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Summary and Highlights of #HREvent14  

Optamor has returned from two great days at the ICC in Birmingham having sponsored this year’s HR Directors Business Summit.  Drawing in senior HR professionals from large and small companies from across the world, the Summit was lively and fast-paced with a range of key note speakers, masterclasses, case studies and networking sessions.  We had an amazing time and thoroughly enjoyed meeting such a diverse group of interesting delegates and left feeling inspired by the words from industry experts and thought leaders from the world of work.     

We heard a provocative and stimulating session by world-renowned expert on labour market trends, David Arkless, the Future of Work Consortium.  David spoke of some of the major challenges being faced within human capital management across the globe including extreme longevity, the ageing population and how people are now working for as long as they possibly can because they can no longer afford to retire.  The knock on effect of this means that young people cannot get into the workforce and David estimated that roughly 100 million young people are now long term unemployed across the world right now. 

Using Europe as an example of what’s happening demographically on a global scale, David said that within the next 17 years Europe will lose 50 million workers due to the falling rates in fertility and through death or retirement and pressed the need for Europe to start opening its borders to skilled labour. 

He also spoke of the rise of smart machines saying that “Over the next 20 years robots, processors, machines and automated services will take your place and will do what you do, twice as well as you and twice as fast.”  Arkless said “This will cause us as human beings to ask ourselves the question: If the world is full of robots, processors and technology - what are we good at?  What should we focus on? How should we interact with the new machine world?”  A huge question for our future.

David told delegates that “Along with the machine world, we are moving into a new computational world of big data and computer storage that is making a new horizon of things possible.”  Citing a recent IBM report, he said that “Every second on this planet there are 10 trillion devices connected together and 20 trillion records of every individual somewhere on this planet.”  The world is becoming much more sophisticated in the way we use data and how we interpret it.

Concluding his session David gave some statistics based on a view of the world if it were reduced to just 100 people.  “52 would be women and 48 would be men; 89 hetrosexual and 11 homosexual; 30 Caucasians and 70 non-Caucasians; 6 people would own 60% of the world’s wealth; 80 live in poverty; 1 is dying; 1 is being born...80 have a cell phone.”  A stark reminder of how diverse the world we live in is and how it is changing.”

Dr Graeme Codrington presented a truly thought-provoking session about the tides of change that are shaping the HR landscape.   He spoke of the turbulent time of change we are all living in where we continually tell ourselves to “hang in there”, and that “things will get back to normal soon”.  It will never be the same again says Graeme!

Codrington cited the five key forces at play in HR as the ‘TIDES’ of change:

1. Technology
2. Institutional Change
3. Demographics
4. Environment & Ethics
5. Shifting Social Values

Graeme spoke of how the world is undergoing deep structural change and urged delegates to become more proactive in recognising the forces disrupting the world of work.  “Understand the forces disrupting your industry so you can pre-empt the people requests of your senior leaders,” he said.  He also suggested that HR directors and managers should devote at least five minutes of their team meetings to discuss changes and possible disruptive forces. He said: “Ask: What’s changing? What are the new rules? And how do we respond?’”

Referring to the breakout innovation of Google’s driverless car (now legal in Nevada, California and soon to be in Milton Keynes in the UK), Graeme used this as an example of sizeable change and explored what the knock on effect would be on all other markets. 

Graeme predicted that by 2025 these cars will not only be legal, they will be compulsory.  “If every car in a particular environment is driverless, every single car is able to not only drive itself through the streets, but also has the potential to connect and communicate with every single other car and between them, they can negotiate a temporary traffic pattern just for them.”  A network of computers is able to do things that we as human beings are not able to do.  The promise that massively increased computing power that’s made mobile, cheap and accessible – this is what can come to your office.  Codrington said “Using yesterday’s logic is the greatest danger to businesses,” and asked delegates to consider “What is your driverless car?  What is the concept in your business that computers can do that human beings cannot?  What is the next stage in evolution of the digital age in your company, in your industry, in your office?”

Optamor’s masterclass session “Engaging your Talent: The Power of Storytelling” took place on Tuesday afternoon and Paul Martin and Miles Henson were absolutely delighted to present to a jam-packed conference room of delegates.  Miles began the session with an exercise that had everyone on their feet spinning (carefully) around with their eyes closed.  The result of which left all 88 delegates pointing their hands in completely different directions illustrating the point that if your employees are not engaged and cannot see where they fit into the strategy of your organisation, how can they expected to head in the same direction?

Throughout the course of the masterclass Miles and Paul explored how using storytelling can help engage the talent in your organisation, creating the ‘golden thread’ that makes them feel a part of something and connects and aligns the actions of everyone in the business.  Moreover, using pictures to depict future corporate direction ensures consistent messages that cannot be easily skewed by the cynics in your business.

We would like to thank all the delegates who attended our masterclass session and to those who visited our stand in the exhibition hall.  A big thanks to our staff who helped support the event, to Miles Henson for co-hosting our masterclass and to all the WTG staff who looked after us impeccably throughout our time at the ICC.

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