Leadership Matters
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We Are undergoing a paradigm shift in the workplace – and preparation is the key to keeping pace

By Karen Stone, CHRE

It’s often been said that change is the only constant – and when it comes to our economic models and this concept we call “work,” the pace of change is accelerating more rapidly than ever before.

The traditional employment model is no longer the default. Technological advancement and automation have proven to be such disruptive forces to the labour landscape that entirely new forms of work are emerging. We have seen it before, and we’ll see it again – the work economy is a living organism, and stasis is not its style.

In this, our special conference issue, we would opine that HR professionals currently have front-row seats to yet another epoch – a paradigm shift in the way we socially conduct, consider and construct “work.” And unlike the oft-cited Industrial Revolution, this shift is not manufactured on gears and machinery. Instead, it is being intuited through intellect.

It’s the Intelligence Revolution.

Advancements in technology have resulted in many tasks and functions becoming automated, causing jobs that were once integral to become obsolete. Key disruptors – including artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, the gig economy and job polarization as well as work-life balance/integration and younger generational cohorts – are all converging upon the workplace simultaneously.

Entire cohorts in the workforce are working without “jobs.” Shifting employment models mean the very ideas of “employee” and “employer” are increasingly more fluid – creating unforeseen practical implications for pension decisions, insurance and so much more. We can expect that a shift toward competencies – instead of formal occupations or job titles – will be the natural change in focus.

Along with these changes comes the associated anxiety – what will this mean for the future of work? Are we on the cusp of a period of technological unemployment? And if so – will it be temporary? Or will it settle into a long period of sweeping functional unemployment?

Our purpose in this issue – and in this year’s Annual HRPA Conference & Trade Show – is certainly not to predict the uncertain. This is not a socio-business forecast for a future that is not ours to see. Rather, we strive to spark debate, delve into insightful discussion and facilitate thought leadership and intellectual synergies amongst a community of knowledge innovators – in government, in business, in education and beyond.

There is no right or wrong answer. And while we can predict some of the changes that are likely to happen, what we cannot predict is when.

That is why we are calling for thoughtful consideration – and most importantly, preparation – for the changes to come. We believe that if we act now, we can bring about a renaissance of work, freeing us to do work centered on creation and innovation, while automation takes care of repetitive, dangerous, monotonous or non-knowledge-based tasks. By building this discussion together, we are laying the cornerstone toward building a future workforce that will not only adapt to an uncertain, disruptive environment – it will thrive. 

Karen Stone, CHRE, is chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association.

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