A friend of mine just asked, “What HR technology excites you most? What’s new? What’s hot?”
Those are complicated questions.
The easy answer is to send you to analysts and advisors who tell me that recruitment technology is hot. Also, learning. If you can cobble together a platform that enables companies to get the right people in the right jobs, you run a cool company. You’re on fire.
I’m also told that mature HR technology companies are hot, too. Patriarchal cultures. Old names. Reliable brands. Your boss wants more effective leaders and a more engaged workforce. He believes that a strong culture will yield better financial results. He wants the best, and in that way, it’s never been easier to sell legacy HR technology to other legacy organizations. Big brands are buying from big brands in record numbers.
But I think today’s HR technology market reflects a temporary holding pattern until the next significant economic downturn happens. Not to sound too much like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, but the HR technology that’s hot with CEOs and CFOs has nothing to do with humans and more to do with optimizing resources.
I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but it’s not just that robots (or illegal Mexicans) are coming. They’re already here. The HR product roadmaps have been laid out and approved by legal, IT and procurement. You’ll be informed of your status in due time.
So when people ask me what HR technology or program excites me most, I tell them: universal basic income. It’s a defined and guaranteed sum of money given by a government (or maybe even a corporation) to keep people above the poverty line. You can earn more through extra effort or education, but everyone gets a basic paycheck because your hard work helped to build this great country. You benefit from its wealth.
Does that sound like welfare to you? Does that seem unfair? Well, as a human resources professional, it could be your future to figure this out.
What happens when we truly move to a knowledge-based economy? How do you compensate people for knowing stuff and making humankind better? And, if you want to get technical, what technology do we use to administer this payment? Is it weekly? Quarterly? What are the rules? What lessons have we learned from societies that are currently paying people dividends from fossil fuels? How could this program fail? How do we avoid failure?
That, my friends, is the future of HR.
HR technology could also go beyond the concept of a universal basic income and solve the problem of educating and advancing our society.
How do you encourage people to learn and grow when their basic needs are met? What role does technology play? What technology platform do we choose? How do we motivate and set goals for ourselves when we stop fearing bankruptcy, homeless and hunger?
These are all important questions that HR could tackle instead of worrying about product categories that reflect a passing, opportunistic attempt to monetize a shrinking and obsolete industry. Employee engagement doesn’t matter if there are no more employees. Financial wellness doesn’t seem relevant when jobs have been outsourced to robots. And I can’t get excited about employer brand when a company no longer has to advertise its jobs to humans.
Do you want to geek out about recruitment marketing? You can have it, buddy. What excites me is thinking about the intersection of work, power, politics and money. I’m blown away when I meet HR technologists and practitioners who have seen the product roadmaps, too, and are preparing for a future where people don’t work.
The biggest scholars and futurists in the world of work are exploring the idea of a universal basic income. If you want to tap into the future or HR and learn about what’s hot, it’s time to start learning about it, too.