Three key themes – trust, culture and diversity – must be the watchwords for businesses with the onset of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, according to a leading employment lawyer.
Greg Chambers, associate director in the employment team at Osborne Clarke, was speaking at a seminar in Bristol entitled “The Future of Work in a Smart City.”
The event was hosted by Hays Recruitment, held at the city’s Engine Shed and formed part of this year’s Venturefest Bristol & Bath innovation showcase, delivered by Invest Bristol and Bath.
Also speaking were tech entrepreneur Ferrie van Echtelt, founder of Making Ventures Work, Simon Winfield, managing director West and Wales, at global recruitment firm Hays, and Hays’s UK and Ireland marketing director, Thea Watson.
Greg Chambers said the world stood on the brink of another Industrial Revolution, characterised by developments such as “big data”, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality and augmented reality, which present myriad opportunities to harness technology to grow businesses and – if handled carefully – to improve people’s working lives.
He said technical innovation always outpaced legislation, so that a “constellation” of employment law issues would arise in the coming years, encompassing everything from employment status, trades union recognition rights and health and safety to job displacement, equal opportunities and privacy and data protection.
“The world has already been through an agricultural, an industrial and a digital revolution and we are on the cusp of another revolution which will have as powerful an impact on the world of work as the others,” said Greg Chambers.
“Throughout this period of tremendous change, three words need to be borne in mind if businesses are to successfully navigate through the key employment and recruitment decisions of the 21st century. The first is trust, the basic building block of all employment relationships. Businesses need to maintain and build the trust which will get people to buy into these changes. And they need to be able to trust their people more than ever as they are in many cases given more autonomy over where, when and how they do their jobs.
“The second is culture – think about what is distinctive about your organisation, what you would ‘bottle’ if you could, and protect it at all costs. Finally there is diversity, ensuring that you are not unintentionally discriminating against certain groups of people and seizing the opportunities which new technologies and ways of working will give to boost diversity.”
Thea Watson told the audience that rapid technological change presented risks and opportunities for businesses. “Workforce planning is no longer a nice to have – plan for potential, not just immediate needs,” she said.
“In addition, innovation brings risk so build a plan as to how your organisation will stay informed and finally, bear in mind that technology is fuelling expectations, so your candidate attraction strategies must be targeted.”
Simon Winfield of Hays told the audience that younger workers put less importance on pay and instead placed a higher premium on recognition and respect, professional development, work-life balance and diversity when seeking a new role.
“For Generation Z in particular, those born after 1995, people want the full package – recognition and celebration for their accomplishments; a career that fits in with their personal lifestyle and preferences; and investment in on-going development beyond the immediate job.”