[Editor’s Note: Part of a continuing series to get viewpoints on the Future of Work and trends that will impact both companies and workers.]
Automation, Expectations, Acceleration
These are the three key themes that emerged from my talk with Tom Brown, Vice President HR for the Americas at eBay, one of the leading companies defining the economy of the future.
Tom shared a few insights about the best parts of his job (seeing people develop their potential) and the least favorite parts (when people make dumb mistakes that derail their career potential). Below is my best summary of his many insights.
Automation of Oh-So-Many Things
Many people have a specific view of the kinds of jobs that get automated but this misses the scope of the impact. Certainly, automation of things like warehouse fulfillment and manufacturing is important. But with the rise of AI and machine learning, there is an automation of data — creating important insights and actions to help companies.
For example, eBay is able to take advantage of the automation of data analytics to better find employees who are in danger of attrition. Then, in an automated way, eBay can address ways to ensure that the employee stays engaged. This isn’t a matter of automation replacing an employee. This is adding a completely new capability that didn’t exist. In fact, it requires additional skilled workers to manage and apply the learnings.
Looking into the future, we can expect automation of nearly all of the ‘admin’ part of normal work. This will increase the productivity and capabilities of any given worker, but perhaps changes the types of skills that will be needed.
Societal Expectations Around Careers
Not so long ago, it was expected that a person would stay in a job 5+ years. That was where you built your body of work, honed your craft, and drew out your strengths and gifts.
Tom sees a rise in the view that being in a job more than two years shows a lack of adaptability and a willingness to embrace change. People are expected to adapt fast, engage quickly, deliver excellent results rapidly, then look for that ‘new thing.’
My initial reaction was, how sad, there doesn’t seem to be the ability to sink deeply into a specialty. But it is understandable that people need to showcase their ability to quickly gain and use capabilities.
This has a lot of implications for how HR professionals like Tom have to assess candidates for their companies’ needs. The hiring process is less about, “Can you copy and paste what you’ve done before?” It’s more, “What capabilities have you developed that allow you to drive innovation in a new company and role?”
The Acceleration of True Diversity (In the Face of Recidivism)
It has been proven time and again that diversity can be a key driver for growth and success. In today’s rather polarized social climate, diversity is frequently dismissed as a feel-good initiative.
With his vantage point across the largest companies the world over, Tom contends that hiring diverse points of view, cultural backgrounds, and capabilities is not just nice to have, it is essential. It is the only real way any company can connect with the diversity of its customers and minimizes the chances that an organization completely misses the mark. (Example: the racist HP computer.)
To serve a marketplace that is increasingly diverse, a company’s talent needs to become that way. We are moving away from careers built by connections to a world where your capabilities are your calling card. (I know, I know. Who you know still matters incredibly.)
Capabilities: Advice for Consultants
You may have noticed this word dominating a lot of the conversation around key trends. Capabilities also dominated Tom’s advice to those who are exploring or already committed to the consulting career path.
Hiring managers are increasingly losing headcount, i.e., a full-time employee who could do myriad tasks. Now they are reliant upon being able to clearly define the capabilities needed to staff. (In fact, this could have gone under the trend section as Wall Street still rewards companies for reducing headcount, regardless of costs/needs!)
Managers must also realize that one single consultant will not likely have all the capabilities they might like. In other words, strategy rockstars may not enjoy or be especially skilled at implementation. However, the other side of this is that managers can take advantage of the flexibility of alternate workforce situations to put together just the right “pit crew” for a given challenge!
And to the consultant, here’s some advice:
- Develop expertise in which you shine and makes you both valuable and visible
- Ensure that expertise is clearly articulated on your resume, profiles, and activities. Trying to be all things to all people may lead to you being overlooked in favor of the specialist
To develop more opportunities for yourself, be creative in finding companies that need what you do. Tom’s hint (one that I’ve long appreciated) is to follow content like The Motley Fool or Fast Company to read about the strategic drivers of the organizations you are interested in. As an interested consultant, you don’t have to know as much as the employees but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well informed.
Tom is in absolutely the right field (in my opinion). Things that he enjoys are the things that make him successful in his field. He really lights up talking about the best ways to work and how to find and support success.
And to that end, the future of work requires just that. Find the thing that you do well and focus on that, so that your value may shine through to those who can best put it to good use.
For myself, I did find it life-changing to become a Marketing Automation artisan. Some specialties, like a deep understanding of AI/Machine Learning or Data Science, are a can’t-miss way to find continued interesting work!
To learn more about hiring a pit crew to serve your marketing needs, contact EM Marketing today.