About 10 years ago, I first heard a vision for the future factory which required only two employees: a man and a dog. When my boss first shared this vision tongue-in-cheek, I thought it was absurd, but perhaps this vision is not as far-fetched than I first thought. Why? Because Korn Ferry (2016) has exposed the blind spot of most CEOs who value technology over human capital despite the overwhelming evidence that human capital creates the most value in organizations. Shockingly, almost half of the leaders in large global businesses believe that the predominance of automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics will make employees “largely irrelevant” in future work (Korn Ferry, 2016).
Korn Ferry (2016) also found that CEOs did not even rank human capital/employees in the top five most valuable assets now or in the next five years. Korn Ferry (2017) asked CEOs what they thought today’s candidates were looking for in an employer. They believe company culture is what attracts talent, but in five years, these same CEOs believe flexible working (remote, cloud offices, flex time) will move from its sixth-place position to overtake company culture. Can there be a connection between a company’s drive for technology and its difficulty in finding and meeting the demands of the right talent? Does one cause changes in the other or are both shaping each other?
As a coach and consultant who sees the emphasis that CEOs and their companies’ Board of Directors are putting on technology at the expense of human capital makes me question their leadership decisions.If CEOs continue with a technology-obsessed worldview that employees are bottom-line costs and not top-line value generators (Korn Ferry, 2017), they will continue to drive on technology as a means of replacing employees. How far could that go? No one will know until we get there. Technology is and will continue to be a core focus of the collective vision in the highest performing organizations (Korn Ferry, 2017). Although technology has replaced manual labor with automation to gain processing efficiencies, today, technology is shaking the foundation of the shared belief that work provides human dignity and that humans were designed for work.
What is my forecast for the future? Although history has shown humans adapt to their environment, an extreme condition may result in push back. I believe there will be a softening on the drive for technology in certain life areas, and the question becomes which companies will respond. Technology is here, forever, and will continue to strengthen, but as been historically true there are cycles and coming of full circles. Humans were built for connection, and we move back and forth along a continuum of connectedness with one another throughout our lives.
Over the last several decades, technology has widened our connectedness at the expense of its depth. You may not remember the names of your neighbors two doors down, but you have thousands of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. I believe there comes a point in a person’s life when s/he says, “this isn’t working for me anymore.” When they finally ask themselves that question, I believe they will put technology in its proper place and structure their lives with more personal connection. They will demand more services where they interact with people and not technology. They will choose employers who value human capital and who tap into their employees’ creativity. When this will occur? Your guess would be as good as mine. In our capitalist society, a need does not go unfulfilled for long. I would expect small and medium sized businesses to flourish as they hire employees to directly service their customers.
What I do know is that people are personally struggling in this new era of technology. They are trying to find purpose and fulfillment not just in their work but also personal lives. Many feel they are on a treadmill, expending energy, but not going anywhere. Many do not have a vision or have articulated a dream for their lives. I do believe personal coaches will play an integral part in the work and personal landscape of people who have a desire for something more.
Korn Ferry Institute. (2016). The trilling-dollar difference: Retrieved from https://www.kornferry.com/institute/the-trillion-dollar-difference
Korn Ferry Institute. (2017). The talent forecast, part 1: Adapting today’s candidate priorities for tomorrow’s organizational success. Retrieved from http://www.kornferry.com/the-talent-forecast/the-talent-forecast
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement. She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage. Contact: email@example.com