Forget Robots, earning trust is still the main challenge for modern workers

Forget Robots, earning trust is still the main challenge for modern workers

The annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the representative body for HR professionals, took place recently at the conference centre in Croke Park.

The chosen theme was 'Trust in a Digital Era'. As is now customary, the event kicked off with the results of a report covering HR practices in Ireland. In particular, the report covered the responses of firms, other organisations and HR professionals to the tightening labour market, here.

Not surprisingly, 84% of people responding said that they are struggling to access human resources. A key message emerging is that there are real gaps when it comes to systems and analysis within organisations but that technologies are emerging which can help fill those gaps.

The labour market has become more truly internationalised. Global firms are more deeply embedded in our economy. In 2004, the Irish labour market was opened up to immigrants from eastern Europe.

Many of those who came have stayed. Many, if not most, of the new Irish have strong work ethics and they have risen up the professional and managerial ranks; in many cases bringing a real variety of experiences to their organisations.

This should be good news. As the CIPD chief executive Mary Connaughton said "it is about developing a talent pool and cohort of capable people."

When the task of recruitment becomes more problematic, the business of retention takes on a new importance and a key part of this is the ability to offer employees and others on the payroll, greater opportunities for self development.

Top executives need to do more than just talk the talk when it comes to the creation of the right sort of work culture which is an inclusive one.

"If you articulate this, but do not deliver, that increases employee churn," according to Ms Connaughton.

She suggests that the current generation of entrants to the jobs market are much less enamoured with the long hours culture that has become established within many firms, particularly professional ones.

"There is a welcome growth of interest in flexible working but are people being penalised for working flexibly in performance reviews?"

Assuming that trade conflict does not bring down the whole global edifice, it is worth bearing in mind that firms in the west are competing with, and also attracting young people from, Asia and other emergent regions, many if not most being people possessed of fierce personal work ethics.

These are the people who are likely to be in pole position when it comes to the reshaping of business in the coming decades.

There may be less scope when it comes to securing the right work-life balance but there are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to eat the other guy’s lunch, if necessary.

Tara Levins, a senior executive with management consultants Accenture, pointed to how some new technologies are already impacting on many peoples’ working lives.

"We are very much in the fourth industrial revolution and disruptive technology is changing the way we live and work," she said.

While the robots are indeed coming, they will not gobble our lunches, she insists.

Collaborative technology is the new buzzword. "MIT research reveals that humans and robots working together are 85% more productive than either humans, or robots on their own."

It would seem that employees are adapting. Ms Levins cites research which shows that only one quarter of CEOs believe their workers could adapt to the change, while two thirds of employees feel ready to use the new technologies.

She points to a "disconnect between employer and employee which points to issues of trust."

According to Oxford University academic Rachel Botsman: "It is not a good idea to have trust as a value in an organisation. Trust is not a value – it is a human belief and emotion. The act of placing faith in a stranger serves to fuel creativity."

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