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The wild future of HR: 8 radical concepts made relatable

What radical advancements are shaping the world of human resources? Learn about AI-augmented talent, micro-learning via brain uploads, and more ways HR will evolve to meet the demands of a rapidly changing workplace.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

The wild future of HR

This much is clear: a lot is happening in the workplace and a lot of that is in HR. And technology is totally at the core of it.

Predictions are being made left and right as to what the workplace will look like going forward. Some of these look like wild science fiction, but many companies are already pioneering radical new concepts that push the boundaries of technology and humanity at work.

What are those new developments? We’re not looking at next year – we’re going to go to the future of HR in 2030 … and beyond.

Let’s look at a few of them right now and how HR plays a role:

1. AI-augmented talent

We’re already entering this brave new world of AI co-pilots – that much is known. This is where AI assistants (or co-pilots) work alongside human employees to enhance their skills and productivity. At present, ChatGPT, Google Bard, Anthropic’s Claude and other generative AI tools are being introduced in new workplace policies and training to ensure that employees stay meaningfully engaged in their work while partnered with bots.

Imagine the head of HR helping a team of engineers and researchers join forces with AI assistants to speed up programming and testing cycles – not just in coding and other dev work, but physical design and testing. Policies, processes, and oversights will be implemented to facilitate that collaboration.

2. Micro-learning via brain uploads

Remember the scene in The Matrix where knowledge and skills are uploaded directly into Keanu Reeves’ brain? And he opens his eyes and says in his unmistakable tone: “I know kung fu!”.

This is sort of like that. Skills development may involve implanting knowledge and training directly into your memory for rapid reskilling.

Let’s say the chief learning officer at a manufacturing firm needs to upskill 200 technicians across the country for an urgent project. This CLO would analyze existing skills data, gaps, and needs across the team and deploy the most useful ‘brain upload pods’ for individuals and work teams to optimize productivity. Presto, the team comes in Monday ready to tackle that big new job.

3. 3-D printed workspaces

The rapid restructuring of the working world in recent years has its physical impact as well – those huge skyscrapers in the city center may still exist, but office vacancy rates are at an all-time high. And that’s closely correlated with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of the hybrid workplace. Evidently, the traditional workplace just doesn’t work anymore.

Instead of frantically trying to find an existing ideal workplace and locking in a five-year lease, wouldn’t it be great if you could just redesign your office using 3-D printing for increased flexibility, collaboration and even employee satisfaction?

HR can use telepresence robots and AR that engage remote workers with the space, and do it all in modular fashion to make for more robust design flexibility.

4. Supersized virtual workforces

In tandem with the surge in remote and distributed teams, imagine entire networks of remote workers across continents – let’s say Asia or Africa – all accessible within a single platform to scale customized teams for short-term projects.

A head of HR would be able to assemble and manage a team of 50 remote workers for two months – and upload specific knowledge into their brains to speed up onboarding – to tackle a machine learning initiative.

We do have this sort-of ‘talent access’ ecosystem already available in the form of the shared economy (as recruitment expert Hung Lee explains in the following video). We also have agencies that hire out temp workers. Think of it like this, but in bigger, loftier concepts.

5. Exoskeleton suits

Again, we’ve seen this in the movies. Avatar is a good example where exoskeleton technology was utilized to boost performance. Of course real life isn’t a James Cameron movie, but we’re also seeing exosuits in real life in many different forms:

Wearable exoskeletons can prevent injury, increase productivity, and extend longevity especially in physically demanding jobs – boosting retention and ROI in one fell swoop. Procuring office supplies and the like are often a responsibility in human resources – think of exoskeletons as a more advanced form of this, especially when it means greater workplace safety.

6. Workplace biometric monitoring

You likely have a smartwatch and/or a fitness tracker with you at all times – this falls into that bucket. Non-invasive technology can monitor employee health, mood, and performance within the workplace through a combination of biomarkers, wearables and environment sensors. HR would set that up to build real-time big data models (with your express permission, of course) to identify patterns and implement preemptive interventions.

Some of these interventions would be proactive wellbeing initiatives, productivity recommendations, and even workplace changes (which you’d, of course, spearhead using 3-D printed office designs!). That’ll be a huge plus for employee experience – a major focus of HR.

7. ‘Swarm AI’ decision making

Synergy (sorry, we know that word isn’t popular) can be a real pain when you have too many cooks in the kitchen or too many meetings without a single stream of information. That makes for problems when making complex strategic decisions.

You can overcome that by enabling employees across all levels in the company to input anonymous perspectives and votes within an AI system – which then aggregates and synthesizes the ‘swarm’ knowledge into optimized proposals and recommendations.

HR can facilitate this collaborative and democratic decision-making process of tapping into the collective wisdom of the company beehive. This allows the higher-ups to curate divergent perspectives into a few optimized options for discussion – minimizing individual biases.

8. Supersized skill sets

One of the technological shortcomings that’s surfacing in this emerging age of automation and AI is that of human skills such as creativity, empathy, and complex problem solving. These will become ‘supersized’ skill sets that are not easily replicable by AI and therefore become even more crucial.

And it’s HR’s opportunity to capitalize and grow this skill set across the employee base through regular coaching and training sessions that are specifically designed to meet those crucial needs in a company that’s increasingly using tech in its everyday workflows.

And now… to the future

In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies can no longer be constrained by traditional paradigms of space, time, and human capabilities. The future is ripe with tech-volution, and we’re seeing it happen in real time.

And it’s driven by the biggest budgets outside of government – trillion-dollar organizations dedicated to optimization, productivity, innovation, and growth.

Add to that a vast range of pioneering startups, and the reimagination of work is at a pace where the workplace in 2030 may be unrecognizable to us today. The future of work is closer than we may realize and more human than we ever imagined.

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