I spent last week at WorkHuman, the conference focused on humanity in the workplace.
Inspired, I’ve spent a lot of time following the conference reflecting on themes. As a conference envisioned by Globoforce, an employee rewards network, it is no wonder that there was a lot of discussion around the value of technology in supporting an environment of happiness. As someone in the total rewards field, I appreciated the focus on the connection between the ways and outcomes.
I was struck by the number of references to robots at the conference. It was somewhat unexpected. It isn’t my intention to go all Terminator 2-3D in this blog. . .well given I was just in Orlando, maybe it is. But the robot references have me asking:
In the not-so-near future, what will be the role of the robots?
To replace the humans?
To augment the humans?
There was a time when to suggest that the robots would become sentient was outlandish. Increasingly improved understanding of human algorithms makes for a more believable and more efficient robot. Will we need us at work?
Knowing that the robots are mostly more efficient than humans, if our goal is to augment humans, what do we have to do to make humans more efficient, more effective?” The answer seems to be focusing on human happiness.
Most of the speakers had some theme of happiness to their sessions. From Steve Pemberton’s message to rise above the labels others give you and Shawn Anchor’s message describing the environment of happiness, to Amy Cuddy’s message to encourage girls to take up space and Michael J. Fox’s message to never give up, the audience was left to reflect on what makes us happy with a mission to focus on that.
Applying this in the workplace, two questions arise:
Is it possible to evolve people in every industry, every workplace culture in existence towards happiness? g. is happiness an accessible idea for every workplace? Shawn Anchor pointed to scientific research that shows that happiness is infectious, spreading from one to others. Gary Hamel said it well when he suggested that bureaucracy was the death of the modern organization. Some organizations seem to have a much better shot at happiness. And they will probably be the ones with fluidity.
- Will they develop robots who understand the human algorithm better than humans and therefore will make better people managers? Will these robots use feedback to support human happiness? This question evolved from the notion suggested by some that there needs to be a lot of energy placed on developing managers so why not take them out of the equation. The feedback platforms are designed to do just that. Eventually the best feedback may be from the robots themselves.
Or not. Especially if we value humanity as essential element of culture.
So where is HR right now? Well the folks at the conference were all working on their yoga poses and mindfulness techniques. They were contemplating a full rounded life with the hope that they will inspire happiness in others.
Essentially, HR is a great tool in the face of robots. And, the more we adopt a platform of challenge, feedback and happiness the more effective we will be.
Or maybe we’ll just be initializing the robots. You decide.