It’s promising to be a fascinating talk – for those of you who got tickets, see you in Vegas. If you’re looking to purchase tickets, this is the link you need.
Watch the video or read the transcript beneath, which has been edited for clarity.
Jon Kennard: It gives me great pleasure in talking to Mark Blyth, our keynote on day one of UNLEASH America 2022. Thanks a lot for your time Mark, I really appreciate it. Let’s see, without giving too much away, give us a little bit of a flavor, a bit of insight into your keynote at the event coming up.
Mark Blyth: All right, so we’re going to do a keynote in Vegas. It’s the first time we’ve all been together in forever, right? So this is good, this is exciting. We want some positive energy. And the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. So it can be really easy to just focus on really horrible things like a giant war in Ukraine, and inflation and all the bad stuff.
But we’ve got to take a longer view, right, we got to think about what’s the important stuff, what’s signal, what’s noise, as engineers would say. And I think there’s three things that I want to concentrate on.
The first one is: we really need to get this into our heads, not just that work from home is here to stay but that work from home is an absolute game changer. It’s a game changer in lots of ways. The first one is in terms of – let’s think about the management function. How are you going to do mentoring? Are we going to copy the way that people learn how to do video games online, by basically talking to people who know how to do the game better? Is that how you’re going to do online?
How are we going to do… let’s say automation. So, one of the things that’s a big theme that you guys are interested in is automation. And there’s no doubt now with all of the different pressures in the world coming together, that the kind of huge version of globalization that we had has definitely been reduced. And the way we’re going to cope with that is automation.
Well – when you automate things, you end up with a very different skill mix. I’ll give you an example of this, I know somebody that owned a prosciutto plant. And they automated the plant and margins went up and output went up, and everything went great. They ended up employing more people rather than less people so, so much for the robots in my jobs. But what they ended up with was robot repair guys, and so you’ve got a whole bunch of people who need to know about unhackable 5G Wi-Fi – you didn’t have that in your plan before, right?
So the people that you’re going to have to manage and the interests that they have, and how you do skill development on multiple different levels. All that stuff’s going to start coming out very, very soon.
JK: That’s sort of played into my next question. So I might move on actually, and talk about HR specifically, in terms of the skills and attitudes that HR teams in future need to adopt and need to embody to weather this constant kind of disruption, the landscape of change that we are constantly going through.
MB: So I think you need to stop thinking about it as disruption. It was at one point a helpful word. But it’s a bit like crisis, right? If everything is permanently a crisis, by definition, that’s not a crisis. And simply calling it ‘the new normal’ doesn’t seem to help either.
So what’s the world that we’re in? We’re in a world where there’s been a kind of technological shift. It happened first through globalization, through the supply chain revolution, through the IT revolution.
And now because of COVID-19, and the various factors that have come after that, it’s pushed us very much into this world where work from home, digitization, automation are going to be the new things going forward.
This isn’t disruption, this isn’t some kind of error that we’re going to kind of mean-revert back to a different place. This is the whole new world.
So let’s think about one thing, for example, commercial real estate. Super-expensive commercial real estate. The struggle is that big banks, in particular, have been trying to get people back in the office, and they just don’t want to do it.
Why? Because commuting is horrible. And it’s expensive. And it’s taxing on your mind, and it’s taxing on your body. And we know from the studies that we’ve got, two years of data now, that people when they work from home, generally speaking, are actually more productive rather than less. So why would we want to kill that?
So these are the sort of the challenges, but they’re really good challenges to have if you think about it, because what it does is it complicates the HR function in an incredibly interesting set of ways to do with skills, to do with mentoring, to do with monitoring, it just changes the job and in ways that make HR actually much more important than less important.
JK: There’s so much to go into here. But obviously, we’re not going to give too much away,
MB: Otherwise, why would you come and listen to the talk [laughs].
MB: Let’s just do the icing. We’ll get to the cake later.
JK: One quick last question is – lots has been written about jobs of the future not existing yet. That kind of thing. How true is that, do you think? Is it not about evolving roles in organizations that already exist?
MB: As ever, it’s a bit of both, but if you do a 20-year calculation in terms of job categories, and then come back 20 years later and look at job candidates, at least one third of them have disappeared and one third of them didn’t exist before have come up. So that’s normal. Again, it’s a question of what do you think’s normal, what’s not, right? This isn’t an unusual thing.
But where you get to particularly with the top end of the labor market, there’s some really interesting sociological work on this and professions. And they call this ‘linked ecologies’. And it’s a really interesting way of thinking about different ecosystems.
I’ll give you an example of this. Against much of the predictions that went on, the City of London has not actually shrunk since Brexit, it’s gotten bigger. Now, be clear, I’m not saying this is good for Britain or bad for Britain or something about Brexit, it’s just about the City. Why? Because the City is a series of discrete ecologies. And let’s say that you want to set up a crypto hub. What do you need? You need people who know blockchain. What else do you need? You know, people who’ve actually got experience working with crypto. What else do you need? People who’ve got access to regulators who know about crypto and blockchain, right? You don’t get that in Frankfurt, you don’t really get that in Amsterdam, you only get that in one place.
So in places where you have these very different little ecologies that can complement each other and become more of the sum of the parts, right, that’s where you get those kinds of dynamic growth nodes. Now, that’s really important for HR because in a sense, you’re always going to be basically chasing that next wave of innovation, and pushing it into new spaces. And that’s how I think we should really begin to think about the environment that we’re occupying.
JK: Thank you so much for time. I really looking forward to the keynote and also to meet you in Las Vegas on 25th of May. Thank you.
MB: It’ll be great. I look forward to it as well.
For the full conversation – listen above…
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