What’s an “employee” in 2030? (Or pretty much now...)


Self-driving companies?
Work that chases workers?
Conversation strategy bots?
Talent “rediscovery”?


“Organizations are a kind of technology on the verge of disruption.”

Have you met Devin Fidler? I did a couple of weeks ago, when he spun our heads around at the Human Resource Leadership Forum’s session talking about The Impact of New Technologies on Society and Work in 2030. Devin is the founder and CEO of Rethinkery Labs, a research and consulting firm that is “is leading the definitive investigation into the forces shaping future companies.”

We’re all familiar with the disruptors like AirBnB, Uber and TaskRabbit, platforms that create self-generating marketplaces through the wonders of the internet and algorithms. There’s a ton of tradition-busting going on in the workplace too, with new technologies transforming the deal between employees and employers, how work gets done and by whom. HR is not known for lightning speed in adopting new ways we take for granted outside our cubes, but it was really heartening to see a room filled with a couple hundred HR leaders soaking up what’s coming and asking great questions.

In this session, it was all about AI, machine learning and algorithms.

A few examples:

  • Matching engines for project work: Freelancing websites: UpWork, Toptal, and Catalant are skills/requirements matching engines for project work at scale. Need a microsite localized for a global product launch? Customer support agents? MBA-type number crunching? There's a platform for that. (And an internal platform example is Intel’s Freelance Nation.)

  • Talent rediscovery – Why constantly post for new candidates when you could mine what you have hidden in previous searches? (Because it’s generally been easier!) With Restless Bandit you can retarget and cultivate relationships with great people you already know but maybe weren't the right match for a particular role.

  • People analytics is using systems and behavioral data -- to help understand things going on inside your organization that you had idea were happening or are related, so you can make better decisions for developing and retaining your people and (re)organizing work processes. Google’sRe:Work effort is studying and sharing people analytics developments; a great resource on the topic. Humanyze has a People Analytics Platform that can bring together digital data (email, chat, calendar), IOT device data (e.g., room usage) and smart card (aka employee swipe badge) data to inform real estate and workload planning, “meetings culture” and engagement drivers. (Glad to see that Humanyze is stressing values like data privacy…)

Some of us were dazzled by this glimpse of the near future and couldn’t wait to try something new. Some of us were befuddled, and others very concerned.

What does this all mean?

… about the values and biases baked in to AI and machine learning systems?
… about how we reimagine the social contract between employees and employer?
… about new risks and compliance implications?
… about the future of social, human interaction and societal norms?
… about what will matter in training, education and credentials?

We did some “innovation prototyping” in small groups to shape a change, a pilot at least, in our organizations based on the ideas Devin shared. (His worksheet is a helpful guide in thinking through the why, what, how.) Great to leave the session with a sense of real possibility.

Want to see Devin Fidler in action? Here’s his TEDx talk from earlier this month.

I just find all this very fascinating, encouraging, and roll-up-our-sleeves worthy. Do you?