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Independence is our strength – covering the issues that directly impact on those with the duty of directing human resources

ISSUE 223 – Synopsis – MAY 2023

2030 Now – the future of work
Talk of 2030 back in 2013 created a false sense of security. It seemed so far off, surely it would be a problem for the next watch? Hybrid and remote working – not to mention a four-day week – looked like a sci-fi concept, but left with no other choice during the pandemic, the future fantasy tableau became a reality, as we mandatorily adapted to accelerated evolution. Right now, we are experiencing industrial action from unions and their members – part causation of raised employee voice about pay and conditions – while other disruption is against the threat of jobs becoming obsolete because of technology. This is just the start, as AI moves in to take people out of mundane and repetitive tasks, freeing them up to have more fulfilled and diverse roles and careers. Indeed, predictions are that millions of “different jobs” are being created and new sectors are emerging, but where is the transitionary cohesion and future planning? For those without vision and preparedness for the future, the implications are huge and the opportunities will fall to those that are a part of change – causing the revolution – not victims of its impacts. A false perception of invincibility is fatal. Like the iceberg in “the unsinkable” Titanic’s path, the watch sees it too late. So how can we shift from reaction mode to predictive and how can we mitigate against the negative impacts and capitalise on the positives? How can we secure and support the most vulnerable and discriminated in society and even up the playing field, so that they become equipped and empowered to control their own destinies? How can we make sure that businesses continue towards greener operations, despite recessionary pressures? We have to move from the perception that “change” is the “C-word” we dare not utter. This is the inevitable, unavoidable future on our watch and whether we capitalise on its opportunity or fall under its unstoppable wheels, is entirely down to us. Do we even realise that 2030 is now? As Yuval Noah Harari says in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century: “Creating new human jobs might prove easier than retraining humans to actually fill these jobs.”

Reverse mentoring
The old adage, “never criticise anybody until you have walked in their shoes”, has taken on a new and contemporary meaning, as recent shared experience spiked the collective conscience. We now talk of the importance of empathy and understanding – the phrase “soft skills” is resigned to the bin marked “derogatory” – and words like “acceptance” and “tolerance” suddenly border on Victorian-grade pomposity. So how can reverse mentoring play an impactful role in the creation of this new era of work and right the wrongs from the past, that were largely caused by ignorance and ambivalence? The concept of mentoring – the transferal of experience and knowhow from the old/experienced to the young/inexperienced – turned on its axis, is a compelling one. But as with everything, it comes with caveats and potential pitfalls. The notion of a senior leader on a six-figure salary, spending the morning with an employee on the basic living wage, has all the potential for cynicism. So how can this potentially laudable exercise of “really” understanding the circumstances of others, avoid looking like a “woke” media opportunity and be turned into an enlightening and positive experience for all, that leads to equal voice, true understanding, action and change? How can a culture of authentic pragmatism enable older more experienced colleagues to trust that the capabilities, knowledge and knowhow of younger colleagues, can enrich and inform them? To a greater degree, the answers to the future reside in the minds of the generations that have organically absorbed the evolution of change and have a natural affinity with the relationship between humans and technology. Suddenly, in this revelatory frame, the potential positives of reverse mentoring become the proverbial penny drop moment. But this requires a radical change of culture that has always supported the arrogance of experience, to one of trust, authentic open-mindedness and curiosity.

L&D – the next generation
Right now, who wouldn’t be drawn to a keynote titled L&D – the next generation? In the hastily ushered in new world of work, both L&D vendors and client users are in a state of transitionary flux and exposed to unremitting scrutiny, as the workforce settles into remote and hybrid work and recession bites down on budgets. In a world reeling from transformation, the deficits of talent and skills across sectors and industries points to the obvious conclusion, that we can no longer expect the L&D models conceived generations ago – and crudely modernised and bolted on to along the way – to apply now. That traditional classroom learning is history is taken as read, but critics point to the reality that, although the method of delivery has changed to digital – and is available to all, wherever and whenever – the content remains conventionally staged, iambic and out of sync with the new rhythm of work. Right now, L&D is broadly failing to inspire and compel people to move beyond the mindset that it is for the benefit of business efficiency, as opposed to personal development and advantage. Fundamentally, it is missing the essential element of personalisation. The traditional framework of uniformed learning – primarily targeting competency in existing roles or to hurriedly make people hit the boards running in new posts – compounds the “one-size-fits-all” cliché that is the number one cause of disengagement and the primary killer of L&D. All this points to a radical reimagining – away from the hackneyed paradigm of yore – towards next-generation learning, which is designed around the novel element that promotes learner ability to choose how to grow – in a way that aligns with their individual preferences – not forgetting of course, the organisation’s future talent needs. It moves L&D towards a more compelling and dynamic mandate that includes; personalised learning, strategic talent development and skills future-proofing. The future of L&D is to move towards supporting employee potential, to evolve skillsets and to provide the tools, capability and confidence for people to create and curate their own learning portfolios and be responsible for advancing their own journey towards the future.

Managing and supporting Menopause
It is bewildering how roughly half of the world’s population can have the same life-changing event and go through the same journey misunderstood, unsupported and even derided.  Menopause’ taboo status has led to ridicule, women being labelled as “difficult” and resulting in countless cases of discrimination that go largely unreported. Much of this is fuelled by misleading information, misinterpretation and ignorance. The typical symptoms of anxiety, depression, loss of confidence, memory issues, fatigue and mood swings have inexcusably been used against women in the workplace, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and discriminated against. Consequently – and not before time – at the time of writing, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) is lobbying for NHS-funded menopause health checks and for the menopause to be treated as a “core employee health issue”. This is supported by a Government co-ordinated and employer-led campaign, to raise awareness and help tackle what is, to all intents and purposes, bigotry, prejudice and inequity. Better late than never, but to finally make impactful change to supporting menopause, this must begin with openness, honesty and a frank and unflinching approach. To help break the ice, encouraging women in an organisation, who have been through the menopause, to talk candidly and unflinchingly about the symptoms to colleagues, can further break down barriers and lead to better understanding, empathy and a compelling reason for important change. Underpinning this drive to greater understanding should be clear policies for how to support women going through menopause, which should include; an organisation’s commitment and a mission statement about its intentions to become a menopause-friendly workplace, plus an overview of the practical solutions in place to support individuals. In this issue, we welcome your ideas and suggestions for articles that will help our readers with the many big and complex challenges ahead.

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