How should HR prepare for the Future of Work?

The world around us is moving at a phenomenal pace that is only likely to speed up as technology continues to evolve. Within HR that means that not only must we be prepared to respond, but we must also ensure that we can help employees and managers prepare to respond to the needs of the business, to the demands of the marketplace, and anticipating the changes in the technologies around us.

In this third and final installment of interviews with leading People Analytics experts, hear from Heather Whiteman, Michael Arena, Michelle Deneau, Josh Bersin on what the Future of Work means to them and to the HR profession as a whole.

So what does the Future of Work mean for HR? Well, here are two themes that typically emerge when we think about the impact of the Future of Work on HR.

Transformation of the workforce

Transformation is a common buzz word these days. Within HR, transformation within our workforce will be critical. It has been said that skills are the fastest disappearing and reappearing commodity around and that applies to us as HR professionals as well as the workforce we support.

Mid-2017, a blog on listed 10 common jobs that may not exist in 20 years. Looking at the list, most of us can see how some of these jobs could end up getting automated. For some, like cashiers, newspaper delivery people and travel agents, we can all probably see the writing on the wall, driven by tasks average consumers can now do themselves quite easily. There are some other jobs the author suggests will go the way of the Dodo, simply because everyone and anyone will be able to do them, or because artificial intelligence will be able to do the tasks better and faster. While nobody quite knows what the future will hold, one trend that seems to be universally accepted is that we will see more and more administrative and routine tasks getting automated, even if entire jobs don’t vanish overnight, we can already see how certain industries are getting disrupted and technology is automating more and more simple tasks.

Redefining jobs

Every week there seems to be a new piece of research or article debating whether AI is going to put us all out of a job. The headline of an article posted in The Guardian titled ‘Will jobs exist in 2050?’ suggests that we will all be lounging around poolside by then, while machines do all of our work. Just last week we saw calls from unions in the UK for a four-day work week due to the impact of automation. However, there have also been various reports from PwC and others suggesting that AI will actually create as many jobs as it displaces.

Whatever happens, as a HR profession we need to focus more than ever in helping the business to understand the skills that will be needed in the future and on ensuring amazing experiences for employees, to think about new ways of engaging, new ways of supporting and encouraging our workforce, and new environments in which they can work and learn and grow.

Change is inevitable but how HR departments respond will ultimately determine the success of their workforce, and the success of the business moving forward.


Ian Bailie is the Managing Director of and an advisor and consultant for start-ups focused on HR technology and People Analytics, including Adepto, Worklytics and CognitionX.  In his previous role as the Senior Director of People Planning, Analytics and Tools at Cisco Systems, he was responsible for delivering the tools and insights to enable and transform the planning, attraction and management of talent across the organisation globally.  Ian is passionate about HR technology and analytics and how to use both to transform the employee experience and prepare companies for the Future of Work.

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