Future of Work: Reflections from BigTech

Image from Future of Future event

The Future of the Future Business Conference was held in Auckland last week. We were there to hear leading creative, technical and social visionaries from Uber, Google, Netflix, Airbnb and Facebook share their knowledge and insight about the future...

Our world of work is changing rapidly. Robots and algorithms are automating mundane tasks and highlighting the need for skills that are uniquely human. The gig economy is quickly erasing the notion of a “job” and underscoring that our professional lives don’t have to be one-dimensional, but multi-faceted. In New Zealand and in many countries around the world, the future of work presents a new reality that demands a curious mindset, attitude to learn and relearn, micro-learnings from cultural and emotional experiences – and legacy businesses are grappling with this transformation.

How is BigTech (read: Silicon Valley technology companies) preparing for the future of work? Spoiler: They aren’t. They are living it and defining it. We saw a snapshot of this attitude at the Future of the Future Business Conference 2018 in Auckland last week where leading creative, technical and social visionaries from the world’s most innovative companies – Uber, Google, Netflix, Airbnb and Facebook – shared their knowledge and insight about what to expect next.

What can we understand about the future of work from their approach?

BigTech understands that companies aren’t disruptive, people are.

The people on stage at the Future of Future Business conference exhibited common traits. They have diverse backgrounds, their learnings are varied and their career paths are squiggly lines. Their goal wasn’t to work at a leading tech company, but to do transformative, creative work that pushes boundaries. They are always learning and show vulnerability, bringing their whole-selves to their roles. They are humbled by the impact of their work (like designing for people in 190 countries) and thrive in the knowledge that the work they do transforms the world.

Google (and other BigTech) have hacked hiring. There’s an algorithm for that.

The future of work is not just what you do, but also how you do it and why you do it. It also means bringing the best, most diverse group of people together and motivating them to create magic. More often than not these do-ers don’t follow traditional pathways or acquire traditional qualifications. So it is also becoming plain and obvious that traditional recruiting doesn’t fit into this new paradigm. People are complex and future of work means helping people translate this rich complexity into meaningful insights that support businesses to engage and grow. Our current and future roles demand that a workforce apply ideas across industries, bring interdisciplinary experience and a wealth of cultural and emotional intelligence. Are the hiring and talent departments within your business ready to bring this kind of talent into your organisation? Where do you look for these stars? At Google, AI powers how they recruit. This is evident from a new recruiting app that the company is rolling out with G-Suite. ‘Hire’ integrates with G-suite and uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler – for any organisation! With the obvious integrations with Gmail, Google Calendar and even more powerful search, ‘Hire’ streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster. So BigTech hasn’t just hacked hiring internally but will transform how we all attract and recruit talent in the coming months and years.

Leave ego at the door. Bring humility inside.

No idea is a sacred cow at these cutting-edge companies. Andrew Law of Netflix said “If we had protected our DVD business we would have been out of business. There are no sacred cows at Netflix.” This is a stumbling block at legacy organisations where individuals are sometimes larger than ideas that are right for the business. A future focused mindset needs to be primed for failure, learnings, humility, feedback and data. Do we have the courage to cannibalise existing models for one that’s coming up on the horizon? Future-centric teams need to imbibe this very important quality.

What will BigTech say to a fifteen year old about their career. Interestingly what the panel had to say on a question ‘What will you say to a fifteen year old about their career?,’ also said a lot about the way BigTech hires and what they look for in their future workforce. Their advice included –

“Broaden perspectives. You’ve got time. Don’t go deep, but broad. Be courageous. There is no perfect education to the perfect career. If you are fifteen and know what you want to do for the rest of your life - you are wrong. Take every day as it comes.”

They understand that attitudes are shaped by the culmination of our experiences and nothing else matters.

How is your organisation getting workforce ready for the future of work?

Join the conversation at our monthly meet-ups on the Future of Work.


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