By Steve Richards, CEO & President
Twenty years ago, I recall my much younger colleague, Chris, telling me how it would be: “Steve, you will be able to watch or listen to whatever you want, when you want, how you want. That’s how it’s going to be.” To which I may have replied, “Wait. What?”
Sure enough, Chris was right. I’ve got the homemade Spotify playlists and hours logged watching The Great British Baking Show to prove it.
Can you imagine what quarantine would have been without these choices? Alcohol sales would have been even higher, with gin would being the new toilet paper.
A big theme that runs through many of the advances we have seen in information technology is “personalization.” We can expect this theme to continue, as data enables all kinds of personalization. I may even be able to design my own pants, with a fake bum, to replace the one I lost somewhere along the way.
Employers need to find a way to address this theme, in positive ways. A lot is written about how AI will enhance recruiting through “typing” people, and so forth. In a way, that can be a kind of dark side of information technology, treating each person as a kind of data profile. I wonder if it will resonate with the recruits, especially the ones with lots of options.
I think there is a more positive and humanistic vantage point: how to use technology and, yes, data, to enable the employee to work in the manner that works best for him or her. Work should not be a forced march, not anymore at least. But what is a forced march for some, is pleasant for others. It’s all very personal.
Being quarantined during COVID showed us how very effective our remote work technology tools are. A lot of us said we were happier and more productive than ever. What can we learn from this experience? Perhaps the long, arduous commute really is unnecessary, at least not every day. Perhaps the office meeting culture does get in the way of getting things done, or at least slows things down. Maybe the office becomes a place for people to go to, when they want to, and a place that is suited primarily to in-person collaboration and social activities for the sake of relationship building.
It’s easy to say, and many have already said it, but I’ll say it again: the workplace will never be quite the same. The quarantine experience and the inevitable momentum behind technology’s drive for personalization has led to more enlightened thinking about how to engage “human resources” for the organization. The smart organization will know Shakespeare. It will know what is right for itself and be true to it.