limited by the specialization’s boundaries, and the capacity of the specialist to collaboratively contribute is limited by the breadth of their experience and knowledge.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
In the immediate future there will continue to be incongruity between many employers’ expectations of where, when, and how work can get done and the expectations of employees. The lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated that value can be added — often more value — with employees working remotely, asynchronously, and more flexibly. I call this the Great Reimagination and the phenomenon will shape the future of work. Employers who are innovate with work design will succeed in recruiting the best talent over the next year or two, and the work practices that these employers implement will form the basis for the future of work for the rest.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
There will certainly be legislative and/or regulatory changes across the globe driven by social expectations. We’ve already seen the UAE introduce a 4.5 day work week with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend for all government employees, and Japan’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy have promoted plans for an optional four-day workweek in its annual economic policy guideline. We’re likely to see more flexible work terms introduced into employment contracts and agreements and we’re likely to see some changes in OSHA regulations too with many people now working more flexibly.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
That ordinary people are being given say in the design of work, and that employers, more broadly, are taking this seriously. In my role the experience of employees has always been front and center, however we’ve never had the data on flexible work across the globe that we now have access to. Not only are workers able to say how they would like to work but they’re able to point to a large amount of data and say “see, working in this way will work for both of us”. Employers who aren’t afraid to listen to their employees, and to be innovative in response, will be able to reimagine a future of work that’s optimistic, inclusive, and profitable for everyone.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
The innovation will come from employers who aren’t afraid to listen to their employees, and to be innovative in response. We’ll see these employers and employees co-create a future of work that’s optimistic, inclusive, and profitable for everyone. This is where the real leaders will emerge in the coming years.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
Catch phrases are great for headlines, and the one I prefer is the “Great Reimagination”. What’s important for employers is to really listen to their workforce, and their potential workforce, on what they want. We’ve got so much data now, globally, on different work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic that we can be really innovative. The workforce is changing, whether employers like it or not, and those that don’t honestly listen, and don’t innovate in response, will be simply be left behind.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Listening Technologies. We’ve seen an explosion of “Employee Experience” technology over the past 18 months being led by the likes of Qualtrics and Peakon. The smaller competitors are already leveraging their agility to embed their systems into everyday aspects of employees’ working lives to provide better insights on what employees want and to better understand what’s not working well.
- Self creation technologies in the Learning and Development space. We’ve seen Instagram and Tik Tok explode over the past few years, and engagement with these platforms is significant. We’re going to see learning providers leverage this and facilitate employees creating their own work-related content to share with and assist their colleagues. Employers have significant capital tied up in their already skilled workforce, and it’s always been a challenge to get this knowledge shared at scale. Self creation, a-la Tik Tok, will be the way, just firewalled within a corporate setting.
- Employee’s co-designing work. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen employers across the globe offer a range of flexible working options, and we’ve seen employees be more discerning in who they choose to work for leading to the Great Resignation. The opportunity here, the Great Reimagination, that is starting is that employers are truly giving employees a seat at the table when it comes to work design. Gone are the times when employees applied for a job and simply worked in the way that their employer said. What we’re seeing is that employers are genuinely listening to the employees, and future employees, and how they think work should be done and this feedback is starting to find its way into formal work design.
- Asynchronous work. With flexible work becoming the new norm, the time and place of work is no longer necessarily fixed. What we’re starting to see is that much work is able to be completed asynchronously, with some small synchronous elements included.. What does this mean? Simply put, Asynchronous work is that which doesn’t require scheduling and can happen on your own schedule, and synchronous work is that which requires to be scheduled and happens in real-time.
- If you think of study, synchronous learning is attending that in-person lecture that’s a requirement of your course, whereas asynchronous learning is completing the weekly reading material at a time that suits you.
At work you can think of synchronous work as attending work on a schedule set by your employer and participating in a real-time meeting, whereas asynchronous work could be completing that slide deck or report at a time that suits you, regardless of a generic roster.
Consider the following Venn diagram:
It’s clear that asynchronous work will become a fundamental aspect of the future of work. A study at Stanford involving 16,000 participants found that including asynchronous work made participants 13% more productive. Undoubtedly, some work will need to be completed synchronously — there are going to be phone/video calls that need to happen in real time to problem solve, for example, however given that productivity isn’t negatively impacted by remote work, and it in fact increases, employees are going to seek to include the benefits released with asynchronous working practices in their work design. The real challenge here is trust and control. Many immature organizations are still stuck with viewing supervisors’ core responsibilities as controlling the way work is done for their teams and ensuring that there is as little slack as possible. These businesses will be left behind as other companies innovate with work design and empower their employees to succeed asynchronously.
- The Talent Marketplace. The talent marketplace is thriving at the moment, thanks in part to the Great Resignation and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the workforce. JOsh Bersin describes the Talent Marketplace as “a unique and special HR platform that lets employees find internal positions, projects, and mentors without having to go through their boss. In other words, it’s a democratized way to manage a company: creating an open, employee-centered place where people can fulfill their aspirations”. This is exactly the type of process that employees are calling out for with the Future of Work. Gloat are the leader in this space at the moment, and many well known HR tech providers are jumping onboard too with the likes of Workday, SuccessFactors, Oracle, and Cornerstone.
- The key theme here is that the Talent Marketplace is employee-centered, giving employees the agency to design their professional futures and not be tied to systems that are limited by poor processes, poor supervisors, and bloated/slow recruitment process. The Talent Marketplace is primarily growing in the corporate and government sectors where their size allows for an immediately attractive value proposition, however expect to see this move into the small to midsize business arena in the near future offering features such as cross-company mentoring and cross-company secondments.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
I have a verse from the Indian sanskrit text “Bhagavad Gita” printed and blue-tacked to the bottom of my monitor. It’s verse 5:18 and reads “The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste”.
This reminds me that we’re all equal, and we’re all in this thing called life together. Professionally, this reminds that everyone’s experiences matter, no matter their level within the company or within the team, what their role is, or what their interests are.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to have lunch, one-on-one, with Josh Bersin. Josh has been in the HR technology field a long time and I’d love to just have an informal conversation about both hi-tech and low-tech trends and ideas in the field.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
My professional blog is simply simonives.com, which is currently getting a revamp for the new year too. I can also be reached directly at [email protected].
My Social Media are:
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.