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The Future of the Workplace is at an Inflection Point

The Future of the Workplace is at an Inflection Point

Posted By: Robin Dupre, Contributing Writer.

With the rise of big data, social sensitivity and the Augmented Era of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the future of the workplace is at an inflection point, states Dr. Jarik Conrad, senior director of HCM innovation at Ultimate Software. Emerging technologies will force changes on us all, ready or not.

Dr. Conrad

“We keep talking about what is coming, not realizing that many of those things are already here, and, according to the study ‘The Future of HR: Reimagining HR for the Augmented Era,’ human resources (HR) professionals are not prepared,” he stated.

Yet, the biggest challenge to face HR professionals is not technological – it is the trends that we see in broader society. From the #MeToo movement to the deep, global divisions about immigration and government, many face challenges that include the ever-growing trend of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I). With companies spending as much as 33 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace him or her, and employee turnover becoming costlier, these challenges must be faced.

“HR professionals are often at the forefront of helping their organizations become workplaces where all individuals are valued and feel that they belong (DE&I),” he added.

Diversity is a priority now, and it is demanded by the younger workforce over just checking an arbitrary checkbox. Companies, specifically 78 percent, are prioritizing diversity to improve work culture and financial performance.

Many recognize that the pace of change has not been as fast as they would like, and a more sophisticated approach will be needed to achieve the kind of success that is necessary.  

“We believe that HR professionals will have to become people scientists with keen insight into human behavior, as well as relationship brokers who can help managers develop the most human workplaces imaginable by getting to know their people and responding to their needs at an individual level,” he noted.

Aside from this diversity challenge, Dr. Conrad and his team found, in the aforementioned study, that fear in the workplace is prevalent and accelerating. According to the study, employees’ number one fear is being replaced by technology.

“In response, HR professionals need to help people better understand that automation is only one part of the equation,” he commented. “The most significant impact that can move our organizations forward is through augmentation and amplification. In other words, HR can earn and retain its seat at the table by offering ideas on how technology can help organizational leaders make data-driven decisions, particularly related to issues that were previously thought of as ‘soft,’ such as using sentiment analysis to boost the ability of managers to understand the emotions of the people who work for them, complementing the manager’s own emotional intelligence.”

Many professionals accept that AI is useful in tasks like sourcing, screening and nurturing candidates, but building candidate relationships or gauging their interpersonal skills cannot be replicated by AI.

Another finding from the study highlights the fact that wellness has become a significant issue for employers. Policies that promote the practice of healthy lifestyles and behaviors during and after office hours are on the rise. Employees are under an extraordinary amount of stress at work, with 74 percent of respondents in the survey indicating that they will be beyond their capacity within the next five years.

“Holistic wellness has become paramount, with 97 percent of respondents identifying it as their most important issue, ranking it as the highest item in the survey,” Dr. Conrad added. “HR professionals need to understand the employee continuum of needs, and then use that understanding to develop appropriate interventions to address each stage.”

With all of this in mind, Dr. Conrad noted three trends that will carry over to 2019 that HR and HRIS executives need to be aware of:

1. Improving Well-being at Work:

Employees are facing unprecedented levels of overload in their workplaces. The associated stress is having a significant impact on people’s emotional, social and physical well-being. To combat this trend, HR professionals will need to introduce tools and resources to help employees recognize how stress affects them, as well as develop outlets to help them thrive. We must provide more than just “mom and pop” wellness plans, but rather, tools, services and initiatives that focus on holistic well-being.

2. Preparing People for the Future of Work:

Study after study indicates that the skills that are going to be necessary in the workplace of the future include creativity, empathy, courage and personal resilience. These skills are going to only increase in their importance in a world where we know little of the specific jobs and specific technical skills that will be required. Automation, augmentation and amplification will also require a system to upskill and reskill employees effectively and efficiently. For this to occur, employers will need to understand employees at a deep, individual level and deliver customized developmental opportunities for them.

3. Creating the Connected, Collaborative Enterprise:

Just as the Internet of Things (IoT) has impacted our lives outside of work, it also offers new opportunities to create a highly connected and collaborative enterprise.

“We sometimes forget that employees are customers as well. In their consumer lives, they are used to a personalized experience. At work, we must take to the same approach regarding the employee experience. Additionally, we can use the IoT to democratize data to foster higher levels of trust between employees and employers,” Dr. Conrad said.


Dr. ConradDr. Conrad is the Senior Director of Human Capital Management (HCM) Innovation at Ultimate Software, where he helps organizations stay abreast of the latest workforce trends and innovative approaches to people management. He is a best-selling author and sought-after keynote speaker; recognized as a thought leader in the areas of emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, and leadership. Dr. Conrad has held significant roles at several Fortune 500 companies, including McDonnell Douglas (Boeing), Pillsbury (General Mills), Union Carbide (Dow), Citigroup and CSX. 

He has spent 20 years working in some aspect of human resources management across a variety of industries. He has also served as an executive coach specializing in helping people improve their emotional intelligence at work.

Dr. Conrad recently shared his insights at the 2018 HR Tech Connect Summit in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (showcased in the picture at the top of this article).