October 4, 2019

Elevate: Industry leaders on the roadmap for success in the future of work

Business leaders and tech innovators came together to talk about the future of work at the recent Elevate Festival in Toronto. Discussions focused on how current talent strategies and practices need to change for companies to succeed in the next decade. Here are some highlights.

The 2019 Elevate Festival took place last week in Toronto. Subject matter experts, business leaders, and innovators from various industries and sectors, including wellness, AI, finance, new media, retail, and talent, took the stage to discuss the trends shaping the future.

In Elevate’s Talent stream, leaders from progressive companies dropped some hard truths about the future of work for fellow leaders – and employees – in the room.

The world of work is changing, and so is the roadmap for future success. Here’s what that roadmap looks like, according to industry leaders.


Skills for the future workforce


In a morning panel, “Digital Skills and the Future of Work,” MaRS CEO Yung Wu emphasized the importance for leaders and employees to demonstrate adaptability and being entrepreneurial.

Since it’s no longer a “jobs for life” world, he said, it’s up to the individual to change their own game.

“An entrepreneurial mindset is something that must be embraced,” he added, noting success isn’t only hinged on specific skillsets, but on the ability to learn and be adaptable. 

He also noted that leaders looking for top talent need to look at their available talent pool differently, citing his own experience as an example.

“When I think back to my best collaborators on my teams, they typically didn’t start from the pathway that would have been expected. The best people on my engineering teams came from philosophy, music composition, liberal arts,” he said. Cross-functional, innovative teams don’t just come from skills, but from particular competencies and sbehavioral bases.

Google Canada VP Sabrina Geremia summed the point up nicely, pointing to the need for leaders to bridge the left brain (believed to be associated with more linear, methodical thought) and the right brain (connected to creativity and holistic thinking) when looking at the desired and required skills of the future.

“A lot of the future is about complexity and conceptual thinking, and we over-index on the left brain at times,” she said.

The panel also discussed where and how learning fits in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing world of work. They agreed that learning is critical to addressing the skills gap, and also agreed that a focus on learning doesn’t mean that every employee has to pursue it in a traditional way.

“The career ladder is completely outdated,” said Caitlin MacGregor, CEO of AI and organizational psychology company Plum. “Today, we navigate our careers through a career lattice.”

MacGregor explained that this means, increasingly, instead of moving up a particular hierarchy or set of titles, candidates and leaders will take steps back to move forward or into a parallel role, with progressive learning being a key outcome of these experiences.


Bias: Applying technology for speed and scale


In “Can AI Take a Bite Out of Bias in Hiring?”, Genevieve Jurvetson, co-founder and CMO of fetcher, an AI recruiting platform, shifted the conversation to conscious and unconscious bias.

Jurvetson called out the so-called “beer test” – basing hiring decisions on whether or not you would want to have a beer with a candidate – as a biased practice “masked in culture fit.”

That way of thinking, she explained, often uncovers whether or not the candidate is similar to the person asking it, which is a form of homophily bias (attraction to people who are like us).

Confirmation bias (making a snap judgement about a person, and then spending the rest of your time with them looking for evidence that confirms your judgement) and gender bias are amongst several of the common biases that are pervasive in hiring practices.

Leaders are increasingly recognizing that there’s a critical need to remove bias from the recruiting process and related decision-making. This is an opportunity for organizations to leverage AI, to not only reduce the influence of bias, but also to find candidates with speed and at scale outside of traditional methods, Jurvetson said.


Getting schooled: Empowering employees through learning and experience


In the afternoon, attendees got a lesson from the Godmother of Silicon Valley.

Internationally renowned educator Esther Wojcicki implied that in the workplace, we might be going about learning and relationship-building all wrong.

Wojcicki shared how her key parenting principles, which she shared in her book, “How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results,” can apply to managers and the workplace.

Empowering employees and encouraging creativity means giving them freedom – not training them to believe that in order to succeed, that they must follow a particular set of instructions, she said. It’s about giving them more power and control to shape their work and their learning.

Wojcicki said her TRICK (trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness) philosophy, when applied to the workplace, helps managers create environments that are less focused on control and process, and more focused on helping to develop self-reliant, creative people who learn from hands-on experience.

She ended her session with a mic drop moment, showing a picture of her three daughters, first sharing their names, and then revealing their career achievements: Susan, the CEO of YouTube; Janet, professor of pediatrics at UC San Francisco; and Anne, the CEO of 23andMe.

“This is evidence that it works,” she said.


A transformational mindset for future growth


Ceridian’s own Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Sterling also took the stage in the afternoon, challenging attendees to think differently about their people, and how they deliver the employee experience.

“I’m one of the people who doesn’t believe in the multi-generational workforce [as a challenge],” Sterling said. “It’s about meeting people where they are. At Ceridian, we think about people in stages of life, and I challenge everyone to think differently about [the notion of the multi-generational workforce].”

Sterling also emphasized thinking about technology adoption as an opportunity for transformation. Employees expect the same experience at work as they expect in their lives as consumers. Progressive companies are investing more in the employee experience (EX), recognizing that it has been proven to improve critical HR and business metrics.

Sterling then shared pillars for consumerizing and designing the next-gen EX. Make it intuitive, integrated, instantaneous, personalized, perceptive, and mobile – all of which are supported by technology and tools to make the experience highly intuitive and integrated.

She closed with a call to action to the leaders in the room, drawing upon a message Michelle Obama had shared the previous evening at an Elevate special presentation.

“Just because you can’t do everything, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something,” Sterling said. “The last thing you want to do is become an organization that is irrelevant.”

Read next: Consumerizing the employee experience

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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