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Trends, Product and Industry Insights to Help Create Your HR Tomorrow, Today.

What Pokemon Can Teach HR About Digital Disruption

Andy Campbell
HCM Strategy Director at Oracle

There’s nothing better in the summer months than enjoying a cold drink at your favorite café or bar. All the better if the location happens to double as a Pokestop. Move over Uber and Airbnb, there’s a new kid in digital disruption town.

Since the game’s launch, businesses have begun to include the proximity of Pokegyms and Pokestops in their recruitment adverts. Restaurants are using “lures” to attract passing customers. A new job has even arisen almost overnight, that of Pokemon Go trainer, with people charging $20 per hour to capture the little rascals. Digital disruption has now hit mobile gaming, and it’s moving at a speed we’ve never seen before.

But what does this have to do with HR? The fact is that technologies like augmented reality, wearable devices, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things will assume an increasing influence on our working lives. The jury is still out about what the exact affects will be, but in at least some instances they are likely to be unexpected and profound.

I was recently fortunate enough to chair a symposium on the future of work with a number of key industry influencers. We discussed the impact of digital technologies on our organizations, both now and in the future. The conversation was prompted by a great short video entitled “Dawn of the Digital Tribe,” which sheds lights on how important a digital environment is to the modern workforce.

The first topic that came up was the term “millennial,” which is perhaps unsurprising. Interestingly, if you search for “millennial” on Google it returns in excess of 25,000,000 hits, yet the word isn’t recognized in my version of Microsoft Word. There was a general agreement around the table that the term has gone out of favor and actually makes some of us grimace at its mere mention. While there are certainly some age-related differences between employees, there is nothing particularly special about the current batch to join the workforce. The things most of us look for in our employment are pretty similar regardless of our age or tenure: opportunity, flexibility, teamwork, project work, etc. Among our influencers there was a general consensus: “Forget the age, we’re all millennials now!”

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to change; in fact, the opposite is true. Traditional hierarchical models of leadership are unlikely to work in the future. Social collaboration across business lines and geographies will become the norm. Organizational structures need to become more fluid, the “gig economy” will become more pronounced and certain jobs will just disappear. What does this mean in terms of the skills that are required to be successful, thrive, and grow in such an environment? All of these points and more were discussed at the influencers event, and if you would like a copy of the report on these issues, it can be downloaded here.

All of which makes me think about Ray Wang’s latest book, Disrupting Digital Business. He avoids the simplistic terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants,” explaining that there are no real differences between the two groups other than their levels of proficiency with technology. He adds in a number of additional variants including “digital voyeurs,” who are happy to sit and watch without getting too involved, and “digital holdouts,” who are reluctant to engage. The HR function needs to be sensitive to these differences, offering a degree of personalization to our employees rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. We offer personalization to our customers, so why not to our employees as well?

The digital world has already affected us all. The digital tribe in our workplace includes many different characters, all of whom offer value to the business but who each probably has different needs. We need to make sure that our HR models can reflect and address this variety. We need to bring everyone with us on the transformation journey. As a Pokemon fanatic might say, “We gotta catch ’em all!”

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