Month: October 2019

The ‘Extra-Human’ Competitive Edge

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naderIn the age of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics and robotics, it has become difficult to imagine the world prior to our current technology, and even more difficult to foresee what the future will bring. Perhaps the most daunting image of all is humanoids – robots that use AI to learn from human behaviour, mimic it, and even use it to react and innovate through ML. In fact, the future of technology’s intervention in the workplace is closer than one would assume. Sophia, a humanoid who can express feelings and compose facial expressions, was the first robot to become a citizen by order of the United Nations and to be granted citizenship by a country – Saudi Arabia.[1] The notion of a robot workforce, therefore, is not far from possible.

Where does the human workforce fit in at a time of AI- and robotics-dominance?

There are a couple of points to keep in mind when it comes to automation, though. The term automation does not merely refer to robots taking people’s jobs. The term entails all the aforementioned technologies that have become available for integration in present and future workplaces. Consequently, what would normally be considered mundane tasks will be assigned to machines as the human workforce shifts to tasks that rely more on the human element. The part organisations can play in this world, a world of machines and automation, therefore, will be to empower their workforce with the tools and job design that eases this skill transition. Hot Spots Movement’s research on automation presents insights into how organisations can prepare for a seamless transition into this new world. It also introduces organisations to the kind of training needed to empower workers in a manner that improves their chances of thriving in an automated environment. Therefore, aside from the aforementioned soft skills, technical skills can and will be attained, but that will require the human skills of perseverance and dedication.

Hot Spots Movement’s reports on digital transformation and shifting cultures delve deeper into the world of work as innovative technology becomes an inescapable part of how the workplace operates. The world is heading to a point where the niche skill of the human workforce will be our ability to be human. The skills that make us human, particularly skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, listening, and judgment, will play a key role in giving us a competitive advantage. These skills, the key ingredients in defining our interpersonal skills as human beings, will be our most employable asset. This development means a shift in the mindset governing our perception of how human beings contribute to the workforce. It entails upskilling and reskilling. Employers will have to rethink their training strategies to incorporate automation, diversify learning opportunities for knowledge employees and lower-skilled workers, and guarantee a learning curve that allows all workers to attain their goals in alignment with the goals of the organisation as a whole. Employees, on the other hand, will have to leverage the skills that make them human; they will have to be, in some sense, ultra-human. Thus, the true competitive advantage of the human workforce will be in utilising as much of those capacities that differentiate human beings from machines as possible.

A note of caution

People will need to ask the right people for assistance in making these transitions and empowering the workforce where needed. The Netflix fans out there may remember the ‘Love, Death and Robots’ episode, ‘When the Yoghurt Took Over’. To those of you who don’t, the animated episode witnesses a genetically enhanced yoghurt discovering the solutions to all the problems in our world. In a meeting with a world leader, the yoghurt offers solutions which would eradicate all economic burdens in a year if followed precisely and bring chaos if they’re not. Unsurprisingly, the world leaders’ closeness to the problem leads to their failure in following the yoghurt’s formula, which brings the world to chaos. Similarly, change, when introduced from within, could struggle with the inherent biases that limit an organisation’s capacity to effectively move forward with the change. In those cases, all those organisations need, really, is their own yoghurt.

If reading this has given you some thought on how your organisation could – or should – be preparing for the world of work, Hot Spots Movement could be the “yoghurt” you’re looking for. Drop me an email at nader@hotspotsmovement.com if you’re interested in discussing how you can adapt digital developments to your people strategy in support of your corporate identity.


[1] Dang, Sanjit Singh (Feb 25, 2019). Artificial Intelligence in Humanoid Robots. Forbes.

[2] Gratton, Lynda (Fall 2019). Pioneering Approaches to Re-skilling and Upskilling. MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2019 Edition

Organisational Wellbeing: Questions for Personal Reflection

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naderOn the occasion of Mental Health Awareness Day, 10th October, I thought it prudent to shed light on one of the key contributors to mental health: the workplace.

On average, we spend at least a quarter of our weekly hours at work. Our work environment, irrespective of whether we enjoy it or not, inevitably becomes a second home that, at times, demands more responsibilities from us than our first home. Unfortunately, seldom do we actually discuss mental health in general, let alone in the workplace.

To address organisational wellbeing, I’m sharing my own approach to ensuring that I remain mentally healthy. If you have any additional points, do feel free to share in the comments.

  1. Am I treated the way I want to be treated?

More often than not, organisational bullying is not discussed. In many ways, organisational bullying is similar to our general definition of bullying, which includes being harassed, being talked down to, and being laughed at. However, organisational bullying also manifests in other forms that are often disregarded. Being left out intentionally, being yelled at or called a name, or being embarrassed through sexual humour, is workplace bullying. We seem to often let go of whatever upsets us at work because of lesser expectations towards how we should be treated, perhaps because of the financial reliance on our jobs that prevents us from setting the bar any higher.

If you feel uncomfortable in your place of work, tell someone. It could be your manager, your co-workers, HR, or any authority that could play a role in resolving your problem. If you don’t feel safe speaking to anyone in the office, reach out to your network for support. Bottling up your problems means neglecting your mental wellbeing. Just talking about it – having a conversation with someone you trust – could make a significant difference in how you feel.

  1. Are my expectations realistic?

We all want to be healthy, wealthy, successful and loved. It’s the human condition. But you should also ask yourself: is everything that I’m doing making me happy? Which parts of my day bring me the most joy, and which parts don’t? How can I rearrange my priorities so that I can achieve my goals without affecting my mental state?

Give yourself time to rest, to breathe. We stress ourselves out with constant replies to emails and calls in what has become a seemingly 24/7 workweek because of how well-connected we are. Find a time to stop using your phone and allow yourself to indulge in a chocolate bar or the newest Netflix special if that makes you happy. Essentially, allow yourself those simple joys that we often lose sight of as we progress in our careers and neglect our wellbeing. And remember, in some way, a considerable portion of the stress we suffer from is caused by our own expectations.

  1. What’s the perspective I choose for myself today?

Have you ever had a terrible week? I’m not talking about a bad morning, but a bad week overall. By Friday, you walk into work and you’re so tired and done that you just want to go back home and crawl back into bed. I think most of us have been there at least once. What is the perspective from which you choose to see your day? I walked into the office this morning having gone through a tough series of unfortunate events within a few hours. As I described my morning to my manager, she smiled and said, “At least it can only get better from this point!” Create a constant mental, or physical, reminder that it can only get better from your worst workplace experiences and watch your day get better. You messed up a presentation? Your next presentation will be better because you learned at least one thing from this one. You said the wrong thing in a meeting? You will be careful with your words in the next meeting. This approach to restructuring our perception of our experiences needs practice, but we have to start somewhere.

This blog in no way attempts to overshadow serious mental health issues that affect more people in the population than we even recognise. It merely aims to give some perspective to those whose workplace experience may be bringing them down, which inevitably affects their performance and job satisfaction. I hope that reading this gave you a slightly new perspective in the very least, and I hope you utilise that perspective in achieving the shift towards mental serenity.

If you’d like to learn more about organisational health and wellbeing, stay tuned for Hot Spots Movement’s Masterclass in February 2020.


[1] Beheshti, Naz. (2019). Stigma About Mental Health Issues in the Workplace Exists: Here’s What Companies Can Do About It. Forbes.

[2] Myers, Chris (2017). How to Avoid Self-Induced Stress and Decision Fatigue in Business. Forbes.

Climate crisis protests and your business

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TomMillions of men, women, and children took part in climate crisis protests in September this year. While much attention has been given to the rallying cry of Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish environmental activist, many companies would do better to focus their attention closer to home. Workers are increasingly demanding a commitment from their employers on social issues such as climate change, and those without a well-defined narrative for their future are set to suffer.

Amazon saw thousands of employees walk out to protest their company’s failure to tackle the climate crisis, despite their CEO Jeff Bezos announcing beforehand that the company is on course to be carbon neutral by 2040, and is aiming to be carbon neutral for 50% of their shipments by 2030. Workers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google left their offices and demanded more of their employers. They urged severance of business ties with oil and gas companies, reducing emissions to zero by 2030, and commitments to climate refugees, a term for people who are forced to leave their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment.

It is no coincidence that tech companies known for their high-performing workforces have some of the most vocal employees on climate issues.

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Job site Indeed found that high performers are 46% more likely than average performers to be attracted to a new job by a company’s purpose [1]. Social purpose is a key component of this, and has resulted in previous Google walkouts over US military contracts [2]. Modern workers are overwhelmingly likely to consider an employer’s corporate social values; they want to work for company’s that uphold their social values so that they can be proud of their work and feel it has a purpose. In Deloitte’s 2019 Global Millennial survey [3], the climate was ranked as the most concerning challenge facing society; 29% cited it as a worry, a whole 7% more than the next most concerning item, income inequality. A proactive environmental policy is thus a must for companies hoping to attract top talent.

Further, it is well established that people who believe their job has a broader purpose are more likely to work harder, take on challenging or unpopular tasks, and collaborate effectively [4].

A well-defined narrative on climate change, as well as other social issues such as automation, flexible working, and lengthening working lives, is thus crucial for businesses. Successfully doing this will attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive labour market, where there are even shortages in blue-collar roles [5].

The Google worker’s climate petition said, “As individuals, we may feel alone in facing climate change, but if we act together – if we act now – we can build a better future.” If you are interested in finding out more about how you can build a better future for your company and its workers, I’d love to hear from you at tom@hotspotsmovement.com

 

[1] Indeed, 2016 Talent Attraction Study: How Top Performers Search for Jobs (2016)

[2] ‘Google Should Not Be In Business of War, Say Employees’, BBC News (2018), https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43656378

[3] The Deloitte Global Millenial Survey 2019 – https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html

[4] Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen, ‘Making work meaningful: A leader’s guide’ McKinsey Quarterly (October 2018)

[5] ‘Feeling blue about the future? Blue-collar labour shortages in the USA and beyond’, Tom Goulding (2019), https://medium.com/swlh/feeling-blue-about-the-future-8a1f79e2fbea