Canadian HR Reporter

August 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER AUGUST 2019 2 NEWS Maturing tech shifting workplaces, economy: Report Policy Horizons Canada explores 5 game-changing ideas BY MARCEL VANDER WIER THE COMBINATION and mat- uration of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will redefine the workplace forever, according to a new report from the federal government. e Future of Work: Five Game Changers predicts what Canadian workers may face in coming years, in an effort to ensure government policy is robust and resilient in the face of disruptive change, says Kristel Van der Elst, executive head of Policy Horizons Canada, a government organization provid- ing foresight in Ottawa. "We looked at a number of technologies — if they mature and combine, how they change the organizing principles of our economy," she says. "It's more thinking about a shift in how you think about the nature of work. e idea is to have people rethink some of the assumptions that un- derlie policy work." Over the past two years, Policy Horizons conducted research, in- terviews and workshops leading to the report, as well as a second- ary document entitled e Next Digital Economy. The future of work report identifies five "game-changers" — driving forces for the future affecting organizations, workers and broader society, says Van der Elst. ey are as follows: • Work moves from long-term and time-based to temporary and task-based. • AI and automation could erode employment long before tech- nologies replace entire jobs. • AI ends the scarcity of knowl- edge workers, potentially allow- ing jobless growth in knowledge industries. • Combined digital technologies could reduce the role and need for human intermediaries. • Where people work and earn income may not be where they live and spend time and money. 'Centaur work' When these game-changers take effect, job roles will be operated in the fashion of centaurs — half- human, half-horse creatures from Greek mythology, says Van der Elst. "It's the idea that you build on the best capabilities of human be- ings and of what robots, machines and AI can do," she says. "By mak- ing sure that you use both capabil- ities to the optimal, you can have higher efficiencies and outcomes. You can actually increase the qual- ity and quantity of the work being done, and it may actually provide more safety for some of the work- ers by having dangerous or boring tasks being done by robots." Blending excellent technologies with humans is the way of the fu- ture, says Kim Toews, executive vice-president and head of HR at HSBC Canada in Vancouver. "It's not something to be feared," she says. "It's something to be embraced and looked at as an opportunity." Quality technology frees up front-line staff to spend more time with customers, and a reduced focus on repetitive tasks should boost staff productivity and well- being, says Toews. "at's a good thing... at's certainly how we're trying to ap- proach the future of work… em- bedding it in our strategy and very much focusing on the customer experience." Employers and HR profession- als need to rethink jobs with tech- nology in mind, says Van der Elst. "It's not the jobs that will be fully automated, it is tasks within the jobs that will be automated," she says. "You're starting to see quite a number of functions that are being redesigned to work with the capa- bilities of technology, so that could speed up significantly the process of decreasing demand for workers." e unbundling of jobs is cre- ating more automatable tasks and increased commission opportuni- ties for gig workers — all of which are shifting compensation models from hourly work to piecework, says Van der Elst. "at has quite a number of implications in terms of what that means for the level of compen- sation for people, for adherence to minimum wages, for working conditions," she says. "And it takes away the concept of the employer- employee relationship." Further, the shifts in workplaces will alter social support systems, affecting access to benefits such as private health and insurance, says Van der Elst. "It's really important to start thinking through some of these issues." Changing perceptions Perceptions about the future are changing. Nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) Canadians are excited by technol- ogy's potential, while only 11 per cent believe it will eventually take their job, according to a survey of 2,005 people by KPMG. "e true reality is that AI is no different than any other emerging technology that we've had over decades," says Peter Hughes, a partner and digital services leader at KPMG in Toronto. "People recognize that AI is just another technology, or set of technologies, that will start to automate tasks," he says. "And it's just a natural evolution, in my opinion, of the overall improve- ment and efficiency in the way in which work gets done." Workers are becoming attuned to the fearmongering surrounding mass layoffs by way of automation, says Hughes. And robotic-process automations are creating efficien- cies for many high-volume, low- value processes. "at's where most of the im- pact is happening, but that's not anything that people would read about or know about, because it's not that sexy," he says. "Getting away from macro im- pact and having a focus on micro impacts is a much more realistic angle to take, because that's what history has proven." Four in five (79 per cent) Ca- nadian businesses are anticipat- ing growth in the next two years, according to a survey of 2,500 organizations across the globe by HSBC Canada. Nearly half (47 per cent) of em- ployers expect to invest in skills and training, while 42 per cent are planning increases to well-being investments, she says. "Fifty-four per cent see more opportunities than threats, and then an additional third see them as balanced, which is not the headlines you see often," says Toews. "ere's less of a fear of it, more of a 'Let's get some action here,' as opposed to just being worried about it." Advice for HR When it comes to the future of work, it's important that HR un- derstand the time has come, says Toews. "When people talk about the future of work, they're always talking about it like it's some fu- ture thing. It's not." e pace of disruptive change is unlike anything employers have seen before, says Hughes. "We've always had technologi- cal shifts and changes, but we've never had them at a pace that they're happening now." Past strategies such as hiring a specialist to deal with disruptive technology are no longer viable; simply put, too many things are happening at once, he says. "Now that we're into exponen- tial technologies like AI and ro- botic process automation, there are exponentially more of these… technologies, and so no longer can organizations just say, 'OK, well, that's something we need to be into. We're going to start hiring for that.'" Employers need to be con- stantly evaluating improvements and effectiveness, alongside pro- actively reacting to new technolo- gies, says Hughes. It's important to remember that no employer can be a specialist in every technology, he says. "at's a fool's game that you will not win." Strategic thinking in terms of future competition, areas of opportunity and automatable processes should all be consider- ations for HR professionals, says Van der Elst. Thought should be given to how readily an organization's cli- entele would accept automation, corporate social responsibilities, reskilling options, as well as what type of employer one wants to be viewed as, she says. "What's really important is that when you start to look at both your business plan and your human resources plan, you just need to recognize that these things will happen. But there is some urgency, also, and there are some reflections to have beyond economics." Welcoming wage increases Pay unhappiness is an issue, so StatCan's latest numbers are encouraging Whatever gets you through the night ere's no failure to accommodate if an employee doesn't provide sufficient information Rookie blues Young, inexperienced workers may be less knowledgeable or vocal about their rights, but they shouldn't be forgotten e view from the other side of the hiring table An HR leader's quest to become CHRO highlights challenges of finding a job House approves US$15 minimum wage, but Senate prospects are dim Tipped workers would receive same base rate for first time Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants worried about clothing law Letters heading to professional organizations, colleges, training centres Amazon to train one-third of U.S. workforce with technical skills Effort will help transition staff to software engineering roles 1 in 4 U.S. workers don't plan to retire despite realities of aging: Poll Illness, layoffs often force older workers to leave jobs, say experts 5 New York City anchorwomen allege age discrimination TV 'should accurately reflect women in society' BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on www.hrreporter.com. Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. Employers and HR professionals need to rethink jobs with technology in mind, says one expert. Credit: Icatnews (Shutterstock)

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