Enjoyable work for all – in the not too distant future?
Can you imagine a world where every person enjoys their work? HR futurist John Sumser believes that this is the future that we can all look forward to.
Sumser, who graduated with a psychology degree from the Catholic University of America, and also studied Applied Behavioural Science at the Johns Hopkins University in the US, very much sees a continued place for people in the future of work, even as technology becomes an increasingly dominant in human life.
Rather, people will be used more efficiently at work – freed from simpler, brain-numbing tasks thanks to automation, while analytics helps to optimise every individual and team according to their strengths and capabilities.
“It won’t make sense for people to do things that they don’t like or aren’t good at, because machines can do all things that are distasteful,” notes Sumser.
And HR’s role in this new paradigm is in understanding how people can get the most satisfaction out of work – because a satisfied employee is also one who is productive and engaged.
“Thinking about what people can do that is enjoyable with their time… is going to turn out to be the primary element in HR’s charter,” he says.
Sumser has made a career out of understanding how emerging technologies can be shared with the masses. In the early days, this meant teaching people how to use professional SLR cameras. But about 25 years ago, Sumser made the switch into HR, bringing to bear his expertise in “helping technology move from the place that it is, to some place where it isn’t (yet)”.
“A very clear problem that every organisation has is that skills are evolving faster than the workforce is evolving. That’s going to put the employer market into the business of training people to be better at their next job,” he muses.
As far as Sumser is concerned, any organisation that doesn’t do that is only going end up with employees who aren’t actually able to help the business. Cynics who think that they can just fire these people, and find new recruits, will also be in for a rude shock – as Sumser points out, “there is already a talent shortage around the world.”