USA TODAY US Edition
Workplaces are evolving to meet future demands
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society. (Questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
No matter what job you do or where you work, you are experiencing a changing workplace. Technology. Demographics. Economics. Social issues.
These and other factors are transforming work. What does this mean for workers and the companies that employ them? For some interesting answers, I turned to three corporate executives who lead human resources. We had a conversation about the issues affecting work at a Society for Human Resource Management summit this month.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: How do today’s workplaces need to change to meet the future?
Betty Thompson, chief people officer, Booz Allen Hamilton: “Every organization in America is transforming itself to keep up with this pace of change. We are going to have to upskill our workers to keep up. People may say, ‘ Change has never come about this fast,’ but the reality is that change will never be this slow again.”
Marc A. Howze, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, Deere & Company: “Our business has changed a lot. We started with a plow, and now we’ve been making autonomous vehicles for two decades. We have thousands of software engineers who work for us. So when you think about the amount of data that comes off a machine, we need a different type of employee.”
Hollie Delaney, head of people operations, Zappos.com: “We’re looking at distributed authority and self-management in our workplace to provide more of an opportunity for employees to have a voice in how the company is run and what they want their company to be.”
Taylor: You each talked about workers. Why should you, as employers, invest in employee training and development? What have you experienced?
Howze: “The future is the difference between strategic and transactional work. If you’re in something that doesn’t require judgment, your job can pretty much be done by a bot. For a lot of us, if we’re not able to skill up, our jobs – we – won’t be here.”
Thompson: “We’ve upped our tuition reimbursement so it covers university courses and also certifications and conferences, because technologies come along so quickly that there isn’t certifi- cation for them. There are ways you can expose your talent to those skills and help them get what they need to stay ahead.”
Howze: “In the United States, a lot of our facilities are in rural areas, so we have to focus on K-12 education to continue to have a workforce. Additionally, when you think about data analytics, data scientists, embedded software engineers and machine learning, we’re competing for talent. One way we have to do that is by sponsoring talented employees for educational and advanceddegree programs.”
Delaney: “It’s very important that you look for competencies versus experience in hiring. Someone could have tons of experience in a job and actually not know how to do the job at all. And someone else without any experience could learn a new and exciting way of doing something and really bring positive change to a business. One of the other things we’ve started to look at is individual skills, focusing on the things that people are good at. We want to build teams with a mix of people who work as a whole, so you have people who, together, are good at all things.”