Tomorrow's World - The Future is Now
This year’s New Zealand Human Resource conference theme was ‘Tomorrow’s World – The Future is Now’. This theme evolved from the military idea of VUCA which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. This theme sought to inspire HR to be leaders in this unpredictable and changing world. It was a great conference and aside from the conference dinner these were my highlights!
The pre-conference poll indicated that the biggest problem currently facing Human Resource professionals was too much work and not enough time. A problem I think many professions can relate to! Dr Ian Williamson of the Melbourne Business School gave an intellectually engaging keynote address about how businesses and HR professionals can thrive during disruption. One of the key points he made was that only 21% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1982 remained on that list in 2012. This shows that for even some of the most successful business, survival is not a given. Williamson challenged us to think about what our organisations will look like in thirty years from now, and how our Human Resource practices will need to change to thrive during the disruption that is to come. He used a great case example of Netflix who thrived under digital disruption by turning their business from what was essentially a ‘glorified shipping company’ into a content making business. Strategy, Williamson says, is giving up something good to get something great; which is exactly what Netflix did, and the challenge Williamson made to HR.
I really enjoyed hearing from Grant Frear of ASB and their work with Michael Stevens to achieve the Rainbow Tick Certification. This certification demonstrates their active commitment to becoming at safe and discrimination free workplace for their staff who identify as LGBTTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui and intersex).
The statistics show that up to 70% of LGBTTI staff who are not ‘out’ at work are likely to move on within three years and also up to 60% of graduates who are ‘out’ go back ‘in’ when they start work. Staff who can bring their whole selves to work will be happier, safer and for HR’s purpose, more productive and likely to stay with the organisation. It was really inspirational to hear how ASB have dealt with any backlash in their path to becoming the first bank in New Zealand to be Rainbow Certified. The final thoughts of this session was that diversity is automatic in the workforce today, but inclusion isn’t. And I think that HR are in a unique position to make a huge improvement in the workplace conditions and culture for diverse employees.
The final presentation of the conference was given by John Kirwan who spoke to us about his journey to discovering that depression is an illness, not a weakness. I think that this concept can be applied to all forms of mental illness. John informed us that one in five New Zealanders will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. As HR professionals we have an opportunity and to a large extent, an obligation to create workplace conversations around mental illness. I have a lot of time and respect for the work that Kirwan is putting in to help shift our kiwi attitudes around mental illness. His talk was a great way to wrap up the conference, and he even posed for a photo with me!
One of the things I enjoyed most about the conference was the opportunity to meet and connect with so many HR and Recruitment professionals from around the country. Speaking with these experienced practitioners both at the networking events and at the expo really made the two days an invaluable experience for me. More of my insights from the conference are on my twitter, but for now it’s time to get back to one eighty!