Time For A Playdate?

Kerry Brown

Increasingly, innovation is “taking the work out of the work” with chatbots, artificial intelligence, and the like. So what’s left?

One could say it’s the play aspects of work—those activities that inspire curiosity, provoke creativity, and with it, personal satisfaction and professional growth.

Being an optimist, I’d like to believe that is true. As I learn more about the ways in which organizations are embracing change related to technology, what’s even more inspiring is that it’s proving to be true.

A quest I have had for the last year or so has been trying to identify the intersection of technology, industry, and jobs. I apply my litmus test of “how will jobs change?” to managing change and understanding its impacts. Being able to articulate the way work will change can bring insight and accessibility to the future of work in a more tangible and personal manner.

Every person, every job, every industry, and every size company is adjusting to the profound impact technology is having on the future of work. For example, Patrick Schwerdtfeger, TEDx speaker, identifies the following four trends in artificial intelligence that directly impact the workforce:

  • Facial recognition, which could impact 1.8 million jobs
  • Natural language processing, which will impact more than 3 million call center workers
  • Self-checkout, which impacts more than 3.4 million cashiers
  • Autonomous driving, which will impact more than 3.5 million commercial drivers.

At SxSW 2019, panels on the resume of the future and personal branding highlighted skills that are becoming table stakes. Skills like using presentations or spreadsheets—rather being a good Googler–and solving spontaneous problems through initiative, persistence, and grit are what differentiates one worker from another.

More importantly, these skills are the distinction between man and machine. These qualities are part of what the World Economic Forum outlines as human skills needed for the 58 million new jobs—in categories that don’t exist or that barely exist—that will be created by 2022.

So where does the “play” come in? Just some of the new jobs that have been identified include human AI ambassador, data storyteller, digital resource conductor, chief ethics hacker . . . and the list goes on. Eric Stine, SAP chief innovation officer, observed in his recent blog, “At the heart of this shift is empathy. Instead of treating people as assets, capital, or resources, we treat them as human beings and design solutions around their individual needs. Today, savvy companies are applying the same set of tools for customer experience (CX) to employee experience (EX).”

There is no shortage of opportunity to apply technology or source data. The value comes when it simultaneously improves the way people work, the customer experience, and business performance.

At Walgreens, they are doing just that by leveraging bots to do transactional HR work— “transforming human work from transactional to experiential,” says Curt Burghardt, vice president of HR shared services and HR systems. “Just like there are different employees, there are different bots,” he continues. “What we do for our customers we could do for our employees by applying new automation internally. The pace of technology is so fast, what couldn’t be done a year ago, we can do now.”

These changes are allowing their people to problem-solve and focus on specifics, greatly reducing demand on the help desk and significantly increasing value and satisfaction. It certainly sounds like a lot more fun to me.

We’ll be continuing the conversation in our next blog about how technology takes the work out of the work.

Continue to learn how and where to automate, expedite, and change your business by attending this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference. Talk with other customer organizations and hear firsthand experiences during our session “Put the Change in Change Management and Adapt for the Future of Work.”


About Kerry Brown

Kerry Brown is the VP of User Adoption at SAP. She is an international speaker on change management, learning, talent and organizational development, social and collaboration, interacting with diverse global occupational cultures and industries, including many Fortune customers.