Revolution and EvolutionWe are navigating an era of rapid change, encompassing the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to reimagine the possibilities for automation across our working world, creating the foundations for a tectonic shift in how work gets done and by whom.
Predictions for the future are compelling, with the potential for up to 50 percent of work set to be automated by 2055, replacing up to 15 trillion in global wages as cited in Manpower’s thought-provoking report, The Skills Revolution. The risk of workforce dislocation and the resulting impact on jobs, livelihoods, and careers a growing concern. However, history shows positive trend: Throughout cycles of industrial revolution, every significant advancement in automation, while changing the nature of work, has created more jobs than it has dissolved.
Looking at our present and our future, the same is poised to hold true. The benefits of humans and machines working together has the potential to catapult the type of work we engage in and the accelerated value we as human beings will be able to create. McKinsey’s A Future That Works report cites a growth in productivity of up to 1.4 percent annually as a result of automation.
As in the past, the evolution of the workplace will demand new skills; a new mindset from employees, leaders, HR functions, and enterprises; and a complementary set of strategies and actions to ensure we are able to adapt and thrive in a world enriched through automation and AI. Companies that have created these advancements in technology are now rising to the challenge of navigating the changes they’ve created in the workplace.
Business ImperativeAt the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, the governors of the Information Technology Community launched the IT Industry Skills Initiative to contribute to the global skills gap challenge and help address job displacement arising from automation and the fourth industrial revolution. In response, the community created a free platform of online tools to help inspire and equip individuals with lifelong learning and reskilling (or upskilling) to thrive in an ever-evolving digital world. The governors also mandated the WEF to develop practical tools to encourage organizations to strategically prepare their businesses and employees for inevitable disruption. A key component of the consortium’s proposal included the development and publication of a whitepaper to enable corporate leaders to think through and kick-start a conversation on how to respond proactively to a world of accelerated automation—a paper that could help prepare their businesses, along with their managers and employees, for the future.
The IT Consortium comprises technology-focused companies including Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, SAP, Salesforce, CA Technologies, Pegasystems, Cognizant, Tata Consulting, Infosys, Accenture, and PwC. As planning commenced on how best to respond and set a foundation to support the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), as co-leader on the initiative, took the lead to convene the representative companies to design and develop a principles paper that could help reflect the positive story of automation and AI while helping corporate leaders advance their readiness and ability to empower their companies and people in navigating the uncertainties ahead. Alan May, executive vice president of HR at HPE, set the direction to ensure that the consortium’s work on technology-based solutions was balanced by the critical focus on strategy, planning, and human-centered principles that would empower companies and their people to author their sustained success.
ProcessThe work began in July 2017 with a series of research sprints led by Dominika Merzenich at HPE, to capture the range of insights available and map out themes and considerations for a principles paper. HPE’s collaboration with PwC Partner, Toni Cusumano, and her team was instrumental in cataloging insights and shaping the potential narrative. With these initial foundations set, HPE and the WEF program team launched the IT Consortium’s “Insights and Principles” work stream in August 2017, giving them a five-month runway to prep for the launch of the initiative at the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Each IT Consortium company assigned a representative to contribute to the work, with contributors covering alliance, talent, learning, and consulting, and business leaders who committed to biweekly virtual working sessions. Milestones were mapped within a five-step plan to ensure readiness for Davos.
AccelerationThe consolidation of research findings and the translation into principles was accelerated through the guidance of Keith Block, vice chairman, president, and chief operation officer at Salesforce, who connected the workstream with the Carnegie Mellon University team and the engagement of a selection of their best and brightest capstone students. The Carnegie Mellon team put pen to paper, outlining the paper foundations and allowing IT Consortium companies to provide feedback, adjustment guidance, and options to help refine the principles and core messages.
The positive intent, spirit of partnership, and innovative ideas the consortium partners brought to the engagement was genuinely inspiring. The breadth of insights and implications related to the focus areas were vast and the leadership demonstrated by key partners like SAP, Cisco, Salesforce, Pegasystems, PwC, Carnegie Mellon, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise provided the catalyst needed to build the plan and establish momentum. It was a challenge to consolidate feedback as the principles paper was refined and make decisions on focus areas and changes as a committee. This was eased by a systematic process of draft review and written feedback submission, which was tracked and integrated into the final paper. As with so many initiatives, balancing the pressure of time with the creative process is an art form. Our cross-company collaborative engagement would have benefited from more time to help stakeholders and contributors harmonize their day-to-day focus with the demands of a project like this. Nevertheless, the pace created focus and an appropriate level of urgency to ensure a valuable outcome was realized.
Next StepsSince launch, Adam Sherman, who leads the IT Consortium program at the World Economic Forum, is progressing the next phase of work following the Davos 2018 announcement of the SkillSET online learning portal. SkillSET provides educational training and career resources to individuals who want to obtain new skills and career transitions in the digital economy. The initiative will initially target the U.S. market in 2018 before scaling to additional industries and geographies. Here at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we are integrating the principles, insights, and learned knowledge from the principles guide to shape our people strategy and capability plans, and to enable HR and talent strategies. The seven principles emphasize the practical actions that can be taken immediately by all of us. Agile policies, structures, and leadership are key to ensuring organizations continue to support the people that make them successful. The principles are just the beginning. It is up to all of us to work together to ensure a positive future. As HR, talent, and learning leaders, we have a unique opportunity to help direct and shape the readiness of our organizations. So, partner up, source ideas, innovate, and take action!
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is an ATD Forum member. For more information about the ATD Forum, visit www.td.org/forum.